Arrested Development will make its long anticipated return this May, but not to television. Instead, an all new fourth season of Fox's favorite mistake will be made available for streaming from Netflix. Fans of the show have been clamoring for a comeback since its departure and, at last, their prayers have been answered. But what can we expect from Season 4 of Arrested Development? Here are five reasons why I think it will be both the best and the worst season yet.
Why It Will Be the Best:
1) Self References
The first three seasons of Arrested Development comprise one of the most self-referential entities in the history of television. They created an unprecedented amount of inside jokes, pseudo catch phrases, and fictitious pop-culture, all of which will be fodder for Season 4. These sorts of jokes are what made the show into such a cult classic, and die-hard fans will surely be well rewarded for their devotion by a thankful cast and crew.
It's already been announced that Judy Greer (Kitty Sanchez), Henry Winkler (Barry Zuckercorn), and Scott Baio (Bob Loblaw), will be back for Season 4, and I'm sure that's just the tip of the iceberg. Arrested Development's array of occasionally recurring characters is outstanding, and I hope to see all of them again this summer. Also joining the cast is Ben Schwartz, known best as the purely hilarious John Ralphio from Parks and Recreation. Quite frankly, that's awesome. I've been a fan of his since he was running rejectedjokes.com, and he's blossomed into one of my favorite TV personalities.
Doesn't it seem like Jason Bateman, Jessica Walter, and Michael Cera have been reprising their roles on Arrested Development ever since the show left the air? Malory Archer is essentially Lucille Bluth with a gun, and Bateman has been using Michael Bluth's comedic pauses and external monologue in everything from Horrible Bosses to Juno. Then there's Micahel Cera, who makes me wonder if he was ever even acting while portraying George Michael Bluth.
If there's anything bad to say about Arrested Development, it's that Season 3, where cancellation was imminent barring a ratings rally, suffered because of desperate pleas for attention. With Season 4 being released exclusively on Netflix, ratings aren't a part of the equation. Obviously they'd still prefer that people actually watch the show, but we should be safe from any ham-fisted suspense or forced cameos.
Netflix has already announced that all 14 episodes of Arrested Development Season 4 will be released at the same time. That's great because the best part about Netflix is the fact that you can indulge on an entire season or more at the highest rate in the business. With no ads, no waiting, and unlimited access, there's nothing but potential self-loathing to stop you from watching for hours on end. To make it even sweeter, each episode will run about 30 minutes long. That's a full 9 to 5 day (minus lunch hour) worth of programming. Make sure to save a sick day.
Why It Will Be the Worst:
1) Self References
Arrested Development's return after a long hiatus is not unprecedented. Futurama pulled off the same feat to Emmy-winning effect a few years ago. However, as good as Futurama's recent seasons have been, there are a few too many callback jokes that simply recycle an old character/situation for a lame gag. It's hard to imagine that Ron Howard and Mitch Hurwitz won't fall victim to the same temptation, especially given how self-referential they have been in the past. Is the guy in the $4,000 suit going to visit Bob Loblaw's Law Blog and read a review of Les Cousins Dangereux? Come on!
Fourteen episodes really isn't that much time, and the universe of tertiary characters is so rich that either we'll miss out on some fan favorites, or the show will become too much of a parade. Hurwitz had said that each episode would focus on a different character's perspective, but that made more sense when it was believed that there would only be 10 episodes. This is also an area where the temptation to use callbacks in place of more substantial humor could harm the show.
OK, we get it, Jessica Walter is mean and rich, Michael Cera is awkward, and Jason Bateman is not as cool as he thinks he is. But can they really recapture the magic after playing so many close-but-not-quite roles in the intervening years? Or maybe the routine has finally gone stale. The Arrested Development revival will have hopes at record highs, but I for one am I little concerned.
Lack of pressure from advertisers is a double-edged sword. Creative types might resent corporations looking over their shoulder, or worse yet making actual tweaks, but there are methods behind the oft stifling madness. The notion of Netflix original content is still relatively untested, and not having to conform to standard episode timing could prove to be a case of too much freedom. I hope Hurwitz and Howard are up to the challenge of championing a medium that's still in its infancy.
Maybe this counts as an example of “first world problems,” but the fact that all of Arrested Development Season 4 will be available at once has me dreading how quickly it will all be over. I know I won't be able to resist watching the entire thing over more than a weekend, and I already hate myself for it.
So what do you think? Is Season 4 of Arrested Development going to be the best or the worst season yet?