5 Things Content Developers Can Learn from the Return of Arrested Development

Legions of Arrested Development fans rejoiced Sunday when series creator Mitch Hurwitz announced at the New Yorker Festival that the long-beloved show could soon be returning with brand-new material.

Fans have long endured a seemingly endless string of rumors regarding an Arrested Development movie, but Hurwitz’s announcement at the Festival’s “Bluth Family Reunion” panel served as the first official announcement: Yes, the Bluth family would officially reunite on the silver screen. Better yet, the movie will be preceded by a limited-run TV season (of about nine or ten episodes) that will profile each character as a “Where-Are-They-Now” prequel to the movie.

Of course, nothing is set in stone. Hurwitz was quick to mention the legal and financial hurdles to leap before filming can begin. But the announcement itself was enough to set Twitter ablaze with speculation and quotes from the three-season series.  So in honor of the impending Bluth Family Reunion, I think it’s only fitting to present Five Things Content Developers Can Learn From Arrested Development.

1.) No One Likes the Boy Who Cried Arrested Development Movie

The movie was supposedly “in the works” in 2008. Hurwitz was reportedly sitting down with another writer to craft the script in 2009. But in 2010, only the script outline had been produced, and as of October 3, 2011, Hurwitz reported only half the script was complete.

No one likes the boy who cries Arrested Development Movie. If you’re launching a site, get your content and your timeline in order before you start generating buzz. It’s much easier to tease the public with a concrete product than vague rumors– even if you’ve got a Development-sized cult fan base.

2.) Getting Lost in the Shuffle? You May Need to Find a New Platform

Though Arrested Development won six Emmy awards and critics’ hearts, its audience failed to rise above six million viewers. Development got lost in the network shuffle. Maybe the mockumentary show was ahead of its time. Maybe it suffered from poor promotional strategies. Or maybe it just wasn’t suited for network TV in 2003-2006.

After its cancellation, however, Development‘s fan base grew exponentially thanks to DVD sales and Netflix streaming. It finally captured the pre-DVR audience unwilling to carve out a half-hour block in their Sunday nights for a weekly dose of hilarity. Development wasn’t a show that you could tune in and out of– with DVDs and online streaming, viewers could finally view episodes in order– and on their own time.

Like cable television, the Internet is a saturated field. If you’ve got a strong concept but you’re getting lost on your traditional platform, ditch it. Consider trading your text-and-image WordPress blog for an edgy Tumblr account. Launch a vlog. Revamp your site. Just find something that works for your content and you’ll never have to worry about a network cancellation.

3.) There’s Always Money in the Banana Stand

Arrested Development - There's always money in the Banana StandImage via Anirudh Koul via Flickr

George Bluth, the Development family patriarch, was a crafty man– so crafty, in fact, that he lined the walls of his family’s frozen banana stand with $250,000. George was already a rich man thanks to the success of the Bluth Company– but who wouldn’t want a backup?

Now, we’re certainly not suggesting you purchase a rickety wayward fruit stand and line the walls with your hard-earned cash (it turns out rickety wayward fruit stands are highly flammable). But there’s nothing wrong with diversifying your content offerings, either. Once you’ve got a steady audience built, consider adding an eBook, tutorial series, or podcast to your content offerings.

4.) Bring in Your Own Guest Stars

Henry Winkler. Liza Minelli. Judy Greer. Amy Poehler. Development’s guest characters have become just as beloved as the Bluth family lineup. Bringing in guest actors to Development added depth and growth to the show’s three seasons, and there’s no reason your site shouldn’t do the same.

Guest posts by fellow writers or experts in your fields are the guest stars of your content series. They bring a fresh voice and perspective to your site– a little added excitement to your bread-and-butter content. Just don’t fall into an over-reliance on guest posters. Your audience was built on your voice, remember?

5.) Make Your Lessons Interesting (Maybe by Hiring a One-Armed Man)

Doing an informative post? Take a page out of George Bluth’s book and hire a one-armed man to teach your lessons for you. And by “hire a one-armed man,” we mean “use outside-the-box methods to make your lessons entertaining.” Or– just theoretically speaking, of course– use your geek-girl fandom for a long-dead sitcom to teach lessons about content development. You know. Theoretically.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a dead dove to return.

About the author

Nicki Porter