As you have likely heard many, many times over, “Arrested Development” returns this Sunday on Netflix with 15 brand-new episodes dropped smack dab in the middle of Memorial Day weekend. In the months leading up to this monumental cultural brouhaha, there has been a deluge of “Arrested Development” ephemera. You can read about how “Arrested Development” creator Mitch Hurwitz wants you to watch the show (not all at once), watch Tobias Fünke’s amazing sizzle reel, pour over Netflix’s posters and trailers, get “Arrested Development” emojis, enjoy more than one painstaking chart of every single call-back on the show, read a primer on the existing episodes, and many, many more supporting materials.
As a person who likes “Arrested Development,” has always like “Arrested Development” and who is looking forward to watching new episodes of “Arrested Development,” I have to admit that all the cacophonous enthusiasm has started to exhaust me — and then make me feel bad for feeling exhausted. I know that other people’s energy levels should have no bearing on mine, that unfettered excitement is rare and sweet, and that “Arrested Development” is, unlike so many recipients of huge hype, a worthy product. But then I look at all the fans readying to spend their weekend indoors snorting “AD,” and I wonder if they are not on some very specific kind of “Arrested Development” speed, and if they would share it or, if they’re not able to share it, go be high somewhere else.
TV is increasingly reliant on fan culture. But is this what happens when it mostly relies on fan culture, this all-pervasive intensity? Almost every single piece of “Arrested Development” errata lately has set off some insta-inner-whiplash, a three-second loop from “Oh cool” to “Oh god, am I just a fount of clicks and hype?” to “Is there anything left???” and back again. I can’t wait for “Arrested Development” to get here in part because I can’t wait to get out of the hype machine (which I know I am a part of) and into the show, not just the frenzy surrounding it.
In a piece about “Arrested Development” for New York magazine, Will Leitch wrote that TV watching has become a way that we identify ourselves to others:
The television world is so fractured and niche now that the shows we watch have become an important signifier of who we are — who we want to be seen as, anyway. I’m a “Louie” person but not a “Community” person. I’m a “Breaking Bad” person but not a “Homeland” one. And if I saw on your Facebook wall that you were an “Arrested Development” fan, well, I could bet you and I were gonna get along just fine.
What we read and click and like and tweet and email online is a not just an expression of our love and allegiance to a TV show but also a performance of that love and allegiance. To be a committed fan of a TV series is to be a member of a club. And the committed “Arrested Development” fan is so enthusiastic, so wholly not hedging expectations, so eager and bright-eyed that some adolescent Groucho Marx part of me wants to start rolling my eyes.
Obviously, the person rolling their eyes at a bunch of people having a really great time is a jerk. But the sheer intensity of TV culture these days, which has given us great and deep conversations, elucidations, jokes, videos and the second life of “Arrested Development,” can also be alienating if you’re not feeling the ardor. It seems out of proportion.
The great thing about “Arrested Development” is that if there ever was an antidote to puppyish passion it is … “Arrested Development.” It’s the most sardonic, cutting, bracing show to ever inspire this sort of earnest reception. A couple of episodes should be the necessary reminder that everyone so in love with “Arrested Development” is actually in love with something sharp and prickly, not just cute and GIFable. “Arrested Development” rolls its eyes hardest of all. Can you imagine what Lucille Bluth would do with an “Arrested Development” fan? Just think of the misdeeds she would get him or her up to for her own crass entertainment. When we’re all simultaneously hyping and being hyped for the “Arrested Development” movie, that actually is a gag video I’d like to see.