We may never know how many people have watched the new season of Arrested Development in the five or so days since all 15 episodes were released simultaneously over the Memorial Day weekend. Netflix has been steadfast in not releasing numbers for their streaming programs and while I’m frustrated from a data geek point of view I also completely understand their hesitancy to get into a new version of the ratings game.
In the lead up to the new episodes there seemed to be two primary camps of people:
1) Those who were giddy with excitement over the idea of returning to Balboa County and the adventures of this extraordinarily hilarious family.
2) Those who were making comments along the lines of “if the number of people who are talking about Arrested Development had actually watched it the show would never have been canceled.”
The point is, factually, correct but it misses a number of important realities:
First, that yes, the number of people making a big deal about this are almost certainly a highly vocal minority. This is the case with almost every interest area that’s not “The Beatles” or “Enjoy walks along the beach.”
Second, that in the eight years since the show was canceled all the fans of the original series have been talking it up to all their friends. And those people have been able to watch the original series on Hulu, Netflix, DVD and other platforms in that time. So the fan base for the show has likely only grown, retaining the early adopter acolytes it accumulated and then building new ones who have discovered it since it left the airwaves.
Third, that the amount of buzz has likely been out-sized compared to even the now-grown audience because every magazine, blog, aggregator and other site and publication are competing for those highly-sought after eyeballs.
Finally, that Twitter and Facebook simply didn’t exist in 2006 when the show was kicked off the air, at least not in the forms they have now. So where originally word-of-mouth was shared either in person or on blogs (which weren’t even as easy to set up as they are now) there are currently a slew of outlets for folks to share images, quotes, GIFs and other media as a way to extend their own fandom and get others as interested as they are.