If you haven't had a chance to watch the new episodes yet , here's a small piece of advice. Don't go into your viewing experience expecting to see the same show we once loved and adored. Instead, go into it, as if, you're watching a new series with familiar characters. Does that make sense? It may not now, but once you watch the episodes, you'll have a better understanding of my point.
There are fifteen episodes to this new season, and to be honest, after three, I almost threw in the towel. It's not that it's all bad, it's just different, and that took some getting used to. I stuck with it and it slowly got better but it never really was the same. Here's where it differs- Due to scheduling conflicts and other filming commitments, it was impossible to get the entire cast together at one time. Therefore, instead of the ensemble we're used to, we get character-centric episodes. So, prepare yourself, there are entire episodes when we don't see some cast members at all. Most notably, Gob (Will Arnett) and Buster (Tony Hale), are noticeably absent, a lot. Given that the entire cast was never present for an entire episode, some of the magic was lost.
There were times, when I felt, some of the actors struggled to get back into character and the writing was strange. I think Jason Bateman's character had the biggest changes. In the original series, Michael was different from the rest of his wack-a-doo family and that's why he was always trying to get away from them. However, in these new episodes, he seemed to have become almost as manipulative, self-centered, and clueless as the rest of them. Was that the original story arc the character would have taken if the show hadn't been abruptly cancelled or did the writers just forget what the hell they were doing? I have no idea. Even though, Bateman played it well, I still found it to be a disappointing change.
Of course, there were the random cameos from Carl Weathers, Scott Baio (Bob Loblaw), Henry Winkler, (Barry Zuckerkorn,the family's incompetent lawyer). Ron Howard also became a reoccurring character (as himself), as opposed to just a disembodied narrator. I found the addition of his character a bit distracting, although, it did play well into the plot line of Michael trying to get the family to consent to give rights for a movie about their lives. That sub-plot/running joke was nice little nod to the dedicated fans. The best cameo though, hands down, was Ben Stiller as Tony Wonder, Gob's arch-nemesis. The scenes with these two characters together were the absolute highlight of season four.
All the tiny negatives aside, the plot line was intricately woven through each character's story arc and the writers did a brilliant job with it. The characters are consistently screwing over other members of the Bluth family, without ever realizing what they've done. It was very clever and once I recognized what the writers were up to, the plot better held my attention. I felt the show really hit it's stride around the twelfth episode and while I know that sounds crazy, I thought it wasn't really Arrested Development, until Gob and Buster came onto the scene, with more frequency.
So here's my take-I didn't love it but I didn't hate it. The writers, once again, left the ending hanging and it has yet to be confirmed if there'll be a season five or not. The chatter about an AD movie is still floating around and while I'm torn on whether the show should continue or not, one thing is obvious. The fans demanded, for years, that this show return, and for the first time in a long time, someone listened. So bravo to you, Netflix! Thank you for making it possible to peek in, once again, on the incredibly dysfunctional Bluth family and their mishaps.
Now if we could just talk about Firefly...
I must leave you with one of my favorite scenes. Hope the title doesn't offend, but I have no control over that. Enjoy!