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Creatively crafted 'Arrested Development' gets a new start

Netflix

By Kayla Upadhyaya, Managing Arts Editor
Published June 6, 2013

The story about a wealthy family who lost everything returns after its seven-year absence for a fourth season on Netflix. It’s anustart for “Arrested Development,” and everything’s different.

Because of a non-traditional distribution model — Netflix released all 15 episodes of the new season at once — and scheduling and contractual complications with the cast, “Arrested Development” has undergone significant remodeling that basically renders it an entirely new show. To work around scheduling conflicts, each episode focuses on one member of the Bluth family, a major change considering the ensemble emphasis of the show up to this point.

So did creator Mitch Hurwitz make a huge mistake? Bringing a show back from the dead comes with a lot of baggage, as the faithful fans have all sorts of expectations. “Arrested Development” season four will feel slightly jarring to fans looking for a new fix of the same show they loved and lost, and comparing it to the rest of the series would be like comparing apples to a mayonegg.

One thing’s for certain: You have to binge-watch this. The new format gives the illusion that the story is moving along slowly, but after the first few episodes, the pieces start to come together. The season four writers took their obstacles and crafted a creative solution, offering the most wonderfully complex season of the show ever. “Arrested Development” has always employed nonlinear storytelling methods, revealing piece-by-piece how everything is connected as the season progresses. But with season four, everything’s turned up a notch, with a Bluth web so intricately spun, it’s a wonder how the writers pieced everything together so perfectly. Taking lengthy breaks between episodes, though, certainly dulls its effectiveness. In fact, it might take an entire second watch-through to realize the full genius of it all.

Among all the changes, some things never change: the endless vodka-soaked wit of Lucille, and, of course, the poorly selected wording of the world’s first analrapist, Tobias Fünke (he even ends up the target of a “To Catch a Predator”-lookalike program with “Is there a little girl here all by herself? Daddy needs to get his rocks off”). Old faces return: Mae Whitman reprises her role as Egg-slash-Hair-slash-Her?, Kitty Sanchez and her girls pop out, and Barry Zuckerkorn gives plenty of questionable legal advice. There are even a few new faces: John Slattery gives a particularly show-stealing performance as the drug-addicted, disgraced anesthesiologist Dr. Norman, and as a younger Lucille, Kristen Wiig nails every single mannerism of Jessica Walter so precisely you might wonder if they’re secretly the same person.

Change is hard. But even though it’s certainly not the same show it was, it’s just as hilarious and just as smart. So fry up some cornballs, don a pair of jorts and get comfortable. It’s time to spend 8+ hours with the Bluths.