Now the story of a cult sitcom that lost everything and the one steaming service who had no choice but to keep them all together.
Netflix just officially announced that Arrested Development will return for its fifth season some time next year. Normally, that would be considered a good thing. Who wouldn’t want to see Jeffrey Tambor, Jason Bateman, Alia Shawkat, Michael Cera, Portia de Rossi, Jessica Walter, Will Arnett and all the rest reunited for another Bluth family spectacular?
That was what we thought when the show returned for its fourth season way back in 2013. With all that time of, surely there was no way that it could suck.
Extremely Ron Howard as the narrator voice: It sucked.
Let me contextualize this a little bit. I was an Arrested Development superfan. The second I finished my season two DVD, I ran to Blockbuster to buy the third. So my expectations for the fourth were pretty much as high as any human on earth’s. You can imagine my disappointment.
The problems with the fourth season were legion. To get around the cast’s busy schedule, episodes were structured around a single character with the others popping in for bit parts. That sounds like an interesting structure in theory; you can get around the problem of streaming by designing the episodes to be watchable out of order. In practice, it was wildly uneven and, worse still, unfunny. The effect was like a high school jock that accidentally watches gay pornography in an ‘80s sex comedy: The jokes never came.
Often, it seemed like cast members weren’t even in the same city when their scenes were filmed. The joyous, rollicking chemistry of the show’s initial run was replaced by wooden line readings and performances by numbers. The rich tapestry of jokes, with sight gags discoverable even on third and fourth viewings, had been replaced with a visual style so threadbare I wanted to put it on a dorm bed and not wash it for a year, just to see what would happen.
Now we’re going to all be dragged back into the morass for a fifth season. Who wanted this? Series creator Mitchell Hurwitz? The cast? The viewers?
Hurwitz hasn’t exactly dazzled since he created the now-iconic sitcom. The cast have ascended to varying levels of movie and TV stardom. Bateman is movie comedy stalwart. Alia Shawkat stars in the excellent Search Party. Michael Cera seems to have recovered from the Scott Pilgim-sized bump in the road to carve out a nice career for himself. Portia de Rossi is still married to Ellen DeGeneres.
The viewers may want more. But why? The fourth season was, as we said, terrible. I still have no idea how it ends, nor do I want to.
The only plausible explanation is that we’re in something of a boom time for real estate scions that have bumbled their way into committing some light treason. But George Bluth is no Donald Trump and Michael Bluth is no Eric. So we’re left with a meta-interesting sitcom four years removed from a bad season and no reason to think this one will be any better. Sounds like a recipe for disaster. Or, worse yet, sinking to the bottom of Netflix queues, unwatched.
I might be wrong about this. I hope I am, even. But I doubt it.