Opinions, Column

The Show Must Go On

We don’t realize how much something means to us until it’s gone. This is how I felt when, near the end of February, I received disheartening news from one of my roommates. In less than a month I would be losing something that was a constant in my life for over half a decade, something that had stood by my side through my successes and my failures. On March 14, 2023, the popular American sitcom Arrested Development would be removed from Netflix.

So, on the night of March 13, a group of my roommates and I decided to rewatch all of our favorite episodes before the show joined the ever-growing cache of beautiful shows ripped away from us as a result of license disputes. Arrested Development had been taken from us once before. In the early 2000s, when the program originally aired, it received low ratings and Fox canceled the show in 2006 after only three seasons. Almost a decade later, Netflix performed a miracle of resurrection by adding Arrested Development to its repertoire and making it one of the first Netflix original shows by producing an additional two seasons. But now, all of that would be gone.

On that final night before the show disappeared, we chose to avoid the fourth and fifth seasons when making our precious selections. Despite having the same characters and writers, these added-on seasons failed to capture the same magic the show had during its first go. Instead, we hopped around the first three seasons wildly, jumping from storyline to storyline with rash consideration for continuity. We had all seen the show countless times, so we did not worry about getting lost in the story.

I felt like I was reminiscing with a departing friend as we all sat around recounting our favorite jokes and picking which episode to watch next, knowing the show would soon exist only in my memories. 

The closer we got to that fateful hour, the deeper our appreciation for the show grew. For the first time, we noticed elements that had evaded us in previous viewings. Through our sporadic choices, we discovered recurring background themes, subtle references to past episodes, and setups with punchlines a season later.

As I watched, I began to think about the literal name of the show. In psychology, “arrested development” refers to, as the name implies, the premature ceasing of development. In the show, not only do all the characters have major personality flaws due to their lack of development, but they also all fail to grow as the show progresses. As we jumped between seasons, the characters changed very little. We could tell that, despite each episode ending with a lesson for the characters, nobody was doing any actual learning. 

As my time with the show winded down, I tried to apply this idea to analyze my own life. Have I changed over the course of the last season? Has my multiple-episode arc resulted in personal growth? Or has my development been arrested? There were no satisfying answers, and all I really realized is that over the past five years my preference in television has not changed.

We started our final episode with less than 20 minutes left until midnight. As the hour grew nearer, we began a countdown to the moment that our viewing session would come to an inevitable end. And yet, when our countdown concluded, Arrested Development’s time on Netflix didn’t. Figuring that this was due to some time-zone related issue, we made the wise decision to keep watching until we no longer could. But this time never came, and we ended up sitting there until 3 a.m. watching episode after episode. 

The next day, we decided the articles we read probably meant the show would leave after the 14th of March, not on the 14th. So, the following night we repeated the ordeal—yet once again we were not deprived of the show at midnight. And even as I write this article, the show maintains its position near the top of the “trending now” section.

So what did I learn from my (happily) thwarted good-bye to my favorite show? Perhaps that I am fortunate to have constants—good friends, good laughs, and good TV—as I work toward my own form of personal growth. And we should appreciate our constants while we have them—nothing lasts forever. 

April 2, 2023