One aspect of Netflix that I haven’t really had time to take advantage of is the abundance of television shows they have available. I’ve caught random episodes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, watched the pilot for the original Star Trek (in which William Shatner was nowhere to be seen), and watched about six or seven episodes of Sons of Anarchy before life got too busy (I do plan to get back to that one later).
I’ve been accused of watching too much television, but thinking of the shows I currently watch, I don’t put too much on my plate. This is partly due to some shows I was following that ran their course (like Lost, Fringe or Breaking Bad, all available on streaming last time I checked), and some others being on HBO, which I decided to cancel because the cost was too much and some of the shows were really starting to disappoint (such as everything but Game of Thrones). I do watch and really enjoy American Horror Story and The Americans. I have watched Mad Men, but that seems to have a new season only every 2 or 3 years. I still am holding on to The Walking Dead for some reason. I am wondering whether the 2 or 3 first rate episodes that they have each season is worth the mediocrity you have to endure for the other episodes.
Speaking of mediocrity, here we have Arrested Development: Season 4. If you ask me what some of my favorite television shows of all time would be, that might be a long list, but ask me about my favorite comedies, and I will immediately say Seinfeld, The Simpsons, and Arrested Development. I’m reviewing Season 4 so late because I decided I wanted to watch Arrested Development (hereafter referred to as AD) from Episode 1. I started this back in the summer a short time after the season 4 episodes premiered on Netflix. Needless to say, it took me awhile, but I enjoyed watching some classic episodes. The series was as solid as I remembered it. So this week I finally got to season 4. I’m going to review each episode separately, and with a letter grade, just to be different from my movie reviews. Besides enjoying reviewing the first 3 seasons, I also don’t feel compelled to avoid spoilers, as these episodes have been online for quite some time now. So if you haven’t watched the episodes, I may or may not give away things.
Episode 1- The Flight of the Phoenix Grade: B+ (Featured character: Michael)
The first episode thankfully rewarded me for refreshing my memory of the first 3 seasons. There are several jokes and guest appearances that will make fans of the original series laugh. This episode is the best of the first three episodes, but there are still some awkward jokes that fall a little flat. I’m not sure why Michael seems likes he’s gone beyond his naivete about certain things (such as his relationship with his son, George Michael) to outright stupidity at times. His attending the University of Phoenix while rooming with his son at UCI, and hoping that being featured in an inflight magazine will get his career back on track, feel like the old AD (his exchange with the airline staff is great). Michael getting into the shower with his son just felt like too much (unlike the hilariously awkward “Afternoon Delight” duet with his niece in the original episodes). The voting out the roommate scene was also well done, and I enjoyed Romel de Silva as George Michael’s roommate. Also fun to see were the cameos from Kirsten Wiig and Seth Rogen as the young George and Lucille Bluth.
Episode 2: Borderline Personalities Grade: C (Featured Character: George Sr.)
This episode didn’t really connect with me. There was a lot of “plot” going on. I’ve heard from previous reviews that the early episodes set up the payoff that comes in the later episodes. I certainly hope so. Other negative reviews complain that the timing seems off, and I would have to say that they would be right when it comes to this episode. The biggest laughs came from Karen Maruyama’s ex-con named China Garden. John Slattery had some good lines as well, but I don’t think Mary Lynn Rajskub’s character really hit the mark the writers were trying to hit. The George W Bush gag was good. But overall it seemed like it was trying to hard and not delivering much in the way of laughs. It remains to be seen if there is a payoff later.
Episode 3: Indian Takers Grade: C+ (Featured Character: Lindsay Bluth)
Again, the timing seemed a little bit off. There was a bit more here than Episode 2 to like. I appreciated that a good deal of the jokes that work come from knowing Lindsay’s character really well. Ed Helms makes an appearance as a real estate agent who makes some hilarious sales pitches to Tobias and Lyndsay in order to get them into a home they can’t afford. Lyndsay actually hooks up with someone else, which kind of ruins a long running joke of Lyndsay misunderstanding men’s advances and not being able to cheat on her husband even though she wants to. Her sleeping with another man does however provide the set up for another joke, but I’m not sure that it was worth it.
Overall, I’m leaning towards not enjoying this as much as my old AD. But I’m still optimistic, and I realize in some ways it has to be a different experience being created for Netflix.