Since it’s cancellation in 2006, Arrested Development has only grown in popularity. It joined the ranks with Firefly as shows that were cancelled way too early. For over 5 years there was talk about an Arrested Development movie. Then Netflix decided to become everyone’s best friend and announce they were bringing the cast back together for one more season which leads into a feature film.
There was no possible way that AD could have lived up to the hype. This is one of those shows that people have deified and held up to the highest standard. If the show stayed with the same jokes we all know and love, people would be upset that it was a lazy retread. Whereas, if they tried something new, fans would be upset that the AD they love has vanished.
They tried to balance both and it didn’t quite work out. There are some hilarious moments in season 4 of Arrested Development, but there is a serious issue when one season of the show has at least 8 of the series’ weakest episodes, by far.
I have detailed the 5 things that the newest season of AD has done wrong. Here’s hoping they fix these if they do decide to produce a 5th season.
5 – The Overarching Plot is Weak
You never watched Arrested Development for its deep story. You watched it to see the characters interact. Seeing what’s so important about the Banana Stand, Maeby’s job as a producer or GOB getting kicked out of the Alliance of Magicians, were bonuses but never were what we primarily cared about. They were funny and brief storylines that complimented to the family insanity.
The 4th season’s story spans over the entire 15 episodes. I’m okay with a “To Be Continued…” in a two-parter episode, but having to watch 15 episodes to see a clumsy plot tie together is asking too much. At what point was I supposed to care about a border wall being built/not built? Did Herbert Love contribute anything to the show? Why did everyone have to sleep with Lucille 2? Why do they keep showing the ostrich?
I could really keep going. In comparison to the earlier seasons where the ridiculous plots only added to the fun, this storyline detracted from the fun and had no real payoff. I still question why Cinco de Quatro is such a big deal.
4 – The Constant Jumps through Time
Yes, we’re all curious about what the Bluths have been up to these past 7 years. Well, season 4 answers that with too much detail. Most episodes begin only minutes after the show got cancelled and does a 30 minute wrap-up about what each character is doing with their lives now. It doesn’t work and it’s confusing. Plus it was extremely difficult to suspend my disbelief about how certain characters looked considerably different in the “flashbacks.” Seriously, What in the world did Portia de Rossi do to her face?
I would have preferred that they start the episodes with a “7 Years Later” caption. That would work much better than confusing they audience with a “Present day, now go back 7 years, now jump forward 2 years, now 3 more years, then 2 months later, and finally back to present day” approach. Obviously it’s easier to have content if you narrate the last 7 years of everyone’s lives in each episode, but sadly it’s just filler.
3 – It Focuses on Least Funny Characters
If you asked any “normal” person who their favorite character on AD was, they would most likely reply with Buster, GOB, Tobias or George Michael. If they said George Sr or Lindsay, then you should politely back away, not take your eyes off them and decide then and there decided to never ask for their opinion again.
If you’ve seen the new season, then you know that every character has at least one episode dedicated to them. That means you get successive episodes centered on Lindsay, George Sr and Lucille. Some of these characters even get 2 long episodes.
Lindsay was great as a character who always wanted to get away from her husband, but nothing worked out for her due to her own selfishness. George Sr initially worked because he had nothing more than cameos in the original series. Lucille was great because she said terrible things and was a terrible person. Their episodes in season 4 suffered in terms of humor and likability. They work best as side characters, and that brings me to the next problem.
2 – It’s Missing the Family Dynamic
“Now the story of a wealthy family who lost everything, and the one son who had no choice but to keep them all together…”
That’s the original beginning to the show and that is exactly what made the show magic. Arrested Development’s best moments happened when the entire family was together. Even when the family wasn’t in the same room, you’d see the characters interact in the following scene.
It was the perfect recipe for comedy. Two tablespoons of GOB, a dash of Tobias, a teaspoon of Lindsay, a pinch of Buster and some Lucille for spice. Mix that together with Michael and you’ve got something special. Now, you might see under 90 seconds of a Michael cameo in someone else’s episode and it doesn’t work.
Netflix couldn’t afford to have every actor in every episode and that’s understandable, but they lost quality. The Hollywood Reporter revealed that the lead actor for each episode gets $125,000. Each guest who appears for more than 90 seconds gets $50,000. Guests who appear for less than 90 seconds get $10,000. You could probably set your watch to the time spent on a guest spot by previous lead characters.
1 – There’s No Anchor
In the premiere episode of this season, it’s clear that Michael is not the level-headed Bluth anymore. He has entered crazy town alongside the rest of the family. But wait a minute, wasn’t he the one we’d relate to in the original series? It’s an interesting twist and it makes sense that he’d eventually turn into a selfish person like the rest of his family, but there is no longer an anchor point for the viewers.
Seasons 1-3 worked because we got to see this crazy family from the perspective of the voice of reason, Michael. Yes, he had flashes of Bluth insanity here and there, but he always came around. Now he’s just as unlikable as everyone else and he’s willing to sell them out as long as he can get their signatures for their movie rights.
I would have been okay if George Michael took on the role of the “sane” one, but he didn’t really play a role until the final 4 episodes and he was involved in a go-nowhere plot that tried to spoof Facebook.
Like I said, there are some great moments in this season. We have Tobias to thank for that. I am hoping that the show will learn from its missteps they went through this season and be the best-written show on television once again.