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TV Review: Arrested Development, Season 4

Arrested Development, Season 4

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After seven years, the Bluths are back — stair car and all.

The long-awaited new season of “Arrested Development” — produced by Netflix instead of Fox, who produced the series’ first three seasons — includes 15 episodes, each following one of the Bluth family members as they struggle to break free from the family and make it on their own.

The story picks up with each character seven years after the show was cancelled by Fox: Michael (Jason Bateman) is trying to produce a film based on the Bluths; George Michael (Michael Cera) develops an app; and Lucille (Jessica Walters) and George, Sr. (Jeffrey Tambor) are yet again trying to scheme the government for more money. Even after seven years, the cast slid right into their old roles with ease.

In true “Arrested Development” fashion, the season’s plot line unravels, revealing each of the brilliantly crafted layers of the plot. The story constantly overlaps itself and principal scenes play out over and over, becoming incrementally more clear. Each episode is centered around “Cinco de Cuatro” — a celebration on May 4 started by Lucille to ensure that the Mexicans she employs cannot use Cinco de Mayo as an excuse to take a holiday.

But Netflix has definitely made their own adjustments to the show. With its original (and in this case, semi-original) series, Netflix caters to an audience that enjoys binging on television. This is not the same audience Fox catered to: those who patiently waited for an episode every week and who only had to be entertained for 30 minutes. So although the other three seasons featured plays on narrative, the storytelling method is more convoluted and complex in season 4. It flows more like a drawn out mini-series. Season 4 was designed with the television junkie in mind.

Because of the overwhelming plot overlaps and the one-character focus of the episodes, the story seems drained. The pacing of the episodes is completely different from what fans of the show are used to. The first three seasons had jokes in almost every line, with more and more jokes appearing to the viewer with each rewatch. Because of the restrictive 22-minute long episodes, the writers were forced to slam each episode with as many laughs as possible, creating the fast-paced show “Arrested Development” fans know and love. But Netflix’s interpretation and unrestrictive time length has changed that: the story structure drags out the story. It’s just too much.

At best, Season 4 is an attempted testament to the series’ past three seasons. For “Arrested Development” fans, the Netflix season satisfied the void left when the Bluth family’s story was “abruptly cancelled” — as the new introduction references — but the Netflix rendition of the series lacks the style that made “Arrested Development” the cult hit show it was seven years ago.

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