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Obviously we’ll always have hit pop songs, movies and TV shows. But we are frequently living in a splintered pop culture landscape, with dozens of quirky oddities that have their own relatively small, yet extremely loyal followings. In some cases, thanks to the Internet’s organizing opportunities, these groups have actually willed dead projects back into existence, either by literally paying for them through a vehicle like Kickstarter, or simply by showing there was enough of a market to warrant their continuation.    
 
Take the case of Arrested Development. After Fox canceled the sitcom midway through its third season, Arrested Development took on a cult-like status for close to 10 years. If this was 1993, that’s probably what it would have a remained – a cult obsession that would live on in the hearts and minds of its fans and whoever happens to be standing next to them at a party.
 
But in 2013, with more and more entities getting into the “TV” business, Arrested Development was re-animated and now actually exists again in the present – sort of. Seeing that the original episodes still attracted plenty of viewers on Netflix, the company – new to producing content – decided it would produce a new “fourth season” of Arrested Development, close to a decade after the show was unceremoniously given the axe.
 
All the main actors from the cast returned, but it wasn’t exactly the show fans so fondly remembered. Due to scheduling complications, most of the actors couldn’t film at the same time, meaning the majority of the scenes typically consisted of only one or two of the regulars. While it was certainly similar to the classic episodes of the show, many critics pointed out that “Arrested 2.0” didn’t quite have the same flow that made the original so great.
 
Arrested Development did deserve a longer run than it was given when it originally aired, but I was never one of these fans who was clamoring for more episodes. I liked the show a lot, but figured a reunion could never live up to the expectations of what had been building in fans’ heads for almost a decade.
 
Sometimes I feel I’m in the minority in that I don’t want my favorite TV shows and movies to live on in perpetuity. There seems to be an accepted notion that if there is a show or movie you really like, the only logical thing to do is demand more of it. This doesn’t make any sense to me. As Seinfeld suggested, it seems to “disrespect” the life cycle of the work in question, ultimately making it less valuable in the grand scheme of things.
 
I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that neither the Veronica Mars movie nor the Garden State sequel that have been successfully funded by fans on Kickstarter (neither have been released yet) will live up to their expectations. Maybe I’m missing the point. Maybe simply the fact that these two films will soon exist is a victory in itself for the fans.
 
My taste in comedies ranges from quirky, cult obsessions like Bottle Rocket to large cult obsessions like The Big Lebowski to huge box-office hits like Dumb and Dumber. But for me, the one thing they all have in common is that I don’t think any of them should have a sequel. Having something you love come back might seem like an enticing proposition, but usually the best sequels live inside your head, unharmed by reality.
 
 
 
I DON’T KNOW a whole lot about Reddit, the popular online community, but one thing I’m aware it has brought to the world is the AMA, or Ask Me Anything, interview for celebrities. These are exactly what they sound like – a forum for random people on the internet to ask stars random questions.
 
Jerry Seinfeld participated in one of these Q&A sessions in January, when a fan of Seinfeld asked him what the show would be like if it was still on today. After commenting that his character would probably have gotten married and started a family, he added something interesting:
 
“But I still think everything has its life cycle and if you respect it, people enjoy it longer. And if you disrespect it – look at The Hangover movie. If you made just one, the movie would be a comedy legend. Because they made three, it isn't.”
 
I’m not qualified to offer too many opinions on The Hangover, as I never saw numbers 2 and 3, but I think Jerry was on to something. When the original one came out, it made boatloads of money and garnered generally positive critical reviews. At the time, it seemed fair to say The Hangover could go on to become a low-brow classic, along the lines of Animal House. But with two sequels that just about everyone was disappointed with, the original movie has seemed to lose some of its “classic” status.
 
This is not a new phenomenon – Hollywood has been making bad sequels for decades. But what I found interesting about Seinfeld’s answer was his use of the term “life cycle” – it’s not a term most people use to describe a TV show or movie.
 
Major Hollywood studios probably only care about a movie’s “life cycle” to the extent that people are willing to shell out $10 to see “the next chapter” of it on a Friday night. Cynically speaking, if market research shows that a movie can open to X amount of dollars, then it is only partially through its life cycle, and if it can’t, then its life cycle is complete.
 
There was no question Hangover 2 was going to make a lot of money, which is exactly why it was made. I have a hard time believing its director, Todd Phillips, could tell you with a straight face that he envisioned The Hangover to be the first part of a trilogy from the get-go.  
 
With the fracturing of American taste into hundreds of sub-genres, along with the rise of crowd-sourced funding like Kickstarter, we seem to be on the precipice of a different type of sequel. An age where pop culture comes back from the dead, partially to make some money, of course, but also to please its loyal fans. And sometimes even on their dime.
 
Much has been written about the death of the mono-culture in today’s society. The idea is that since Americans have access to so many more TV channels, radio stations, internet sites, etc. than they used to, everyone just sticks to their own niche interests. Nothing ever reaches critical mass in pop culture like, say Michael Jackson in 1984, to give an example.
life design music photography home us film art fashion global notes archive Disrespecting the Life Cycle – 
When Pop Culture Comes Back 
From the Dead
By
Marc Ingber
--
Vhcle Magazine Issue 14, Life
books
Marc Ingber is a communications specialist and writer for a nonprofit based in Minneapolis, MN. He was born and raised in the Twin Cities and attended journalism school at the University of Kansas. His primary interests include rock n' roll, movies, food and drink, the Minnesota Vikings and the Minnesota Twins – probably in that order.
 
Read other articles by Marc Ingber
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