Well, the long anticipated wait for Arrested Development Season Four has finally come and gone! After seven years of patiently waiting, firmly believing the show was dead and buried, after false claim after false claim that it was coming back, after disappointment after disappointment and rewatching the same three seasons over and over, never seeming to get bored of the ingeniously crafted comedy that left you still discovering jokes 30 or 40 times through the series, the show has finally returned!
And with its arrival, the die-hard fans were greeted with their biggest disappointment of all: The show they loved was never brought back at all. In one of the greatest bait-and-switches in television history, in walked 15 episodes of a completely new show with familiar characters that seemed to have no relation to its glorious predecessor from seven years prior.
I know what you’re thinking: “But how? How could this have even happened? The show was so beautifully done, with such a fantastic cast, all of whom were present again in the continuation brought to us by Netflix! It doesn’t even seem possible that such a shortfall could have taken place with a team of comedians as symbiotic as the cast of Arrested Development!”
And you know what, you’re absolutely right. And it’s for every single reason that you believe it could never have failed that the entire attempt has fallen flat on its face.
It’s to be expected, with such a sizable gap in the story line, that there needs to be a catch-up period to bring us all up to speed. I mean, George Michael isn’t exactly the innocent little high school student he once was, so we’re going to need a little time-leap here to explain away the sudden changes in all the characters physical features. But it wasn’t the leap in time that broke it all down. It was the complete disconnect of the characters throughout their past seven years instead.
See, the reason Arrested development worked so well was because of the sympathetic nature of Michael towards a family that deserved no sympathy, one that always seemed at odds and yet coexisted in the same model home fighting to repair a company they all seemed so set on destroying. It was this endless struggle where one character tries to keep his relationship with his son strong while saving his family’s company that is being ripped apart by that same family at every turn that made seasons one through three of Arrested Development so beautiful.
Now, however, Michael doesn’t work for the Bluth company. He spends almost no time with his family at all. He owes money to Lucile 2, a wonderful support character from the first three seasons who now feels as though she has more air time in Season Four than the rest of the Bluth family combined. He doesn’t seem to care about George Michael, but instead is completely self involved. GOB plays an inconsequential role with Michael where he tries to sell houses. Buster is almost non-existent. Tobias and Lindsay have their own stories completely independent of everyone else, and I don’t think they ever even see Maeby. George Sr. and Oscar switch character roles entirely, and after my first watch-through, that either went unexplained or was so incredibly uninteresting I missed it entirely. Lucile is hardly the mastermind she once was, and it seems everyone just owes money to someone and doesn’t seem to be doing anything about it.
The development, or lack there of, of each character was worsened by strengthening their disconnect from each-other by breaking each episode into a focus on a single character, a strategy that you’d think would have raised a red flag when the idiot brainstorming presented the idea, because the only way I can see that conversation going is like this: “Look, people love the characters in this show because of how well they work together to form jokes that build for seasons on end, right? So how about this–how about instead of bringing them together, we keep them apart so they are forced to rely on the jokes of the past instead of building deeper and more intricate relationships?” So, off Netflix went creating individual character episodes, ones that were so poorly pieced together that scenes were filmed on obvious green screens just to get two actors who obviously weren’t feeding off each other (the core of the original Arrested Development’s incredible humour being the actors abilities to feed off each other’s energy while performing), but instead acting into an abyss with no heart or soul.
Without providing any spoilers that would ruin the mentally exhausting experience of watching Season Four for those that didn’t power through it like I did, here’s the most upsetting part of all: Every problem here could be fixed next season if everything was built up to bringing the family back together again. And for a brief moment, it looks like that’s what’s happening. One by one, people reappear in the model home and cross paths for just a moment, and it looks like by the end of the season, everyone will be back together again to create something magical in Season Five. But instead, as the credits come dangerously close to absorbing the screen at the end of Season Four, it becomes apparent that Netflix may have let us down entirely by providing no opportunity to bring it all to a close. And sure enough, as the last seconds roll by, we are not provided with the family reunion we waited seven years for and watched 15 episodes of catch-up explanations regarding. Instead, we are left with a punch in the face.
So, I leave you, the excited Arrested Development fan, with this: I’m sorry. But you’re not going to like what you’re about to see. And unfortunately, by the time it’s all over, it’s too late to pull a GOB and slip yourself a roofie in a desperate attempt to make it all go away so you can go back to pretending Season Three was where your beloved show met its end.
- Post by: James R. Mitchener