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Arrested Development is an American television sitcom that began airing on the Fox Network in 2003. Despite it’s positive critical acclaim and cult-like fan following, the show was cancelled in 2006 after three seasons. In 2011, Netflix agreed to release an additional fifteen episodes to be exclusively distributed via their streaming service, which will premiere in May 2013.
The show was driven by an idea of director and producer Ron Howard, who wanted to create a comedy series filmed with one camera in the style a reality television with an elaborate, over the top comedy script. Howard and a group of producers met with two writers, including Mitchell Hurwitz who suggested a family with a “riches to rags” story, in light of the 2001 Enron Scandal. He was quickly chosen to write a pilot script, which was submitted in January 2003 and filmed that March. The pilot details the events of a party in which the protagonist Michael Bluth is charged with piecing his family’s company back together after his father, George Bluth Sr., is arrested for using company money for his personal gain. It premiered on Fox on November 2nd, 2003 to 7.98 million viewers.
After several years of speculation about the possibility of an Arrested Development movie, Netflix announced in November 2011 that they would be offering a fourth season of the show exclusively on their streaming service in early 2013. The new episodes began filming in August 2012. In April 2013, Netflix reported that the entire 15 episode season would be made available at 12:01 AM PST on May 26th, 2013.
Similar to other cult shows like Community and Veronica Mars, Arrested Development did not have a large audience while it was airing. Over the course of its three seasons, the show had an average of 5.4 million viewers. The final four episodes of the series aired directly opposite the 2006 Winter Olympics, resulting in only 3.43 million viewers. Despite this, the show saw positive reviews from critics between 2004 and 2007 including Entertainment Weekly, The Guardian and the New York Times. Additionally, Arrested Development was named one of the greatest shows of the decade on a HuffPost TV and one of the best shows of all time by TIME and Empire.
Throughout its time on air, Arrested Development was nominated for 62 awards and won 26 in total, including six Primetime Emmy Awards, three Television Critics Association Awards, one Golden Globe Award and one Writers Guild of America award. Jason Bateman has won three awards for his portrayal of Michael Bluth, including a Golden Globe Award and two Satellite Awards, and creator Michael Hurtwiz has won three Primetime Emmy awards for his work.
The fourth season of Arrested Development premiered on Netflix at 12:01 AM PST on May 26th, 2013. All fifteen episodes of the season were made available at once, leading many people to “binge-watch” the entire series at once, despite creator Mitch Hurwitz suggesting viewers take their time. Each episode focused on a different character’s perspective of the same events which took place over the course of several years. Every episode allowed viewers a different perspective on the same situation, unraveling the story one episode at a time.
The season was met with mixed reviews, with the New York Times suggesting that the internet killed the charm of the original series. The Washington Post and The Daily Beast echoed this sentiment, citing editing, poorly written characters, and loose ends as issues throughout the season. However, blogs including Geek.com and Slashfilm praised the story’s complexity and humor. By the Tuesday after the show premiere, Netflix had not yet released any official numbers about the viewership, however, their company stock dropped 5% that day.
On May 29th, Redditor dirtydanielday submitted a thread on /r/ArrestedDevelopment suggesting that someone should recut the fourth season of the show to be in chronological order. It received 430 upvotes, 349 points overall and 120 comments. That same day, Redditor Clawtrocity responded to the thread, claiming to have already started recutting the series into a four-part chronology. Kabir Akhtar, the lead editor of the fourth season also responded to the thread, noting that the editors tried to ensure there would be enough content left throughout the episodes so people could potentially reconstruct them. On May 31st, Redditor closetsquirrel submitted the first recut video featuring a chronological version of George Michael’s graduation party. It has since been removed from YouTube.
On June 1st, Clawtrocity uploaded his first two recut episodes (shown below) and announced the subreddit /r/ProjectHotMess as the home for future recut episodes. This post gained more than 435 upvotes, 378 points overall and 87 comments. On June 2nd, Redditor morphinapg submitted twelve chronologically recut episodes to /r/ArrestedDevelopment, gaining more than 551 upvotes, 457 points overall and 119 comments. On June 3rd, news of the fan-made recut episodes was shared on entertainment website Splitsider, followed by coverage on the Daily Dot, The Atlantic and Gizmodo on the nest day. Also on June 4th, Akhtar hosted an AMA event, during which he said he was curious about the chronological recuts and expressed interest in watching them. Morphinapg offered to send him a Blu-ray disc of the edits, but Akhtar chose to download them instead.
In preparation for the new season on Netflix, Arrested Development began to establish social networking accounts, starting with Facebook on February 22nd, 2013. The page gained more than 1.7 million likes by April of that year. On March 7th, 2013, a Twitter account for the show was created, but it did not post its first tweet until April 4th, to announce the Netflix season premiere date. Within nine hours, the account had gained more than 15,000 followers. They also used the hashtag #AD2013 to tout the new episodes, which was used nearly 4800 times that day.
And with one tweet, Arrested Development had more followers than viewers of the original series. #AD2013— Arrested Development (@arresteddev) April 4, 2013
The earliest Arrested Development fan communities convened on LiveJournal, where the first fan group The_Bluths was created on December 17th, 2003. As of 2013, the journal has accrued more than 1700 members, 2600 posts and 25,000 comments. LiveJournal also hosts fanfiction communities, a memorable quotes page and a now-defunct icon contest. The first fansite, The Balboa Observer-Picayune was created in Feburyar 2004, but ceased updating in 2008. In January 2009, an Arrested Development subreddit was created, gaining more than 70,000 subscribers as of April 2013. The next year, in January 2010, @BluthQuotes was created, providing quotes and news about Arrested Development cast members via Twitter. The first Tumblr fan blog, The Bluth Company, launched on July 25th, 2010.
In 2012, visual designer Nathan Romero created the quote generator Bananastand.me for the show. Fans of Arrested Development have shared fan art and screenshots from the show on Tumblr and deviantART and nearly 100 stories about the show have been shared on Fanfiction.net. Though actress Alia Shawkat has noted that the fandom is “kind of ridiculous,” Vulture named them one of the 25 Most Devoted Fanbases in 2012.
Arrested Development content and characters can often be found in other memetic content, which has been featured on Funny or Die, Cheezburger, We Know Memes, Buzzfeed and the Huffington Post.
Mash Up Tumblrs
In September 2010, a single topic Tumblr titled Mad Development (shown below, left) launched, placing Arrested Development captions on screen shots from the show Mad Men, juxtaposing the former’s absurd dialogue with the serious nature of the latter. In May 2011, this format was repeated in Arrested Westeros[39 (shown below, right), which places the captions over screenshots and GIFs from Game of Thrones. As of 2013, dozens of these mashup blogs have been created using content from Breaking Bad, Lord of the Rings, Downton Abbey and Les Miserables.
I’ve Made a Huge Mistake
I’ve Made a Huge Mistake was a running catchphrase of Michael’s older brother Gob, who often used it to express a realization that he had done something wrong. In early 2012, the phrase became a popular caption on image macros and animated GIFs, sometimes used in conjunction with a description of the regrettable action.
Tobias Fünke’s Blanket
Tobias Fünke’s Blanket is a photoshop meme that spread on 4chan and Tumblr after a behind-the-scenes photo of actor David Cross wearing a blanket on set was leaked online. A day after the photos were released, Buzzfeed highlighted a series of photoshopped images based on his strange outfit.
Bluth’s Frozen Banana Stand
To promote the launch of season four, a number of viral marketing stunts related to the show took place both online and off. On May 8th, 2013, a real-life version of Bluth’s Frozen Banana Stand began a three-city tour in London, England. After its London appearance, the stand spent four days in New York City where a number of cast members including Ron Howard, Will Arnett and Jason Bateman (shown below) stopped by to hand out frozen bananas to fans. Photos of the events were shared on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #ADWorldTour. Additionally, online food ordering service Seamless launched a fake menu for the Banana Stand with a number of items referencing running gags in the show.
Insert Me Anywhere
On May 15th, a YouTube account for the character Tobias Fünke (played by David Cross) uploaded an acting audition reel (shown below) under the guise of submitting it to Ron Howard for consideration. The video linked to the website InsertMeAnywhere.biz, offering a series of six green-screen videos of the character that could be easily edited into other clips.
Within 24 hours, the video had been viewed more than 185,000 times and was shared on a number of entertainment blogs including Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, the A.V. Club and The Daily Dot. That evening, Slate offered their own edited video, placing Fünke in a recent episode of AMC drama Mad Men. The next day, Uproxx collected a number of videos and GIFs made with the Insert Me Anywhere templates made by users on Uproxx, Tumblr and YouTube.
The New York Times – A Quick End to the Cult Series That Lived Up to Its Name
Huffington Post – ‘Arrested Development’ Takes Over Your Favorite Memes
Funny or Die – 40 of the Funniest “Arrested Development” Screencaps
New York Times – New ‘Arrested Development’ Season Coming to Netflix on May 26
The A.V. Club – Never hire Tobias Fünke--insert him anywhere instead!
The Philly Post – Why You Should Binge-Watch the New Arrested Development