Think about this for a moment: when you’re beloved TV show has been gone for 7 years, and there’s been rumors of a resurrection on other networks and a movie, and then finally, Netflix announces new episodes that will be available…in a year…the anticipation for a show could not be higher. On Sunday, Arrested Development finally made its return, 15 new episodes all available right now on Netflix. Of course people watched these new episodes immediately, and as New Media Rockstars illustrated, Twitter was abuzz about how…disappointing they are.
I’ve only seen 4 episodes of the new season, but count me as someone who disagrees with that assessment. There are a couple of differences in the new season from the old seasons, and that might be tripping people up as they try to assess whether it’s “good” or not. There is simply no way Arrested Development could have come back and been exactly the same as it left, and there’s no way it could have matched anyone’s lofty expectations.
One of the most noticeable differences that make this season different from others is that each episode focuses on one of the Bluth family, with other characters making appearances here and there, each episode being interconnected in some grand overall story. So that feeling of “something missing” comes from the fact that much of the cast isn’t present in each episode. Instead of one crazy story with all the Bluths and the secondary characters, it’s one piece of a longer 15-episode arc, with one main character and a few secondary characters. This is “long-form” storytelling as we see it on cable, where shows like Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad tell longer stories over a period of time. The difference is, this is a comedy, and people may not be expecting this kind of story from a sitcom.
The other difference comes from the pacing. These episodes are longer than the 22-minute sitcoms broken up by commercial breaks. These are truly 30-minute episodes. So each one of them are longer and aren’t as “quick” as the previous entries. When you have these two factors combined, that “feel” is enough of a difference as to make it seem like, “these just aren’t the same,” and thus, disappointment.
But during my viewing of these episodes, I’ve found the writing continues to be sharp, and I’ve noticed that they are chock full of sight gags, double entendres, malapropisms, inside jokes, and probably a ton more witticisms that I’m missing, much like the original show. These episodes have a lot of replay value, and I think over time people who feel disappointed in this season are going to come around. In the 4th episode alone, I found myself having to rewind several times because of something I missed. This is the mark of a good show that continues to be good: I feel the need to make sure I caught something before I keep going. A show that rewards its viewers for being attentive, and your attention pays off in an exciting or funny way, is an excellent show.
It might behoove Netflix in the future to release an episode every week for original shows in the future, as people will have the chance to get “settled” with a show, rather than gulping it down all in one sitting. While this has helped established shows in the past to garner new viewers who are hoping to catch up for a new season, I think it’s bad for a show like this, which has a huge following and are going to knock them out like the new Harry Potter books when they were released at midnight. If the first episode had been allowed to “breathe” for a week, I think fans would have been able to appreciate it more. As it is, this new season may require some time to be seen without all the hope and anticipation getting in the way. You won’t be seeing stories about, “People coming around on the new season of Arrested Development,” however. You’ll only see this week’s “everybody’s disappointed” headlines, unfortunately.