We don't know what we expected. After Netflix's season 4 of Arrested Development was one of their most watched shows, we'd better stock up on juice boxes because the dysfunctional family will be back on our screens in 2016. But is this the best thing for the Bluths? Fans are divided on the quality of season 4, and whether it fits with the rest of the show, what with its odd timeline jumps and complex plot. Are Netflix just flogging a dead horse, or does the show deserve more seasons?
Originally conceived as a satirical mirror to the Bush family, the Bluths and their madcap antics soon rose to cult comedy fame after the first season of Arrested Development on Fox. The show has spawned countless memes, with dozens (dozens, Michael!) of hilarious quotes and a sometimes silly, sometimes surreal sense of humour that quickly became iconic. The show is renowned for using dramatic irony, subtle foreshadowing, and carefully constructed coincidences to keep the audience involved and amused. But despite critical acclaim and celebrity guest stars, Arrested Development was cancelled after just three seasons due to low viewing figures. Leaving fans everywhere feeling, well, feeling just like GOB.
But all was not lost. Seven years after its cancellation, Netflix picked up the show for another season. Despite the long wait, the show continued with the same in-jokes from the original run, calling back to plots such as GOB's bee business (beads? Bees!), paralleling the beginning of the show with the boat party, and bringing back minor characters like Gene Parmesan. They even used tiny snippets from the early seasons to feed into the major plots of season 4. Anyone remember George Michael's impeccable time keeping/woodblock talent that featured in one episode of season 1? Well, this sparked the creation of his wildly successful (yet misunderstood) woodblock business, Fakeblock, that became one of the central arcs of season 4. Proving that if nothing else, the writers definitely love to watch their own show.
Yet season 4 wasn't just a case of rehashing old jokes. With a plot that spanned Hollywood, satirising the television industry itself, the season ended on a dramatic cliffhanger, leaving viewers desperate to know just who killed Lucille 2. Which means season 5 is going to be a murder mystery, as the characters try and find out what happened, and clear Buster's name. However, the build up to this climax may have been a huge mistake, as season 4 suffered from convoluted plotlines and confusing references. So how could season 5 learn from season 4's mistakes?
We're blowing right through nap time, aren't we?
The non-chronological timeline was a very ambitious and interesting choice, with each episode following one character's experience of the months leading to the final party. This worked well for the Netflix season-dump format, as they knew their viewers would probably binge watch the show. But it also meant that if you weren't concentrating, you could miss a vital plot point and be confused for the rest of the season.
If season 5 continues this structure, the show may suffer for it. That's assuming the actors are available for filming: the main reason for the unusual time jumps was because few of the cast were able to be in the same place at the same time. Considering the banter between the Bluths was one of the funniest things about the show, the lack of interaction in season 4 was a bit of a blow. On their own, the individual characters just didn't have the comedic oomph to carry an episode, and the situations got dull quickly. After all, without all the characters in the same place, we couldn't have moments like this...
Too intelligent for its own good
Now don't get me wrong, this show is clever and that's awesome. The continuity is fantastic and the irony is brilliantly executed. But by season 4, sometimes I would find myself saying "ah yes, I recognise that reference to season 2 and that is quite amusing" instead of, you know, laughing. The humour is easy to appreciate, but not always funny enough to get those laugh out loud moments. Instead of running jokes into the ground (we get it, GOB roofies himself, haha), let's have more of those one-liners that are just so quotable.
Solid as a rock?
While the original seasons of Arrested Development understated their humour, using the mockumentary format to create an understated and realistic vibe, season 4 was far more over the top. With so many call backs to jokes, they forgot to create new ones. The characterisations were occasionally over played, and a lot of the big moments felt like the writers really wanted us to KNOW it was funny. The plot was rock solid, with plenty of red herrings and mysteries still left hanging, but can we really be bothered to go back and rewatch so we catch everything? With episodes that were at least 10 minutes longer than the original seasons' episode length, season 4 dragged in the worst way. A return to the 25 minute episode length would definitely help season 5 solve this problem.
All in all, season 4 fell a bit flat. But we're optimistic for season 5: with a murder to solve, maybe we'll get to see the Bluths try (and inevitably fail) to work together again. And if they manage to overcome season 4's difficulties, in 2016 hopefully we'll see an Arrested Development that reminds us just why we fell in love with this show!
So what do you think? Would it be better to let the show rest, or do we need more seasons? Let us know in the comments, or write your own post!