They’ve made a huge mistake...

...by making Arrested Development online only.

Unlike most people blogging about Arrested Development, I won’t be offering any opinions as to whether the show’s fourth season managed to live up to the astronomical expectations built up by fans after its previous incarnation was cancelled seven years ago.

That’s because it’s currently only viewable (legally at least) on Netflix, and I really don’t fancy watching it on a tiny laptop, with lines of dialogue served like amuse-bouche in between marathon bouts of buffering.

So as not to cast aspersions on Netflix’s service, I’ll admit it’s the same across the board: my wife bought the new Batman on Tesco’s Blinkbox service last night, but after it took us three minutes to slog through the Warner Brothers logo, we gave up and resolved to postpone watching Citizen Bane until we next saw the DVD on sale.

Yes, I am unfortunate in that, for whatever reason, the electric string that carries internet TV into my house does so at a painfully slow rate (although I’ll blame Virgin Media anyway). But my options still remain limited, and streaming-only launches such as Arrested Development’s leave me lukewarm as a consequence.  

It is not just me and a tiny minority of electrically-challenged cavemen that feel slighted, either. Just look at the grumble-tsunami generated recently at the suggestion that Microsoft’s upcoming Xbox One console would require a constant internet connection even to play single player games.

For those living in new premises and waiting out the epochs mandated by providers before broadband services can be activated, those living in areas with poor provision, and even those who (dare I say it) just don’t much like doing things on computers, it’s frustrating indeed when companies decide we are ready to move our entire lifestyles online.

Of course, the argument in the case of Arrested Development is slightly redundant in that, even were it being broadcast conventionally, I would have to arrange access to an American network to view it.

Nevertheless, it does strike me as unusual that, with all the fourth season’s episodes being released onto Netflix simultaneously anyway, there is no concurrent DVD release. Well, not that unusual – there are clear branding and competitive advantages to Netflix being the only place people can go for their hit of Gob, Buster and the rest.

But even so, if Netflix had made a plastic circle available with the series on it, they would have my money by now. It’s the same argument that gets trotted out every time the Death of Print discussion takes place – people like to possess objects.

Whenever I am implored by the producers of a piece of media to “own it on digital”, an internal pedant seethes; I would not own a house if it was passed to me, brick by brick, by a surly foreman in between long slurps of tea. Nor can I own a TV show when it is delivered via sporadic squirts of electrons. Extend my metaphor and prove me wrong by all means; I’ll still be a lost customer for Netflix.

Photograph: Getty Images

By day, Fred Crawley is editor of Credit Today and Insolvency Today. By night, he reviews graphic novels for the New Statesman.

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Why hasn’t British Asian entertainment built on the Goodness Gracious Me golden age?

It is 20 years since the original radio series of Goodness Gracious Me aired. Over two decades, the UK media portrayal of Asians hasn’t used its success to evolve.

Save for a handful of special one-off episodes, Goodness Gracious Me hasn’t occupied a primetime TV slot for nearly two decades. Yet still it remains the measuring stick for British Asian comedy.

The sketch show, which transitioned seamlessly from radio to screen (it started as a BBC Radio 4 series in 1996), has stood the test of time and is as much a staple of modern British Asian culture as Tupperware or turning up an hour late.

What Goodness Gracious Me did so expertly was to take a set of serious issues facing first, second and now, I suppose, third generation migrants, and turn them on their heads. 

In making light of the pressures of academic expectation or family drama, Goodness Gracious Me wasn’t playing down the poignancy of such concerns; it was raising awareness and combatting their uglier side with humour.

It offered resonance and reassurance in equal measure; it was ok to have an embarrassing uncle who insisted he could get you anything much cheaper, including a new kidney, because other people like you did too.

That Goodness Gracious Me was broadcast on a mainstream channel was also a victory for minorities; it made us feel integrated and, perhaps more importantly, accepted. Against the backdrop of Brexit, what wouldn’t we give for that treatment now?

Really, though, the jewel in Goodness Gracious Me’s crown was its willingness to recognise diversity within diversity. It is a relic of a departed era when discourse on TV around Asians was different, when the broad church of that term was truly represented, rather than reduced to one catchall perception of British Muslims.

Goodness Gracious Me offered insight into the experiences and idiosyncrasies – religious or otherwise – of Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans and even English people. It’s what made it so accessible and, in answering why subsequent programmes have failed to reach similar heights, this is a good starting point.

Without the flexible sketch format, the modern Asian sitcom Citizen Khan has struggled to cover multiple topics, and, by being specifically about a Muslim family, it leaves many non-Muslim Asians wondering: where’s ours?

I hasten to add that I feel plenty of sympathy for the British Muslim community, hounded by tabloid headlines that attack their faith, but it would be disingenuous to suggest that non-Muslim Asians are sitting pretty in 2016 and don’t need a similar level of support in terms of positive public perception.

The current volume of British Asian media products is fairly good. The BBC has its dedicated network, The Good Immigrant essay collection was one of the outstanding reads of the year, and we still have champions of comedy in Romesh Ranganathan and Nish Kumar.

But I think ultimately it comes down to the broadness of appeal, rather than the quantity of products. Goodness Gracious Me was not only able to engage the full spectrum of British Asia; it transcended its target audience and was on terrestrial TV.

The British Asian media on offer now is up against it, released as the country’s attitude towards foreigners completes a full circle back to the same suspicion my grandfather encountered in the Sixties.

Fewer outlets are willing to explore the stretch of what it means to be Asian, either by denying it due consideration in mainstream shows or by peddling their own monolithic observations. The BBC Asian Network, for example, is laudable in its existence, but does little to engage the young Asians who aren’t into techno spliced with Bhangra.

The mainstream representations of Asians in Western film and television that are commissioned, meanwhile, are irritatingly limited and sometimes inaccurate. In an article for the Guardian last year, Sara Abassi lamented the disproportionate appetite for “gritty post-9/11 films about conservative Pakistani families”, and that the researchers of American series Homeland failed to realise that the national language of Pakistan isn’t Arabic.

When I interviewed the actor Himesh Patel for the No Country for Brown Men podcast, he suggested that the answer to re-establishing Asians in mainstream media, both here and in America, was three-fold. The first challenge to overcome was for outlets to acknowledge that not all Asians fit the same religious or cultural profile; the second was to be open to placing Asians in non-Asian specific products to better reflect their presence in society.

Patel, who is best known for his portrayal of Tamwar Masood in the soap opera EastEnders, made his third recommendation based on this role. He felt that characters should be written with only their personality in mind, making the ethnicity of the actor who plays them incidental. Tamwar’s awkwardness but underlying kindness, Patel said, was what defined him – not his skin colour.

Goodness Gracious Me, though a primarily Asian show and a comedy at that, actually taught some salient lessons about representation. It succeeded in providing a window into a multiplicity of cultures, but at the same time wasn’t a total slave to the politics of identity – several of the 100-plus characters needn’t have been Asian at all. It was reflexive to the times we lived in and a perfect advertisement for empathy. That is why we still talk about it today.

Rohan Banerjee is a Special Projects Writer at the New Statesman. He co-hosts the No Country For Brown Men podcast.