Call Me Elaine

I write a lot here about TV shows I like. Now, I’m going to write about one that everyone seems to like except me.

Remember that episode of Seinfeld when Elaine found herself dumped and fired, all because she didn’t like The English Patient?

Well, I haven’t been dumped or fired, but the reactions I’ve gotten to my declarations of hate for this show have been priceless. I’ve gotten all the cliché signs of shock: loud gasps, jaw drops, disbelieving stares, and “Really?” There are probably more coming when people read my next sentence.

I hate Arrested Development.

And I do mean hate. Not “couldn’t get into it,” not “okay but not my thing.” I strongly dislike the show.

I think I’ve given it a fair chance. I’ve seen the first three episodes (so I’m familiar with the characters, the premise of the show, etc.), the second season premiere, the second season episode “Meat the Veals,” and possibly another episode at some point that I can’t recall.

But I do not enjoy the show. I don’t find it funny, for one thing. I understand the jokes, but they don’t make me laugh. Occasionally, there’s a good line or plot twist (I will give you that “There’s always money in the banana stand!” was pretty funny), but they’re few and far between.

More importantly, I don’t like the characters—any of them. If they were characters in a movie, they might be tolerable, but I find them all too annoying to want to follow their progress across three seasons. There’s an element of believability with them that’s missing, I think—not one character on the show seems anything like a real person, and nothing that happens seems anything like real life. I think the best comedy is rooted in truth, which is what differentiates this show from shows like The Office. Characters like Michael Scott and Dwight Schrute can do outrageous and, yes, annoying things, but there are things about them, and all the other characters, that you can recognize in people you know, and characteristics that make them relatable and likeable. And everyone knows someone like Jim or Pam or any of the other characters on The Office. But do you know anyone like Buster or Tobias? I don’t. Can you identify with any of the characters on Arrested Development? I can’t.

Other reasons for not liking it: George Michael having a crush on his cousin Maeby grossed me out. Too much of the humor is slapstick. And I think most people have an actor who irritates them for some inexplicable reason, and for me, that actor is Jason Bateman. I don’t know why—something about him just bugs me.

What bugs me even more, though, is the attitude Arrested Development fans have toward anyone who disagrees with them. Recently, I Googled, with quotation marks, “don’t like Arrested Development,” and it only turned up four page of hits. Most of them were things like, “The only people that don’t like Arrested Development are the people too stupid to understand it,” and “Funny how the people that don’t like Arrested Development type like 12 year-olds, and the people that do have the English language down pretty well.”

Funny how those people, who apparently think I’m stupid, don’t know that they should have said, “The only people who don’t like Arrested Development…”

From talking to people who like the show, both on and offline, that attitude seems to be the rule rather than the exception. You don’t like Arrested Development; therefore, you’re too stupid to “get it.”

But what I really don’t get is where this attitude comes from. Is it just because the show was canceled so early? Is it really that hard for people to understand that someone might not like it? Believe it or not, I know what it’s like to love a show that no one’s watching. A few years ago, I liked the extremely low-rated Six Degrees, and lately, I’ve become a bit of an evangelist for Damages, which has Emmys and a lot of critical acclaim, but not great ratings. But I realize, even as I encourage others to watch them, that neither of those shows will appeal to everyone. I’ve never needed to make myself feel superior to the people who didn’t watch a show I liked and led to it being canceled. But apparently, most Arrested Development fans do. It’s a show that intelligent, educated people are “supposed” to like, the way that you’re “supposed” to like indie music and foreign films. And the really funny thing about that idea is that, from what I’ve seen of it, the show relies pretty heavily on dumb slapstick gags that a five-year-old could understand.

Like any kind of cultural snobbery, this attitude pisses me off. It’s the same reason Aaron Sorkin’s attitude about Studio 60 provoked such a strong reaction in me, and the same reason I’m so bothered by music snobs.

But there have to be other people out there who hate Arrested Development as much as I do. After all, there weren’t enough people watching it to keep it on the air longer than three seasons. If any of them stumble across my blog, I beg of you—come out of hiding! I’m here to tell you that it is okay not to like this show, which is probably a new thing for you to hear. Despite what fans of the show may make you think, you are not stupid and neither am I!

And maybe, once you find me, we can figure out what the equivalent of Elaine’s, “Quit telling your stupid story about the stupid desert and just die already!” would be for Arrested Development.

10 thoughts on “Call Me Elaine

  1. adinarj

    I don't like the show, either! I usually say that I “couldn't get into it.” I watched at least the first disc, if not the first two, and I had no desire to watch any more episodes. I did not connect with the characters at all and did not find it funny in the least. I like most of the actors in other things (Alia Shawkat – State of Grace, Michael Cera – Juno) but I just don't get what all the fuss is about.

    Meanwhile, a show like X-Files, I tried to like. I can understand what the appeal is, but it's not my thing. Or, rather, the reason why I didn't like it is indefinable. I liked most things about it.

    Which is the direct contrast to ArDe where I hated most things about it.

  2. MediaMaven

    Me! Me! Me! God, I hate Arrested Development. Never, ever funny, incredibly stupid, just dumb all around. Never got the evangelizing love, and can't stand the condescension.

    I was a fan of Studio 60, though.

  3. Anonymous

    Thank you! I feel the exact same way. There's nothing really “smart” about this humor. It's not even subtle or witty. It's just….bizarre, forced, and sometimes, very stupid.

  4. Steve Wallace

    Finally, someone else who can't stand this show, either! I got through the first two seasons and cannot stand it anymore.

    I liked it at first, which is why I watched the firs two seasons. The thing that bothered me the most, though, is the way the main character's family screws him over all the time, and he spends every second of his day fixing his family-caused problems. Then at the end of the episode, he acts all high and mighty because he's such a good person for sticking with a dysfunctional family that sabotages him every change they get. Those people aren't family if they have no qualms about screwing him over like that.

    You're right about there being no one relate-able, too. Everyone seemed just like made up characters that aren't similar to anyone I'd met in real life.

  5. Dalton Dean

    i hate the show!!! And i gave it a chance i watched all of it. No one to relate to, the characters screamed extreme stereotypes, hollow writing, and honestly a narrator? I mean it would have worked if they went with morgan freeman, or james earl jones. But no, they went with the person in the room with the bleakest, emotionless voice and decided he would be a better match. Also i know what you mean by Jason Bateman. He just comes off as smug and narcissistic to me, like everyone he comes in contact with in anything he plays he just, talks down to, with a tired-some voice. And he comes off very sarcastic but not in a funny way more of an asshole way

  6. Anonymous

    I am 100% with you! Not only about Arrested Development but also this “cultural snobbery”. This show grates on me, and no one I know agrees with my qualms regarding the humour and character development (or lack thereof). You are not alone! I'm so happy I found someone out there who also doesn't like this show.

  7. Anonymous

    After hearing many times how *amazing* the show is, I watched the first episode. It wasn't funny at all – jokes were predictable and sounded forced. Instead of laughter, my reaction was: “I'm supposed to laugh at this? Really?”

    But I still started watching the second episode of AD to give the show a chance (after all, it took me 2 episodes to get me hooked on Breaking Bad), but I just couldn't stomach the pathetic Tobias crying in the shower, and turned it off. Never again. NEVER AGAIN.

  8. Anonymous

    Why are you all making a sally?
    People who donot understand the modern world/society – also donot get AD! Besides why are you all sharing your antipathy? Do you feel so insecure with your assessments that you need the encouragement of strangers or what else is this rant for?

  9. Anonymous

    Haha – love how you've completely missed the point in the article about how fans of the show feel the need to insist that other people just 'don't get it', or in your words 'don't understand the modern world'. You've literally just validated the reason for this entire blog – which is to share our opinions free from the judgement of others such as yourself.


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