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.