The Return of Arrested Development

©2013 NETFLIX CR: F. Scott Schafer

This article contains no spoilers.

Seven years ago, Fox cancelled a hit TV show because of low ratings. For anyone that knows TV and Fox’s reputation, this should come as no surprise. Fox has always had problems with things like scheduling and properly advertising shows. This has led to the cancellation of popular shows, and these cancellation decisions being reversed, as in the case of “Family Guy”, or shows being picked up by other networks entirely, as Comedy Central did with “Futurama”. Recently though, Netflix’s streaming service started making their own original programming and decided to make fifteen new episodes of “Arrested Development”.

“Arrested Development” was a critically acclaimed comedy about a rich family that owns a housing company, and got caught up and brought down amidst charges of embezzlement and treason. While the premise doesn’t sound funny, the characters are what made the show great. Almost everyone is an example of what a lifetime of living with money can do to a person, and a large portion of their dialogue is blink-and-you’ll-miss-it jokes. It’s a show that feels like it was meant to be watched in blocks, instead of individual episodes, with a lot of foreshadowing and call backs. If you haven’t seen it, I would highly recommend it if you like comedy at all.

So the question is, after seven years, does the show still have its charm? Nothing was given to the media before it went live on the service, which is usually a bad sign. However, after watching the episodes, the answer to why they didn’t release any previews is clear. These episodes were meant to be watched in blocks, as they’re all interconnected. A joke may be set up in one episode and not pay off until a few episodes later.  While things may be a little different, this is still “Arrested Development”.

Unlike animated shows like “Futurama” and “Family Guy”, you have to acknowledge the time that’s passed in the years since cancellation in a live action show. Everyone may look a little different, from an older looking Alisha Shawkat, to post-surgery Portia de Rossi. Except Michael Cera, who has taught us over the last decade that he does not age.

As for the show itself, if I had to sum it up in one word, it would be — busy. There is a lot going on in these episodes and it happens fast. This has never been a show you’ve been able to keep on in the background and still keep track of what’s going on, but this is the first time I felt like maybe too much was put into each episode. By the time you’ve processed one scene, they’ve jumped to something happening in another scene. That’s not a bad thing, the pacing of the show has always been fast, but this is the first time I felt like they should have had a few more episodes to space it out.

The format is also a little different this time. Instead of jumping from character to character, most of the episodes instead focus on a single character, chronicling their life from the point where the show ended in 2006, up to a specific event in the present day. It can be a little disorienting at first, since there is a lot of character overlap, some of which doesn’t get explained until a few episodes later, but they the payoff is usually worth it. If you’re paying attention, you won’t feel lost.

It all boils down to one question: is this the “Arrested Development” of the past? Yes, and no. Some of the characters have grown a little, as is the natural progression for a TV show, and the format has changed slightly. But it still has plenty of call backs to the older episodes without beating you over the head with them, and creates its own memorable callbacks along the way. If you liked this show at all in the past, watch these episodes. It takes a little while to get used to the new format, but the payout is worth it in the end. The new season is currently available on Netflix streaming.

Check it out on Netflix

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