The Promising, Problematic Re-Return of Arrested Development

By  · Published on April 9th, 2015

Arrested Development is coming back. Again. This is both cause for ordering a celebratory Skip’s Scramble and for cowering in fear at the back of the secret crawl space.

The reason for that – and I say this as a passionate fan of the first three seasons – is that the fourth season was such a mixed bag of excruciatingly well-planned afterthoughts.

I felt similarly after Yahoo announced they’d be saving Community from cancellation. As much as I loved the show, a season without Dan Harmon and a fairly inauspicious return season from Dan Harmon left me exhausted as a fan.

Part of that trepidation existed because I’d already seen Netflix rescue Arrested Development from cancellation only to launch a binge-able fourth season that got off to a shockingly horrible start and only barely recovered by the end.

Most of that was a structural issue. With most TV shows, there’s a contained sensibility to getting things done, even if the actors have other projects brewing. With the most recent of Arrested Development it was clear how rarely the entire ensemble could get together (it seemed like they only got together for a single living room scene that haunted every subsequent episode). It makes sense, though. It was years later. They were all working on other things, and when you craft a show – particularly an interlocking, ensemble-driven program – as the second or third commitment on an actor’s calendar, there are bound to be problems. You end up having to green screen characters into scenes.

There’s also the issue of closure. The finale of season three brought the Bluths to a natural endpoint in their journey by allowing Michael and George Michael to start their own. It was sad to see the show go, but they ended it with class. It felt right.

Then we got a new installment seven years after the main run had ended, and the wound’s were opened up again. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but it’s both a case of being careful what you wish for as a fan and a case of disappointment marring something that was already complete. It hurts my heart to say it, but the fourth season of Arrested Development is Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. And now we’re getting more, potentially three years after the seven-years-delayed fourth season. We’re now getting television shows in chunks.

On the other non-pessimistic hand, Community’s return on Yahoo has been a pleasant surprise. It’s pared down, but the spirit of the show is still present, and there are reasons to think that it’s genuinely back on track. The beauty of a new Arrested Development season is that Mitchell Hurwitz and company have another shot at the new adventures of this family. In that sense, season four can act as a buffer, enabling them to return fresh.

Hope springs eternal, because when the chef and the ingredients and the kitchen come together, there’s a chance they can make magical hot ham water together.

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