There are many reasons Arrested Development continued to stick around in the cultural zeitgeist after its unceremonious cancellation, but one of them has got to be the fact that people wouldn’t stop quoting every damn line all the damn time. It’s a testament to Mitch Hurwitz’s writing team that nearly every second of the show was filled with a joke, reference, or callback that was not only funny enough to remember and quote later but continued to build on the universe surrounding the impossibly dumb Bluth family. This new video from Ideas At Play takes a look at how Arrested Development managed to perfect the running joke and cram so many of them into each episode.
Unlike an average sitcom catchphrase, which serves to remind the audience of a character’s traits and is funny simply because of its repetition, the repeated lines in Arrested Development build on each other as they transfer from scene to scene. Whether it’s “I’ve made a huge mistake” or “There’s always money in the banana stand,” the repeated line is imbued with new meaning depending on which character is saying it and the context in which it’s said. Rather than becoming stale and predictable, the running joke evolves and gets funnier.
Arrested Development’s writing benefited from some behind-the-scenes improvements as well. By shooting on HD digital video tape, Hurwitz was able to quickly shoot a lot more scenes than your average sitcom. According to Ideas At Play, scenes in Arrested Development only average about a minute in length. That gave the writers a lot of room in each episode to develop multilayered jokes using the wordplay they love so much, and it also gave your college roommate a lot more material to work with when he was just quoting the show instead of having a real conversation.
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