'Arrested Development' Season 4: Netflix Show Unsurprisingly a Letdown


Among the responses to the revival of Arrested Development are marked by a certain ferocious negativity. What was initially excitement over the cult TV comedy eventually yielded to disappointment from critics and fans alike. The focal point of these negative reviews is this season’s format, each episode devoted to a individual character’s perspective, each revealing new information on replayed incidents in the same period of time. So basically, AD went all Rashomon, and many viewers feel it took away from the luster.

A bit of injustice may have been done in releasing the season all at once. Netflix, the video streaming giant, took on this approach with their first original series, House of Cards, and seems to favor it as a way of concentrating attention. Ironically enough, concentration and attention may run thin for viewers who pull a Harry Potter reader move and rush to watch the whole season. Perhaps this sudden disappoint can be chalked up to viewer’s eyes being bigger than their stomachs, so to speak.

The shows creator, Mitch Hurwitz, recommends viewers refrain from watching episodes back-to-back. “You can’t take it all in at once,” Hurwitz explained to Vulture last week. “It’s like the selective-attention test. The whole show is like the selective-attention test. No one sees the gorilla! I’ll give you an example: When I was at the last sound mix with our editors and there was one of our bigger sight gags in the background of one of our more absurd conversations, nobody saw the sight gag, including me. And all we were doing is staring at the screen!”

To make matters worse, this show is bridging a gap that spans seven years; two blocks of intertwining, highly distilled comedic machine gun fire, with identically silly tones, separated by the void of nothingness. The excitement of a hard-core viewer is enough to tempt fate and gorge oneself on an entire season, but in doing so, they lose the ability to reset for each and every episode, which individually are hard enough to thoroughly grasp in one viewing. Do people not realize how difficult it is to enjoy an episode of Arrested Development for all its worth? Do they not remember? Did they creators expect their rabid fans to care about their directions of use anyway?

In a way, releasing the entire season, keeping with style of Netflix original content, was a self-inflicted shot to the foot. Hype is a volatile commodity at the higher end of the market. Recall people in line for Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. After years of running on the fumes of nerd hype, even if Christ himself had emerged from the screen and healed all in his presence, there would still be disappointment somewhere in the audience.