Editor’s Note: I’ll be reviewing the entire fourth season in one post since I don’t have enough time to write a review on each episode. There are no spoilers except for what happened in previous seasons.
From 2003 to 2006, Arrested Development ran on FOX and became the most beloved sitcom since The Simpsons and Seinfeld. The show’s fans were few in numbers, but the fans were obsessed with Arrested Development. Since it left air, the show’s become a hit on DVD and sites like Hulu and Netflix. And no wonder (pun intended). Without commercials, Arrested Development was easier and more addictive the see, plus every episode is instantly rewatchable.
And like most die-hard fans of the show, I was ecstatic to hear that creator Mitchell Hurwitz was relaunching the series on Netflix. I had some concerns and for a while believed it would be a blemish to the show’s previous perfection. Indeed some of the early episodes in season 4 are a little uneven. But soon afterward, Arrested Development becomes as funny, clever, and original as it was beforehand. I haven’t laughed as much watching the series in months. While it had a few bumps, Season 4 was well-worth the seven year wait for Arrested Development maniacs.
The storyline of Season 4 takes a different approach. While seasons one to three acted as an ensemble series, season four instead takes the same approach Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon did. Each episode focuses on an individual character of the series, Michael, George Sr., Buster, and chronicles the Bluth familiy’s plight since 2006. Since then, the world has suffered a severe economic recession and the Bluths haven’t gotten any better as well. After hijacking a boat, Lucille turns back to shore, where she is quickly arrested and charged with serious lawsuits. The rest of the family tries to recover from past events, be it George Michael and Maeby resolving their relationship, Lindsay comes to terms with her adoption, and Michael tries to get rid of himself with the family. The Bluths set high ambitions for themselves, too high to accomplish. One again all of them will end up lying and trying to cover up for their tracks.
Season Four has everything an Arrested Development fan can want. The show’s nonstop joke a second formula is present here and well missed. Old running jokes come back (“I just blued myself” and “I’ve made a huge mistake” have welcome returns) and some new ones enter (“Anustart” and “Getaway getaway” make solid entrances). Old faces reenter the show as Andy Ritcher, Carl Weathers, and Harry Winkler (back as the Bluth’s incompetent lawyer Barry Zuckerhorn), and new ones enter as well (John Slattery from Mad Men enters as George Sr.’s doctor). And the nonstop pop-culture references continue, from Mystery Science Theater 3000 to Being John Malkovich to pretty much everything in Ron Howard’s filmography.
Which brings me to another major plot point, Ron Howard’s role in the show. Howard (playing himself) expresses interest in making a film about the Bluth family for Imagine Entertainment, teased at the end of season three. He just needs Michael to get his family to sign away the rights.
While I’ve heard some label the new season as disappointing, I loved watching every single episode. Perhaps it wasn’t necessary but Arrested Development’s new season was everything I wanted to see, from Tobias’ hilariously misunderstanding quotes to Gob’s magic tricks (excuse me, illusions) to the cornballer and stair car. Call the new season fan service, but great fan service it is. While I would have liked to see all the cast members having significant roles in each episode (which due to scheduling issues couldn’t happen), I’m pleased to say season four is a great addition to TV’s best sitcom. The final episode teases the audience, and I’d be happy to have another season, or who knows, a movie.