Creator Mitchell Hurwitz’s hipsterrific announcement of Arrested Development’s return at the New Yorker Festival was, essentially, the beginning of a reelection campaign. Over the course of the show's five-year absence, its place in our hearts has gradually been filled by the hilarious glory that is NBC’s Thursday night sitcom lineup. All of these shows (The Office, 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation, Community) have been influenced by Arrested Development’s razor sharp satire, colorful cast, and rapid-fire dialogue that used implications and allusions to create deep jokes rather than easy laughs. But now, they have the chance to compete against the master itself. Which of them is most worthy to face down the progenitor of 21st century comedy?
I don’t know about you, but from where I’m standing, this is starting to look a hell of a lot like the GOP primary battle. On one side: the reigning champ. A small minority is dedicated heart and soul to everything Arrested Development, but a majority of people probably don’t even know it was born here in America.
On the other side…who? That remains to be seen. But let’s break it down, in terms of our beloved Republican candidates. We’ll stick to the frontrunners for this discussion. Sorry, Rick Santorum. If that makes you sad, try Google searching your name again. That always cheers me up.
The Office: Mitt Romney
The most name recognition. The most consistent. The most experienced. The most mainstream. At first glance, these two look like the inevitable winners of their respective campaign, but you have to remember that in the coming battle, neither of them will have their greatest weapons (Romneycare, Steve Carrell) at their disposal. Quality has declined in recent years, as Romney has taken tougher stances on abortion and The Office has burned through boss after boss. Despite their popularity and consistency, they’re both a bit lacking in warmth. The Office has neither the brilliance of 30 Rock nor the indie-flavor zaniness of Community, but it’s still a lot more legitimate than some of these contenders, and may end up pulling it out. Look at Romney: He was never considered a great debater, but next to Cain’s strategy of comparing everything to apples and oranges and Perry’s strategy of GETTING IN YOUR FACE, he looks like William Jennings Bryan. Sometimes you don’t have to outrun the bear, just your friend.
30 Rock: Rick Perry
The other serious contender for the title. Usually the mainstream candidate ends up victorious, but the Tea Party has energized the radical aspect of the GOP, and Perry is the best candidate capable of drawing on that energy. Obama may seem distant sometimes as a president, but he’s still as fiery a candidate as ever. Perry can match him in that energy, drawing huge applause even while saying ridiculous things. In that vein, The Office may be funny, but 30 Rock is much more capable of drawing on the satire that is Arrested Development’s greatest strength, along with being an extremely intelligent show populated by dumb characters. Comedy mantra has long dictated that strength comes from appealing to the lowest common denominator of humor. But this is a different century, a more cynical, media-savvy century. Perhaps the underdog will prevail this time.
Parks and Recreation: Herman Cain
When they started out, neither of these looked like they were going anywhere. Cain was a pizza-boss-turned-motivational-speaker, not a politician. Parks and Recreation seemed like Amy Poehler’s excuse for her own show. In the post-Obama era, African-American candidates don’t excite the same intrigue they used to, and by the time Parks and Recreation came around, the mockumentary style was already stale. Recently, however, both have exponentially increased their candidate power. Cain benefitted from lingering anti-Romney sentiment and Perry’s poor debate performances, and Parks and Recreation’s elevated status may have been helped by Carrell’s departure from The Office. Regardless, this is one to look out for.
Community: Ron Paul
Without the star power of Amy Poehler or Tina Fey, Community sometimes gets lost in the shuffle. Story of Ron Paul’s life. They each say poignant things that you wouldn’t find anywhere else. They each have their trademark (Paul’s pro-marijuana legalization stance, Community’s paintball episodes). But despite their strong cult followings, neither of them has a true chance at dominance. Perhaps their positions (Paul’s opinions on civil rights, Community’s self-deprecating, media-literate irony) are just a little too unorthodox for wide recognition.
Outsourced: Michele Bachmann
Remember this show? It came on, was stupid and kind of offensive and not funny, caused a stir…and then everybody realized how stupid it was and it was canceled. Kind of like Michele Bachmann’s New Hampshire campaign. You may remember Bachmann saying a lot of dumb things, winning the Iowa straw poll and legitimately scaring the poop out of a lot of Americans, but these days, she’s been completely forgotten. So much the better.
Modern Family: Chris Christie
Neither of them are participants. But if they were, they would win hands-down. Christie’s Obama-slamming speech at the Reagan Library in September got Republican commentators and puppet-masters salivating at the idea of someone who was appropriately conservative and anti-Obama, while also being enough of a straight-talker to win over liberal commentators like Jon Stewart. Not even Romney has Christie’s combination of charisma, experience, and conservative gravitas. And as great as the NBC comedies are, none of them have yet to notch a moment like this. Oh well, only a pipe-dream.