I love Arrested Development (I ranked it as my 2nd all-time comedy http://bm23tvreviews.wordpress.com/2013/06/19/20-greatest-comedies-of-all-time/), the only thing that I don’t love about AD is that they quite frankly didn’t make enough of them (only 3 seasons!). So imagine my excitement when I heard that there were rumours that Netflix were bringing the Bluth’s back.
Initially the talk was of a series leading into a movie; however the talk of a movie has recently died down, and although it is believed to still be in the pipeline, another series is more likely going to happen before then.
When the fourth season (and first on Netflix) was officially announced there was a lot of excitement and buzz. When Netflix announced that they would be releasing all 15 episodes at once, there was more excitement and buzz at the unusual nature of how the show was being released.
Most people (myself included) watched all 15 shows in a few days. After watching the final episode and being full of glee you couldn’t help but think ‘hm, that wasn’t as good as the original series’.
The honest truth is that the Netflix season of AD was not of the high quality that had been set by the original AD. It is hard to maintain or regain the quality of the original three seasons, but season 4 failed to do that. It was always going to be hard (because of the time gap between season 3 and 4), to explain what happened in the time gap of 7 years, and they gave it a go.
With the 5th season of AD inevitably being announced recently, it will be interesting to see if they will be able to regain the magic that was lost in the previous season. Here are the mistakes that they will have to avoid in order to so.
The Episode Format
The worst thing about the 4th season of AD was how the episodes were produced. If you don’t understand what I mean, you clearly didn’t watch the show (so go watch it already). Basically the whole of season 4 was one massive timeline episode, now usually timeline episodes are awesome and a good change of pace. However to make a whole season a timeline, was too much.
Due to the episode format, it took about 5 episodes to truly get into the season. That left the first 4 episodes lagging behind because everything just seemed muddled and confusing.
As the season progressed you learned what events you had seen earlier on had actually meant or how they were affected by one of the other characters. Usually in timeline episodes these create funny moments, as you get to see a situation from a totally different point of view and all of a sudden it takes on a different meaning, however in AD it was more of an ‘ah’ than a ‘ha’, which was a problem.
I understand that the writers had to deal with the problem of the time gap, and also couldn’t get all the actors together at the one time (due to other commitments), but the format really hurt the season as a whole and left big chunks of the season feeling meaningless or like wasted time.
If I were to write out a list of the guest actors in the 4th season of AD, I could be here all day. I’m not against guest actors; I think it can add a nice change of pace to an episode when a famous face shows up. However when too many famous faces show up, it becomes too much.
Some of the guest actors worked, like Jeff Garlin, Ed Helms or Ben Stiller (to name a few). All the really good guest actor appearances also happened to have been in the original series, a coincidence? I think not. The reason these worked, were because they didn’t feel forced.
The major problem with the other guest actors was that they did feel forced. Did we really need 5 seconds of John Krasinski? No anyone could’ve played that role. The awesome John Slattery was also in this season, but you wouldn’t realise that he was awesome because the writers managed to waste his immense talents. There were several of these situations throughout the season, and too many to bother writing them all out (so I won’t).
As much as the pointless cameos annoyed me, nothing annoyed me worse than Seth Rogen and Kristen Wiig. It isn’t because I dislike either actor (I don’t); it was the role they played in the show, Rogen as young Georgle Bluth and Wiig as young Lucille Bluth. The problem with this is that in the previous seasons they had just stuck a wig on Jeffrey Tambor and Jessica Walter and went with it. It was funny because of the lack of effort they had put into trying to make them look younger (and to see the differing wigs of George) and who is better at playing the characters than the actual actors. By putting in Rogen and Wiig, the flashbacks lost the quirkiness that the original series’ flashbacks had and it just seemed like an excuse to put in two famous people for the sake of it.
Over Exposure and Under Exposure
Another major problem with this season was the lack of time we got to see of some strong characters and the opposite effect with some of the weaker characters. I understand that there were scheduling conflicts for some of the actors and this is why it happened, but it hurt the season’s fluidity.
When I talk about over exposure of certain characters I refer to Lindsay and George. Before this season I would have said that both characters were really well written and could handle being put into a larger role. After watching this season I realise that this is not the case. Both characters stories dragged and made the 30 minute format seem too long and both received two episodes dedicated to them, it was just too much. Lindsay and George are really good at being the people for the other characters to play off of, but as the centre of the episode both characters struggle to grab your attention. It didn’t help that neither George nor Lindsay’s story was that interesting or relevant to the other characters and this also didn’t help.
When I refer to the under exposure of characters I refer to Maeby, George-Michael, Buster and Lucille. George-Michael barely shows up outside of the first episode until the last few, which I don’t understand, Maeby suffered from similar problems to George-Michael, Buster was only really in one episode, which is surprising because he is a really good character. Now I can understand how this happened because they all had scheduling problems (especially Buster filming Veep). What I don’t understand is why Lucille had a smaller role. Lucille is one of my favourite characters, she is ridiculous and works really well as the matriarch of the family that nobody likes (excluding Buster). The problem with these four characters being underused was that because of the under exposure of four of the stronger characters, we got the over exposure of some of the weaker characters, and overall it just messed up how well the show flowed.
Too Much Ron Howard
This is meant in two different ways; firstly that the character Ron Howard played too big a role in the seasons, and secondly that the voiceover Ron Howard seemed to talk too much and sometimes even talked over the actors, which was annoying.
Green Screen Acting
Again I understand that there were scheduling issues, but at several points in the season you could quite clearly tell that two actors were not in the same room and that removes you from the spectacle.
No Chicken Dancing
You Haven’t Aged Well
This is directed more to Lindsay and George-Michael who both seemed to age much more than the rest of the cast in the 7 year hiatus. Aging isn’t an issue in general because it is set well after the original series, the problem is when you are going back to the day of the last episode in season 3 and trying to make me think Lindsay and George-Michael are as young as they are meant to be when quite clearly they are not.
After a sluggish start AD began to gather momentum towards the end with a number of strong episodes with characters who either hadn’t had their pov episodes yet (Lucille, George-Michael, Maeby & Buster) or strong characters receiving their second episode (GOB & Tobias). However it then ended abruptly leaving a whole host of loose ends not solved. I know that this was meant to lead into a movie and may now just lead into another season before leading into a movie, but it is going to take at least half of whatever comes next to sort out the mess at the end of the 4th season, effectively tying the hands of the writers.
I especially didn’t like how they ended the Michael/George-Michael. I was like, is that it? It felt so very anti-climactic. It felt more like the conclusion of a single episode in the middle of a season, rather than the conclusion of a season.
Overall I did like this season of AD, I thought that Buster, GOB and Tobias were standouts in this season and really worked well in taking their bigger roles. If this had been any other TV show (or a new show) I’m sure I would be talking about how great it was and how it is a much watch. The problem is that when you compare this to the original AD it just isn’t in the same ball park, and that is really the problem, this was a good comedy not an outstanding comedy.
If (or when) the 5th season (or movie) comes out then they will have to avoid the issues that I have set out which the 4th season fell into. Some of them they will avoid easily; such as the aging of actor’s issue or the chicken dancing. Some however will be harder to work around; such as the scheduling conflicts (green screen acting, under/over exposure of characters) or the conclusion.
If I were to pick one thing that I could change for season 5 it would be to take the show back to the old fashioned episode format. In doing this it would force most of the other problems to fall into line (no more scheduling issues) and would surely then help the pacing of the writing and therefore the overall quality of the show.
I am looking forward to the next step in Arrested Development and am of the belief that this weaker season had to happen so that future AD could return to the old quality (or so I hope). Here’s hoping for the future of the greatest scripted comedy of all time.
Leave a comment on the post or just to proclaim your love for Arrested Development (or hate for the new season of the show). All comments are welcome.