May 26, 2013 | Janie Logan
For the 11 of you who know what that title refers to, you’re not dreaming: the Bluth family is back, now streaming via Netflix Instant.
Years after being canceled by FOX, Arrested Development has been given a new life on Netflix with a 15-episode 4th season. There will be wordplay. There will be absurd family dysfunction. There will be at least one person who has never seen a chicken.
But perhaps this doesn’t matter to you. After all, a show based largely on inside jokes won’t appeal to everybody — that’s why it was canceled the first time around. The best part of this development is what it could mean for entertainment at large. Networks and studios no longer hold all the power.
Take the television industry: Chances are you have loved at least one show that was canceled before its time. I hate to break it to you, folks — but we live in a world in which Crazy People Fall in “Love” on Camera has infinite variations that all seem to get renewed for a hundred years, while Firefly and Freaks and Geeks get axed before the first season even ends.
I can get over the truth that business is about making money and not about giving me what I want. What I can’t get over is the outdated system of measuring audience size and loyalty.
You give me 20 million people who “tune in” to CSI each week because they fell asleep after the 6:00 news and didn’t change the channel, and I’ll give you 2 million devoted fans of a well-written and -acted “niche” show that will watch each episode and engage in social media.
They’ll spend money beyond just the cost of their cable subscription to keep the show on the air. Don’t believe me? Chuck, a geeky spy comedy on NBC, lasted 5 seasons with low ratings because its viewers bought enough $5 footlongs to encourage Subway to continue sponsoring the show in advertisements.
After its abrupt cancellation in 2007, cult favorite series Veronica Mars will be revived this year in a follow-up film made possible by Kickstarter, the ever-growing crowdfunding site. An unprecedented 91,000 backers pitched in their own money, in amounts ranging from $1 to $10,000. People are figuring out new ways to get more of the content they want.
This is happening in the literary world, too, with more circumvention of the traditional publishing process. One of mine and Michiko Kakutani’s favorite books of 2012 was self-published. Unsurprisingly, it’s about television, and discusses some of the very things I’ve mentioned in this post: The Revolution Was Televised, by Alan Sepinwall.
Vive la revolution.
Janie Logan is a bookseller at Church Street Coffee & Books.