The Good and Bad Side of Arrested Development
All 15 episodes of the new “Arrested Development” season are available on Netflix. The decision of Netflix to let all the episodes be available all at once is controversial and we have yet to see what its ultimate effects on the show would be, but it has made it possible for us to watch the whole series in one marathon session if we want to. Because of that it is now possible to review the whole series and not just a certain episode. If this is the way of the TV in the future then it is going to make a lot of changes.
The first two seasons of the original “Arrested Development which aired on FOX was a ground-breaking show by all accounts. It was a show with a huge cast of characters who are so different and of plots that had no connection. Yet all that confusion has actually worked out. As a testament to the shows greatness, not one member of the cast appeared in a more effective role after the show. It was all because of Mitch Hurwitz’s success as the creator and the rest cast’s ability to create an effective show from all the confusion.
The third season of the show on FOX saw a reduction of its effectiveness. This is the direct impact of a few writers leaving the show and fewer episodes ordered for that season. It was still very funny but has the misfortune of being weighted down by a plot involving Charlize Theron. After that Hurwitz was also able to team up with Will Arnett for later shows like “Sit Down, Shut Up,” and “Running Wilde.”
When you look at it, the new series of “Arrested Development,” should just be as funny as the old one. All of the original regulars are there. Some of the recurring actors also took part. But despite having all the same ingredients, Hurwitz wasn’t able to bake the same pie.
The first problem is that the new series deviates from the original on several important points. First of all, while all the original cast-members were all in the show, they could only work for a limited time only for the show which is a huge handicap for Hurwitz. He was therefore forced to abandon the original format of the show to one where each episode placed a highlight on one main character. Then there was the fact that the new show is supposed to be just a prologue for the “Arrested Development” movie which Hurwitz wants to make if only someone would give him enough money to do it. In other words it’s not the main story which Hurwitz wants to tell.
Then there is also the problem of the unique way which Netflix releases the episodes of its series. All the episodes are released at the same time. At first, Hurwitz talk of using this and doing the show in episodes that can be viewed in any order. When he was done editing the show, he had to admit that it didn’t turn out that way. He has just pleaded with viewers not to watch all the episodes in one sitting, lest they tire of the characters and of the show.
What we get are episodes that are just like any other show. There are even breaks as though there would be a commercial coming up. The episodes are also a bit long. The shortest is at 21 minutes and the longest episode is at 37 minutes.
Even the best episodes in the series can be dragging at times. There’s just too much padding on the story and a lot of unnecessary stuff. While the traditional format for shows, with its fixed time can be bad at times, this is one example where you realize that the old format makes sure that what the only things that stay in the show are the best parts.
But don’t get the idea that everything is wrong about the show. It does have its strong points. Because each episode is usually longer than typical TV show episodes, it is okay to bounce from character to another. Because the show has so many great characters, viewers wouldn’t mind having to switch from one to the other. It is just as entertaining. The new additions to the show offer a great deal as well and are great fun. But there is also a darker tone to the new series that was missing from the original. We see the Bluths for example, doing damage to other people other than themselves.
The change in the emotion on the new show is most evident when it comes to the character of Michael. He is the only character who is in all of the episodes and so we see without the rest of his family. He seems like a bigger jerk than before. This destroys the balance of the show which was a key ingredient in the old series.
One of the things that fans looked forward to in the old series were the running gags and jokes that ran through several episodes and sometimes through seasons. One example was the time when Tobias wanted to join the Blue Man Group and there would be blue hand prints all over. It was a way of rewarding loyal followers of the show and fans looked forward to it. We still get that for the new series. There are a couple of jokes that run through all 15 episodes, but for the most part, the running gags are stretched over a show or two.
What Hurwitz offers in place of the running gags are puzzles that viewers can wonder over several episodes. One example of that is the software that George-Michael is working on. It can be gratifying to solve those puzzles but certainly not as funny. But sometimes, there would be some puzzles, but no revelation and that can be frustrating for viewers. One wonders if Hurwitz ran out of time, which is ridiculous considering the format of the show.
Ultimately the most frustrating thing about the show is that it is a prologue to a movie which no one is willing to finance. So this whole new series could end up as a prologue to a story that no one would see or know about. That’s kind of sad since Hurwitz could have just told the story through the new series right away.
But why is Hurwitz so keen on making a movie? That would totally take away the formula that made Arrested Development work in the first place.
Here are some spoilers for you:
- The part where Buster was helping Lucille to smoke was originally deleted but was placed back into the show. The two characters are so well-developed; there really was no need for a narration.
- The most frustrating appearance of a recurring guest would be Justin Lee. They could have made it longer.
- It was frustrating that George-Michael didn’t do the family chicken dance. In fact there was no chicken dance in all fifteen episodes.
- Lucille 2’s fate is kept as a mystery, obviously in anticipation of the movie or a new season. There were also some unresolved loops involving gags in the story involving a crucifix.
- Real-life couple Ben Stiller and Christine Taylor shared some screen time. They were guests in the old show on separate occasions.
- There were animal gags involving an ostrich and a duck.