Fox offered its luncheon panel at the TCA press tour Tuesday on behalf new animated sitcom Sit Down, Shut Up, about a high school faculty in a small Florida fishing town. TCA members lunched on mac ‘n’ cheese, chocolate milk and other school-lunch fare on cafeteria trays in honor of the show premiering on April 19. (Click here for complete TCA coverage.)
But the conversation turned continually back to canceled cult Fox comedy Arrested Development, from much the same auspices—executive producer Mitchell Hurwitz, and cast members Jason Bateman and Will Arnett.
It’s understandable. The lunch room was essentially the original Arrested Development fan club. By all accounts, the show did not grab a large audience, but it had the critics’ full attention. It was one of the most critically-acclaimed comedies in years.
A sampling of the Arrested Development questions and answers at the Sit Down, Shut Up panel:
Q: What’s the status of an Arrested Development movie?
A: Hurwitz says they are “really close” to making it happen. They’re nearly done with a deal with the movie company Fox Searchlight, and they have a story, he said: “It’s Valkyrie meets Hotel for Dogs.” (Cue ballroom full of critics busting guts; the critics do love this guy.)
Q: Why didn’t Arrested Development last? Was it the unlikable characters?
A: Several people answered this question, with points about the characters being “human” and “flawed,” rather than unlikable. They related this aspect of characters on hit sitcoms from the past such as Seinfeld and All in the Family and suggested that while characters in Sit Down, Shut Up are “despicable,” they’re also not entirely unlikable.
Hurwitz, Bateman and Arnett also made points about the accessibility of AD, the perception that the show seemed to require a real investment on the part of viewers. Arnett said people saw it as “homework,” like something they should be watching. Bateman said he thought DVD was a big new way to watch TV at that time and a lot of people thought, “I’ll just wait til it comes out on DVD and watch it all the way through,” he said. “Which is a great way to watch it.” (That, or a DVR.)
All three pointed to the fact that the way audiences were measured when the show was on did not necessarily account for all of their fans. DVR viewing, for example, was not counted when Arrested Development was on and college dorm viewing was just being incorporated into Nielsen stats.
Q: So have Arrested Development alumni spent much time thinking about why it didn’t last?
A: Um, clearly yes. (That was a rhetorical question posed by Arnett, actually.)
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