As a huge Arrested Development fan, I had been counting down the days until the release of season 4 on Netflix, seven years after the last new episode aired. Well, I wasn’t actually counting down for seven years, as I only discovered the show about a year ago, but still – let’s just say that this was one very highly anticipated family reunion.
Though I chose not to watch the 15 new episodes from 12:01-8:00am PST on May 26th as I’m sure many diehard fans did, I did watch the new season over the course of two days. Upon finishing the season, I immediately wanted to rewatch earlier episodes to reevaluate the action based on information revealed in later episodes.
And that’s the beauty of Arrested Development.
Here are five of my observations about Season 4 – I try to avoid plot spoilers, but you’ve been warned – it wouldn’t be much fun if I didn’t reference anything that happened in the new season.
1. The show rewards its fans
If you haven’t seen seasons 1-3, don’t bother watching season 4. The subtle and layered jokes in the first three seasons reward careful watchers and re-watchers, and the same is true of the fourth season. Season 4 references many of the “inside” jokes from previous seasons, and welcomes back plenty of the guest stars that had memorable roles (the Gene Parmesan appearances would have been sorely missed if they hadn’t been in there). That being said – what happened to Franklin? Considering he’s a puppet, I doubt there were scheduling difficulties. And more importantly, where was the banana stand?
2. The show does an excellent job of social commentary
The satirical wit that permeates the show targets everything from the housing crisis to the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Through the spotlight on the egotistical, out-of-touch-with-reality Bluth and Funke families, the show pokes fun at politics, race, religion, the movie industry, and yes, even Google. But as the show is an equal opportunity offender, and considering the show’s characters aren’t meant to be taken seriously, its jokes make us laugh – though hopefully not forget that the show and its characters are, maybe more so than the Real Housewives, based on reality.
3. The characters’ relationships felt off at times
A running theme in season 4 was the ways in which the various characters had changed over the course of the past few years, which is only logical. But a few of the relationships at the heart of the series felt fundamentally off; Michael and George Michael’s relationship being the most obvious example. As a college student, George Michael decides that he doesn’t like his name; he also isn’t crazy about his father living in his dorm room. Makes sense. But in seasons 1-3, no matter what happened between George Michael and his father, the two loved one another, and that was never in jeopardy. This didn’t seem to be true in Season 4, especially with the way episode 15 ended before the cut to credits – although perhaps that scene will help set up an upcoming movie.
4. The series was difficult to follow linearly
Episodes included flashbacks to previous seasons as well as previous episodes in season 4, often with Ron Howard’s narration overlapping with the characters’ dialogue. Often, a new piece of information would be revealed about a particular scene when it was replayed from a different character’s perspective. While this layered approach was enjoyable at times, other times it felt overly convoluted, and gave the impression that the series consisted primarily of the same few scenes played out over and over again from different points of view. I’m looking forward to re-watching season 4 and unpacking the various clues and foreshadowing provided in earlier episodes, a technique at which creator Mitch Hurwitz excels.
5. The characters are back in full force
Even when relationships among the characters felt incongruous based on previous seasons, this rarely detracted from the terrific performances of the cast. Buster and Gob have always been two of my favorite characters, and Tony Hale and Will Arnett did not disappoint in their roles. Jessica Walter’s performance as Lucille in the rehearsal for the Fantastic Four musical was pretty fantastic, though not to be overshadowed by Buster’s dance during his time spent in the security office.
A final observation? I haven’t found a better comedy on TV (or Netflix), so if you haven’t hopped on the Bluth bandwagon yet, it’s high time. Let’s hope someone secures all those movie rights, because it would be a shame if this was the last we saw of Arrested Development.
By Kathleen Toohill
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