Let me preface everything by saying that “Arrested Development” is one of my favorite shows of all time. It’s in my Top 5 of best television shows of all time. There wasn’t a single weak episode (in my opinion) in the original 3-season run of the series. I can literally watch them over and over again and laugh at the same jokes every time. As you can imagine, I was more than excited when I heard that the show was coming back for a Season 4 - probably a mixture of nostalgia and hope that lighting can be captured in a bottle a second time around.
The time finally came, and there it was ’ “Arrested Development” ready to go on my Netflix as I sat there in anticipation. I pressed play, the familiar song that I’ve heard so many times before came on and for a moment it seemed as though it was just like old times with one of my favorite dysfunctional families. Fifteen episodes later (after a few hours of sleep in between episodes 9 and 10), and I was left disappointed.
Now, Mitch Hurwitz (the show’s creator) had said that this return of the show would not be what everyone expected but be the fix that people were waiting for. I think that’s exactly what it did but not necessarily in the most satisfying nor best way possible. Of course, this is only my opinion. I’m sure there were people who enjoyed it just fine, but I’ve been thinking about it all day and figured it out where it went south.
“Arrested Development” is a show that featured sharp, detailed writing structured in an innovative way rarely done before its time for a television show. And it was also really a show about a group of dysfunctional people who also happened to be related. Everyone had their favorites, but they worked best when they were interacting with one another. I think that was the biggest thing missing from this newest version of “Arrested Development.” Each episode focused on the storyline of a particular character and how they got to where they are now (from the time since the end of Season 3). They mixed this new larger structure with the classic structure of flashbacks and connecting various storylines together from alternate perspectives. Yet, when I was watching it, something (or should it be some things?) just wasn’t quite working for me.
Each character can’t hold an episode by themselves, at least not better than they could if interweaved with the storylines of the other characters.They work better together than they do apart. The way the episodes were laid out in the past gave the audience near perfect amounts of time with each character and storyline to show just the right amount that allowed the characters to be funny and crazy yet charming and lovable simultaneously. I understand why they would try this out - the ability to try something new and fresh whilst giving all the fans what they loved in the first place. How do you meet and exceed their (our) expectations at the same time? In theory and even on a giant whiteboard of mapping things out, it seems like a great idea. But in execution and particularly with these characters, you come to realize that if you look deeply, these aren’t very likeable characters because they’re not very good human beings (maybe with the exception of George Michael). Rather than the perfectly placed scenes of the older episodes, many of the scenes in Season 4 seemed to drag on for far too long. You come to realize why a “deleted scenes” section usually exists even if it means the feeling of being left wanting for more.
Overall, the biggest issue I came across was that this new season seemed like it wanted to have its cake and eat it too. By that, I mean it tried to be what it was and something new altogether, and for me, this approach didn’t work. These characters aren’t the same ones as the ones we loved. Yes, I know time has passed, and people change, characters should as well. However, when I was watching them, it just didn’t feel right for me. They seemed more like reincarnations of those characters - shadows of the ones they were before. A prime example of this is Tobias and Lindsay. Though they were far from the perfect couple, they did love one another (albeit in their own unique way). This was proved over and over again in Seasons 1-3. Even with their repeated attempts of separation from one another and even new people, they never succeeded. In their own weird way, it was always Tobias and Lindsay. That was one of the great things about them. In this new season, they threw all of that away by having Lindsay and Tobias finally cheating on one another. Even the amazing interweaving storylines they had in the prior seasons, I saw how intensely they tried to up the ante on that but to the point where it seemed unnecessary and nearly forced. They did touch back on some of the “classic” moments and lines from the past seasons, but now, it almost seemed merely as a throwaway versus something organic and fitting with the current script whereas before it’d be so perfectly placed within a scene. It simply feels like everyone from the actors and the creative team were trying very hard (sometimes almost too hard) to recreate what they had before, and they just couldn’t capture lightning in a bottle twice. Maybe if they’d had more time to reacquaint themselves with those characters after all these years it would’ve been different.
Am I glad that they did come back with a new season of “Arrested Development?” Ultimately, yes. Even if it wasn’t exactly what I expected, I do miss these characters, and it was fun seeing them all together, if only momentarily. I don’t know if I would call it a continuation of the same series, rather, it’s a new series with a variation of the characters that we once knew. The storyline(s) - though at times a bit much - actually weren’t too bad. It may be better if they recut the show into the original structure and format and “trimmed the fat” a bit if you will. I know as a fan, I was probably expecting too much. I probably also wanted to have my cake and eat it too. It’s not fair of me to expect the same exact show as it was before knowing full well that it can’t be. I do applaud everyone on the “Arrested Development” team for this endeavor and all of the countless laughs they’ve given me (though possibly they can leave Kristen Wiig and Seth Rogen out next time as I like my George Sr. and Lucille just the way they are). Maybe when I have some time in the future, I’ll give these new episodes another try, but if I’m looking for my “Arrested Development” fix, I’ll just go back to the original banana stand.