Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Arrested Devlopment - A General Season 4 Review

So, Arrested Development is back...a fact that makes me very, very happy. I have longed for the return of the Bluth family for years, and here they are again, thanks to Netflix.

I almost had a breakdown on early Sunday morning when I realized our internet had taken a crap. I fiddled and jiggered, and CByrd found our password...all was well. (Although, it simply reinforced to me that I will NEVER give up physical media, period.) We watched all fifteen episodes, something like seven and a half hours, in one sitting.

I'm not going to go over the finer points of the plot, or the performances. It's just too much to delve into, and frankly it's simply too damn complicated to breakdown in a simple way. What I intend to do is break down what I thought worked, and what didn't.

The primary thing that worked, is that it "feels" like Arrested Development - Everyone fell pretty easily back into the roles (although, Portia de Rossi - what have you done to yourself!?!?). The way the episodes are shot melds with the original. The "voice" of the show is intact. The jokes are snappy, and I was really thankful that they didn't let not being on broadcast TV stop them from bleeping swearing. Frankly, all the way back to the rumors of the show going to Showtime, with people excited about "uncensored" Bluths, struck me as not understanding the show. The bleeps are funnier than anything they could actually have said. It felt like reuniting with old friends, or at least a group of people I enjoy watching endure disaster after disaster.

I was very happy with the new episodes, and I laughed a lot, so take what I'm about to say with that in mind.

This was too much of a good thing.

The plot is, or plots are, needlessly complicated, and, frankly, by the time to reach episode 14 and 15, George Sr. and Lucille appear, and you realize you have almost completely forgotten about them. You also realize that their plotlines, ultimately, weren't all that memorable. They also, to a point, have no bearing whatsoever on the George Michael and Maeby plotlines, that dominate the last few episodes. In short, if you had to watch these with weeklong breaks, you'd probably lose your place.

I understand, just on a pure scheduling level, why the idea of each episode focusing on specific characters, to the point where Ron Howard's narration starts each episode with "It's GOB's Arrested Development!" Or whoever is the focus. In some places it works, in others....eh. For example, Buster is funniest when bouncing off other members of the family, especially Lucille, but his episode quickly cuts him loose from the family. Likewise, Tobias spends almost his entire episode with a new set of characters.

Even that would've been fun and interesting, but I wish Hurwitz and his team had kept themselves to a 20-min running time, as if the show was still for broadcast. The running times vary from, I believe, around 25 minutes to almost 40. Brevity is the soul of wit, and the longer episodes do feel long. I can't believe Fox, or Imagine, won't eventually try to fold these into the original run for a syndication package (which would be great!), and I would love to see 20-minute "broadcast edits" of some of these episodes. In order to refine the sprall, and concentrate the laughs.

I don't want to give anyone the impression I'm saying "it sucks," because my feelings are far, far from that. However, I do think that Hurwitz and company might've done well to give themselves limits, even if Netflix was offering a free pass for creativity. I also do not recommend watching the season in one sitting. It's too overwhelming, and you see the same events so many times, your brain will "frost over" the - sometimes VERY minute - changes.

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