Arresting Developments in Comedy

Reports that the whole original “Arrested Development” cast will be in the new show and that the surviving Pythons are planning a movie reunion of sorts bring hopes for laughs – and fears of embarrassment.

We’re not sure whether to do a celebratory “Silly Walk” or break into the “Chicken Dance.”

Comedy fans had good reason to trot out both classic bits in recent days amid reports that the surviving members of Monty Python are planning a movie reunion of sorts and that the whole “Arrested Development” cast will participate in the upcoming new season of shows and the big-screen Bluth Family epic.

Still, our hopes for getting new laughs out of old favorites are tempered by concerns that the cult comedy comebacks might fall flatter than a frozen banana, rather than represent the Holy Grail of humor. We’re taking heart, though, by other recent comedy reunions that beat the odds to prove satisfying.

The brilliant show-within-a-show “Seinfeld” reunion plotline from “Curb Your Enthusiasm” in 2009 offered fans the pleasing finale that many believe eluded Jerry and the gang’s exit more than a decade earlier. “The Kids in the Hall” returned in a different form in 2010, creating largely new characters for a murder mystery comedy miniseries – "The Kids in the Hall: Death Comes to Town" – that marked a departure from their sketch-driven hey-day. Cheech and Chong didn’t change much for their reunion tour, but they played a different kind of joint by appearing on “The Simpsons” last season in one of the stronger episodes in recent memory. 

The Pythons, like their stoner-act veteran comedy colleagues, are letting their voices do the talking this time around. “Absolutely Anything,” a partially-CG-animated science fiction comedy being directed by troupe member Terry Jones, reportedly will feature the Pythons voicing aliens. It’s a promising move for the crew, whose about various musings about reunions over the years took on as much life as a certain parrot.

 “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” debuted nearly 43 years ago and it’s been almost three decades since “The Meaning of Life,” the team’s last major work together and their final appearance with the late Graham Chapman. At this point, their voices should be enough – let’s face it, no one is expecting 72-year-old John Cleese to Silly Walk his way across the screen.

The reunion plans for “Arrested Development,” yanked off the air by Fox six years ago next month, are far more ambitious. As announced last fall, 10 news episodes, to air on Netflix in 2013, are in the works, to be followed by a big-screen movie. Upping the expectations is the news from writer Dean Lorey this week that the full original cast will be back.

Much has changed since we last saw the Bluths, including Michael Cera’s unlikely emergence as a movie star. There are no guarantees the old chemistry can be recreated, though we’re encouraged by the seamless comic interplay between David Cross and Will Arnett in the dementedly hilarious “The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret,” which is down to its final two episodes on IFC.

Whether reuniting is a poor decision for either the “Arrested Development” or “Python” casts remains to be seen. An even worse decision would be not giving either crew a chance to make us laugh again.

Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.

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