I love Arrested Development. I love it so much. I've seen every episode multiple times; I quote it ad nauseum. I was devastated when it was canceled. I even love the less popular third season, and I enjoy Charlize Theron's guest appearance much more than most people do. I remember watching the pilot when it aired and feeling certain that something important was happening, that I was watching television change right before my eyes.
The fact that Netflix is airing a fourth season should be incredible news. Filming on the ten episode season began last week, and it was just announced that Mad Men's resident silver fox John Slattery will guest star on several episodes. I love John Slattery, too. Netflix is airing all ten episodes in a row, and I promise you I will spend five hours parked in front of the television, watching every minute. I should be over the moon.
I feel a vague sense of anxious dread when I contemplate the prospect of the Bluths reuniting six years after their last hurrah. I fear that Mitch Hurwitz, the writers and stars won't be able to recreate that magic. I fear that the jokes will be slightly less incisive, the weirdness somehow forced, the chemistry a little lacking.
I think it's terrific that everyone involved is still so enthusiastic about the project. It speaks to the wonder of the original series that six years later, after all of the stars and creative players have worked steadily in Hollywood, some achieving huge success, everyone is still committed to bringing this story back to the screen. And it's remarkable that the audience is still so devoted to Arrested Development. The show has become a bigger presence in our cultural lexicon than it was when it aired, and that speaks to the tremendous staying power of this strange, hilarious, brilliant, razor sharp show.
So why can't I, a die-hard fan since the very first episode, feel the same enthusiasm? I certainly hope that the fourth season will be a huge success. I'm definitely not ruling it out. Hurwitz is a genius, and while I do think it's a good sign that he's creating instead of re-creating, according to Ron Howard, remaining "pretty brazen, pretty bold and fearless," I still fret that the wizardry of Arrested Development was a fleeting thing, the sort of unlikely sublimity that can't be recaptured.
Like many things - like The Matrix or Scream, for instance - Arrested Development can never recreate its own originality because too many projects have ripped it off since it was on the air. The show popularized a new model of television, one that we see everywhere now except CBS, which clings stubbornly to the old guard with its wizened grandpa claws. How can Hurwitz, Howard, Bateman and company surprise and delight us the way they once did when now we've seen it all before?
I feel that the best chance Arrested Development Season Four has for creative success is to shrug off old shackles, ignore audience assumptions and just be something new. I would have loved to see a new, original show with different characters that reunites the old cast and creative team, because the Bluths come with such a confining set of expectations. But I can't pretend I won't be glad to see GOB, George Michael, Maeby, Lucille and the rest of those magnificent weirdos and jerks again. Because if the fourth season has even one scene as funny as this one, it'll still be better than most anything on television.