Thursday, June 6, 2013

Thoughts on Netflix's fourth season of Arrested Development

Be forewarned: If you haven't watched the fourth season of Arrested Development, there are spoilers below.

Finally finished the series! Thanks to my 2 month old for making it take almost two weeks to watch 15 episodes, otherwise I would definitely have binge watched.

First, I'd just like to say how much I missed this show. The very first time I saw it, I hated it. After that, I was just totally in love. So even though the fourth season wasn't perfect, I was overall happy to have my show back!

Also, as someone who studied media and communications in college, I just want to say how interesting I think it is that web-based subscription services such as Netflix and Amazon are getting into the television production game. I've said before that original programming on cable networks like TBS, USA, FX, and AMC is giving the major networks a run for their money - because they are smaller networks, they don't have to pull in the big numbers that the major networks do, so quality programs with smaller fanbases not only get a chance to air, they don't get yanked after only two episodes. But also, because these networks don't necessarily have to cater as much to big advertisers, they can do edgier shows and also more niche programming - they don't have to do broad comedies and dramas that appeal to everybody (and therefore usually end up appealing to nobody). So those networks have changed the game a bit, and now that Netflix and Amazon (and Hulu? Does anyone know about this?) are entering the game, it's being changed again - because they're subscription based, they don't have any advertisers to appease. I've always said that television is not about entertainment - it's a vehicle for advertising. It's not about the shows. The shows are there to draw in potential consumers. It would be nice for programming to be about (quality) entertainment for once.

Okay, so kudos to Netflix for taking a chance on a somewhat popular and much beloved (with its small fanbase) but wildly unsuccessful Arrested Development. And kudos to the actors, many, especially Jason Bateman and Michael Cera, who have gone on to develop fairly successful movie careers, for returning to their roles in this cult hit. The fourth season only worked because of that and because of the return of showrunner Mitch Hurwitz.

Now my thoughts:
  • Mitch Hurwitz and his writers are just genius at the wordplay, the innuendo, the double entendres. Arrested Development always has been a cerebral comedy. I am STILL finding verbal and visual jokes when I rewatch old episodes that I missed on my first, second, seventh viewings. That was all there in the fourth season.
  • While still really funny, this fourth season was pretty dark. Things really just don't go the Bluths' way...but I guess that's really all their faults. Even Michael and George Michael, the "normal" Bluths, have their faults and get in their own way.
  • Realize that due to the actors' schedules, they had to focus on different characters in each episode, and didn't get to see everyone in every ep, but hated that a lot of time was devoted to newly introduced secondary characters like Debrie and Marky Bark and Rebel. I guess Marky and Rebel didn't bother me quite so much, but for some reason Debrie did. I don't know. It was just weird to see so much of these characters who weren't Bluths and had no history with the family. Oh, but I did like seeing John Slattery. I'm a huge Mad Men fan, so it was fun seeing him play a dingy hippie type. Plus, CUA alum shout out! :)
  • Also was both intrigued and annoyed by the disjointed-ness of the timeline. Liked how each subsequent episode showed the same events from a different character's perspective, but hated how it was hard to keep track of what things happened when...but maybe that was just me. I am extremely sleep deprived...
  • Liked the secondary characters they were able to include, if only briefly - Annyong, Lucille 2, Tony Wonder, Ann/Egg/Plant, Oscar, Kitty, Sally was like visiting with old friends again!
  • Speaking of old friends...liked that Hurwitz knows these characters so well that they were still the same as when we last left them. Although, why was George Bluth so effeminate?
  • Portia de Rossi's face was very distracting.
  • I did not get the end. Ending with George Michael punching his dad in the face was very anticlimactic and kind of disappointing. I later read an article where Hurwitz explains that this was George Michael finally breaking away from the Bluths and breaking that cycle blah blah blah, and I guess that makes sense, and that actually would be a nice - and more importantly, hopeful - note to end the season/series on, but it wasn't an obvious note. At least not to me. But again, maybe that's just me. Sleep deprived and all...
  • Loved seeing Ron Howard on camera! And making fun of himself no less... 
  • We're still left with questions...what's going to happen with the movie? What happened to Lucille 2? What about FaceBlock? And the wall? But maybe this isn't  the end of the series...Hurwitz noted that he's open to resurrecting the series every few years if Netflix is interested, so maybe we'll get answers yet. Or maybe I'm the only one who still has questions.
So, overall, I heard the season was panned by critics. But what do critics know? This series was resurrected for the fans, not the people paid to analyze and pick apart...there were things I didn't like, things I didn't get, but overall, I enjoyed it, and with all the crap on television nowadays (and all the good programs in repeats!), it was nice to have new episodes of one of my old favorites back again!!

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