F. Scott Schafer, Fox
Jeffrey Tambor and Jason Bateman in "Arrested Development."

Jeffrey Tambor recently fanned the flames of the widespread speculation that the late, lamented sitcom "Arrested Development" is headed for the big screen.

At the Hollywood premiere of "Hellboy II," Tambor told EW.com, "After months of speculation, I think we have finally figured out for sure that we are indeed doing an 'Arrested Development' movie."

Hey, I loved "Arrested Development." Over the course of the show's 53-episode run on Fox from 2003-06, I encouraged — even exhorted — viewers to tune in and catch this wildly offbeat comedy about a wildly offbeat family.

So did just about every other TV critic. So did Fox, which went out of its way to promote the show and renewed it twice for no reason other than it was good.

And yet the vast majority of viewers never warmed up to the show.

Still, "Arrested Development" burns bright in the memories of those of us who loved it. And, fortunately, we live in the age of DVDs, so we can re-watch the episodes whenever we want.

But, as much as I would have liked to see seasons 4, 5, 6 and 7 of the show, the thought of an "Arrested Development" movie makes me somewhat nervous. This may not be a good idea at all.

In general, even great sitcoms don't fare well when they're translated into a different format. And we're not just talking about TV shows becoming theatrical films.

Some of the worst finales of all time were in no small part the result of shows trying to be something they weren't. After nine seasons and 178 half-hour episodes, "Seinfeld's" hourlong finale was dreadful.

After 269 half-hour episodes, "Cheers" signed off with an hourlong finale that was, well, awful.

After 255 half-hour episodes, the 2 1/2-hour "M*A*S*H" disappointed tens of millions of viewers.

For that matter, last season's hourlong episodes of "The Office" did not hold up anywhere near as well as the half-hour installments.

There are, of course, exceptions. The hourlong "Friends" finale was very good, although it was really two half-hours stitched together. (And they hold up well separately in repeats.) And the hourlong finale of "Frasier" was better than expected, given that the show had become a shadow of its former self in its 11th season.

But the half-hour comedies that left us with the most memorable episodes didn't try to suddenly become something they weren't. The final episode of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" was 30 minutes long. So was the final episode of "Newhart," arguably the greatest finale of any series in the history of television.

And the last episode of "Everybody Loves Raymond" should be taught at Television Writers School as the right way to wrap up a long-running TV show. It was, for the most part, just another episode of the show.

There was some heightened drama interspersed with the laughs. Ray (Ray Romano), after undergoing some minor surgery, didn't come out of the anesthesia as expected. For just a few moments, his family worried about his mortality. Which was a way for the writers to let the characters express their love for one another. Along with lots of laughs. Which many sitcom finales forget to include.

But, in the end, it was just another "Everybody Loves Raymond." When it was over, we knew that the characters were all still there doing exactly what we'd watched them do for 210 episodes.

And it's an iffy thing to translate a TV show — particularly a sitcom — to the big screen. Currently, "Get Smart" is an example of what not to do. "Sex and the City" is for fans of that show only.

But, then again, "The Simpsons Movie" was a creative and box-office success.

It would be great if "Arrested Development" could be translated into a good movie. Nobody would be happier about it than me.

But I'm afraid it will only tarnish the memory of a really great TV show.


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