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What is it funny, or something? – The Return of Arrested Development

April 15, 2013

Arrested Development is my favorite TV comedy of all time. I never had the opportunity to see it on network television; it was cancelled in 2005 before I had the chance to meet the Bluths. Like many Arrested fans, I was introduced to the show by another fan (in this case my brothers) after the show was no longer on Fox.

Netflix has re-united the original cast of Arrested Development and is bringing the show back for a new 15 episode season. If you have not seen the show before, it stars Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, Portia de Rossi, Jeffrey Tambor, David Cross, Tony Hale, Michael Cera, Jessica Walter and Alia Shawkat as the Bluths. The Bluths believe they are part of high-society, despite the fact that they are broke and nobody in the family works outside of Michael (Bateman) and his son George-Michael (Cera). The show is very sarcastic and full of one-liners. In fact, I enjoy watching episodes I have seen several times because there are so many jokes (and no laugh tracks to slow them down) that I find that on occasion I hear a joke for the first time in an episode on the tenth viewing.

This is Netflix’s second foray into original content (after House of Cards, released earlier this year to wide acclaim), but Arrested Development delivers something for Netflix that House of Cards did not, a pre-established fan base. While the fans were not strong enough in numbers to keep the show on the air prior to its original cancellation, similar to Family Guy, Arrested Development had strong DVD sales and an engaged community of fans post-cancellation. Since it was cancelled, there have been persistent rumors that Arrested Development was not done forever, and that it would come back in some form eventually.

One part of the original episodes that I hope returns in Arrested Development Season 4 is the random cavalcade of stars who had recurring guest appearances on the show. Stars like Charlize Theron (Rita), Zach Braff (Philipp Litt), Christine Taylor (Sally Sitwell), Andy Richter (as himself) and Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Maggie Lizer) all were recurring characters who were central to multiple episodes. Additionally, most of these roles involved these well-regarded actors doing ridiculous things like being a “Nevernude” (Braff), faking blindness (Dreyfus) and being part of a set of quintuplets (Richter). Early rumors of guest stars for Arrested Development Season 4 include Kristin Wiig, the stars of Comedy Central’s Workaholics, and Seth Rogen.

A recurring pleasure in the old episodes that is sure to be part of the new episodes are the one-liners and recurring bits that are part of the early episodes from start to finish. This includes things like Steve Holt screaming “Steve Holt!” every time he hears his own name, Gob’s awesome jokes about George-Michael’s plain jane girlfriend Anne (“what, is she funny or something?”) and the Bluth’s ridiculous chicken dances (none of which looks or sounds like a chicken). I cannot wait to see how Ron Howard and Mitchell Hurwitz (the show’s creators) bring back and tweak these bits.

As someone who belongs to a family of lawyers, I particularly enjoy Arrested’s take on lawyers. From the unprofessional Henry Zuckercorn (Henry Winkler) bumbling his way through a meeting with the family, to Bob Loblaw (Scott Baio) racking up billable hours on the phone with Lindsay (de Rossi) and Tobias (Cross) and Wayne Jarvis (John Michael Higgins) with his focus on professionalism at all times; seeing a lawyer on screen in Arrested Development means something funny is about to happen. Will a new lawyer be introduced? Will more than one of the original lawyers make a reappearance?

Netflix has done a great job of building the excitement for the new episodes. Earlier this week, they released promotional posters, chock full with obscure references, as a teaser for fans (I’ll be talking more about the return of Arrested as it approaches, including further examination of these promotional posters). Plus, several of the show’s stars, including Jason Bateman on a recent Jimmy Kimmel Live episode, have also been talking about the new episodes. Bateman shared an interesting nugget on the structure of the new episodes on that Jimmy Kimmel appearance.

In the video, Jason Bateman talks about how the new season will be composed of episodes devoted to individual characters. He elaborates by saying in the Michael (Bateman) episode, you might see Gob (Arnett) ride by on his Segway; to see where Gob is going, the viewer would have to change to Gob’s episode. While having to adjust across multiple episodes sounds like it might be cumbersome, I am optimistic that Netflix and series creator Ron Howard (ever heard of him?) will do a great job of updating the series while staying true to the original episodes. The fact that every core member of the original cast is participating in this season further reinforces my faith that the show will be just as great as the original episodes.

If you have not seen Arrested Development before, or if it’s been a while since you saw the Bluths, fret not, there is still over a month before the new episodes are released on May 26th. Before you know it, Gob and the rest of the Bluths will be segway-ing his way back into all of our hearts.

Are you an Arrested Development fan? If so, what are you most excited to see in the new episodes?

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