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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

question of the day: Is Arrested Development on Netflix the future of “television”?

Arrested Development Netflix

I’ve never seen even a single episode of Arrested Development, but if the rabid fandom begging for its return weren’t enough to get me to take a peek, the intriguing way in which it finally will return may. From Lost Remote:

This week Netflix announced that the cult hit show Arrested Development will return with 14 episodes in May after seven years off the air….

In May, Netflix will release all 14 episodes at once, instead of one at a time. Some fans will binge through all 14 in a day or two. Others will spread them out over several weeks and savor each episode. If you think times zones were a challenge for social TV spoilers, Arrested Development could be a nightmare.

Take that unconventional, non-linear storytelling approach and consider Hurwitz’s writing style — “pleasantly dense,” Bateman explains — and it reduces the danger that seeing a handful of tweets will ruin an episode or more. You won’t know which episode someone is watching, and context will be difficult to jam into 140 characters as “maximum surprises” abound. Good luck spoiling that with a few tweets.

There’s also less of a motivation to tweet while you watch if others are not watching in sync with you. That’s why I think it’s safe to predict that viewing parties — physical and virtual — will abound across the country.

Cory Bergman at Lost Remote goes on to call this strategy “one of television’s big innovative moments,” and I agree. If it works, it would be a radical gamechanger for how we think about television as fans. The best modern television has become far more novelistic in recent years, and this makes the debut of a new show more like the debut of a novel, something that fans will digest at their own pace that is not being dictated by the show’s creators or by the network airing it.

Is Arrested Development on Netflix the future of “television”? If your favorite show were released this way, would you watch all at once or dole out episodes slowly to savor them?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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