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[Comments] (2) Arrested Development as Self-Referential Metaphor: There's no news hook for this, but I've been meaning to write this for a while so now's as good a time as any. I like Arrested Development because it's obsessed with continuity and what I can only call intratextuality (see entry not yet written on The Colbert Report). But what I haven't seen anyone point out is that the plot of the show is a metaphor for the production of the show, and for television in general.

To refresh your memory, the basic plot is that a real estate company is trying to make money by building houses. In the pilot, the company has only a model home: an incomplete shell of a house designed to sell other houses. Over the course of the series they build more houses, but their fortunes never improve, because the company is run by incompetents who care only about polishing their egos and stabbing each other in the back. Now, I'm not a big reader of Variety (or, as I believe it's now called, More of the Same), so I'm not up on all the industry gossip, but that dysfunctional environment seems a lot the one in which you put together a television show. Especially a relatively highbrow show that lacks support from the network.

Maybe the reason no one has pointed this out before is that over time the metaphor was presented in more and more blatant ways, making it seem obvious. The most famous intrusion is at the beginning of the third season (which was cut from 22 episodes to 13), where it's revealed that the company had a contract to build 22 houses but it's been cut to 13. As the show's fortunes got worse and worse, more and more of its fans' anguish and desperate, doomed attempts to save the show bled into the fiction as attempts to save the real estate company. But I think the basic metaphor (Bluth company = Arrested Development, building houses = producing television) was there from the very beginning.

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Posted by Rachel at Thu Sep 14 2006 00:28

when I first started reading this I thought "someone HAS pointed that out to me!" but then I realised it must have been you.

Posted by Nick Moffitt at Fri Sep 15 2006 07:50

I actually heard the scriptwriters explain the 22/13 reference in an NPR interview. I think it was Fresh Air, but it could have been All Things Considered.

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