Welcome back, Bluths

New episodes of Arrested Development on Netflix? Here’s why we give a shit.

I was drunk. But a night spent at all times not far from a glass of vodka with a splash of olive juice will do that to you. My primal instincts kicked in and my innate radar began to bring me home, one foot falling unevenly in front of the other. I had two thoughts on my mind then: Arrested Development and string cheese.

At home, I tore a stick of cheese from the package, plopped onto my bed, flipped open my computer with a satisfied grin and pressed the power button. I was seconds away from redemption, from peace — from Arrested Development.

No response.

What was this treason? Where was my charger? I’d just returned home from a trip to my mother’s in New York, so I tore apart the only bag I had with me.

No charger anywhere.

As I lay in bed, night ruined and spirit crushed, stress-eating my way through a row of string cheese, I knew only this one show could stir such profound feelings in me. Feelings which had arisen once before, on that fateful Friday in November of 2005 when I first learned my beloved Bluths would be no more.

But now they’re back. This Sunday, Netflix will release 15 brand new episodes all at once of Arrested Development, the highly praised series that follows the exploits of the affable but self-absorbed Bluth family. The story will pick up some years after we last saw the Bluth clan and each will highlight one specific character. Some of the action in each episode occurs concurrently with the others. It’s a new format, but shaking up the norm is something that series creator Mitch Hurwitz is used to.

Television was struggling for new and exciting comedy in 2003. Hurwitz attempted to answer that call by creating something completely different from what audiences were used to. While the show did attract passionate fans and endless critical acclaim, it simply did not work in the network format. Due to its style, Arrested Development lends itself to constant re-watching. In the time before DVR and Hulu, that was a near impossibility. There are jokes hidden within other jokes that you cannot get on the first viewing, but by going back and repeating episodes you can find new gags and jokes that were there the whole time.

Part of Arrested Development’s charm is its quirkiness, not only in its plotlines and characters, but in its production style as well. Audiences are now used to the mockumentary format, familiarized by The Office. However, when Arrested Development premiered 10 years ago, such a risk had not been taken in TV sitcoms and certainly not to such an extent. This factor, along with the unique brand of storytelling, consistent use of in jokes, repeated gags, and subtly hidden Easter eggs, provided audiences with a deeper level of enjoyment, and is part of why it works so well in the Netflix/iTunes age. Now viewers will be able to watch, re-watch, share, and study the show, a connection that should keep them coming back and clamoring for more.

Another aspect of Arrested Development’s appeal is that its writers never pulled punches. They lampooned big business just as the Enron scandal was fueling Americans’ distrust of corporate America. As disillusionment grew with Bush and the war in Iraq, Hurwitz parodied the events as they were happening.

But when it comes down to it, we just love the Bluths. A wealthy, self-absorbed, and highly dysfunctional family, they are almost unrecognizable to the average American, yet within these highly flawed characters there is a charm, a human aspect that pulls you in and holds you there. You almost feel sorry for them and love them for it. You taste their sad and their happy. They represent versions of ourselves that do the wild and ridiculous things we only think about. They embrace an arrogance and selfishness that we spend most of our lives trying to combat. They are bad people so we don’t have to be.

The new season will bring back the inexplicably lovable characters, unexpected cameos, and endless quotability we’ve grown to love. Hurwitz says that, despite the new episodes being numbered, they all occur simultaneously and don’t necessarily have to be watched in order. Some scenes appear in multiple episodes, but from different vantage points. Hurwitz continues to challenge the way we interpret television and comedy. Even in bringing back an old story, he does so in a fresh way.

So break out your Corn Baller, grab a juice box, and whip up some Ike and Tina Tuna (platter, of course), because on May 26, the Bluths are back.

Oh, and make sure you pack your charger, or at least leave a note. Always leave a note.


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