I was kind of skeptical about the return of Arrested Development from the get-go. We really liked the show, and have it all on DVD, but it had done its thing, had come to a (deserved or not) stopping point, and was pretty good as-was. There really wasn’t a need for a new season, especially several years later.
After finishing off season 4 this weekend, I kind of don’t feel any differently. It was cool to see these characters again, and a lot of the stuff was pretty damn funny, but ultimately I kind of felt like it still hadn’t justified its existence. Splitting up the storylines to accommodate the schedules of the actors was a daring and clever move, but for me, it didn’t really work in the long run. I didn’t feel like I’d watched a fourth season, I felt like I’d watched three episodes stretched out into seven and a half hours. The storylines contained in those episodes were of varying qualities, but I can’t think of any of them that really stood out as being satisfyingly handled. (And some, like Michael’s foray into the movies, were just painful.)
What’s more, many of them weren’t concluded, apparently being saved for — a movie? A fifth season? Are either of these things actually in the works? Even if they are, why tease along a plot line for 15 episodes and then tell people, “To see how it ends, you’ll have to wait until this next thing!” Is someone out there really thinking, “Yes! This is what I have been waiting for in a TV series!”?
Technical issues aside, there were also some thematic issues. A lot has happened since the show went off the air, and delightfully wicked rich people with no self-awareness are a much harder sell these days. The character of Michael Bluth was always something of a center for the viewer, even though he was as clueless and malicious as the others, but the endearing parts about him are gone. If anything in this season was a running theme it was each of the characters finding their inner Bluth and running with it, but we really don’t need a TV series with ten different GOBs in it.
It’s not unusual for a show to run out of steam after three seasons. It is kind of unusual for it to return after a seven year hiatus to do so.