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I don’t normally like to write in the first person. I’m not normally so close to a series that it’s uncomfortable. But in the case of Arrested Development, that couldn’t be more true.
I was a very early, beloved adopter of the series, and at one crucial point, when it looked like Fox might cancel the series, I wrote this column for the San Francisco Chronicle, imploring Fox to keep Arrested Development before there were even outspoken or widespread worries about keeping Arrested Development. My reasoning was simple: Ratings or not, Arrested Development was the next Seinfeld. I argued that, certainly in terms of brilliance, Fox had a future great on its hands and shouldn’t squander the opportunity to be part of history.
Both Gail Berman, Fox’s entertainment president at the time, and series creator Mitch Hurwitz have cited that column (to me and others) as pivotal in going forward. If memory serves (hey, it was 2004), Hurwitz had the story in his pocket when he went in to talk with Berman about the show’s fate, but before he needed to whip it out for support, she asked him excitedly if he’d seen it. OK, so that’s probably the only good thing I’ve done in my career.
From that experience, I became friendly with Hurwitz, Jason Bateman, Will Arnett and David Cross. Hurwitz asked me if I’d sign off on a funny, fake quote he wanted to use on the poster of Les Cousins Dangereux (fans will remember that storyline and episode). And if you watch it, there on the poster you’ll see my name under this quote: “A ‘relative’ masterpiece of complex eroticism.”
All these years later, I still get people pointing that out.
Anyway, just to continue and explain why I would cringe and fall on the ground if this new Netflix version of a revived Arrested Development didn’t work, I’ve grown to know Bateman a lot better and about four or so years ago joined his fantasy baseball league (which includes Cross, a killer player; Bateman tends to draft too many Dodgers, so …). Well after the series folded, I’ve kept in touch with a lot of AD folks. Both Hurwitz and then, briefly and hilariously, Arnett joined me live in a podcast at the Chronicle.
Etc. etc. All right, then, I’m officially biased. But that partly makes my worry astronomical. Arrested Development is my favorite comedy ever. Not just when it was on. Not in the past decade. Ever.
And now, after clamoring for more seasons while it was still on the air, after screaming at Fox executives (not literally) and punching them in the face (figuratively, in print) when it was canceled and unceremoniously burned off and then following the whole “make a movie” saga and then — Jesus, how long is this trail of tears? — following the seemingly endless story of Netflix making the series, we are here. It is real. It is happening.
Not only are we here, the cast is here at TCA. There will be 14 episodes of Arrested Development — wait for it … season four — starting in May. And as happy as I am about it, which is pretty damned happy, I have this awful, nightmare-like, please-don’t-speak-it-aloud, dark cloud of thoughts:
What if it’s not as good as I want it to be? What if it’s not funny? What if the legacy is, in some way, diminished?
I’ve put some thought into that last part and do not believe that tarnishing will happen. There are three seasons of Arrested Development on the DVD shelf, and nothing can take that away from me, from fans and, most important, from Hurwitz, his writers and the cast. They did something brilliant. It was recorded for posterity. And it can never be erased.
I feel great about that. And yet … and yet … I feel a need to say aloud what a lot of people are thinking, if not saying. I have utmost faith that Arrested Development season four — or, if you want to call it, Arrested Development: The Inconceivably Miraculous Return — will be funny and that I will love it.
But you can’t ignore the demons, the worrisome thoughts in my cynical brain or the proverbial elephant in the tiny room. What if?
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