The chances of the fourth season (seven years in the making) of Arrested Development living up to the anticipation were remote at best. We are all eternally grateful to Netflix for bringing to all-too short-lived series back. We all love the fact that the cast was reunited (mostly) and that creator Mitchell Hurwitz returned as lead writer. The most impressive thing Hurwitz does, other than not giving up on the show, is his ability to piece together all of the bits, storylines, characters, and reoccurring jokes into a thickly woven narrative. This was the case for the first three seasons and it’s great to see that that hasn’t changed. There’s still just one nagging issue after all fifteen new streaming episodes. It just isn’t that funny.
Over the course of the episodes, we get caught up with each Bluth family member for at least an episode apiece. George Sr.’s (Jeffrey Tambor) storyline is just not terribly interesting, Lindsay’s (Portia de Rossi) is largely flat. The season really picks up, where else, but with GOB (Will Arnett) front and center. The more GOB, the better as his deplorable hijinks are what keeps the show vital. Michael (Jason Bateman) is the tie that binds all the characters while Lucille’s (Jessica Walter) story provides the background for how-we-got-here. There’s, unfortunately, not a whole heck of a lot of Buster. The two youngest members of the family are largely absent aside from the last few episodes but their arcs are quite entertaining.
The regular cast is still mostly great but the guest cast is, at times, questionable. Dim-witted family attorney and pervert Barry Zuckerkorn is played as greatly clueless as ever by Henry Winkler. Liza Minelli is a bigger presence than before and she is essential to the plot. There are some great new additions like Isla Fisher, as the season’s main love interest, and Kristen Wiig, who delivers an uncanny performance as young Lucille. On the other hand, Seth Rogen’s depiction of young George Bluth, Sr. did not work at all, it didn’t seem remotely like Jeffrey Tambor. Rogen is only able to play one thing: himself. And it is just not funny.
Admittedly, there is five years worth of back story for nine characters that has to fit into fifteen episodes. As a result of that, and the lack of a consistent presence of the whole ensemble, the overall quality suffers. The interaction between the talented cast combined with the biting wit of the writers has always been the backbone of the show’s success. What we’ve learned is that we don’t really want to see the Bluth family apart.
Even with all of the built-in drawbacks, Arrested Development is still the best sitcom out there. With no due respect to CBS, NBC, and their garbage comedies, no network sitcom approaches or even attempts such an intricate comedic serial. It starts slow but gets really good as all the angles are revealed. And while this season doesn’t offer as many gutbusting laughs as the previous seasons, there’s certainly enough intrigue still on the table. Whether a fifth season or a movie is in the offering, hopefully, there will be more Bluth family jeer.
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