Kavi Shekhar Pandey: My arrested development

By Kavi Shekhar Pandey, Senior Arts Editor
Published December 11, 2011

Now, the column about a boy who lost his favorite TV show, and the one event that gave him no choice but to keep it together — it’s “Arrested Development.”

Feel free to read this in the voice of Ron Howard.

Saying goodbye is the worst. Everything inevitably comes to an end, but once you utter that vile word, you actually have to accept the fact that it’s all over — be it precious time spent with a friend or a significant chapter of your life (one semester of college left — taste the sadness). As I bid farewell with my final column, here’s the story of my struggle to let go of “Arrested Development.”

With the help of a Blockbuster within biking distance, I was already on top of my cinematic game in middle school. A “Fight Club” here, a “Desperado” there — I could recite Ezekiel 25:17 with every Sam Jackson inflection when seventh graders should be thinking of Tarantino as the guy who made frozen pizza rolls.

But when it came to television, my viewing habits were stuck in a perpetual state of adolescence. One could call it … arrested development. (Hey, that’s the name of the show!) I still clung onto Chuckie Finster and Arnold of football-shaped cranium lore, filling the rest of my airwaves with Disney Channel powerhouses “Even Stevens,” “Boy Meets World” and “Smart Guy,” and when I was feeling especially bold, the occasional episode of “The Simpsons.”

Because of a friend’s recommendation, I started watching “Arrested Development” midway through its first season on air (who knew middle schoolers had such good taste?). One episode in, and I was hooked like Buster Bluth’s seal-assailed hand.

Beyond its own virtues, the show was my gateway drug, stronger than anything uncle-father Oscar ever toked. “Arrested Development” showed me the world of primetime network television, shining, shimmering, splendid. It was the springboard for “Scrubs,” “24” and the rest of the obscene number of shows I’ve seen since.

FOX dropped the guillotine on “Arrested” during its third season, banishing the final four episodes to a cold Friday night in February. I had to tape the finale because of a conflict (Motherboy XIV was rolling through the U.P.), but a mishap prevented the episodes from recording. Mr. Eko would only have one thing to say about that — “Do not mistake coincidence for fate.”

Once the season three DVD was released, I re-watched the entire series as a grand sendoff. But when I reached the final four episodes, I couldn’t go on. Finishing those episodes would mean the end — no more huge mistakes, never-nudes, chicken dances or cracks at Egg Veal. I pictured a world where I’d never see new shenanigans from Bluth and company and refused to live in it. No, Kitty Sanchez, I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to those.

For five years, I carried that hugely satisfying feeling of knowing there are more Tobias Funke flubs and Gob dumbshittery for me to enjoy. Along the way, once I recognized the joy of saving episodes, I started applying the philosophy to every show I loved and was about to lose — season three of “Deadwood,” season two of “Rome,” the last few episodes of “Twin Peaks” and the series finale of “Outsourced” are all waiting for me to press play. Through an accidental trick (illusion!), I’ve even been able to save part of “Lost” — I watched through “The End” but skipped the season two episode “Collision,” meaning there’s another furious glare from Sayid, another joke from Hurley that I’ve got in my pocket.

Then came the whopper last month that Netflix will be producing new episodes of “Arrested Development” to put everything into perspective. Now would I finish season three and not watch the new batch? If there’s a movie, do I avoid that and watch the new episodes? The steps on this staircar led to nowhere, and they had to end sometime.

Forget my middle school viewing habits. The actual arrested development was my inability to grow up and watch these shows to completion. It’s grim to admit the end of an era, but clinging to the strands of the past advances nothing. College is going to end and I’m going to have to leave all my friends — so when I go home for Christmas, I’ll start by saying goodbye to “Lost,” “Outsourced” and “Arrested Development” (for now).

If you haven’t noticed, this is my final paragraph as a columnist for The Michigan Daily. I’m glad you didn’t pull a pre-revelation Kavi Shekhar Pandey and save this piece of impeccable prose for eternity. Thanks for reading until the end.