I hated it or I loved it. In the run-up to the season four premiere of Arrested Development, I half-convinced myself that those were the only ways to feel about the revival — there could be no reflective ambiguity, only a black and white (and a tinge of blue, too, for good measure) review. We’re talking about one of the greatest shows of all-time, the expectations couldn’t have been higher, and to not strongly react to it would have felt dishonest. And yet, my actual impression was one I didn’t expect to have: I now respect Arrested Development more after sitting through seven and a half hours of new episodes, without actually liking it any more or less.
To Mitch Hurwitz and his writers credit, they didn’t do what many thought they were going to: re-tell old jokes. Very rarely did we hear a “COME ON” or “I’ve made a huge mistake” or even see Franklin; old characters came back, but in unexpected ways, like Exterminator Steve Holt. It wasn’t a Lucille-like failed wink to fans and actually told new stories with new wrinkles, which I respect — I’m just not sure how well that “new” succeeded.
Season four, I think, only works as a whole. Punchlines would often be set up in one episode and not answered until the next, if not hours later. That rewarded marathoners, but casual viewers? Not so sure. (Again, I watched it in one go, so I’m curious to read reactions from people who took breaks.) The way the episodes were presented also meant that for minutes at a time, we were watching clips we’ve already seen, which not only occasionally halted the pacing but also led to an increased reliance on an exposition-happy Narrator. THAT being said, overall, it was…good. The jokes landed more often than not, the characters felt honest to the way they were written in seasons one-three (MVPs: Gob and George Michael; favorite episode, “Gob #2,” which had an actual name, but I prefer “Gob #2,” followed by “Maeby”), and after a bit of a sag in the middle, the final four episodes were all solid.
Arrested Development mostly succeeded in its irregular, intriguing structure (remember the Community episode where Abed helped a woman give birth in the background? That was every episode here, and it was all right up front) and took advantage of its still relatively new medium, telling stories in a way that couldn’t happen on a network sitcom; that’s an exciting, well, development for the future of TV (as was Netflix not crashing). As for Arrested‘s future: perhaps the greatest compliment I can give season four is that after watching it, I don’t not want a movie.
Again, we’ll have more on Arrested after the holiday, but until then, please feel free to talk amongst yourselves in the comments, completely disagree with my mini-review, and enjoy some of my favorite visual gags.
Notice the posters.
I want a spinning sign guy at my funeral.
MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000.
That is a beautiful shirt.