Netflix ‘Arrested Development’ Watermark Gag Causes Confusion

Netflix 'Arrested Development'

Fans take to Twitter to complain about text watermark joke after series debut

Fans of Netflix’s heavily hyped return of “Arrested Development” early Sunday were baffled by text watermarks, supposedly for video piracy software, in flashback scenes — a joke that misfired for some.

SEE ALSO: More ‘Arrested Development’ On the Way?

Watermarks with the text “Showstealer Pro Trial Version,” which appear in footage from the show’s run on Fox, are a prank pulled by the show’s producers. “Arrested Development” was canceled by Fox in 2006 after three seasons.

The streaming video company made all 15 episodes of “Arrested Development” season four available at 12:01 a.m. Pacific on Sunday, May 26. The premiere had garnered significantly more buzz than any Netflix original to date, and execs have counting on the skein to prop up second-quarter numbers.

A Netflix spokeswoman confirmed that the watermarks are intentional.

But many users didn’t get — or appreciate — the joke. Numerous “Arrested Development” fans took to Twitter to complain about the watermarks immediately following the episode dump:

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  4. SJams says:

    If you have to say “I can’t tell if this is a joke or not” during an AD episode, it’s probably a joke you don’t get.

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  6. joshua says:

    This is why it was cancelled in the first place. People don’t understand a smart comedy. Can’t wait to finish season 4 tonight.

  7. John Andrews says:

    One of about 300 other failed jokes in these new episodes. What a let down.

    • Mandy says:

      Wow…you are one in a million. Did you watch the same season 4 that I watched? I thought they were as good as the originals. I have been starved for any real intelligent humor for 7 years. This new season was incredible and left me hungry for more.

  8. ashley says:

    I can’t believe people didn’t know it was a joke. I didn’t even understand the joke when I watched it (didn’t get that they were mimicking piracy software) but I STILL at least knew that it was some sort of joke I just didn’t get. Because duh.

  9. The case study and quotes from Hurwitz on their use of ShowStealer on the software product’s official website is really illuminating, too:

  10. Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as though you relied
    on the video to make your point. You definitely know what youre talking
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  11. Big Fan says:

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  13. It’s hard to imagine anyone other than people who aren’t really fans of the show or it’s humor, or very very gullible people not understanding the watermark. “Showstealer” software watermarks over footage taken while it was with another network? That’s freaking funny. Oh America you make me sad sometimes.

  14. Jesse Skeen says:

    Why weren’t there more complaints like this when the broadcast networks started watermarking their broadcasts over 15 years ago (Fox has now been doing it for **20** years and I haven’t watched a single show on their network since!)

  15. Jack says:

    If yet didn’t recognize it as old footage, then they don’t deserve it.

  16. Mandy says:

    If it is truly Ron Howard reading these comments and responding, then I want to say THANK YOU for bringing this back. I am one of the crazies who never gave up…

  17. Luis says:

    Were those people also baffled by the gag when a Netflix interface appears fast forwarding the love scene? I suspect they would be the kind of people to be baffled by that too. I like to imagine them hastily grabbing their remotes, or mouses, and trying desperately to stop the fast forwarding, then calling Tech Support to complain that their The Netflix apps weren’t working properly.
    We don’t deserve shows like this if people are going to be this dense.

  18. Myname IzMyname says:

    If you didn’t get this joke, you don’t belong watching Arrested. Go put on some Big Bang Theory, I heard it was a Baaaa-tter show.

  19. Rick Patneaude says:

    The program was called “Showstealer Pro”! They already dumbed it down and still people didn’t get it. I think some people didn’t even get that it was supposed to be a computer program. could we possibly invest in education a little more please?

    • Mandy says:

      There are always the Kardashians or the multiple Housewives series out there for the people who can’t quite reach the level of Arrested Development entertainment. We shouldn’t hate…the world needs ditch diggers too.

  20. If you didn’t get that it was a joke, perhaps a sitcom with canned laughter (to provide you with clues about when the jokes are being told) is more in your wheelhouse.

  21. Tamera says:

    Woah, people actually thought that was for real??? WTF? I work in tech too and I freakin’ had to hit pause from laughing so hard.

    Geez…I wonder what other jokes some of you are missing.

    • Ron Howard says:

      To be fair, everyone misses some jokes in Arrested Development.

      Here’s a freebie: At the end of the 1st episode, Flight of the Phoenix, as Michael is traveling along the land-scalator, there is a mural in the back of him – a huge painting of all the history of Arrested Development’s first 3 seasons.

      Feel free to re-tweet this. -Ron

  22. The watermark joke was entirely obvious and pretty funny.

  23. Rick says:

    how did people not know it was a joke? it would have been obvious if they bothered to see any of the first three seasons.

  24. Joe Smart says:

    I guess Arrested Development fans aren’t nearly as smart as advertised. Yikes. Maybe if people stopped tweeting the first thing that popped into their heads and thought for a minute first they wouldn’t look like such idiots.

  25. JJones says:

    Long-time IT guy here, and even I was wondering if it was a joke or not. My gut was telling me it was a joke — I couldn’t imagine that getting past anyone in post — but it just felt too real and incidental to not hit pause and see if it was a real piece of software.

  26. Dave Callaghan says:

    I don’t understand how people can not get that this is a joke. It’s so obvious

  27. Brandon says:

    Netflix tried to pull a joke that was too “inside baseball” and failed. The problem is Arrested Development only appealed to the quirky. It was a low rated show that while ahead of its time still had a limited demographic, so playing a joke only some of the already limited demographic will get is not wise. Then again, they have been playing a joke for a couple years on all of us with their increased fees and poor availabity so what else should we expect?

    • Ron Howard says:

      Brandon… do you work at the studio? You seem to have a lot of “inside” information.

      What Brandon obviously knows and the rest of you clearly don’t, is that NetFlix not only bought exclusivity from Imagine Television, but as part of the contract they have took over all operations. That means that Chief Marketing Officer Kelley Bennet from Netflix is writing all of the new scripts and shows.

      Netflix is the one that wrote, directed, produced, and starred in the new Arrested Development.

      I mean, how do you think I got a real role? Why do you think I wasn’t allowed to be credited in the first show?

      I personally like the NetFlix-written and directed version, especially since they finally used the REAL Oscar, instead of just doubling up Jeffrey Tambor. Tambor IS 1/2 of an identical twin pair in real life.

      I also like the way they wrapped up the finale.

    • Chris says:

      Um, you realize it wasn’t Netflix that pulled this joke, right? The writers for the show are the ones that came up with that joke. The show also doesn’t have a limited demographic anymore, time to stop living in 2006. Finally, you’re right, the whopping eight dollars a month they charge for thousands of hours of content is just way too much. This should all be for free in the increasingly “gimme gimme” world we all live in.

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