The long-anticipated continuation of the Bluth family saga came out on Netflix a couple weeks ago, and the reviews are in. I'll sum it up and save you a bunch of reading and hassle: It's not as good as the original. Clever, but not lough-out-loud funny. Too many inside jokes.
See...I don't write reviews.
You know those annoying people who tell you a story from their childhood when you ask them what they think of a certain recipe? Or who talk about complicated family dynamics when you mention a song you want to discuss? I'm one of those people.
And so I introduce you to a new feature on my blog. Round-About Reviews. Wherein I tell you a story that's only loosely connected to pop culture.
Arrested Development. And cycles and circles and loops. And things that return.
When my dad was sick, there were two things that made him feel like himself again. Grandkids and laughing. And he was only guessing about the grandkids, because he didn't have any yet.
"Part of the long-term wellness plan, the big picture," he said to me once, "is...grandkids. And I'm going to need your help."
I can't help you, I said.
And, one time, when he was not himself and completely out of it and I was angry and I was afraid: Even if I ever did decide to have kids. Even if I did. Do you think I'd let you see them? Do you think I'd let you in the room with them? I hope you know that you will never see your grandkids.
But the laughing I could provide. My dad was the funniest person I knew growing up. Genuinely, deeply funny as well as witty and clever and wry. Surprising humor. For years, when he was sick, I took it upon myself to bring funny TV shows to him. Things he might miss, now that he spent his downtime on a couch instead of talking around a water cooler or coffee pot.
He laughed himself off the couch when Michael Scott suggested that Stanley bring 'Colored Greens' for Diversity Day.
When we'd worked our way through all the available seasons of The Office, I told him I had a new show for him.
I ran out to Movie Gallery (now Five Guys in Cherrydale) and got Season One of Arrested Development.
If you thought you liked The Office, I said. Just wait. This is even better. You are not going to be able to stop laughing...I'm a little worried for you, actually.
I popped the DVD in, and we were a few minutes into the pilot when it skipped. Only a little. But one thing my dad's illness did to his personality...it gave him this drive. This need to solve problems that weren't really there. He hopped up with more energy than I'd seen in a while.
"I've got this! I've got...this thing that will..."
He took the DVD out of the player and started rummaging around in a drawer. He found what he was looking for — a disc repair kit. It looked like a mini fan with a slot for a DVD.
Are you sure that thing...I mean. I don't own this DVD, I said.
But he had already slipped the DVD into the slot and started grinding away. I think he said 'watch the magic' as he put the disc back in the player.
Nothing but static. He took the disc back out and flipped it over. There were long, lean figure-eights ground into the surface of the DVD. He ran it through the disc cleaner again...but nothing could save it. The DVD was a goner, looped with etched infinities.
I think we watched something else and the next day I slipped Arrested Development, Season One into the overnight return slot at Movie Gallery. Don't judge. I was broke, and I was already wanted by five Blockbusters in three different states. And I figured they'd call me in a week and make me come pay for the disc I ruined.
Only Movie Gallery never called. And my dad died a few months later and I forgot all about my crime.
My dad never did see his grandkids. Or Arrested Development. And I know he would have loved all of it.
Two years later, the first grandkid was born. Chloe. I told my mom about the time I had told dad that I hoped he never got to see his grandkids. She told me that God doesn't grant those kinds of hateful wishes that we don't even mean and I know she's right and I also know that I wish I could quit having them anyway.
And I sat there with Sarah and she said that she was happy but maybe even more sad and she said she wished that dad was there and I said that I wished it too.
What can I do for you, I asked. Besides bringing dad back?
Sarah said that she really just wanted to watch something funny but she had gone through all the funny shows she knew of.
Have you ever watched Arrested Development. It's...I think it's the funniest show I've ever seen.
And so I ran out to get Season One and came back to the hospital room and popped it into the DVD player.
Nothing but static.
I flipped the disc over and saw those long, lean figure eights and I remembered. And then a shadow passed over newborn Chloe's face. A look that I would recognize anywhere. The half-mouthed smile my dad always made when he had done something extra clever, like bolting a desktop fan to a dashboard. The twinkling half-smirk that meant...I got you good. And there's more good to come. Just you wait.
We tend to think of arrested development as a bad thing. Something that happens to those with tragedy in their childhood. Those who can't grow up because they had to grow up too soon. Those who ran through their store of maturity too early. And I've sensed it in myself. Childishness. The bad kind. The childishness that won't let go. The childish gnawing around the edges of my experience. The gnawing on the heart. The heart, the heart, the heart, the heart, the heart. The heart that cries 'It isn't fair!' and the dad who would be the first to tell me that sentence is meaningless. Especially in all of eternity.
The complaint and the answer met, and for a moment I stood child-like. Arrested. Frozen in time. Or, maybe, I slipped out of time, my fingertip tracing the outer loop of infinity.