If you’ve never heard of Arrested Development, that’s probably because the show was cancelled almost seven years ago. But that doesn’t mean the show was a failure, or that people have stopped watching it. The show has developed a cult following, and it now seems to be getting more popular all the time.
The story can be summarized with the tagline that Ron Howard narrates at the beginning of each show: “And now the story of a wealthy family who lost everything and the one son who had no choice but to keep them all together.” The name Arrested Development is dual reference to (1) the plot line in which the father, a housing developer, gets arrested for “light treason,” and (2) the state of perpetual adolescence in which the various members of the family, who have been coddled their whole lives, are trying to grow beyond.
I won’t recommend the show to a general audience because there is much to be offended by. You will have to decide for yourself whether or not Arrested Development would be beneficial for you to watch. But I will explain why I enjoy the show.
I love Arrested Development because it’s creative. As a cultural production, the writers, actors, directors, and producers did a fantastic job of putting together a show that highlights human creativity. The ability to create is a gift from God, and all creativity reflects our Creator, even if it is not being used to his glory (of course, being creative in a godly way reflects him even more). Over three seasons, the makers of Arrested Development gave us fascinating characters and showed a unique ability to weave storylines together in a character-driven fashion—not an easy thing to do.
And then there’s the obvious fact that the show is hilarious. I can’t think of a single episode that doesn’t crack me up (I watch these episodes at least a few times each year). The show explores so much of what makes the human experience funny. The show’s sense of humor is unique, and they don’t appeal to a laugh track to tell the audience when the jokes have landed. Much of the humor is subtle, and all the funnier for it.
As I think about the overall message of the show, I’d say it comes down to love. That may sound funny to those familiar with the show, but I think it’s true. And I actually think the show promotes a far deeper view of love than most love-oriented shows on TV give us.
Here’s what I mean. The major characters are all part of the same family: the Bluths. But they don’t like each other very much. Much of the humor comes from the family scheming against, criticizing, lying, or manipulating one another. Sounds wholesome, right? But the thing is, they genuinely love each other. Episode after episode, they keep hurting one another. But they keep coming back. The main character, Michael, keeps trying to leave his family, only to find himself pulled back in. The characters don’t seem to know why they stick together, but they find something pulling them to remain a family.
I know we’d like to think that a healthy, loving family wouldn’t treat each other as horribly as the Bluths do. And it’s true that their scheming shows their dysfunction. But love runs deeper than external factors. It’s not about romance and fireworks. It’s about a deeper commitment that keeps no record of wrongs, that bears all things, that binds us together even when the external behaviors of those we love don’t reciprocate the love we give.
I see that in the characters of Arrested Development. Of course, not everyone will agree. The show’s title signals that these characters are flawed, and their flaws are glaring (and hilarious). But I like them all the same. And I like to think that they are growing as they limp their way through life.
From the moment the show was cancelled, rumors have circulated (due in large part to the show’s brilliant final scene) about an Arrested Development movie in the future. Now there are rumors about a fourth season as well, possibly being filmed right now. Who knows? Maybe we’ll get to see more of the Bluths and see signs of their growth. Or not. But either way, I and many others will continue to enjoy the brilliant (and sometimes deep) comedy created by a talented group of people.