Sunday, May 26, 2013

Arrested Development Season 4: Why I'm Skeptical


My first exposure to Arrested Development came sometime in the middle of the first season.  I was visiting some friends in college, and they insisted that I watch a new show called "Arrested Development."  While I did enjoy it.  I didn't immediately suck me.  At this time I don't recall if we started with the first episode or not.

My buddies however went on to become rabid Arrested Development fans.  To put their fandom into perspective, two or three years ago they went to a statewide Arrested Development trivia contest, and won first prize and $1,000s.  To be entirely fair, they're somewhat infamous for being undefeatable at trivia contests.


Jump forward five or six years, and I re-discovered the show on NetFlix.  Arrested Development seems like one of the first shows designed for the NetFlix era. It just happened to pre-date the technology by five or six years.  If ever there was a show which benefits from watching episodes back to back and having the ability to re-watch earlier episodes, it may be Arrested Development.

Upon re-discovering it, I was immediately fascinated by the unique story telling, subtle humor, and the writers assumption the audience aren't morons.  They want you to really pay attention, and they assume you will pay attention.  Subtle actions or hints in one episode would become extremely important a few episodes down the line. Few TV shows have managed to do that without it coming off as forced or contrived.

One of the great joys of the show is introducing it to a new friend.  They're almost always instantly amazed by the number of TV and movie stars in it.  For a show which did poorly on it's initially release, it launched the careers of a number of big name stars and gave early cameos to many more.


After years of rumors of a movie and the cast dropping hints of a future, I was shocked when they announced a fourth season.  NetFlix was the perfect match for the show's unique style.

Then they gave a few more details about the season...

With season 4 of Arrested Development, they decided to dedicate each episode to a specific character, and focus on what each person was doing during a specific set of events.  I suspect that this was to accommodate the busy schedules of most of the cast.

I went into the season skeptical of the effectiveness of this approach. Arrested Development is inherently an ensemble show. The only character written to a lead is Michael, but by himself he's a fairly dull character. He's the voice of reason in a chaotic family.  When responding to their insanity, he's perfect.  Removed from their hijinks, he's not terribly interesting.  On the flip side, the rest of the characters weren't written to lead but to fill an ensemble.  Too much focus on them becomes overbearing. Everyone will end up having an episode they really don't care for because it focuses on their least favorite character.

Finally, much of the appeal of the show centers around the interactions of the entire family.  With the new format, much of what we love is lost.

With all that said, I will now start watching season 4...

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