Love Each Other

 I will now only associate this song with Arrested Development.

When people ask me what my favorite TV show is, I never say Arrested Development. I mean, it completely is my favorite TV show, but that kind of goes without saying, doesn it? It’s like when somebody asks you, “What’s one thing you could never live without?” You don’t say, “Oxygen,” because the point of the question is to find out your preferences, and since everybody needs oxygen that answer doesn’t really say anything about you, except that you’re a literal douchebag.

Arrested Development is everybody’s favorite show, at least in the dorky, writery circles that I move in. The show is so universally acclaimed that everybody in the orbit of the entertainment industry has seen it, and since everybody who has seen it has loved it, it’s just kind of a given that it’s everybody’s favorite show – so why even mention it?

When I tell people my favorite show is Mystery Science Theater 3000 or the first season of Workaholics we can have a discussion, because people have diverging opinions about those shows. When I tell people my favorite show is Arrested Development it usually just turns into a circlejerk about how good Arrested Development is, because perfection bears little discussion.

“Arrested Development is my favorite show.”

“Oh my God, same!”

“Which episode is your favorite?”

“It’s a 53 way tie between all of them!”

“Oh my God, same!”




 This is really creepy if you haven't seen season 4 yet. It's also really creepy if you have.

What I’ve always found most impressive about Arrested Development wasn’t the density or the characters or the callbacks, but the show’s consistency. The show ran for three seasons on Fox and they didn’t produce a single bad episode, which is an incredible feat for even great television shows.

30 Rock had plenty of clunkers, Community is notoriously inconsistent, and there hasn’t been a halfway decent episode of Workaholics in two years. Hell, we only made six episodes of Writers and at least two of them were terrible – and they were only ten minute episodes!

Arrested Development cranked out 53 episodes over the course of three seasons on Fox – intricate, deeply layered episodes with jokes about war crimes and incest – and every damn one of them was a standout.

So from that high bar, the first two episodes of season 4 were a confusing, boring slap in the face. Michael was unlikeable, the dialogue was choppy and weird, characters behaved oddly with no explanation, and I couldn’t for the life of me follow what was going on.

I was convinced that Mitch Hurwitz and his band of merry writers had flown too close to the sun – that the creative freedom afforded them by Netflix had created a cumbersome, unwatchable monster of a show that had ruined that beautiful consistency of the first 53 episodes.

It took a lot of goading from just about everybody I knew, but when I watched the rest of the series a week or two later, I saw what had actually happened: Mitch Hurwitz had used the creative freedom afforded him by Netflix to create a show unlike anything the world had ever seen before – a show tailored to Arrested Development’s audience of hyperaware fanatics who get off on narrative complexity.

The first two or three episodes of season 4 are confusing at first, but if you persevere and keep watching the show will eventually pull off its fake mustache and sombrero and reveal its true form as a modern masterpiece. 

"Gene Parmesian, howyadoin?"

In retrospect, I’m kind of embarrassed for expecting the show to parrot the format of its first three seasons on network TV. Arrested Development did things with the network sitcom format that no other show had done before; it stands to reason that they’d keep pushing the envelope with digital distribution by making a show that almost demands that you stop and rewind, freeze frame to read signs and articles, and rewatch previous episodes with new information. As somebody who spends most of his time thinking about sitcoms, this sort of thing is like porn for me.*

*Though not a substitute for actual porn.

What really stood out for me about season 4 was how little fan service there was. It would’ve been really easy to load every episode up with chicken dances and seal jokes to capitalize on gags from the first three seasons, but a few fleeting references aside the writers went to great lengths to create a whole new set of gags.

Nowhere is this more apparent than with Gob – my favorite Bluth, and the one with the greatest number of catchphrases and running gags. In season 4 we never see him on his Segway, he never does his chicken dance, he drops “I’ve made a huge mistake” one time, and for all intents and purposes “The Sound Of Silence” has replaced “The Final Countdown” as his theme song. (Either that or “Getaway, Getaway.”)

The greatest testament to the writers’ skill and the strength of his character is that I didn’t even notice these elements were missing until the second viewing, because I was so caught up in all of the new gags they’d built. If you’d told me in April that I would one day think “Same” was the funniest word in the English language, or that I would consider “Love Each Other” a viable option for a tattoo, I would’ve called you crazy.

To be sure, season 4 isn’t as consistent as the first three seasons. By focusing on individual characters in a vacuum, the show sets itself up for some weak episodes featuring characters who just aren’t as funny without their other family members. I can’t really hold it against them, though – given the fact that half the cast has successful film careers now it’s actually pretty incredible that Hurwitz created a show this good out of that many fractured schedules.

Weak episodes aside, 11 or 12 of the 15 episodes hold up almost perfectly against the original 53. What’s more, since everybody seems to have a different favorite character, focusing on each one individually means that now everybody has a different favorite episode. I thought the Gob and George-Michael episodes were the best, but I’ve had a number of detailed conversations with friends who prefer the Maeby, Buster, and Lindsay episodes – conversations that have led me to rewatch and critically reevaluate those episodes.

This was Mitch Hurwitz’s greatest achievement – he’s made it possible for two consenting adults to have a conversation about Arrested Development without it turning into a “same” circlejerk.

He’s made a huge success.

Truman Capps is pretty upset that Franklin Delano Bluth didn't make an appearance, though.