Monday, February 6, 2012

A TV Nerd in "Development"

Now that I've gotten through most of my backlog of 2011 movies, let's talk about TV.

I've lamented before that when it comes to television, I am constantly, hopelessly out of the loop. American television has been turning heads in recent years, breaking barriers and making strides that no one could have predicted fifteen years ago. And as a result, there are a handful of modern television series that have become, for the lack of a better term, canon: "The Sopranos," "The Wire," and "Mad Men," just to name a few. Oh, I've caught a "Breaking Bad" here, and a "Louie" there, but I know deep down that it's not quite the same.

As a media junkie and an amateur reviewer of television, I've been feeling a certain obligation to make myself familiar with more of these big series, the game changers that blazed new ground for everything else that followed. Because really, how am I supposed to fully participate in the critical discussion when I haven't seen most of the shows that everything else these days is being judged against? Last year I worked through some pretty lengthy serials like "Babylon 5," "Twin Peaks," and "Farscape," that had been on my science-fiction-fan watchlist for years. This year I plan to get even more ambitious, and finally tackle some of the substantively heftier titles that I've been missing out on. Thanks to the internet, it's easier than ever to access and watch these shows too.

So where have I decided to start playing catch-up? Well, right now I'm seriously considering "Arrested Development." I admit that this not the obvious choice. As far as recent heavy-hitters go, it certainly isn't the show that made the biggest impact on the television landscape, or was the biggest critical darling, or was even much of an awards circuit regular. But honestly, can you think of a television comedy from the last ten years that has been more beloved and more influential than "Arrested Development"? Moreover, the show is about to occupy a very important place in media history – it is by far the most high profile television show yet that is going to be resurrected for an Internet audience, specifically a new season that will be financed by and shown on Netflix. Whether the new episodes of "Arrested Development" prove to be a grand experiment destined for failure, or a new model for future entertainment distribution that can seriously rival broadcast and cable television is unclear. All I know is, it's going to be pretty momentous either way, and I want to be able to watch and weigh in.

I've always had a soft spot for cult shows. When "Arrested Development" had its original run on the FOX network between 2003 and 2006, I always heard its fans bemoaning its lack of popularity and that regular viewers didn't appreciate it. I could sympathize, having had a long track record of getting attached to doomed one-season wonders, most of which coincidentally also happened to air on FOX. And after the cancellation came the years and years of "Arrested Development" movie rumors, which paralleled my own futile hopes for all those different "Buffy" spinoffs that never happened, and all the proposed "Star Trek" and "Star Wars" shows that still remain in development. In short, even though I had never watched "Arrested Development," I understood its fans. And I always secretly hoped, whenever someone would bring the movie plans up for the umpteenth time, that somehow the show would come back again, in some form, because it seemed to mean so much to so many people.

As for me, "Arrested Development" certainly seemed like a show I would enjoy. I remember fully intending to sit down and watch a few episodes at various points during its run, but somehow I never saw more than a few clips. I didn't even realize that Michael Cera had gotten his break there until years later, when his film career was already pretty far along. I don't want to say much more, because I realize I've just spent the bulk of an entire post here talking about a show that I haven't seen yet, and I expect that I'll be devoting several in the future to actual reactions and such.

So to sum up, I'll be tacking some big television series in the near future, probably starting with "Arrested Development." And if I don't watch it now, then definitely before the new episodes premiere on Netflix, sometime in 2013.

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