It’s been seven years since Fox made a huge mistake by cancelling the critically acclaimed, Emmy Award winning, Arrested Development, but now Netflix has released fifteen new episodes. The whole cast is back together from leads to minor characters such as Tony Wonder and Ann Veal (yes, even her). Each episode follows one character; during the title sequence, Ron Howard announces ‘it’s Michael’s Arrested Development’ or ‘it’s Lucille’s Arrested Development’ and then we find out what they’ve been up to over the last seven years.
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As a result, the show is a complex intertwining of story lines, of which some are stronger than others; GOB’s (George Oscar Bluth for those new to the show) breakdown was a highpoint, while George Michael’s campus storyline dragged; George Senior’s sweat lodges were tedious but Buster’s mother-complex was as funny as ever. Overall, it’s a mixed bag and it suffers from the lack of large ensemble scenes, but it’s fair to say that even the weaker storylines improve with a repeat viewing because it’s satisfying to know what’s going on in the background to other characters and, as is normally the case with great comedy, you notice more jokes the more you watch.
A marathon binge viewing of the series could be a mistake because comedy, more than any other genre, fatigues the viewer. Many critics have observed that rationing the series is important – people get bored in movies over 120 minutes, so what makes them think they’d have the stamina to deal with eight hours of comedy?
Secondly, this show is much more enjoyable when watched with other people – sometimes they spot a joke you hadn’t noticed (for instance, the pleasing detail that the character Argyle Austero dresses in argyle patterned jumpers) and sometimes it’s necessary to quote the show at each other (try entering a houses with a cheery ‘is there a little girl here all by herself?’).
Arrested Development thrives on collaborative viewing and stupid impressions, so if you haven’t watched it yet, it’s well worth rationing and watching it with other fans; perhaps the weaker storylines will be less of a disappointment if they’re watched in this manner. Shares in Netflix dropped by 6% as a result of mixed reviews for the new series; granted – it’s not quite as good as series one and two, but this reaction is overblown and perhaps a result of binge viewing, alone, in front of a PC screen.