Arrested Development (Season Four)
Arrested Development has done something that no one’s done. They were cancelled many many years ago (I think 7 as of this writing) and somehow managed to grow in popularity since then. And Netflix picked up on this momentum and has now brought our beloved Arrested Development back.
But can a show recapture that same magic, seven years after the show was originally cancelled?
I’m not going to cover the the gist because it’s complicated. And if you haven’t seen seasons 1-3, you shouldn’t be reading this. Watch the show, that’s all I have to say to you.
If you haven’t seen season four, should you?
Yes. Of course. But here’s the thing. The expectations are so high, that it’s impossible for the show to live up to that. If you go in with the mindset that you’re just excited to see the crew back together, you won’t be disappointed. It’s more of the same (and just like the first three seasons, there are definite ups and downs). The season begins rocky but at episode 4 and 5, it starts to gain some momentum.
Now… I’m reviewing the season with SPOILERS. So, watch the show and then come back here for my thoughts on if it succeeded.
It’s nice to see everyone together again and some of the recurring jokes still pack a punch. However, some of the new running gags bring some great moments to the table. My favorite is probably the use of “Sound of Silence” which had me cracking up every time. I also thought the show had some restraint, as they didn’t really hit on or overuse the old gags. My favorite joke denial moments were when Gob was having a panic / stuttering attack and was reliving his “guy in a three-thousand dollar suit” scene, and then when George Michael was about to reenact the chicken dance and stopped. They knew when enough was enough.
In terms of outstanding episodes, I think I preferred Gob’s and Tobias’. Gob’s second episode “A New Attitude” was spectacular, featuring Ben Stiller as Tony Wonder. This episode felt the most original, taking Gob to a whole new place, as he learned what it was like to have a friend. And him and Wonder exchanging “Same!” was just downright adorable. And then Tobias’ episodes were really funny, as he somehow convinced the mental hospital to let them use the patients as actors in a musical of Fantastic Four. And when he was caught by To Entrap a Predator: Super Creeps Edition, his complete ignorance was hilarious.
And I think I applaud the writing team for making actual growth with the characters. Over seasons 1-3, the characters never really changed. But here, we see almost complete transformations. George Sr and Oscar are hard to distinguish, George Michael has turned into quite a ladies’ man, and Michael has lost all confidence and starts the season at rock bottom. It’s uncomfortable because they don’t feel like the characters we know, but I appreciate the intention to make it different than seasons 1-3.
What doesn’t work?
The structure of the season is tricky to follow, and even on a second viewing I lose track of what is happening when. They flashback to moments throughout the past seven years but they don’t give you any help with figuring out the timeline. In Gob’s first episode, he’s set to marry Egg and ends up running away. In his second episode, it’s five years later and Egg has a kid. But Gob is still trying to get revenge on Tony Wonder for how he ruined the wedding illusion. Just a little hard to follow.
Also, some of the celebrity cameos felt out of place. I appreciated most, especially those returning from seasons 1-3 (like Ed Helms, who is much more famous now than he was back then, so it’s cool that he was interested in doing it). But some that I didn’t appreciate… Seth Rogen can’t really act like anyone other than Seth Rogen so that was a little awkward. Also John Krasinski came out of left-field.
And then there’s the ending of season four… DEFINITE SPOILER.
The season ended and I literally stared at the screen waiting for the next episode to start. I know this was intended to be Act I of a three act movie/series renewal, but the future is always uncertain. So now we have a jarring ending and if this is the end that we’re stuck with forever, it’s an unjust ending for a wonderful show.
Everything we loved about seasons one through three are here. It’s hard not to go in with high expectations but if you just have fun and enjoy it, it’ll be a fun ride. The guest stars are hit and miss and the season gets progressively better as it goes on. But overall, you should find things to enjoy. For me, just seeing the cast together again was worth the wait.