COMMENTARY | If you are one of the legions of people complaining about “Arrested Development’s” 4th Miraculous Return from the Land of Beyond season, then I have a little nugget of hard truth for you. You’ve never understood this show.
Maybe you thought you understood it. Maybe you smiled and nodded at the people who were telling you it was brilliant, but secretly you were really only laughing at the innuendo. Maybe you just watched it on Netflix because other people decried its abrupt cancellation so fervently, so passionately, you figured you must have missed something.
Well, you missed something, all right. If you actually got the show when it was still airing, it wouldn’t have taken eight years and a brand-new, groundbreaking business model to keep the Bluths from oblivion.
The fifteen episodes now available on Netflix are exactly, precisely, gorgeously everything this show ever was. They are not “uneven,” as Time Magazine proclaimed, nor “sometimes boring, always bloated.” The first part of the season didn’t drag.
For people now used to doing something else while watching TV, focusing on only the show is challenging. It’s user error. Try watching the season again, this time without your laptop, smartphone and tablet going. Eyes on the screen, people. Eyes on the screen.
The subtle humor, the elaborate callbacks to earlier seasons, the razor-sharp topical commentary, that’s “Arrested Development.” It is dark in the way it exposes human tendencies to the open air, and it is hilarious in how it plays them back to us, bigger, crazier, psychopathic-er.
The only difference between “Arrested” then and “Arrested” now is it that it grew up. Who doesn’t change in eight years?
Perhaps, like its sorely misunderstood illegitimate younger cousin “Community,” “Arrested” requires a little effort on the part of the viewer. The humor does not fly from the television like a fish and slap you, unmistakably, in the face. There may be some slow pitches, but that’s because there are hot curveballs right behind them, and when they hit you, you’ll know it.
But only if you’ve paid attention.
It is a symphony of comedy, the bold brass, the strong percussion, the wind instruments and the strings all weaving together a full orchestration. If you only listen to the violins, you only hear the violins.
Maybe a show like “Arrested” is fated for a niche audience. It’s impossible to please everyone with something that sounds only like itself, and not vaguely like something else.
But if you are one of the people for whom the show doesn’t quite do it, don’t try to blame it on the new episodes. I’m willing to bet that the number of people who watched it originally is far lower than the number who claim to have watched it originally.
It’s a pretty safe bet, given how that run ended.
We’ve hit an era where everyone, literally, is a critic. And there you lie, the royalty of your own choosing, reclining on your velvet pillow, waving the show away with a disaffected hand. You are not amused.
But that’s fine, the show gets to laugh last. I’m reasonably certain the people behind it anticipated the blowback.