Perhaps Mitchell Hurwitz shouldn’t have said a thing. I didn’t watch his Arrested Development show when it aired. I didn’t understand it when fans would post random YouTube clips of the show and its eccentric characters completely out of context as if it were born of the comedy gods themselves. I absolutely positively didn’t understand it when he made Sit Down, Shut Up, a terrible cartoon starring many AD alums. Well, I finally watched AD and I got it from the get-go. Why did I wait so long?
So why shouldn’t have Mitchell Hurwitz mentioned that the newest season of AD, brought to us by industry-changing Netflix, would feature performances filmed nearly four months apart between actors because of their hectic availability? Because maybe I wouldn’t have been thinking about it so much when pushing through the season’s 15 episodes.
Everyone’s back. Michael, his son George-Michael, his father George Sr., G.O.B., Maebe, Lindsay, Tobias, Lucille, Lucille 2, on and on. The season doesn’t open like the fourth volume of most shows, the seven-year delay welcomes a re-invitation into the lives of the Bluth family that still finds themselves existing on a perpetual basis. Here, we’re presented a complex weave that spans over five years from the tail end of the last season to final moments that don’t quite feel final. Each episode then fills us in as a specific character and gives them a fling into the maelstrom, giving us a better view of what the Bluth family is up to, leading up to the events of Cinco De Quatro, a holiday Lucille invented to antagonize Hispanics.
Everyone’s trying to divest themselves of the Bluth company, but all involved ultimately need each other to get by. Michael finally built his Sudden Valley… right as the housing market fell out. Lindsay and Tobias Fünke go to India for enlightenment. George Sr. wants to build buy land near the Mexican border and convince a would-be womanizing Congressman (Terry Crews) to support it. To say much more is to spoil much of the surprise, but as clever as this new creation is, it can’t quite match what came before.
It’s all about what Hurwitz said.
You see, because many of these actors became popular following the show’s cancellation, getting all of them back together was nearly impossible. As a result, technology and super-tight scheduling was required to show more than three or more of the cast in the same scene at the same time. Perhaps this fourth season was more labor of love than anything, but if we’re to see anything further everyone seriously needs to block out some time, like a real TV show, to get things shot.
Sure, each tale is clever in its own way, but I felt some of the magic of the premiere wipe off by the second episode, which leans on George Sr. and his twin, Oscar. I love Jeffrey Tambor, but he was one of the weakest components in the original series. Now they’re stumbling and bumbling around the California desert with a silent aide that speaks telepathically and the only thing you’ll want is the next episode to pop up. Unlike previous seasons, in which every episode felt like its own complex brain matter tied into an even larger, more complex matter, we only reach that kind of fever-minded frantic callback pacing as we get into the heart of this story, right as it’s nearly complete. Each episode is, for better or worse, a different perspective on a complex series of events that feel a bit too siloed for comfort. It feels like a two hour episode got exploded into a seven-and-a-half hour affair.
It’s not that things weren’t weird back in The Day. Watching Michael slowly fall in love with G.O.B.’s girlfriend was a drag and the Little Britain segments later on definitely got weird, but you got more out of each episode. Why does Shawkat play the conniving Maebe so stone-faced early on, then finally slip into gear in her own episode later on? Where’s a little consistency? The series callbacks and Entourage-level cameos can get weird, but almost always entertaining. Bob Loblaw. Andy Richter. Andy Richter again and again. Ben Stiller as Tony Wonder, a rival magician.
That didn’t stop me from enjoying the lot of it, though. I had to stop the show twice because even the smallest sight gag had me rolling until I nearly fainted. The writers are still funny as hell. Hurwitz had to be incredibly resourceful to make this happen at all. Unfortunately, it seems the cast was a bit less dedicated to the show’s future than the fans were.