Arrested Development made its return to television on Sunday with fifteen new episodes. The resurrected series made a number of firsts for a cancelled TV on Netflix, its new home. Unfortunately the milestones it established are ultimately more impressive than the quality of the episodes.
The biggest problem for Arrested Development was the decision to focus each episode on a specific character. This move was a supposed necessity due to the busy schedules of the cast, but the came at a high price to the ensemble comedy. Scenes featuring more than two Bluths are few and far between. While it’s not too hard to believe that the cast are busy with other projects, the execution of the episodes makes the show’s inability to get the whole Bluth clan together doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
The average length of each episode is a little over half an hour, which is more than ten minutes longer than an average episode for the first three seasons. The lack of commercials and scheduling problems on Netflix should be an advantage, but the decision to extend each episode is puzzling. Arrested Development would’ve been better off making few episodes with a shorter run time that included more of the cast in each scene.
The lack of presence from the cast is supplemented by appearances by nearly every recurring guest star not named Charlize Theron. Some of these worked, such as Carl Weathers and Tony Wonder. Others, such Lucille 2 and Andy Richter, are overexposed and come across as means to cover up the lack of regular appearances by the shows actual cast. Michael, GOB, Lucille, George Sr., and Tobias are the only ones to show up in more than a semi regular fashion. Without the whole Bluth clan, it didn’t really feel like Arrested Development.
Plot isn’t exactly a strong point either. Since the show shows each episode from the point of view of a specific character, the plot moves forward at a snail like pace. The extended run time doesn’t do the show any favors with this either.
Putting the negatives aside, the return is about as good as anyone could expect from a show that’s been off the air for six years and features a cast that’s had a decent amount of success. Even though it’s been ten years since the show made its debut, the cast has aged remarkably well. The episodes are full of throwbacks that fans should appreciate.
Season 4 doesn’t really feel like Arrested Development. I also don’t think that marathon viewing is the best way to watch the episodes. Fans who have waited for this day for years will burn through these (took me two days), but it was far more work and far less rewarding than it should’ve been. Hopefully this can be rectified for the movie.
Despite all the criticisms, I did enjoy season 4. It’s just that Arrested Development was the best comedy on TV when it was first on. While I didn’t expect it to be when it came back on Sunday, it didn’t even come close and that’s a shame.