Arrested Development: A Netflix Experiment

A month ago, Netflix released season 4 of Arrested Development after 7 years of being off the air. In order to revive the show, there were several challenges to overcome, the biggest of which being cast availability. To work around the problem, they opted to try something new. Each episode would primarily focus on one character and the timelines would overlap throughout the season. While the reception for the season was not as positive at it was toward previous seasons, it was a distinct departure from traditional methods of storytelling and for that, it deserves praise. 

I will be honest, I’m not a huge Arrested Development fan (as evidenced by the fact that it took me a month to watch season 4). I think it’s a clever, well-written show but it’s not really what I’m looking for in a comedy. That said, even if the execution of the new season fell flat for people on a personal level, I think they did the best they could in doing what they tried to do.

Arrested Development fans typically say that it’s a show that gets better upon rewatching it because you catch more of the set-up for future jokes that you didn’t get the first time around. This is certainly going to be true of the newest season. Two events bookend the timeline for this season. Opening the season is Lucille’s arrest for commendeering the Queen Mary, as seen in season 3 of the show. Closing the season is Cinco de Cuatro, a Bluth-invented holiday that has turned into a fairly large event. Each member of the Bluth family reveals to us a small piece of a larger picture that doesn’t come together until the final episode. We get impressions of what is to come but they were almost always recontextualized by the final episode. We get to see how interconnected the Bluth family really is, even when they are avoiding each other. It’s a very clever technique and one that I really enjoyed. 

I don’t think that it is a method that would work for any other show but I’m glad that Ron Howard and the rest of the Arrested Development team were bold enough to take a risk. It pushed limits and I can appreciate it for that. It’s through shows like this that television will continue to improve in quality and artistry. 

 

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