Sunday, February 12, 2006

All head and no heart

On Friday I decided to stay home and watch the 2-hour finale of Arrested Development instead of going out bowling with my friends. I don't intend this as a slight against my friends, I just really wanted to watch Arrested Development. Does that make me antisocial?

I would have felt very stupid about that decision had the episodes not lived up to billing, but they did. I was not fond of the last episode before Friday's, which was something of a wank-fest parodying the struggle to keep the show on the air. I was afraid that the last four episodes would completely follow this formula, entirely abandoning all the storylines and leaving me wanting, much like the ending of Neon Genesis Evangelion. But they didn't; they really tied things up and brought everything to a nice conclusion.

Unfortunately, it really does seem like a conclusion: from what I've read on GorillaMask, the show is 80/20 not coming back on Showtime or ABC. What the hell would ABC do with it anyway? I somehow doubt the network that brought us Hangin' With Mr. Cooper would have a nice place in their schedule for Arrested Development. It wouldn't exactly work in syndication between 7th Heaven and Smallville on ABC Family. Anyway, I would almost prefer that they end it now just so that they don't spoil the legacy, which is just like how I almost wish the Arcade Fire would break up before putting out another album.

I've been wrapped up for a long time in telling people how great the show is, to the point that I've never bothered to really think about why people might not like it. People often bandy around really pretentious explanations like how it's too cumulative, and how it's just too smart for the masses. These last few days, I've done a little bit of reading of the many TV journalists' eulogies for the show, and the criticisms they've listed do seem valid.

  • The characters don't change much, although I'd always thought that that was a strength of the show, because too often on TV I feel that characters gravitate towards some sort of diluted, mature, weak-tea-and-plain-oatmeal version of their older, funnier selves.

  • The show was "all head and no heart". The characters were seriously unlikeable (minus Michael and George Michael, I'd say -- although George Michael's lusting for his cousin is certainly going to be unpalatable to many) and, since they never changed, they stayed unlikeable. They were also out-there enough that you weren't going to relate to many of them. As someone on USA Today said, this doesn't work because TV watchers want to really feel for their characters as well as like them, as opposed to wanting them to get kicked in the balls (GOB) or bitch-slapped (Lucille). (The Office's David Brent probably wouldn't work either, as I personally both felt for him and hated him, which is far worse. From what I've seen of the US version, Michael Scott is infinitely more likeable.)

  • It depended heavily on in-jokes, from all the stunt casting to the constant digging-up of old material.

Even though I can see all of this, the show was just such a great kick in the pants that I didn't bother to think about any of that. I guess I'm all head and no heart too.

And now the show is probably gone forever. If I had a heart, I might feel a little sad. My head, though, is only thinking about buying the DVDs and hoping that Will Arnett doesn't become overexposed.

Current Music: Europe - The Final Countdown

7 comments:

Agent Banana said...

I would ditch my friends for Battlestar Galactica.

Edward said...

George Michael: You know I can see why your mom likes it. It is really a nice tree
Maeby: We’ve got to get it torn down
George Michael: That must die. Stupid tree.

Buster: I’m a monster!

Tobias F√ľnke: [footage of Tobias trying on a Speedo with his cut-offs on] Excuse me, do these effectively hide my thunder?

Lucille: [to Michael] That's not true! I love all my children equally.
Lucille: [earlier that day] I don't really care for GOB.

Lindsay Funke: [to Michael] GOB doesnt do anything for the family.
Gob: Hey, I'm fucking Lucille 2.
Lindsay Funke: Or I could do something like that.

George Sr.: [via satellite from prison] Sorry, some of my students are arguing the significance of the shankbone on the seder plate. But we do not - not wag our genitals at one another to make a point.

how oh how can *anyone* not love the Bluth clan?

Dickolas Wang said...

George Michael: I’m gonna need a leather jacket for when I’m on my hog and need to go into a controlled slide.

Dickolas Wang said...

narrator: And although he'd only gotten to second base, he'd gone in head first. Like Pete Rose.

Tobias: And there you are, Maeby, coming out of your mother's third base...

rachel said...

Two of those points that you brought up are the same reasons that Seinfeld was so great. They're all terrible people, except for maybe Kramer who is just really blunt. This is why it's FUNNY. They didn't change much either. They didn't grow. They didn't learn lessons. And they sure as hell don't care about each other. (Fucking Friends. I hate Friends.)

I think there are two valid problems with the show itself (ie nothing that FOX's marketing could have helped, had they marketed it).

1. It's necessary to watch all episodes of a season in order to get most of the jokes. Even then, it's necessary to go back and watch it a second time in order to get ALL of the jokes. People expect to have to watch a drama series in order but not a comedy series.

2. A lot of people are stupid. Quite frankly, the jokes go over their heads.

Dickolas Wang said...

I've always felt that bad people are underrepresented on popular sitcoms.

While those points might be true, I'd contend that
1) you might only get 50% of the jokes if you haven't seen all the episodes, but the 50% you get are still pretty good; and
2) Of that 50% that you would get regardless, the lion's share are basically just dirty jokes.

rachel said...

They're dirty jokes but they're presented in an intelligent manner.