Arrested Development is in a three-horse race (along with The Simpsons and Lost) for the coveted prize of “Nate’s Favorite TV Show.” For anyone who has spent any time on the internet in the past three months or so, you know that it has returned to Netflix for a fourth season, dropping all at once in a fifteen-episode chunk. I don’t think it had been live for 36 hours before I was already reading people who were declaring it terrible and something that basically ruined the series forever.
Now’s a good time to clear up that I haven’t seen much of the new season yet, just the first two episodes. I find that TV in general is better when consumed in more manageable chunks, and that goes doubly for comedy. And any show as dense as Arrested Development requires not only copious attention to follow, but usually benefits from a second and third viewing as well. So there are a couple of strange circumstances that make the fourth season of Arrested Development particularly prone to strange snap judgements.
But all that being said, I’m always a little baffled by the combination of enormous hype and anticipation, and then the inevitable crash that comes when unrealistic expectations go unfulfilled. It’s especially prominent in a post-Phantom-Menace society, where every prequel or addition to a franchise is given a ridiculous amount of build-up followed by vast scrutiny, usually from the same people who were busy hyping. I am almost never the type to be that disappointed in stuff like this. I generally like the Star Wars prequels, the fourth Indiana Jones movie, the finale of Lost, The Hobbit, and I suspect I’ll probably be fine when I finish the new season of Arrested Development. (Still don’t like the last Matrix movie though.) My problem here is not that people do or don’t like something. It’s that the greater the hype, the greater the backlash. And unlike the hype, the backlash is permanent and affects the entire community forever. The actual quality of the movie or TV show is not really important.
The hype makes sense in the age of movies-as-product. Marketing firms know how to whip fanboys into a frenzy, and after a point it becomes self-sustaining. What I am continually shocked at is the inability of said fanboys to ever see through this thick fog of expectations. I mean, this happens EVERY TIME. Fans who waited in line for the Star Wars prequels and hated them did the same thing for the fourth Indiana Jones movie. They never learn, and the backlash is often enough to damage the experience of others.
I think that last part is what I find the most troublesome. Eventually the backlash becomes calcified, and ironclad fact that all true fans “know.” It really isn’t fair for someone to watch Lost for the first time, and to be told repeatedly how terrible the finale was, because they deserve to experience it for themselves and make up their own mind. When I’ve admitted my love for the Star Wars prequels, I’ve actually had many people try to convince me that I’m wrong, as if liking a movie is something I could be wrong about. Everyone is entitled to their opinion about stuff like this, but we only ever want that to apply to our own opinions.
I hope this won’t happen with Arrested Development. I fear it already has.
As a postscript, I intend to write about the entire new season of Arrested Development when I’ve seen it all. It won’t be for a little while though, so patience please.