It feels like we’re in the golden age of incredibly fast-paced television shows. But which show is currently doing it best? We’re running a tournament to find out. Keep up with all rounds of the tournament with the Fast-Paced Tourney tag. And make sure to vote below!
In the land of blink and you’ll miss it comedies, there are few that have been so underestimated, yet successful, as 30 Rock and Arrested Development. In the past year, 30 Rock ended its run while Arrested Development was reborn. Both consisted of a bizarre ensemble of personalities and are absolutely beloved by a cult following and critical acclaim with the awards to back them up. Comparing 30 Rock and Arrested Development show that while the output has different flavors, their recipes match up with the quirky cast of characters, quick wit, and whiplash storytelling.
In many television shows, straying from the main characters plot is prime sandwich making time. However, even though we saw the world of TGS and The Bluth Company through the eyes of their moral centers, Liz and Michael, their eccentric supporting cast helped to propel the stories forward, sidetrack it just enough to be fantastic, and connect the dots to save the day.
30 Rock and Arrested Development were quick with a joke and never stopped to explain, save for the occasional side glance or grimace. 30 Rock incorporated pop culture references and stayed relevant to the viewer in the moment. They didn’t shy away from making fun of themselves, their network, or current issues. The fast-pace format was illustrated exponentially when they took risks like airing live episodes or dedicating a show plot to the reality greatness of The Queen of Jordan. 30 Rock ended their series with the perfect combination of heart, humor, and realism that can only come from Liz Lemon, and that was the guiding mantra of the show. Save for the dead-on facial reaction, the show didn’t hesitate to tell a joke and move the conversation forward. Those who didn’t know Kenneth’s mom’s friend Ron or what EGOT meant had to get on board quick because the show within the show must go on!
The charm of Arrested Development is in its ability to be as witty and smart in the background as it is on center stage. It’s no coincidence that a huge part of watching season four is about catching the Easter eggs, visual puns, and callbacks to inside jokes from seasons past and present. Arrested Development recapped certain happenings in previous episodes, but as many times as I was reminded about Gob’s dare date that lead to marriage, I never felt bothered by the momentary interruption. Ron Howard’s voiceovers didn’t take away from the primary script, but instead eliminated filler language between the characters and moved the story along. It easily juggles multiple plots with callbacks, foreshadowing, voiceovers, and unspoken context. Arrested Development could take a hop-on from story to story, identifying the different character’s motivations, and find fabulously ironic way to connect them that ended up making perfect sense in their crazy egocentric world. I find Arrested Development a perfectly fast-paced television show that keeps the viewer’s attention through off-balance stories and quick wit.
So who did it better? As much as it breaks my heart to choose, I can’t over-think it. There is no denying that 30 Rock is a smartly crafted comedy. It does its viewers no favors, but instead draws upon their intelligence to keep up, hence a great deal of “I just don’t get it” from those unfortunate souls not willing to invest. However, the grand master of fast-paced comedy goes to Arrested Development. Arrested Development was an inspiration and groundbreaker for the fast-paced format with the ensemble comedies we enjoy today, like 30 Rock, Community, and The Office (may it rest in peace). Arrested Development’s storytelling is far more than the individual script being spoken in a singular episode. Instead, its storytelling is encompassed in its cinematography, quick wit, and extends over episodes and seasons and even formats … including a movie?
Winner: Arrested Development
Now it’s your turn to weigh in. We’ll be running our tournament concurrently with a public opinion poll. So do you think 30 Rock or Arrested Development are doing fast-paced best?
This poll will close when we begin our quarterfinals rounds. Up tomorrow: Archer versus South Park.