It's Motherboy 40: Arrested Development Was Always Meant for the GIF Age

The show's almost-literary richness makes it infinitely rewatchable.

The cult of Arrested Development is pretty strong in my house, and rivaled only by the cult of Seinfeld (I'm a charter member, but not the boy) the cult of Star Trek: Voyager, (me and the boy are charter members, but not my wife) and the cult of Bob's Burgers (I can't do it.) Arrested Development is the one that unites us all.

Will Leitch writes about the perfect show for the ultra-connected age, founded before such connections had fully flowered:

The world into which the first three seasons of Arrested Development were released is dramatically different from the one we live in now. "I was doing a show that was all about re­watchability before there was technology that really provided that opportunity--before DVRs, etc.," Hurwitz said in an interview with Vulture last year. "In retrospect, it was more than audacious; it was foolish. " 

This is a key point, sort of the insane, futile genius of Arrested Development--a show that demanded the kind of giddy Internet dissections we do regularly now, but before there was any real forum in which to conduct them. The show was full of crazily subtle in-jokes you had to watch every episode over and over to catch, from the out-of-season seasonal clothing the Bluths made their housekeeper wear to Cloudmir Vodka, a brand that shows up in the background of at least a half-dozen scenes. We'd catch those immediately now, and every different Bluth family member's chicken impression would be gif'd within seconds of airing. It was a show made to be looped and recapped and deep-dived into, anticipating the current cultural moment without ever being able to benefit from it. A show for 2013 made in 2005. 

Then, of course, we knew not of GIFs. What we did know was that what Arrested Development was doing was so revolutionary and different it felt like public access, and it was on freaking Fox. (I remember Joe Buck and Troy Aikman plugging Arrested Development during the NFC Championship Game, for crying out loud.) And obsessing over Arrested Develop­ment made us feel better, smarter, cooler than all those dopes busy watching Two and a Half Men. In this way, Arrested Development didn't just foretell the viewing culture of 2013; it might have created it. The television world is so fractured and niche now that the shows we watch have become an important signifier of who we are--who we want to be seen as, anyway. I'm a Louie person but not a Community person. I'm a Breaking Bad person but not a Homeland one. And if I saw on your Facebook wall that you were an Arrested Development fan, well, I could bet you and I were gonna get along just fine.

I actually missed Arrested Development the first time out. I was introduced to it on Hulu, and I've probably rewatched the show's episodes more than any other I can think of. There is something very literary about the show—there are so many deep references and cross-references that you can't really catch until you've watched the entire run five different times.

It's certainly in my top five comedies. Can't wait for it to come back.

Random tangential thought: I stopped watching Community because it felt too self-referentially nerdy. (The D&D episode actually turned me off.) I'm starting to think maybe I was unfair. I should try again.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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