To Binge or Not to Binge: The 'Arrested Development' Dilemma, from TV Experts

It is the conundrum of our time — or at least this Memorial Day: Should you watch the entire fourth season immediately in Netflix's big batch, or savor the return? We asked TV superfans, writers, critics, and Annyong himself about their Arrested Development Day plans. Model your viewing habits accordingly.

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One of the biggest problems for fans of Arrested Development amidst their impending joy has been the problem of how to watch the first new episodes in seven years, 15 of which will be released on Netflix all at once in the wee hours of this Sunday morning. The comedy dump has created the conundrum of our time — or at least this Memorial Day: Should you watch the entire fourth season immediately in one batch, binging on all the inside jokes until you can sustain yourself no longer? Or should you savor and watch slowly as you would a "regular" television show? (Or, you know, at least as you would a regular television show streaming on your computer, this one just happening to be a cult hit reborn and perhaps never to return again.)

In an interview with Denise Martin of Vulture, a site that has intensely considered the Great AD Binge Debate, creator Mitch Hurwitz explained that he thinks you should see Arrested Development Day as a beginning, not necessarily as an exhaustive holiday of the Netflix couch-potato variety. Watching all at once would be draining and make the material not as funny, Hurwitz insists. You're also guaranteed to miss something, and that's not as much fun with a show as nuanced as Arrested Development. So, Hurwitz said: "Don't feel obligated to watch it all at once. It's a comedy! It's not like Lord of the Rings. Comedy takes a lot out of you." (You also have to watch the season in order, he said, since the single character-centric episodes won't overlap as much as anticipated.) Meanwhile, Jason Bateman told Andy Greene of Rolling Stone that he plans to watch four episodes a day of what Hurwitz called an eight-hour movie, and Will Arnett told Greene in an interview published Friday that he endorses binging: "I think you just gotta hit play and don't stop until you run out of battery."

But we were curious how TV superfans, writers, and critics — and Annyong! — plan to deal with the Development dilemma, so we contacted them to find out what strategy they had lined up for their Memorial Day weekend. Perhaps you can model your viewing habits accordingly.

We first wanted to hear from our very own Richard Lawson, who wrote about the "new neurosis" caused by Netflix's marathon-inducing release strategy back in February. Despite binging on House of Cards in one weekend, Lawson plans to take it slow this time. "I will be in a farmhouse in Rhode Island with no Internet on Sunday and Monday, so I will be way behind the curve on watching the new episodes," he said. "And you know what? That's fine with me. I learned my lesson with my insane House of Cards binge. I'm going to savor things this time around."

Following Hurwitz's counsel is Karey Dornetto, who wrote for Arrested Development's third and final season on Fox from 2005-2006. She told us in an email that she plans to watch "while eating a frozen banana and taking Mitch's advice of watching in order and not all at once."

There are, of course, those who are opting for the too-much-is-not-enough method. "I'll just watch it like everyone else, by inappropriately binging and ignoring my children," New Yorker TV critic Emily Nussbaum confessed in an email. 

Will Leitch, who wrote a feature about Arrested Development fandom for New York, isn't exactly locking himself in a room as he suggested in his article, but he's not going to let the little matter of a plane ride stop him from watching ASAP. "As it turns out, I'm actually on a cross-country flight first thing Sunday morning. So as long as WiFi is working, I am going to have the best flight of all time," Leitch wrote in an email. "If it's not working, though: So much rage." Should Boingo prevent Hey, brother, well, Leitch is binging as soon as possible: "Oh, man, the second I get to the hotel. Specifically made sure schedule was clear Sunday night for that very purpose." 

Jeff Smith and Neil Lieberman, the men behind The Arrested Development Documentary Project,  told us in a phone conversation that they hadn't really made their plans — except that they planned on watching the new episodes together. "If was going to put money on it, I think we will probably end up watching it all back-to-back," Smith said.  

HitFix's Alan Sepinwall plans to marathon — for fear of spoilers — but only after Memorial Day: "I'm going to watch all the episodes likely on Tuesday. I have a wife and kids who rightfully expect to spend the holiday weekend with me, so I won't be getting to them any earlier. And because I don't want every surprise cameo and joke ruined for me on Twitter before I get to watch it all — and because I have a job that allows me to do it — I'm going to power through the whole thing in a day. It's not ideally how I'd want to watch it (as Mitch Hurwitz himself notes, comedy tires you out after a while), but I had too many things about House of Cards ruined for me before I got to it." 

Willa Paskin, of Salon, will also be waiting out the weekend. She detailed her plan in an email: "observe Memorial Day, start watching on Tuesday, finish Wednesday, try to write something smart by Friday." She added: "Nothing ruins comedy quite like watching it when you really, really don't want to, which would be my state around episode nine if I was force-binging myself. And binge watching really does erase some of the nuances — the grace notes, the quibbles — from one's memory, and Arrested Development has nuances I would like to take at least 24-36 hours to notice." 

But Doug Mand, a writer for How I Met Your Mother, is planning on exhibiting extreme restraint. "I couldn't be more excited about the new season of Arrested Development. I'm a Jew, so this feels like my Christmas," he wrote. "I've actually talked to people about how they plan on watching. I'm gonna try to limit myself to two episodes a day, but it's gonna be hard not to watch it all at once. I want to savor it. Having a great show to come home to, and watch with my fiancé and dog for a whole week, that just sounds perfect." 

Finally, we asked one of Arrested Development's own, actor Justin Lee, who plays Annyong, how he plans to watch. Lee (though a representative) wrote: "My plans are to have an Arrested Development mini premiere party marathon at The Actors Room [where I train] with a bunch of close friends and family. We will definitely have enough food, drink, and snacks to last about eight hours — that's the way to watch!"

So, now you have some guidance. Now get comfy. Put on your jorts. (Or don't.) Eat some frozen bananas. (Or cornballs.) Drink some Cloudmir. Enjoy the ride, however you choose.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.