Arrested Development

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I was a late convert to Arrested Development. I wasn’t even aware of it during its original run in the 2000s, and it was only because my friends were talking about in 2013 that I checked it out. 2013, of course, was the year when Netflix brought out AD’s fourth season, reviving the critically-acclaimed show which had been cancelled in 2006 due to poor ratings. At the time, the season’s success was mooted as an example of the amazing promise streaming services had to revolutionize TV production. I watched it all and became an instant fan not just of the original run, but also of the very impressive (and increasingly dark) fourth season.

Season four picked up the lives of the Bluth family after a gap of several years. For those who haven’t watched it, the Bluths are a construction dynasty sort-of modeled on companies like Enron, embodying everything that is wrong about corporate America. The series follows the different members of the family as their company falls apart and their personal lives unravel. At the same time, they each find out more about themselves, which is rarely good–most of them are pretty terrible people–but the show is sympathetic while still being a biting satire. Season four was excellent, picking up after a slow start to really expand upon each of the characters, adopting a deliciously dark tone in doing so. It also boasted an extraordinary narrative style that told a convoluted story from a number of different angles. Remarkable writing and editing meant that by halfway through the season you started to see how everything fit together and I was astonished by its skill and audacity. But it was characteristic of a show known to tease and build up jokes dozens of episodes ahead.

Arrested Development is one of the select number of comedies which I’m able to watch over and over again, up there with Father Ted and I’m Alan Partridge. The best thing about it is that in contrast to those shows it actually has a lot of episodes over its four seasons, meaning it easily sustains repeated viewings. Its critical success and cult following has launched the careers of many people involved. In particular, Will Arnett has since made a series of other Netflix shows where he essentially played the same character, while Jessica Walter and Judy Greer became popular in the once-good animated comedy, Archer. Michael Cera is probably the actor who has attained most fame, but the whole cast is terrific and picking out individual actors doesn’t feel fair.

It kind of feels like AD has become a bit of a victim of its own success with Netflix. Although writer Mitch Hurwitz has said he has season five ready to go, and Netflix have repeatedly said they want it to happen, apparently the cast’s schedule conflicts are getting in the way. To me, this sounds a bit fishy. While they’re all well-known actors, none of them are A-list movie stars and none of them have been in anything much bigger than AD. It makes me think money might in fact be the problem, for example if some aren’t getting the same deal as others. If that’s the case then Netflix should just get rid of the shitty Will Arnett vehicles it keeps producing and make better use of its resources.

I really hope season five does get made, and the sooner the better. Arrested Development is the show that, in 2013, satirized American politics by getting the Bluths to try and build a wall to keep out Mexican immigrants (they didn’t care about the wall per se, they just wanted the fat contract). A few years later and the leading Republican candidate is actually calling for this. Season four also ended on a murder cliffhanger, and apparently season five might have a murder mystery angle aping successful Netflix docu-drama Making a Murderer. I would gladly sacrifice any and every Marvel property in existence, never mind House of Cards and BoJack Horseman, if it meant getting this show renewed.

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