Arrested Development Season 4: The Return

A long, long time ago (back in August 2010, you guys, who can even remember that far back?) I wrote a post about the cancellation of Arrested Development where I made some pretty shocking statements.  I love AD, I seriously love it; it's magical and quirky and fast and witty and very nearly as close to perfect as 22-minute blocks of comedy have ever been.  But, I pondered that, by the end of the series, it was too inside-jokey and too self-referential to ever allow new viewers to jump on board.  Indeed, if you missed a minute -- much less an episode! -- you might miss the genesis of an intricate, layered long-form joke, repeatedly revisited to your perplexity. (On the necessity of watching all of the episodes in strict order, creator Mitch Hurwitz apologized, "turns out I was not successful in creating a form where the setup follows the punch line.")  Indeed, it's a frantic, meandering, "over your head" type of show, which is why it has garnered such an infatuated, culty following of repeat viewers, but it's also why it had struggled to exist on pre-DVR network television.

With its inside jokes and its crazy momentum (didn't the whole show always feel like it was spiraling ever faster, its pace quickening like the third act of a French bedroom farce, destined to end with a smash of actors in disguises running out of slamming doors?), I worried that Arrested Development just couldn't sustain itself for much longer without sacrificing its faultless, endlessly quippy quality.  I worried that fans would lobby to bring it back, only to have it tailspin in an over-hyped cable season of compromised comedy, too-high expectations, and inability to jump back on board (pun -- see series finale!) where they left off.  With a show that moved so fast and ended neatly and abruptly, I worried that starting back for a single season would feel less like an epilogue and more like chasing after a moving car full of people you used to love, never quite able to hop on.

So, with Arrested Development: Season 4 premiering THIS SUNDAY, I thought I'd reevaluate my concerns: I think this just might actually work.  The reason  it might, to the delight of all of us, is the thing that none of us saw coming back in 2006: Netflix original programming.  The idea that Netflix (and Hulu, and other independent subscription services) could produce and develop original shows based on more sensitive metrics of smaller pools of audience demand just wasn't feasible at the close of Arrested Development; we all relied on networks and Nielsen ratings and broadcasters whose goal was to sell the most ads to the broadest, blandest audience.   The landscape of television, and how we watch television, has changed so dramatically even in the seven or so years since AD has been off the air, and it has morphed into an environment that's ripe and supportive of exactly the type of viewing best suited to AD: the binge and repeat.  Netflix is nothing if not King of the couchathon.  (Though Hurwtiz does caution viewers not to completely overindulge; with a show this rich and crammed full of jokes, watching the whole series in one sitting risks undermining the humor by pure over-saturation)  Where AD failed at piecemeal, disjointed, once-per-week (and often unreliably weekly) broadcasting to a wide, sometimes unfamiliar, unwilling, confused audience, I believe AD will thrive brilliantly in its new tapered, targeted, instantly-gratifying streaming home on Netflix.  I think the Bluths may have finally found their nerdy, needy niche.

In these last remaining Bluthless hours, you guys can  watch the trailer, take the Superfan Quiz, and tell me how you're feeling about the premiere:


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July 22, 2013 at 3:20 AM delete

Arrested Development: Winner of the Outstanding Comedy Series Emmy its first year out, Arrested Development is the kind of sitcom that gives you hope for television. It's one of those shows where you can watch over and over and still laugh at every joke.Arrested Development Seasons 1-3 dvd box set follows the fictitious Bluth family, a formerly wealthy and habitually dysfunctional family, and is presented in a continuous format, incorporating handheld camera work, narration, archival photos, and historical footage.

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