Seven years and a day and a half later, the long awaited fourth season of Arrested Development is now officially in the books. Uploaded shortly after midnight on May 26th, the season went live on Netflix, awaiting the endless amounts of Bluth Parties being held by the show’s cult fan base. It had previously been stated that due to the inability to have the entire cast on set at the exact same time, thanks to everyone’s newfound success following the show’s demise, that the format of the show would switch from being an ensemble story to episodic treatments for each character. Plenty of people got freaked out thinking that the show would suffer greatly from it. So when Season 4 hit, and we all sat down to indulge in the new episodes, was everyone’s high expectations met?
The new season’s format has it’s ups and downs for sure, but the show’s creator’s make the best with the cast’s availability. Sure it seems odd watching an episode and not seeing a single trace of Buster, Maebe, or George-Michael, but it doesn’t kill the flow TOO much. Once you DO finally get to see Gob, for example, the wait makes his episode so much more exciting.
The writing on the 4th season is absolutely it’s biggest gain. There is so much crammed into these 15 episodes that, like the original series, it demands multiple viewings in order to catch jokes and gags that were missed the first time because you were focussing on a completely different joke. The story is extremely dense and weaves in and out of different episodes all at once. When one thing happens in one episode, you might see it happening in the background of another. There are endless amounts of throwbacks and new in-jokes alike, as well. Jokes such as a pack of dry Ramen-Noodles sharpened to a point, used as a shiv by a Chinese Gang inside of Lucille’s prison-resort, Fantastic 4: The Musical, and a fake watermark covering all footage from the original series are all incredibly hilarious and are destined to become classic Arrested Development jokes.
While Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman) was forced to keep his family together in seasons 1-3, this time around the family has all pretty much gone their own directions. Even Michael has entered a state of “Arrested Development”. There is a lot to catch up on here, so take a deep breath. Michael has hit rock bottom and now bunks in a college dorm room with George-Michael (Michael Cera) despite developing the “Untitled Michael B Project” for Ron Howard’s Imagine Entertainment; George-Michael is also developing a “private” phone app called FakeBlock; George Sr. (Jeffrey Tambor) and Lucille (Jessica Walters)are devising a plot to build a wall between Mexico and America to keep Mexicans out of America, all while George and Oscar (also Jeffrey Tambor) have set-up a sweat lodge in the middle of the desert hoping to dehydrate rich CEOs into spending hundred’s of thousands of dollars on a glass of Lemonade; Lucille is also on trial for hijacking and crashing the Queen Mary in the Season 3 finale; Lindsey (Portia De Rossi) and Tobias (David Cross) have finally actually split-up, with Lindsey finding herself dating a homeless activist who has something called Face Blindless, and Tobias finding a friend in another failed actor and current methadone addict named DeBrie (Maria Bramford). In typical Tobias and Lyndsey fashion, they’ve forgotten all about Maebe (Alia Shawkat), who is still in High School (sort of) and receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award for her services in the entertainment industry; Gob (Will Arnett) is back in the Magic business, performing his biggest ILLUSION yet at a very special wedding while trying to get revenge on his arch nemesis, the newly out-of-the-closet Tony Wonder (Ben Stiller); and Buster rejoins Army and gets a brand new hand.
Now that that’s out of the way, we can talk about the pros and cons of Season 4. It’s not the perfect comeback that people have been hoping for. But realistically speaking, that would have been absolutely impossible to be off air for 7 years and just walk right back into the best season of the show yet. Technically, it’s kind of a miracle that the season ended up being as good as it did. Even with that, there are still some faults. The biggest being some of the editing choices. It’s obvious that there is a LOT of dialogue that was changed in post-production, evident by the numerous amounts of scenes where the actors mouth’s are mouthing something completely different from what’s being heard. It’s not bad enough to ruin the scene but it’s noticeable enough to be slightly annoying at times.
The other biggest flaw is all of the green screen captured scenes. It’s partly excusable by the actor’s schedules just simply not allowing them to be available on certain days, and sometimes you’ve just got to make it work. Still, though, if the creators can do such a seamless job of putting two Jeffrey Tambors in the same visible shot together, it seems like they could blend the green screen captured scenes a little better.
When Season 4 is good, though, it’s great. It might not be AS phenomenal as the initial run, but there are truly some unforgettable sequences to be had. Such as Tobias inadvertently ending up on an episode of To Catch A Predator, a recap of George Michael’s college experience, and as previously mentioned, Buster getting a new hand from Army. There’s an insane amount of laughs to go around, and the best part is that upon your first viewing you’ve really only scratched the surface.
Season 4 of Arrested Development will certainly have it’s detractors who can’t let go of their too-sky-high expectations, but when it all boils down in a big pot of Hot Ham Water, Season 4 was definitely a success. The episodes are extremely entertaining and have plenty of replay value. Hopefully there will indeed be another season via Netflix, but hey, if there isn’t, at least we got this one. Because a few years ago when rumors were circulating, but not actually happening, of an Arrested Development film, no one ever thought that we’d get another full season. We did, and it didn’t suck!
I give Season 4 of Arrested Development a 4/5
By Richard Pepper