In the crazy world of television, it’s like living on the edge wondering if your favourite show will survive to the next year or get cancelled. Nothing is safe – some last only a single season, while others can go for a decade or more. Cheers, Frasier, Friends and numerous others have managed to survive on quality and that relationship with the viewers that made them huge names in TV history. Arrested Development never quite reached those heights, but instead managed to become a cult success, with numerous cameos and a well-loved cast. It’s hard to believe that there was a 7-year gap between seasons 3 and 4 – how many shows could come back after that? Yet there’s something about Arrested Development that fans keep returning to, and in this age of Netflix and other media outlets, anything is possible…
What’s It About? Despite the lead Jason Bateman (aka Michael Bluth) being a Hollywood regular these days, his love for the show has always been clear. Same with Michael Cera (George Michael Bluth), and the others such as Will Arnett (Gob Bluth) and Jeffrey Tambor (George and Oscar Bluth). This is a show adored by the critics, fans and cast alike, but it was no doubt difficult to bring back after so much time. Here the approach to Arrested Development is a little different, putting the focus on a different character each episode, rather than the usual full cast. It does give the show a bit of a different feel, but the pleasure of having it back in any form whatsoever will overwhelm anyone to the point where quality isn’t at the forefront of anyone’s mind. It’s just a miracle we’re watching these episodes at all.
The focus on a central character per episode does give the viewers an opportunity to get to know them a bit better, which is never a bad thing. The writing is still top notch, the show feels exactly how it should do with Ron Howard involved, and catching up with everyone – including numerous guest stars like Henry Winkler, Liza Minnelli and Scott Baio – will put a smile on your face from start to finish. What we learn is that the characters really haven’t changed that much at all, which isn’t all that surprising. They’re still the same crazy dysfunctional family we all love that make mistakes and never learn from them. It’s no surprise that, in the show, Ron Howard wants to make a movie about them. Hopefully one day life will reflect art!
Verdict: From a purely critical standpoint, it’s safe to say that Season 4 isn’t the best that Arrested Development has served up, but that doesn’t make it a bad season. There’s still enough of the self-referential craziness that everyone loved so much that they brought the show back in the first place, and it’s certainly better than a lot of newer comedies out there. Michael Cera always excels as George Michael, and Jason Bateman hasn’t found a better role in the past however many years in slightly dodgy Hollywood comedies. It’s not all about the ‘big’ names though as Will Arnett, Tony Hale and David Cross are often show stealers, much like they were in earlier seasons. Arnett especially has had to suffer through a few bad comedies and it’s a welcome return to form for him.
I think most fans will agree that there’s enough here to justify Netflix bringing it back, and certainly nothing that harms Arrested Development’s legacy as a well loved cult show. It’s so difficult bringing a show back after that long but credit where credit is due – the magic is still there, the sparks still fly between the cast, and it almost feels like it was never away. Almost.
Extras: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has done well by Arrested Development fans on this 3-disc set, providing some great insight into the history of the show and what it’s like being back on the show now. Whether it’s production or scripts or direction, there’s so many different aspects covered in the extras that they are all worth watching. It’s a very interesting process seeing how a show can come back like that, and seeing everyone enjoying themselves so much is a great pleasure. In total, there are nearly 10 different featurettes to enjoy and you couldn’t ask for much more.
Final Words: When it was announced that Arrested Development was returning, many people were excited with a little trepidation. You can’t help but hope they won’t ruin one of your favourite shows, which is always a risk when bringing one back. However, Season 4 has been treated with the care and attention it deserves, and the clear affection from all involved helps to make it worthwhile. This comes highly recommended to existing fans, and to anyone who hasn’t seen the show before – what have you been doing?!
Arrested Development Season 4 is out now on DVD.