The oh-so-lovable Bluth family.
Now the story of a wealthy family who lost everything, and the one writer who had no choice but to critique the new season.
With the long-awaited premiere of Season 4 of Arrested Development, Netflix has undone a huge mistake.
Flash back to 2006: Fox pulls the plug on Arrested Development due to low ratings, despite the show having a cult following (someone explain to me how that works…?). Fox, however, didn’t exactly use the best marketing techniques for the show back in the day. Even I found myself guilty of seeing a commercial for the show and thinking “man this looks boring.”
I later watched an episode and hastily repented my sins.
2013: Netflix releases the long-awaited Season 4 of the show. How did it bode with people? Well, that’s why I’m writing this lovely review and doing all this hard work for you people (don’t tell me watching television is hard, you didn’t have to sit through Victorious).
First, I should mention the completely different episode format they went with for this season: each episode is 30+ minutes, they each focus on one member of the Bluth family, and according to series creator Mitch Hurwitz, they’re “experimental,” meaning they can supposedly be watched in any order. Because most people obviously love skipping to the final episode of the season and watching it backwards. Like a normal person, however, I watched all 15 episodes in order.
So, this show being one of my absolute favorites on TV, what did I think of it? Well…let’s start with the positives first.
Once again, we have the original actors returning to reprise their roles as the members of the incredibly-dysfunctional-but-oh-so-loveable Bluth family. There’s also a myriad of guest stars, including *takes deep breath*: Kristen Wiig, Seth Rogen, Max Winkler, Henry Winkler, Mary Lynn Rajskub, John Beard, John Slattery, Ed Begley Jr., Rizwan Manji, Ed Helms, Chris Diamantopoulos, Maria Bamford, Scott Baio, Ron Howard, Judy Greer, Carl Weathers, John Krasinski, James Lipton, Conan O’Brien, Andy Richter, Liza Minelli, Terry Crews (seriously you’re still reading this?), Mae Whitman, Ben Stiller, and Justin Grant Wade, just to name a few. Trust me, there’s more. It’s like an overpacked box of celebrity cameo happiness.
If you’ve followed the show in the past, you’ll recognize most of these cameos. If you haven’t been following the show…why are you reading this and starting with season 4? Seriously, you have Netflix, go back and watch the previous 3 seasons. This review will still be here.
The episodes take place over a period of 5 years, showing what happened with each character between the ending of the last season, and Cinco de Quatro, a holiday that Lucille Bluth began to spite Cinco de Mayo. The overall plot of the season is done in a very clever way, linking each episode together without you even realizing it until later. If you’re confused at first about some things (and trust me, a LOT of people were), just hold out and it’ll all be explained over time.
As usual, the show has its blend of humor ranging from the very subtle, to the in-your-face gags. There are some running gags from the older seasons that are brought back and work perfectly. Heck, there’s even some gags from the very early episodes of the show that are brought back that you may or may not remember. Might wanna dust off your DVD sets of the earlier 3 seasons just in case, because you’ll likely need them to remember everything that happened prior to season 4.
Now, for the moment everybody’s been waiting for, the things that I didn’t really like about the new season. The things that irked me or rubbed me the wrong way. The things that were in the back of my mind while watching that were like a horrible voice of reason (seriously, I just can’t shut my brain off while watching TV). To clear this up right now though: none of these things were terrible. None of these things would prevent me from going back and watching the entire season again, or buying it if/when it comes out on DVD/Blu-ray.
The first and foremost thing: the fact that each episode only stars one character, with occasional appearances of a second character. One of the things that made this show so hilarious in the past was the characters’ personalities, and how they could just bounce off each other so easily. They were so believable and convincing that I honestly forgot they were just actors. In fact, some of my most memorable scenes from the previous seasons came from the entire Bluth family sitting in one room together and watching them go at it.
We don’t get that here. Instead, Michael gets a couple episodes, Gob gets a couple episodes, George Michael gets a couple episodes, Buster gets an episode, Tobias gets an episode (and maybe one or two gay jokes…yeah, if you were hoping to see that, you’re out of luck), and so on. There’s one scene in the entire season where the entire family is together in one room. To me, it just didn’t feel like true Arrested Development. Although to be fair, I’ve heard that due to the actors’ schedules, they couldn’t all be there at once to film episodes, so the writers had to work around that, something they did very well.
One of the staples of the show was how everything could be going okay until the last few minutes of an episode, and then out of nowhere, things would get incredibly chaotic and everything would fall apart (perfect example: go back and watch the episode Mr. F). This season just feels…much more calm. It felt more like I was watching pilot episodes for spin-off shows based on each member of the Bluth family.
Something else that bothered me was how mean spirited this season could be at times. Obviously the Bluth family was a bunch of jerks in the previous season, but they were still loveable despite that. This season, however…well, for a good example, just go watch Buster’s episode, which was just kind of depressing (especially since Buster is one of my favorite characters).
Okay, those were the major things for me. I’ll mention a couple other small things and then wrap it up here.
Without giving too much away, there are a lot, and I mean A LOT of unresolved plot issues in this season. However, I’m relatively positive that these will be resolved in the upcoming Arrested Development movie (something which is teased all throughout the season).
Also: Kristen Wiig and Seth Rogen as Lucille and George Bluth in flashback scenes.
Let me Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V that for you: Kristen Wiig and Seth Rogen as Lucille and George Bluth in flashback scenes.
Errr…not that I have anything against these actors, but…why? What was wrong with just slapping a wig on Jeffrey Tambor’s head like in the past? These two were just…kind of awkward and stiff. They really didn’t make me believe that they were truly Lucille and George from 20-something years ago. I thought having Jessica Walters and Jeffrey Tambor playing their own characters in flashback scenes was always funny. Seriously, try to imagine the old “and that’s why you always do this and this” scenes from the first season without Jeffrey Tambor in them. Not the same, is it?
Well, I think I’ve rambled on long enough, so what’s my final verdict?
Absolutely check out Season 4. Wait WHAT?! Didn’t I just complain about it for like 20 minutes?!
Well, in the end, it’s still Arrested Development. It’s still the characters we’ve come to love over the past 10 years. It’s still the same brand of witty, tongue-in-cheek humor, and creative and funny plots that won us over.
If you’re a fan of Arrested Development, you’ll likely love this new season. If you’re not a fan of the show and you’re just now beginning your journey, you’ll probably like it, but you’ll probably be confused as all sin. And if you’re not a fan of the show, well, you’ll probably just complain. I don’t even know why you’d be watching it in the first place if you don’t like it.
Final rating: 4 out of 5.