A little backstory here, in case you’ve been living under a rock. Arrested Development was a show that aired for 3 seasons on FOX from 2003-2006. Much like all great things on television, it failed to find an audience and was subsequently and unceremoniously canceled during the third season. It wasn’t really until the show was available on DVD that it really started to steamroll into the massive cult status that it is today. I’m sure that if you’ve never seen the show, you have several friends who are constantly hounding you to watch it. If you’re not in that category, than you’re like me: a superfan. The Arrested Development Documentary Project creators Jeff Smith and Neil Lieberman took it upon themselves to one step all of us pressuring our friends to watch the show by creating this documentary as a sort of “welcome pamphlet” to one of the funniest and smartest shows ever made.
We all remember the first time we watched Arrested Development. No one just watched one episode. Everyone’s first time involved practically marathoning the first disc of Season 1. Fast forward a day and a half and you’ve already finished the entire series. It’s a show that is so insanely easy to get immediately sucked up in, and a show that is the rare case of firing on all cylinders right off the bat. Arrested Development never had to find it’s style, humor, pacing, or structure. From the first 30 seconds of the first episode, it knew exactly what it was.
The Arrested Development Documentary Project attempts to explain that last paragraph via interviews with fans of the show from all across America (including self labeled “superfan” Keith Olberman), as well as interviewing the cast and show creators, although they weren’t able to nab Jessica Walters and Michael Cera who play Lucille and George Michael Bluth.
The whole thing was created by two fans of the show who just simply wanted to show their love, and managed to raise enough money to travel around and track down the cast, which is really cool. Imagine deciding that you wanted to make a documentary about your favorite thing and then actually getting to interview the people who made it. Jeff and Neil even manage to get some good behind the scenes stories out of the cast, including a golden tale from Will Arnette about Michael Cera being on the red-carpet, so confused why the press were shouting “Michael! Sarah!” towards him so rapidly, only to realize he was standing between Michael Douglas and Sarah Jessica Parker.
It’s quite obvious that the interviews were all conducted well before the Netflix Acquisition happened. Although there is a brief screenshot of a headline regarding the Netflix deal, most of the talk about the future of the show revolves around the much rumored Arrested Development movie, that DID eventually turn into the new season, which was actually the better outcome. Seven hours versus ninety minutes kind of sells itself, you know? Had the documentary been filmed after the Netflix deal, I think it would have actually been a lot harder for the two film makers to grab so many of the cast members to participate.
With a project like this, where it’s just two fans creating this from scratch, it’s hard to say anything negative about it. Just from the mere accomplishment of the whole thing is worthy enough for applause. If I HAD to change anything about it, though, I’d probably say that I wish it featured more behind the scenes anecdotes, rather than being a visual introduction to the show for new-comers. As great as that is, I feel a big chunk of the people who would watch The Arrested Development Documentary Project are already hardcore fans of the show, and don’t need the introduction. But like I said, it’s a minor nitpick that shouldn’t really detract from the film.
So if you really have never seen Arrested Development, I implore you to throw these two filmmakers a few dollars (because after all, there’s always money in the banana stand) to check out this film, and then just plow through the first 3 seasons via Netflix. You will surely not feel that you’ve made a huge mistake, nor will you feel blue about it.
I give The Arrested Development Documentary Project a 4.5/5 and one
RICHARD LOVE ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT
By Richard Pepper