Source: Wikipedia
Source: Wikipedia

Arrested Development: Now on Netflix

It’s back. Arrested Development received its’ full-blown Netflix release Sunday morning. Being the first Netflix style whole-season dump release I’ve had to review I took the moment to ask myself: How am I going to handle this? Ultimately I decided that rather than use an excessively narrow reference frame of one episode, or binge watching the full season, I’d watch three or four episodes and take it from there. Additionally, because it isn’t a new series, I’d hone my opinions onto mostly what’s new and different. If you need some background before watching the series, I’d recommend checking out my Many Happy Returns column on the show before reading this review.

So….in a broad context, where are we? Seven years after the arrest of Lucille Bluth, we find out that she somehow gets off of the SEC charges but is instead being charged under maritime law. Michael is in dire straits after Sudden Valley turns into a huge disaster when there are no roads placed in relation to the house. Lindsay and Tobias are well…Lindsay and Tobias, and George Michael is away at college.

Otherwise? You know…it’s the story about the family who lost it all and the son who has to keep them all together.

That being said, the fourth season has a lot of key differences from the series that ran on FOX:

First and foremost, the show moves at a much slower pace. Whereas the original series often juggled three story lines in a given show, season four follows one character arc from beginning to completion. This isn’t a bad thing, as jokes that would normally get a split second have a little bit of time to develop. Additionally, whereas the older show would often have the three story lines come together at the end, the plots in this season, while considerably simpler often tend to snowball.

Alongside that slower pace is a renewed interest in character development, even if it eventually leads to some characters being off model. Michael, for example, has his negative traits more embellished, particularly his clinginess to George Michael (what seems like a father not wanting to lose a teenage son turns into something completely different when he’s hanging around a college). Similarly, we see more of the domineering George Sr. that was alluded to during the series (as opposed to the constantly groveling George Sr. we actually see during the series).

Additionally, there is a never ending door of celebrity cameos in the new season, including recurring spots for Seth Rogen and Kristen Wiig (playing the 80’s version of George and Lucille), as well as one off spots for Adam Devine (and half of the cast of Workaholics), Ed Helms, John Slattery, Maria Bamford, and John Krasinski. A lot of these cameos are half disguised making spot the celebrity even funnier.

Unfortunately the one flaw of the single character focus and stuffed to the gills nature of the universe (the new season really uses its’ supporting cast in a number of interesting ways) is that you don’t hear from a large number of characters for long stretches of time. In the five episodes that I saw going into writing this review, neither Gob nor Buster have much in the way of screen time.

The show also has a longer run time. 22 minute broadcast requirements have turned into 30 minute episodes that generally follow the formats used in the original series’ pilot and finale of Freeze in a moment of time, cut to open, fill in the back story, then follow through the original frozen moment. This format works great for playing catchup as the show fills in the 7 missing years of the characters’ lives. Additionally, it allows for viewers who are new to the show to catch up, as the series uses footage from the original series wherever it refers to something outside of immediate continuity.

One thing that is not different, however, is that the show still remains incredibly sharp and funny. New pacing aside, Hurwitz and company managed to still pack the show with as many visual gags as humanly possible. Additionally, with everything snowballing and cascading in slow motion it should be interesting to see how it all meshes together.

The Final Verdict: This new season is well worth the wait. Additionally, due to the slower pace and the direct referencing of prior seasons, newer fans should actually anticipate a low learning curve since much of the exposition is laid out there for all to see. I recommend processing the series slowly, as each episode has an extra eight minutes of material (or approx 1/3 of a show), so this 15 episode season will actually be longer in run-time than any other season except one. The choose your own adventure aspect, while downplayed will also make repeat viewing interesting, giving the new episodes some lasting power. Highest recommendation on this season and likely the most addicting thing you’ll encounter this summer.