It took a rape joke to get me into Arrested Development. I remember the incident well: my college roommate, practically rabid with affection for the Fox sitcom, made a deal with me. “I’m going to show you 10 seconds of the show,” he said, “and if you don’t like it, I won’t bring it up again.” Sure enough, I chuckled at the deadpan delivery from Jessica Walter and Tony Hale (a.k.a. Lucille and Buster, respectively), and yet another Arrested Development fan was made. Despite my affection for the show, I don’t share the same affection for The Arrested Development Documentary. It has no reason to exist.
At 75 minutes, the documentary already feels too long. Director Jeff Smith filmed interviews with members of the cast, the production team, and several fans of the show (no appearances by Jessica Walter and Michael Cera, bless their hearts). They walk us through the show, reminiscence about how funny it was, and relive their anger over the show’s early cancellation. That’s it. There are no clips from the show, and Smith can’t even afford to show stills from an episode. Instead, he gives us a lazy circlejerk where everyone from creator Mitchell Hurwitz to narrator Ron Howard to The TV Geek from Comedy Central’s Beat the Geeks opines about the show’s brilliance. Anyone who watches this documentary does not need to be convinced.
It is borderline insulting to watch how Smith pads out his documentary so it is feature-length. There’s a clunky introduction to every major character, for example, which is ironic since the show is known for its fast-paced dialogue. The only remotely interesting section is when everyone talks about the show’s early death, but there is unanimous agreement Arrested Development simply did not have the ratings to sustain itself. There’s no denying the show was ahead of its time — sitcoms without laugh tracks are more culturally relevant than ever — yet any fan of the show is keenly aware of what the talking heads espouse.
I’m sure there is a target audience for this documentary — you know, the friend of yours who equates humor with endlessly quoting lines from the show. (I have a friend like that, and I hope he’s offended when he reads this review.) The Arrested Development Documentary is bereft of insight, and since it was largely funded by Kickstarter, I hope the backers demand their money back. We don’t need to hear Jason Bateman, David Cross, and others talk about the good years when they’re (probably) hungover. By the 15-minute mark of this tedium, I was ready to turn it off and revisit my favorite episodes. They’re all streaming on Netflix, after all, and more are about to come.