Look, I like Arrested Development and all it’s a good and funny show, but I kinda hate all the hardcore fandom and worship that the show constantly gets. Every quote, reference and call-back has to be turned into countless memes and recited in numerous comment sections where copying and pasting your favourite quote makes you seem intelligent and adding to the conversation. Now obviously there’s nothing wrong with being a fan of a show, and even more-so if it’s something you engage with through different avenues, but the way the zeitgeist of the people attached itself to Arrested Development and it’s circumstances of being cancelled “early” fostered a simple and tedious engagement with the show. I like Arrested Development, but the consistent boy’s club of references and quotes sometimes seems like it’s the ONLY way people expect you to watch the show, like you have to be a hardcore fan to enjoy every facet of it, when that’s simply not the case. That’s what’s great about AD, you have the call-backs and wrap-around plots and jokes with some stuff only noticed after the fifth re-watch, but the main story and comedic through-lines still exist for the base level of the show. Arrested Development has fostered this exclusive fandom that has put me at a relative distance in terms of how it’s engaged with outside of the confines of the direct content of the show, that while developing new meanings and points of reference, also clouds the expectations for the show and how it effects its content.
I don’t think any of that preceding paragraph made any sense, but I’m too tired right now to make it work. Basically, just a long-winded way of saying “I like Arrested Development, but not in the super-fan quoting everything way, and sometimes that part of it detaches me from the show itself.” Get it? Probably not, so let’s talk about how season 4 kinda sucked, but was also alright.
I would say that the first 2/3’s of the season were bad, well, more like 2/3’s in total as “Colony Collapse” and “Red Hairing” were good with “Smashed” and “Queen B.” being a couple down episodes until the great closing stretch of the last five episodes. “Bad” is the wrong word I guess, just really average episodes that had a couple good jokes but nothing special, definitely bad though in comparison to the heavyweights of season 1 and 2. I have always wanted some show to be told episode-by-episode through the eyes of a different character so we could understand the world of the show and how differently each person thinks about everything and how they engage with the world. I’d say they got it about half-right, I realize that they mostly used this device since they couldn’t usually get all the actors at the same place at the same time to film, so this allowed for easy focalization on one character at a time. Spinning off of this, the story was told out-of-order with something’s not becoming clear ‘till further on down the line and again feeding the Arrested Development reference, call-back and easter egg qualities that everybody seems to love so much. I found doing it this way short-shifted some characters who didn’t have much of a storyline at all and often felt disconnected from everything going on in the main plot. George Sr. and Lucille stick out to me as two great characters who didn’t have all that much to do, and when they did was never anything of consequence or reference to the main thrust of the story. Also, with the nature of this segmented story and out-of-order placement the payoffs wouldn’t come until later, but while the set-up early episodes were lacking, the resolution and tying of most things together in the final stretch of episodes was terrific.
On the flip-side of this, the Gob, Tobias and George-Michael showcase episodes were pretty perfect in highlighting the quirks of these characters and almost strictly following them for the whole half-hour was a delight that held together much of the season. I don’t know if it was supposed to be maturation, change in writing, performances or what, but often the characters just felt “different” and someone completely alien from the person we had got to know over the first three seasons. Michael seemed to have fell down a flight of stairs between seasons, because he was dumber than a special needs doorknob. Especially with scenes between him and George-Michael and attempting to comprehend things, it seemed like the writers just decided to make the only relatively sane Bluth as dumb as the rest just for the jokes, but ignoring, like, how he was never like this. Also, Portia de Rossi’s plastic surgery or whatever the hell happened to her face in the six years since we’ve got new episodes was wholly distracting and made me double-check IMDB to see if they had recast her. Bizarre. One “change of character” thing I did like, and the best part of the whole season, was George-Michael and Michael Cera’s portrayal of him. As we are a few years down the road it was cool to see how George-Michael had grown up into this weird, awkward, sexualized independent dude who seemed exactly like an extension of the young version we’ve all come to know. His growing separation with Michael was an excellent through-line and worked terrifically as a focal point of the show (and series) as it reached a boiling point at the end.
I was never fiending for more Arrested Development whenever the rumours would pop up years ago. I thought a wrap-up type movie would have been cool, but I never would’ve dreamed to get 15 half-hour + episodes of the show again. Again, I can’t say it would effect me too much either way whether we get more or not (pretty big bet that there’s more coming though), but of course I’ll watch it and be just dis-connected enough to enjoy most of it. On the whole of things I was let down by season 4, but trying to recapture the gold of the first two seasons and parts of season 3 is an immeasurable task on one of the best comedies of the past decade and a benchmark for comedies since. The first few episodes were rough to get through, but I’m glad it was able to all come together for the most part at the end and deliver a competent season of television that I never thought would ever exist.