Was 'Arrested Development' A Remake of a 70s Sitcom?
After completing the first three installments of Notes from the Internet Apocalypse, I decided to take a week off and do what I do best: daydream about how much I love Arrested Development. And although quantifying subjective artistic achievements is pointless, I think I'm ready to call Arrested Development the greatest sitcom of all time. Better than all my other favorites like Seinfeld, Fawlty Towers, The Odd Couple, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Simpsons, and Soap. Yes, Soap. For the uninitiated, Soap ran from 1977 to 1981 and told the story of two sisters and their respective Connecticut families: the Tates, a wealthy clan, headed by a corrupt, womanizing patriarch, and the Campbells, an incredibly eccentric blue collar family composed of children from Burt and Mary Campbell's prior marriages. Soap has long been credited for shattering sitcom taboos and being wildly ahead of its time, but what it has not been credited for is providing the inspiration and a template for so many things that were later done on Arrested Development.Does that mean Arrested Development was a remake of Soap? No, of course not. That's going way too far. What gave you that idea? Oh, the title. Yeah, well "14 Similarities Between Arrested Development And A Show You Never Heard Of" just wasn't catchy enough. But I have to believe Soap played a major influence. Do I have any proof? Not directly, no. Have I researched the issue to see if any or the creative forces of the show from creator Mitchell Hurwitz to directors like Joe Russo have cited Soap as an influence? No. Why? Because that's hard work, and I write lists for the internet. But I hope to convince you just by the sheer volume of overlaps and similarities. And if I fail, well at least we got to spend this time together talking about Arrested Development.
Both shows start with narration explaining that this is a show about a family or families, and end with the narrator discussing what will happen on the next episode. Sure, that might seem minor, but we're just getting started it's a cumulative effect I'm going for here. But seriously, I can't think of a lot of other shows or any other shows that have both those things in common. Can you? (If so, please write those shows in the comments section below for all of us to not read later).
Although at least half of all shows in sitcom history are about families, AD and Soap have a really important distinction: all the children in these families are just about grown. They are families of adults still interacting daily with their parents and living either at home or inexplicably near home. The youngest kids in both families are high school age, but other than that, these kids have jobs (or are supposed to) and are dealing with marriage, divorce, jobs, unemployment, and sex. It's the main reason neither show has an episode about why Bobby Simmons won't ask Sally to the big dance or a hilarious episode where something wacky happens to little Tommy's science project. The AD/Soap characters are too busy exploring open marriages and sex change operations to worry about such story lines.
The next seven similarities all come from the storylines generated by the family patriarchs: Chester Tate from Soap and George Bluth from AD. Sure, I could have broken them up into separate categories and tried to pad my argument, but instead I opted to wow you with my incredible Microsoft table creation skills. Check out all the similarities between these two men and their storylines:
Gay CharacterOn Soap, Billy Crystal portrayed television's first openly gay character. On Arrested Development, David Cross didn't. But Tobias was pretty clearly gay even if the joke was that he was closeted and not open at all. OK, not the best entry, but, again, I'm going for cumulative effect. Gay male characters.
Adopted Daughter SurpriseHere's a good one. As AD fans know, Michael Bluth's twin sister turns out to be three years older than he and actually adopted. Guess what? On
Pseudo IncestBoth Arrested Development and Soap have storylines dealing with incestuous relations that turn out not to be incestuous because the characters aren't technically related. Teens George Michael Bluth and his cousin Maebe Funke get all the way to second base and learn subsequently that Maebe's mom's adoption revelation (see entry 14) means they're not technically blood cousins. In Soap, Burt Campbell's son Peter hooks up with both his Aunt Jessica (Katherine Helmond a few years before being Mona on
Ventriloquist SonsOK, so a few of these entries were stronger than others, but this should shut you up. Both shows feature sons who have a ventriloquist acts! Come on! Top that. Burt's son Chuck and his dummy Bob are a Soap mainstay and often the humor involves people treating Bob like he was real. And, Arrested Development has Gob Bluth and his puppet Franklin. I can't think of any other shows with ventriloquist characters. Can you? If you can just shut up. You're lying. But seriously, how can these things be coincidence? They can't. Case closed. Thank you.
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