Thanks for everything, “Arrested”

ike Platt

I don’t know what I’m more upset about today, the premature conclusion of “Arrested Development” or my loss in the Mr. PanAsia contest. For the sake journalistic coherency, I’ll only discuss the former.

Last Friday, “Arrested Development” concluded its third, and what most believe to be, final season. It leaves its legacy as one of the most acclaimed television series in recent memory and arguably the funniest sitcom since “Seinfeld.”

But nobody watched it.

Over the show’s run, the disparity between the show’s acclaim and its ratings baffled fans and network executives alike. Some attributed it to its self-referential humor, which may be oft-putting for the unfamiliar viewer. Others said the name was too long. Others said the shows humor was too over the top (but, as the finale proved, a house full of Saddam Hussein impersonators can be very funny).

However, the bottom-line is that a well-written, funny show like “Arrested Development” simply should not fail to gather a large audience. Those who claim that the show was ahead of its time or its humor was too complex are undermining the intelligence of the American public. We, as a society, have been able to embrace a wide of variety of TV shows, from the deep and complex (“Lost,” “24”) to random ’90s sitcom supporting characters competing in arbitrary contests (“Dancing with the Stars,” “Skating with Celebrities”).

Therefore, the show’s failure to garner a large audience can be mostly attributed to incompetent marketing on the part of Fox. The show switched timeslots so many times even its fans had no idea when it was on. Airing the season finale opposite the Olympic Opening Ceremony, an event only half the civilized world is likely to watch, was an uncalled for slap in the face.

You’d figure Fox would have already learned their lesson. “Family Guy” faced a similar ratings struggle during its first three seasons, and was subsequently axed by Fox. But after record-setting DVD sales, Fox brought the show back last spring. Now it is easily the most popular TV series among college students. Clearly, the audience for “Family Guy” always existed; Fox simply didn’t know how to reach them.

Money, of course, also played a factor, albeit in a slightly complex fashion. TV shows come with a definite learning curve. If you don’t understand the point of “Skating with Celebrities” from its name, you were driven around by Britney Spears one too many times as a baby. More complex shows like “Arrested Development” take longer to “click” with its viewers. But in an age where fast-profit is king, the reality shows are simply more valuable cash-cows in the eyes of television networks.

In the end, we are left with a TV landscape devoid of one its foremost bright spots. Unlike what many apologists would have you believe, last Friday night we witnessed the premature death of a show that could have and should have grown into a mainstream success.

It was “Arrested Development.”

Mike Platt is a Weinberg senior. He can be reached at [email protected]