It’s time to stock pile your juice boxes, throw on your cutoffs, and put away your “Caged Wisdom” videos for another day. The new season of Arrested Development is here!
Let’s break it down…
About these reviews: I’ll be approaching each episode individually, as if the series were airing on a more traditional TV schedule of one episode per week. I will judge arcs and jokes just based on what has happened in the current episode and previous episodes. How a set-up pays off in a future episode, if at all, won’t factor in. Please note that I have yet to get through the whole series, so if you would like to make a comment, please be kind and include a “SPOILER ALERT” for your fellow Bluths who are trying to savor these episodes one at a time.
For all the heavy lifting that this first episode had to do, I was surprised by how funny it actually was. The series has seven years to account for, and had to take us through quite a few highs and lows (okay, really just lows) in Michael Bluth’s (Jason Bateman) life. But the episode manages to pack in some really great jokes and is consistently funny (with a few bumps, which I’ll get to later).
Throughout the original run of the series, we got to see glimpses of Michael’s narcissism and ego. But these flaws were always overshadowed by the more spectacular misadventures of the rest of the family, like Gob’s (Will Arnett) penchant for killing doves and sinking boats and Buster’s (Tony Hale)… relationship with his mother. This season, with its focus on one particular Bluth each episode, we’ll hopefully see a lot more of the tragedy of Michael. In this first episode, we do see what a beautiful disaster he really can be. Sudden Valley has gone belly up under his care. He’s continuing the Bluth brother Oedipal tradition of turning to Lucille 2 (Liza Minnelli) for “help.” And he’s unanimously voted out of George Michael’s (Michael Cera) dorm, where he’s been living for six months.
But lest this seem like just an exercise in tragedy porn, these scenes are just plain funny. Watching Michael try to seduce Lucille 2 as she loses her balance from tilting her head is a great visual. And George Michael’s roommate, the fantastically named P-Hound, slays me as he upholds the “no talking” rule with his finger over his lips.
Of course, this wouldn’t be Arrested Development without the blink-and-you-miss-them-meta gems, and they’re back with a vengeance in the premiere. The “SceneStealer Pro” watermark was so realistic that Netflix actually had to release a statement that they did in fact pay for the rights to the show. And the mural behind Michael as he makes his way towards Phoenix is sublime – everything from the cabin to Wee Britain ended up on that mural. I love how this series can do callbacks like these without hitting you over the head with them.
It’s why I don’t love just how many flashbacks are peppered throughout the episode. I understand that Netflix and the executive producers (who hope to make an Arrested Development film some day) are trying to bring in new viewers, and that they don’t want to alienate anyone. But when the entire series is also available on Netflix, it really isn’t necessary to flashback to and explain as much of the original series as it does in the first episode.
For just the first episode, there are a lot of guest stars, and some are more welcome than others. While the Austeros (Christine Taylor and Ed Begley Jr.) seem to only be there to move the story along, Barry Zuckerkorn (Henry Winkler) has returned as the family lawyer, as lovingly incompetent as ever. New faces include the gents of Workaholics (Adam Devine, Anders Holm, and Blake Anderson), who are unfortunately wasted on the ultimately unnecessary and unfunny airport scene. Seth Rogen and Kristen Wiig also join the cast as young George Sr. and Lucille. Wiig is a brilliant casting coup, capturing the character Jessica Walter created perfectly, while Seth Rogen is merely serviceable as George. Rogen is a funny guy, but can’t seem to disappear into his role the way Wiig can.
- Let’s just get this out of the way: WHAT THE HELL IS THAT THING ON MAEBY’S (Alia Shawkat) HEAD? Because that certainly isn’t a hairstyle that a self-possessed twenty three year old should be sporting in the twenty-first century.
- Although George Michael rocks that mustache like nobody’s business.
- One of the greatest scenes in this episode is between Michael and GOB They have always been one of my favorite pairings on this show, because I love how GOB can unwittingly get under Michael’s skin. I just hope that we get to see more of them in the future.
- Is anyone already planning a Cinco de Cuatro party for next May 4th?
Well, fellow Ocean Walkers, what do you all think of the first episode? If you haven’t seen any other episodes yet, which characters are you most excited to see again? And who’s Snoopy walk is more pathetic – Michael or George Michael? Sound off below!
Please remember to include a SPOILER ALERT if you bring up any information for future episodes in your comments.
All of S4 of Arrested Development is available now on Netflix. Next Thursday, we will review episode 2, “Borderline Personalities.”