Arrested Development, Season Four: Look Closer

Spoiler free, just in case…

There were two schools of thought going into the new and final season of Arrested Development: the fanboy mentality and the cynic. I will openly admit that I fell into the latter category, which I usually do just because if I’m wrong then I am pleasantly surprised and if I am right, I get to come up with creative and passive aggressive ways of implying how much I told you so. Everyone wins. There were also two approaches to watching it; those of us without enough hobbies would burn through every episode as quickly as possible, others would ration out each one to savor the experience. I tried to find a happy medium and I’m very happy with that decision. I’ve also looked back on at least one episode, but I’ll get to rewatchability later.

The first thing I realized watching the first three episodes of this new season is that I completely forgot how to watch Arrested Development. I’ve been catching up on The Office recently after it’s finale, trekking through the awful seventh and eighth seasons, which aren’t really that bad, in the hopes of enjoying the ninth fully informed. I love that show dearly, as well as 30 Rock and, in retrospect, I think Scrubs was my first love, where I actively sought out the first four seasons on DVD. These shows are all great in their own ways but I think one of the things that has made them so popular and commercially successful is their accessibility. More than that, it’s possible to relate to one or more of the principal characters. Further, they are excellently constructed with a combination of stories-of-the-week and longer story arcs, with a stronger emphasis on the former. Arrested Development inverts that formula. Arrested Development does not care if you can’t keep up. It does not care if you need a second to process that reference to a running gag in the second season or if it’s increasingly difficult to relate to anyone on the show at all, it is going to keep on rolling towards a sight gag or a pun or a double entendre that you might have spent five episodes assuming was a completely innocuous plot point. And in that way, this show gives its audience a ton of credit more than most modern American comedies. Mitchell Hurwitz, the creator, seems to say with each wildly elaborate interlocking storyline, if you pay attention and look a little closer than usual, you will be rewarded.

This is also the genius of this show, in that the complexity exists right alongside the most straightforward sight gags that it is possible to see the same episode twice and laugh at completely different places the second time through. I can pinpoint the exact moments where I knew this show was something special and amazing on two completely different levels, like a dual threat quarterback or a dog that is capable of fetching a beer. The first moment was, and still is, my favorite arc, the MR F episodes with Charlize Theron because the revelation at the end caught me completely off-guard. Maybe it helped that I was unfamiliar with the show and I was already enjoying the more basic humor enough, but the fact that the truth is so spectacularly obvious the second time around ended my casual attitude towards the show. I started to really pay attention. The second moment is, and always will be, my favorite sight gag. When Tobias is describing his attempt to be come the world’s first combination Analyst and Therapist, the screen flashes his business card for one second and my perception was again realigned. Once I stopped laughing and got up off the floor.

So something happened when the new season was released on Netflix that, despite being totally expected, still irritates the daylights out of me. Apparently, according to the absolutely-never-ever-hyperbolic internet, the new season is garbage. It sucks. It’s not funny, the jokes feel forced, Mitchell Hurwitz never directed an episode of the first three season, why is he directing these, etc. The complaints can be boiled down to the following sentence: “This show is not EXACTLY what it was before, therefore I hate it.”

Here is where I take issue with the detractors, the internet, nay, humanity itself (I will not be out hyperbolized); this reaction to the fourth season describes what is one of the most loathsome characteristics that a generation can affect. That characteristic is entitlement.

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It is a late Christmas miracle that a fourth season of a cancelled live action television show, with an ensemble cast of successful actors and actresses were able to get together under a new production house to create an entire original season for a company that doesn’t even want you to watch commercials or tune in once a week or go out of your way at all. Hell, they are even going to give you the entire season at once to do with what you will as often or rarely as you like. What a bunch of assholes.

Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed the new season of Arrested Development and I will enjoy watching the episodes again because, even as I started to remember how to watch this show, eyes peeled for references and hidden jokes, I still know that I missed a ton of stuff. If you have tried it out and the magic wasn’t there, stick for a few more episodes or so; give it a chance. If you haven’t checked it out yet, don’t worry, you’re in for a treat.

My response to those folks who felt it necessary to massacre this sacred cow as loudly and energetically as possible is thus: to me, the best counterpoint to an entitled perspective is gratitude. I am incredibly grateful for a new season of this television show that I love. I am grateful that almost everyone aged so gracefully (Steve Holt, dude….what happened, man). I am grateful that I don’t have to wait three months to watch the whole thing and I’ll be grateful when I am able to sit down with someone who hasn’t seen it yet and share it with them as often or rarely as we want. Lastly, I am grateful that the real beauty of this show, its depth, hasn’t aged at all, to those of us who take the time to look a little closer.

2 thoughts on “Arrested Development, Season Four: Look Closer

  1. I don’t really know why, but I never took the time to sit down and watch a single episode. I think I might have to give that a second thought.

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