Why don't I like Arrested Development? Should I try harder?
May 26, 2013 7:55 AM   Subscribe

I've tried. A few times. I just can't get into it. Am I doing something wrong?

I've watched the first few episodes, a few times, on a few separate attempts to like this show, and I just never feel compelled to keep watching. I don't really find it funny.

I feel like I should like it, and not because of the groundswell. I don't feel left out or anything. I don't have any friends making me feel like a philistine for not jumping on the bandwagon. I love good comedy television, and I'm always looking for something new and innovative. From everything I hear, I should really love this show. Alas, I do not.

Community is probably my favorite sitcom of the last few years. I've enjoyed The Mindy Project. I've also loved The (UK) Office and (more recently) Party Down. I also love sketch shows like The Kids In the Hall, Fry & Laurie, and Mr. Show.

But what about Arrested Development? Have I just not watched enough of it? Does it get better? Funnier? More clever? A lot of what I've heard/read about the show (especially the new season) makes me think I would love it. I don't. Please help.

Also, feel free to tell me I'm wasting my time trying to like something I just don't like. Or recommend something else I might have better luck with.
posted by eric1halfb to Media & Arts (59 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I've never liked it either. My solution has always been to go fire up The State.
posted by ziggly at 7:59 AM on May 26, 2013

Also, feel free to tell me I'm wasting my time trying to like something I just don't like.

This. If you're not into it, you're not into it. Who cares? If that's your biggest problem, you are very lucky.

As for suggestions, if you like Party Down and Kids in the Hall, you might like Burning Love.

(FWIW, I love both Arrested Development and Burning Love.)
posted by amro at 7:59 AM on May 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Ugh, not that it really impacts my answer but I was mixing up The State and Kids in the Hall, which I'm sure is a terrible thing to do.
posted by amro at 8:01 AM on May 26, 2013 [5 favorites]

I liked all the shows you list as shows you like and I also just can't get into Arrested Development.

I'm of the opinion that there is a large group of people are actually just pretending to like it because it is cool. Not everyone, I'm sure that a huge number of people actually love it but I definitely think that some people feel like they are SUPPOSED to love it and so they pretend to.
posted by magnetsphere at 8:04 AM on May 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

I love Arrested Development, but I hate Community and don't care for Kids in the Hall. To me their humor is a very different style. Stop beating yourself up and go watch something you like!
posted by christinetheslp at 8:07 AM on May 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

You're not alone in thinking AD is overrated.
posted by dortmunder at 8:09 AM on May 26, 2013

My husband and I don't like it either. It's not funny; it's stupid people being kind of mean. I'd rather watch Community or Weeds or Green Wing or Peep Show.
posted by Specklet at 8:11 AM on May 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

I'm exactly that same, have watched first three episodes and haven't laughed once, not even a tiny, internal chuckle. I am persevering because a) I think the cast is really strong b) the reviews and widespread love for it and c) I hated Parks & Rec after first few viewings but it soon turned out to be the greatest show ever. So with c) in mind I suggest keep trying but if you still haven't enjoyed it after half a season give up and go watch Parks and Rec.
posted by Callicvol at 8:11 AM on May 26, 2013

I've been a fan for a while. Initially, my wife really didn't like it very much at all (she found it mean and not very funny). I got her to watch a few (~4 or 5) episodes and it really grew on her. She now likes it quite a lot. On the other hand, if you've given it a fair chance and don't like it, don't watch it. Not everyone who likes a certain type of show is going to like every show in that genre; I'm a big Sci Fi TV fan, but never much cared for Dr Who.
posted by Betelgeuse at 8:11 AM on May 26, 2013

I never liked it either. Totally agree with the person who said there are lots of people pretending to like it.
posted by Unified Theory at 8:13 AM on May 26, 2013

Best answer: I love AD. I've probably watched 4-5 times all the way through. Each time it feels a little less funny and a little more mean spirited, but I love how dense the storytelling can be regardless.

Maybe you don't like watching complete assholes be assholes, even when they pay for it? There's nothing wrong with that.

I would give it a little more than just the pilot. Some of the humor takes time before it pays off.
posted by lownote at 8:13 AM on May 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think AD is really boring and unfunny, and I've found that people who love it think there's something wrong with you if you don't agree. I gave up after three episodes that were as enjoyable as eating bowls of sand.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:22 AM on May 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Mr. Pterodactyl and I really didn't like it at first; what changed for us was watching it with my brother, who LOVES it. Being around someone who got all the jokes and was genuinely enjoying himself helped me see things that were funny that I hadn't gotten before and made me give the show another chance; I was really only trying again as a favor to him but I ended up glad we were watching. Now Mr. Pterodactyl and I are re-watching it on our own.

That said, we DO enjoy it now (or at least I do) and I'm glad I've found something else I enjoy but there's no reason you NEED to like Arrested Development. If you have a friend with whom you'd like to try watching it cool because it's always nice to spend time with friends but if you'd rather do something else go for it.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:24 AM on May 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I was on your boat. Hated the first few episodes and stopped watching. After a couple of years restarted watching on a whim and quit again. Only in the last year or so I restarted where I left off and I'm in love with the show. A lot of the humor is meme like. It's funny only because it is repeated. So you have to get introduced to the memes first which requires a longer initiation than most shows. I agree the entire cast is sort of unlikable even Michael but I have sort of taken it in stride. It's a show that rewards binge watching and re-watchings.
posted by Lucubrator at 8:25 AM on May 26, 2013

Best answer: Without AD, there would be no 30 Rock and, likely, no Community, but that doesn't mean you have to like it - you don't have to feel bad about not getting into certain things. BUT, if you want to have a good understanding of 21st C American comedy, you will probably have to watch it at least once.

With any foundational piece of culture, there is a lot of heavy baggage that's associated with it, and you may just be reacting to that pressure. It doesn't help that AD is, after the first few episodes, mostly inside joke layered inside inside jokes - its self-reflexive nature would turn off most people who aren't in on it.

If you really want to like it, you've got to just shut all that out and binge on seasons 1 and 2 over a long weekend. Do it alone. If that doesn't force you to like it, then nothing will, and it's just one of those mysteries of subjective comedy.
posted by Think_Long at 8:29 AM on May 26, 2013 [9 favorites]

I didn't find it that funny on first viewing, when it originally came out. It wasn't until I watched it again when it first hit netflix that I started to understand what's so clever about it. It probably helped that Ron Howard's voice had years to grow on me. I found the narration aspect of the show really off-putting at first.

Also, I have to say that I think a large percentage of people's collective love of the Arrested Development is that it's something that is both somewhat obscure and "cult", but which is accessible to anyone with an internet connection. I think a lot of people -- and I would put myself in this category -- get off on making and recognizing Arrested Development references more than they actually love the show itself.

Not to say that it's overrated, necessarily, but at this point I think there's a little bit less "there" there for someone just coming to the show after a decade.
posted by Sara C. at 8:31 AM on May 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: First off, I'm not beating myself up over this. And it doesn't really register as a "problem." I just think I might be missing something I would really enjoy if I gave it another chance or approached it from a different angle.

I think the main reason I'm persisting is the sense I get that AD might show me something different about comedic storytelling. At least some of what I've heard/read makes me think that might be true. My favorite thing about Community has been the so-called meta-ness, and the biggest thing I liked about Party Down was how the conceit of the catering business took the characters into unfamiliar territory each episode.

That said, I should admit that I'm turned off by AD's unlikable people behaving badly. (I hated Seinfeld and everything Ricky Gervais has done since The Office for just that reason.)

I've also had a similar can't-really-get-into-it experience with Parks & Rec – I watched the whole first season and several episodes of the second season, but am only mildly amused from time to time. That's largely because I think the whole faux-documentary thing is really, really tired.

Thanks for the other suggestions!
posted by eric1halfb at 8:36 AM on May 26, 2013

I didn't really care for it, either. After I slogged through it, I re-watched all of Soap, which I feel covered some of the same ground, ages earlier, and better. I also never liked Seinfeld in the least, finding it boring and mean-spirited.

The State is great. Love Community. Shamefully, I have to admit watching 22 (!) episodes of Park and Rec yesterday. (Start with season 2.)

Life is too short to watch a show that just isn't for you.
posted by thebrokedown at 8:39 AM on May 26, 2013

Best answer: Watch the whole first season and then decide. A lot of the show's appeal is the recurring gags, character development and long-term narrative arc, and you won't get a great flavor for these higher pleasures by committing to it for a only a few episodes. It is definitely an acquired taste, and its loyal fanbase has become such by investing in it and then reaping these long-term rewards.
posted by charlemangy at 8:41 AM on May 26, 2013 [5 favorites]

Oh, I need to stick up for Parks & Rec because the first season is pretty bad. Actually, although I consider myself a huge fan, I don't think I've ever watched most of the episodes of the first season. It took a while to hit its stride.

With Arrested Development, the thing is that there are a lot of jokes that take multi-episode arcs or whole seasons to develop. I loved it, and I too hate most Ricky Gervais, liked Seinfeld at the time but don't really care for it now. But I also hate Community, and find the meta-ness of it kind of calculated and joyless.

Look: taste is subjective, and taste in comedy even maybe more so than most thingss. I don't know about you but I barely have time to watch the shows I *like* - don't feel like you have to learn to like AD if you don't.
posted by mskyle at 8:42 AM on May 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I liked AD the more I watched it but wasn't a fan at first.

The recurring jokes and absurd plots build over the episodes and they both grew on me. It's extremely impressively constructed and worth watching almost for that reason alone.

If you don't like it, you don't like it, but I think "lots of people are pretending" and "unlikable people behaving badly" are simplistic explanations for that.
posted by airing nerdy laundry at 8:46 AM on May 26, 2013 [18 favorites]

That said, I should admit that I'm turned off by AD's unlikable people behaving badly. (I hated Seinfeld and everything Ricky Gervais has done since The Office for just that reason.)

That's as valid a reason to dislike it as any. It may help to realize that the AD characters are their own worst enemies. The only people that suffer are themselves, this includes Michael (Jason Bateman) the perceived straight man who is actually the most subversive character on the show - he's every bit as self-immolating as the rest.
posted by Think_Long at 8:51 AM on May 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

I am probably going to sound like a bit of a hipster, but I liked it back when it was on TV the first time (was always hard to figure out when it was airing). But the post-cancellation hype has been a little much even for me. See also: Futurama. Like I haven't watched any new episodes of Futurama and I'm not sure I'll watch the new AD. I mean, maybe. I dunno. There's this feeling like you have to love this stuff now because it's part of pop culture and I start to resent being told what to like, even though I'll evangelize the shit out of stuff that's really good and I think both Arrested Development and Futurama were, in their original runs. Maybe it's frustration that neither show had the audience to continue when they were originally, you know, on TV.

My husband hasn't watched the whole show, despite the fact that I think he'd really like it (we got together in part because my photo on a social networking site was Zorak from Space Ghost) and I'm okay with him choosing not to watch it. There's plenty of other stuff out there, and you're not a soulless, terrible person for not liking something. And I have pretty mixed feelings about, say, Community, myself (I think it's more mean-spirited than AD). If you're okay with me not hitting my head against the wall with Community, you have my full approval to refrain from doing the same with Arrested Development.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:53 AM on May 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

i loved it from the very beginning and then i've loved it on every rewatch. i didn't have to try to love it. i don't love the culture around the show more than the show. i don't pretend to love it just because it's cult popular now. if you don't like mean people being mean in funny ways, the show won't get better for you. but, it is a pretty important notch in the timeline of comedy.
posted by nadawi at 9:05 AM on May 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

I got into Arrested Development about a year or so after it was cancelled. I have appreciated it and enjoyed it more and more after each viewing. For me, I love the series as a whole and how many of the jokes are built into the show before they even happen. If you've only seen a couple of episodes, I would suggest that you haven't really gotten a good feel for the show. It's not a series that you can watch a single episode and be satisfied, really.

That being said though, not everyone is going to like it and I certainly would not push you to keep watching it if you're not feeling it.

I also wanted to say this - I think part of the reason why I enjoy the show so much is because I'm from Orange County, where the show takes place. There are quite a few Orange County in-jokes in that show, that remind me of why I both love/dislike the place. Honestly a lot of the characters in the show also remind me of caricatures of people I know in real life from that area, which adds another layer of amusement for me, personally.
posted by Squee at 9:10 AM on May 26, 2013

Arrested Development goes through some major tone shifts over the course of its three seasons. It starts off as an awkward comedy and becomes an absurdist comedy. It also has a lot of humor that builds on itself - it stops relying on the characters' awkwardness to be funny once it can start relying on inside jokes and self-referential humor.

I hated the first few episodes and I love the show overall.

If you want to watch it - and yeah, you don't have to - do what I did and watch with friends. For the first several episodes, before it gets really good, you can just enjoy your friends' company.
posted by capricorn at 9:14 AM on May 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I love all the shows you love, and also loved Arrested Development from the beginning. However, I also understand being turned off a show because of judgments of the individual characters, even if that's a focus of the plot. I think that's why I have problems watching Mad Men. I don't presume that people who like it are just pretending to do so, though, just that they have different levels of tolerance for what they want in their characters.

Do you like to read David Sedaris and Augusten Burroughs? To me, their stories about weird experiences of people with major failings match up pretty well with Arrested Development.
posted by bizzyb at 9:21 AM on May 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Don't like something, go with your gut...why worry about what others may or may not like?
posted by Postroad at 9:30 AM on May 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've watched the first few episodes, a few times, on a few separate attempts to like this show, and I just never feel compelled to keep watching. I don't really find it funny.

If you're watching the first 5 or 6 episodes over and over, of course you don't like it — those are the worst ones. Stop watching those ones, and move on to the later ones.

Yes, some of the early episodes have some famous lines ("money in the banana stand"). But when I was first watching the show, I couldn't fathom why it was supposed to be great — I figured it must be that the fans simply have a different taste in sitcoms than I do. I like Seinfeld and The Office because they're so original and daring; Arrested Development initially struck me as standard sitcom fare (just more risque, which doesn't matter to me one way or the other). I remember thinking: "Why should I care that the dad hid cash in the banana stand? That's not funny, that's just random and kind of sad." I also thought Lindsey and Lucille (Michael's sister and mother) were cardboard, cliche characters — the rich, spoiled, elitist young/old woman you love to hate — that made me feel like "this is OK for an average sitcom, but nothing special." But now that I've seen the whole series (I mean, the first 3 seasons!), I was convinced it was right up there with Seinfeld, The Simpsons, and The Office as some of the greatest TV comedy of all time. Yet I still find the pilot painfully bad. If you happen to be a Seinfeld fan, try watching a few episodes from the first two seasons — they don't quite feel like Seinfeld, do they? It takes a while for a series to get going.

If you watch all of season 1 and still don't like it, I recommend stopping. That is the best season, despite the fact that it starts out weak. The show suddenly gets much stronger about a third of the way through the first season. Nothing against seasons 2 and 3, but I feel there was a slight decline after season 1. So again, I think it's worth still trying to acquire the taste by watching the rest of season 1, and once you're done with that, you can confidently feel you have a fair opinion of the whole show. But the first 6 episodes do not fairly represent the whole show.
posted by John Cohen at 9:35 AM on May 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: bizzyb: I'm familiar with Sedaris (largely through This American Life) but not Augusten Burroughs. Despite what I said above, I'm not TOTALLY against irritating characters with major failings. (As PhoBWanKanobi points out, the characters on Community are pretty unlikable.) I guess I was trying to find out whether or not the quality of the show in terms of craft or its degree of innovation would at some point outweigh the fact that I find it unfunny and the characters annoying. I'm hearing maybe yes.

I really don't have much invested in this. Just a love for good tv (and good storytelling in any format). I would hate to miss something that might make me think about old forms in new ways, especially if that something is/was a legitimate milestone in the development of the medium.

Thanks for all the thoughtful replies.
posted by eric1halfb at 9:36 AM on May 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I guess I was trying to find out whether or not the quality of the show in terms of craft or its degree of innovation would at some point outweigh the fact that I find it unfunny and the characters annoying.

To reinforce my previous comment in light of your follow-up: I can totally relate to finding the characters more annoying than funny at first. When I had just seen the first few episodes, I felt sure that I wouldn't be able to "care about" or "love" these characters, the way I do with Seinfeld and The Office. If you don't have that feeling, you're not going to enjoy watching a show, no matter how much you hear about how it's "critically acclaimed," and of course it's fine not to like the show if you never manage to feel that way. Once I saw all the episodes involving Marta, I had a dramatic change of heart, and could see the characters' loveable humanity. If you've seen all those episodes and it still isn't doing it for you, maybe put it aside, or (as I said in my previous comment), try watching through the end of season 1. The final episode of the first season is especially strong, both comedically and emotionally — if that doesn't get you caring about the characters, it's unlikely that the remaining seasons will.
posted by John Cohen at 9:51 AM on May 26, 2013

Best answer: It takes a while to get going, and the real humor comes from watching many episodes in a row and the combined impact of lots of gags that have been setting up for many episodes paying off one after another. It's not a show where a single episode is funny. There are lines where 3-4 jokes are being told or set up simultaneously, but you have to have watched a bunch of episodes and have been paying attention to notice them.
posted by empath at 10:16 AM on May 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: To be a bit more philosophical, AD is about structure and experimentation with the sitcom form and of humor in general--closer to a show like Seinfeld, or Garry Shandling, while a show like Friends is mostly about characters and relationships. Sometimes the jokes I've appreciated the most have been on a meta level, appreciating how hard they worked to set up what was really just an awful pun, if you consider the joke in isolation.
posted by empath at 10:20 AM on May 26, 2013 [7 favorites]

Others have written far more coherently about why they enjoy AD (as I do) and also why you shouldn't worry if you don't enjoy it. Just coming in to echo the recommendation for Green Wing if you haven't seen it yet. Now that's a show I really miss.
posted by arcticseal at 10:27 AM on May 26, 2013

The idea that you are supposed to like something just because others do is ridiculous.
- Make time for what you enjoy.
- Don't waste time on what you don't enjoy.

Personally, I love Arrested Development. The show makes me laugh like an idiot, but here's the thing: YOU ARE NOT ME. Treat yourself to something you DO like instead.
posted by 2oh1 at 10:30 AM on May 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

There are many, many things that I know are fine, quality, well-made things that people whose impeccable taste I often share have every reason to enjoy and admire, but I cannot stand them even after the old college try. These would include: Henry James, single-malt scotch, and Dinosaur Jr.

However, there are other things that, when I come back to them -- usually tripping over them accidentally, I suddenly do like, such as PJ Harvey and (with way better cast and production) Phantom of the Opera.

It's hard to tell which kind of thing AD is for you, but in a world of nearly infinite and increasing entertainment options, it matters less now than it ever has. The important thing is that midway through S4 Episode 4, I am still wiping away the tears of laughter caused by "Angeles y Diablos Mas! Mas! Mas! con Peter Scolari."
posted by FelliniBlank at 11:00 AM on May 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

You're not doing anything wrong. I love AD but I loathe plenty of shit other people salivate over (Star Wars, Buffy, Firefly, Avengers, Transformers, Dan Brown, Apple, Nascar, Twilight, and on and on) and I'm perfectly great so there's probably nothing wrong with you disliking Arrested Development.
posted by dobbs at 11:10 AM on May 26, 2013

I don't really have much to say about AD, but I do have a similiar experience with Wes Anderson movies, specifically The Royal Tenenbaums. I really, really wanted to like that movie. But just didn't get it at all the first time I watched it. I watched it again a few years later, and still didn't get it. I watched some other of his films. Sort of got Rushmore. Saw Darjeeling Limited on DVD which included the short Hotel Chevalier. Somehow with that short film, something shifted in my perception of what Wes Anderson can do. Nothing that I can articulate. But it caused me to go back to watch The Royal Tenenbaums again, and this time I loved it. Re-watched Rushmore and genuinely loved it also. I'm on the waiting list to borrow Moonrise Kingdom from the library and can't wait to see it.

So my advice is to give yourself enough times between viewings and possibly to expose yourself to other works from the same people (writers, directors) who created AD.

Anyway, I disagree with those who say to just stop trying. It's good to keep trying so long as you don't beat yourself up over it and I don't think you are. It's always a good thing to challenge your own cultural tastes.
posted by marsha56 at 11:59 AM on May 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't like AD, either. I've given it enough tries, but it just isn't entertaining or funny to me. There's no good reason to keep beating your head against a wall just because a lot of other people really like it and seem to believe you'll come-around if you just keep trying. It's going to click with you, or it isn't. Different strokes.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:43 PM on May 26, 2013

Yeah I don't find it funny and neither does my husband the characters come across as caricatures and it just seems to be trying too hard. I watched it for quite a while as everyone else seemed to love it but I just never found myself laughing at it and finally gave up. There are a few funny lines but that's about it and the payoff is just too small for the time spent watching and cringing. That said a lot of people love it and think the shows I find funny are stupid (It's always sunny in Philadelphia is our current fave). Anyway, doesn't matter, we're all different.
posted by hazyjane at 1:43 PM on May 26, 2013

Life is too short to spend it trying to enjoy a TV show. Even limiting your recreational options to things on a screen, there are more good options than you'll have hours to spend. Move on to something that really appeals to you.
posted by anonymisc at 2:10 PM on May 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Have I just not watched enough of it? Does it get better? Funnier? More clever?

It's not that the individual pieces get better or funnier, or that individual pieces are even funny or good to begin with. it's that each individual piece makes all the previous pieces better and funnier. The whole show is funnier than its parts, and one thing that makes people obsess over the show is that just when you think you have seen the final and funniest version of the show you discover a new piece that reveals a whole new set of jokes or gags.

As others have said, a line in episode three may only be funny once you're provided with more information in episode nine, or once the line has been repeated eight more times that season. On top of that, each episode is so dense with other jokes and gags it would be impossible to catch them all the first time.

It wasn't love at first sight for me but now I'm one of those people who has the whole series memorized. After all these years I'd forgotten what finally clicked until last night, when I saw the first episode of the new season.

I assumed I would blow through all the episodes at once and then go back and start watching them again. Having had years and years to dissect and absorb the show I didn't expect there to be any learning curve, but just a few minutes into the first episode I realized there were so many new jokes coming at me I had to watch it a second time before I felt like I knew enough to to even start watching episode two. And those were just obvious JOKES. For every joke that a new viewer would get there are probably two or three jokes they just don't know exist yet.

As a hug fan of the show, I don't think it's a big deal if you don't like it, but I do think it requires a different judging paradigm than other TV shows, so maybe a different approach would change your perspective. I also don't think it's a big deal if you think a "judging paradigm" is total bullshit and you just don't think the show is funny. I also think it's okay to not want to invest time into a TV show just because its popular.
posted by Room 641-A at 2:13 PM on May 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

It's not that the individual pieces get better or funnier, or that individual pieces are even funny or good to begin with. it's that each individual piece makes all the previous pieces better and funnier.

This, so much.

It holds true for the new episodes, too. The ostrich gag wasn't funny in the first episode, but now I'm in the fourth episode and it's like


In that vein, maybe you should try again from the middle of the second or third season. Or, hey, just start with the new stuff -- the voiceovers and flashbacks explain everything, anyway.

I always think it's important to keep in mind that it's not until very, very recently that anyone has expected TV viewers to start from the beginning of a series and watch the whole thing straight through. Especially with comedy. I think Arrested Development is one of the first shows that even expected viewers to come back from week to week to catch the running gags. And even then, the important stuff is carefully framed and nudged for the benefit of casual viewers.
posted by Sara C. at 2:27 PM on May 26, 2013

I couldn't stand Seinfeld either and could handle The Office in low doses (so not a marathon).

I don't personally find the first season of Parks and Rec as bad as a lot of other people do, but it also doesn't get going until the second season. I think Community is pretty patchy - it can be great and then not-so-great (and I hate Jeff more than I can possibly explain).

AD gets infinitely better as it goes along - I mean, amazingly better. The pilot is something I never really watch at all, but once you watch the whole thing and then go back to the second ep from season one, it all just works. It's a series that benefits enormously from a marathon.

They released a few clips from season 4 that are just not funny at all. At all. (The smoking one is but I think that's a cut scene?). This is because the series isn't really isolated jokes (they're there, but they are built up over the whole series), it's one great big joke and it really benefits from seeing it that way.
posted by heyjude at 3:01 PM on May 26, 2013

I have not been able to get into it either, and partly it's because the characters (and the scripts) seem to be trying too hard -- they're too aware of themselves being funny or "outrageous" or something.
posted by DMelanogaster at 3:21 PM on May 26, 2013

Yeah, you really need to give it an entire season for it to get its hook stuck in you.
posted by en forme de poire at 3:54 PM on May 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I was thinking this morning that AD is like whatever that website is where you play games that supposedly make your brain bigger. Even though I haven't watched the old ones for a year or more, in the first episode today, I found myself falling right back into catching (at least some of) what went on around the periphery and sort of storing it in my cheeks like a squirrel for later when it would be needed to assemble a joke.

And it's more effortless now than it was to begin with, so the show seems to train you how to watch it, like playing the world's longest, weirdest game of Husker Du (not the band).
posted by FelliniBlank at 3:57 PM on May 26, 2013

Do you like Archer? Because part of the fun of rewatching Arrested Development is comparing Malory Archer and Lucille Bluth.
posted by Dr. Zira at 3:59 PM on May 26, 2013

I didn't fall in love with Parks and Rec until halfway through the second season. But man, after that it just keeps getting better and better and better.

I find AD gets better on repeat viewings because of the depth of the jokes and references. It was mildly amusing the first time I watched it and hilarious the third time. But I found it funny enough the first time to go back and watch it again. If you don't like it then don't force it. It probably won't ever click.

But do me a favor and go back to Parks and Rec.
posted by elsietheeel at 4:24 PM on May 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Look, we all have things we think we should like, but just don't. I like the actors on Party Down, I should like the setup... but it falls flat for me and I can't explain why. AD is probably yours. Sometimes we just aren't into a thing. Or aren't that into it. I didn't even get into Archer until the "Terms of Enrampagement" storyline.

And um... I've seen 3 episodes of new AD and the laughter hasn't kicked in yet. Maybe later, but Michael's episode kinda put a bad taste in my mouth.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:36 PM on May 26, 2013

Yeah, I personally think you could start to like it more if you stick with it, but I'll give you permission not to like it, too.

Hey, I was only exposed to it in references and short clips for years, being a TV-less household for a variety of logistical reasons more than anything philosophical, and could only say that I gathered I could see why people thought it was funny, but I wasn't sure it was really for me. Once it was on Netflix, though, I quickly got into it, and more than anything else, became addicted to the intricate layering of jokes -- or more properly, gags, as they aren't always funny per se except in aggregate.

Having not yet finished S3 I'm not into the new ones yet, but I can say that it's fascinated me how far they've been able to take the show without breaking it or fundamentally changing the premise. Seinfeld, by contrast, was a show that had to evolve to encompass its new reality. Some people say that The Office was "broken" and turned into a tame US sitcom by altering the Michael Scott character, but I enjoyed it, and one of the best things about it was the mid-run episode "The Dinner Party", which I'm sure was funny standalone to some extent, but really capitalized on having all these established characters stretched to their logical limits and viewers who had a history knowing all their quirks. So there's that sort of effect, except with AD it's throughout the entire series, not a one-off, and not a case of taking the characters outside their normal environment to artificially create conflict (I think TV writers refer to this as locking the characters in a room, or something like that). So essentially, one of the ways I've watched AD is structurally -- are they going to take this character in that direction? They are? Well OK then. But is that too far? It never seems to be, amazingly enough.

Anyway, you have full permission not to like stuff. Somebody mentioned Wes Anderson above, that The Darjeeling Limited was the one where they started to get it -- conversely that's my least favorite of their films thus far. It happens.

I just rewatched The Big Red One (war movie with Mark Hamill) having seen it described (at least in the newly restored version) one of the great war movies of all time. Well, I enjoyed watching it, but that assessment just didn't hold up. The whole point about storytelling, about everything surrounding it, is that it's personal -- the reader/viewer brings as much to the process as the creator. The enjoying of it is a collaboration. If you're just doing it as an obligation, well, it's your life but may as well find something else that tickles you instead.
posted by dhartung at 5:03 PM on May 26, 2013

It's okay not to like a show. A friend of mine raves about Damages, but the few episodes I forced myself to watch were filled with despicable people lying to each other and the audience. If AD rubs you the same way, spend your time watching what you love!
posted by blueberry at 5:32 PM on May 26, 2013

I had caught a couple of episodes here and there and wasn't really sure about it until a few weeks ago. I had some time off work to recover from surgery and started watching from the beginning. For the first few episodes I was quite dubious, wincing a lot at the horrible people being horrible, etc.

And then something shifted - I can't quite put my finger on what - and I found myself laughing helplessly. I think it may have been when they started doing "on the next episode of Arrested Development" and I realised that we never saw those things happening, and we'd never know if they actually had happened. I agree with the description above that the jokes get funnier as you go at least partly because it makes all the previous ones funnier, and also that watching several at a go works better than one in isolation.

Anyway, if you want to see what the fuss is about, try to stick through a few more episodes and watch a few back to back. They're pretty short! Otherwise, yeah, there are plenty of other things out there to spend your time on!
posted by Athanassiel at 5:41 PM on May 26, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks again for all the responses. I'll give it one more shot, from wherever I left off on my last attempt (episode 4 or 5, I think). Having received permission from so many of you not to like it, I will now feel free to do so.

Seriously, don't waste time worrying that I'm forcing myself to like something I sincerely dislike or forcing myself to watch something I won't enjoy. Some of my favorite things weren't love at first sight, or whatever.
posted by eric1halfb at 7:08 PM on May 26, 2013

I HATE the pilot, and while I thought the banana stand episode was one of the funniest early episodes, it gets much much better. When I watched the pilot I was like "what is this incomprehensible, homophobic, mean-spirited, esoteric dumb nonsense." The rest of the show is so much smarter.
posted by stoneandstar at 7:52 PM on May 26, 2013

I didn't get the show when it was originally on TV. However, last summer I decided to give it another try because of all the kowtowing. Season 1 was OK, but Season 2 floored me with its cleverness and by the end I was just another fan incredibly happy that it's making a comeback :)
posted by oceanview at 10:22 PM on May 26, 2013

I tried very hard to like AD, because (aside from my wife who doesn't like it either) everyone I know likes it so I assumed it must be my fault. At a certain point, I had to admit that it wasn't going to work for me. Others in this thread have said similar things. I believe there is some sort of objectivity to tastes but that ultimately subjectivity is more important, even if it seems incorrect by the standards of the world. I'd felt the same way about Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
posted by Obscure Reference at 8:27 AM on May 27, 2013

I love that you asked this question. I have asked it of myself many times. Everyone in my writer's group is fanatic about it, and they all give me the side-eye when I don't know a reference or tell them I couldn't get into it.

I might take some of the advice proffered here and try again. Or try different episodes.
posted by emcat8 at 9:44 PM on May 28, 2013

I'm from the UK where it's pretty much unheard of - it was shown on BBC very late at night at random times, pretty much as Seinfeld was a decade earlier. Consequently, when my SO suggested we watch it when we first met, I didn't know a thing about it. I came to it without the 'OMG funniest show ever' stuff, without conception that it was even a cult hit. They are promoting the new series quite a bit over here, and people seem to be mostly bemused. (I also love Party Down - the chances of the movie coming out here is pretty much nil, as it wasn't even broadcast here.)

I find hype a big turn-off, mainly because I feel it primes my expectations in a way that is setting them up to be disappointed. I can't get into Community, and this is probably why. Same with House (House is just a twat), Buffy, and Star Wars. I saw The Office on first run, when it was just put out on a Monday night with no fanfare, but if I'd come to it new on series 2 when it was the current big thing, I probably would have been wondering what the fuss is too.
posted by mippy at 10:08 AM on May 30, 2013

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