Having finished Number 1 in the Stuart Reviews Stuff Top 30 Sitcoms of All Time, it would be fair to say that I was really looking forward to seeing the new season of Arrested Development on NetFlix.
With an amended format (each episode would focus on an individual character’s story with other members of the Bluth family making small cameos), double length episodes and a mass release (all 15 parts were released in one go) it would be interesting to see if the show would be as good as it once was, or if us fans had built it up too much for it to be able to match our expectations.
So how was it?
Arrested Development Season 4 Review: Could It Live Up To The Hype?
Some episodes, particularly both of Gob’s and Tobias’s first were as funny as any episode from the series’ original run. They were excellent.
The way the Tobias one culminated in him getting accidentally arrested as a Sex Offender because of the way he phrased his meeting with Maeby was superb, and in the Gob episode, the whole Entourage theme was fantastic.
Definitely though those two were the comedy highlights.
Beyond that, I had some issues with it.
Writing For Replay Value
For one thing, I felt a problem with Arrested Development Season 4 was that it was written in a way to make the viewer appreciate each episode more on the second or third viewing than on the initial one.
The problem with that was that while you ultimately appreciate it for being so clever by the time you’ve finished them all and viewed them again, watching it the first time around, some of the episodes – particularly the early ones – fell a bit flat.
While a lot of the jokes and set-ups in the first George or Lindsay episodes made sense later on, at the time I couldn’t help but find them underwhelming or just miss them all together on initial viewing. And that’s certainly something that was echoed by other fans of the show online.
Maybe they should have gone for proper laughs in every episode rather than sacrificing some just so you could then say “Ah, now I get it” later on.
Going back to the Tobias and Gob episodes, the funniest moments were the ones that were part of the individual episodes rather than the overall story arc.
If each of the 15 episodes was written like that, it would have been a classic season.
One Too Many Cameos
The nods to the past were good, but I did find that some characters were so obviously written in just for the sake of getting them in.
I wouldn’t have been unhappy if Andy Richter wasn’t in it at all, and while cameos from the likes of Carl Weathers, Bob Loblaw, Warden Gentles, Tony Wonder, Gene Parmesan, Lucille Two and Kitty were good, perhaps a bit too much time was given to some of them. The Annyong cameo on the other hand was superb, as was the running joke of how old Steve Holt looked.
And you won’t hear me say anything bad about Barry Zuckercorn. I think he should have had his own episode!
But where was Wayne Jarvis?
The Lack of a Punchy Conclusion
For me though, the biggest problem was the way the season limped over the finish line.
As I said earlier, it seemed to be written in a way to be clever about how everything ties together.
Ten episodes in, this all seemed to be going well. The way that each episode brought another reason for why there was an empty seat at Lucille’s trial was brilliantly done, while many of the gags formed earlier on were brought together.
And then it all seemed to be thrown away.
To me that was down to both the sequencing of episodes and some characters just not being strong enough to support two or even one on their own.
I don’t think Buster – having barely appeared up to that point – was strong enough to have his own episode (or if he was going to get one it shouldn’t have been the penultimate one), and I certainly don’t think George Michael justified two, especially considering the punchline to his own story-arc (that Faceblock wasn’t what everyone thought it was) happened in his first one.
It’s not that these episodes were bad, and indeed George Michael’s first in particular was very good, but as a continuation of the overall story, it halted the momentum.
To me it should have finished either on a third Michael episode (he is the main character after all) or on a group one.
But because it didn’t, any notion of everything coming to a head on Cinco de Quattro faded away.
So while the final George Michael episode wrapped up the storyline of Rebel Alley well enough, plenty of other ones felt incomplete.
- Why was George becoming more and more feminine, while Oscar had become more manly? Considering the Shaman wasn’t real, that made no sense.
- What happened to Lucille 2 and Herbert Love?
- What was the deal with Sally Sitwell and her attempts to take over Lucille 2’s campaign?
- How did the Mexican Wall storyline conclude?
- What about FaceBlock?
There’s probably more questions like that to be answered, and though I’m sure they’ve been deliberately left open only to be picked up again if they ever make a fifth season or a movie, it would have been nice for everything to tie up in case they don’t.
And moreover, I think it’s clear that as clever as it was, we’d all – if we’re honest – prefer the show to come back with the main characters all interacting with each other again rather than with the likes of Tobias’s junkie girlfriend, Lindsay’s Face-blind boyfriend, Tony Wonder, Ron Howard or Lucille 2.
- What the hell has happened to Portia de Rossi? She almost looks like a different person, and yet when I googled “Portia de Rossi Plastic Surgery” the other day, the first hit was a report from earlier this year with her saying she’d age gracefully. When I went back today to double check that, it was gone from the first page of Google hits to be replaced by articles reacting to her new appearance on Season 4.
- And yet she looks more like herself when she cuts her hair. When her hair was long, she looked like Calista Flockhart.
- Another cast member who looks weird is Michael Cera, who appears to have grown out of his own face. Cera – while still retaining a sense of youthfulness that fellow youngster Alia Shawkat struggles with – just looks weird. It’s not a surprise he hasn’t starred in many films lately.
- I wonder if the whole Faceblock thing was based on people thinking he looks a bit like Jesse Eisenberg.
- Like I said above, there was too much Ron Howard. I felt that was a bit gratuitous.
- My mum is a big fan of the show, but she’s told me she’s really not enjoying it so far. Her thoughts kinda echo mine in that she thinks it’s being too clever for its own good.
- If I was to rank the episodes in order, I’d go with the following (from best to worst): Gob 1, Gob 2, Tobias 1, George Michael 1, Michael 1, Maeby, Lindsay 1, Lindsay 2, Lucille, Tobias 2, Michael 2, George Michael 2, Buster, George 2, George 1
- And that really surprises me because George is such a great character in the original series, but the way they sort of turned him into Oscar just wasn’t all that amusing to me.
- Because of the lack of main character interaction, it’s a pity there was no chicken dancing, although I liked that George Michael nearly showed us his.
- And I thought it was also very clever that he had no idea who Lucille 2 was.
- While I thought that Kristen Wig captured the character and mannerisms of a young Lucille Bluth very well, Seth Rogan decided the best way to play George would be to play him as Seth Rogan, just like every other part Seth Rogan has ever had. Arsehole.
- Finally, where was Franklin?!
Arrested Development Season 4 Review: Final Thoughts
The word I’ve used most in this review is ‘Clever’.
And it was, but maybe they tried to be too clever for their own good.
While I appreciate what they’ve tried to do, and enjoyed it for the most part, Arrested Development Season 4 just wasn’t as good as I’d hoped it would be.
Maybe it could never have lived up to the hype, but with an odd choice of episode order and a final episode that didn’t do enough to wrap up the numerous storylines on the go, I felt a little disappointed.
At some points it was as funny as it was in it’s prime, but I think they got lost in – and there’s that word again – being clever rather than funny.
It could be that on second viewing I’ll see it in a whole new light and will have to return to this review and re-evaluate.
But I shouldn’t have to.
Needless to say though, I welcome them making more.
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