Arrested Development suffers its namesake

Ryan Carrick

The Cast and creator of Arrested Development

It was announced that one of the most beloved sitcoms of the mid-2000s, Arrested Development, will not see the sixth season.

But does anyone care?

The show has returned from the dead twice now: in 2013, Netflix renewed it for a fourth season and for a fifth season in 2018. Perhaps, now it should stay dead.

With the first half of season five (released in May 2018, the second half being released in March 2019) dropping with a thud, and the second half making an equally underwhelming impact, why flog the dead horse that is Arrested Development?

Mitchell Hurwitz created the show, about a dysfunctional family, called the Bluths, that struggles to come together to recover from a financial scandal. It is a scathing satire of upper-class privilege, portraying the Bluth family as arrogant, self-absorbed and incompetent.

It became a cult favourite and critic’s darling due to its extremely clever call-backs, puns, double entendres and hundreds of laugh-out-loud moments. These, combined with intelligently inter-winding subplots, make for an incredibly special piece of entertainment.

Unfortunately, the series has not been the same since the original three seasons.

Arrested Development was given new life by Netflix in 2013 with an ambitious and experimental fourth season that was met with mixed reviews. The non-linear way in which the story was told during this season did not sit well with fans. A recut version was produced and put onto the streaming service in an attempt to return to the more familiar format.

A controversial press tour for season 5 involved a New York Times sit-down in which Jessica Walter, who plays the matriarchal Lucille Bluth, talked about how Jeffrey Tambor, who plays the father George Bluth Snr., had verbally harassed her on set. This came months after Tambor was accused of sexual harassment while working on Transparent.

Some, but not all, of Tambor’s castmates defended him and he maintained his role on the show. However, it is very possible that the cast would not be too keen on the idea of reconvening for another season as a result of this controversy.

The first two seasons were certainly the peak of Arrested Development and it has been a slippery slope down to inadequacy since. It is a surprise that a fifth season was even made, due to the declining ratings since the first season, and the declining critical acclaim since the second.

Season 4 and 5 seem to be a desperate attempt at clambering back to the glory days. But the show isn’t the revolutionary comedy it was when it first aired on Fox in 2003.

The jokes are not as quick. Seldom during the final two seasons does a fan think ‘this takes me back to the Arrested Development of old’.

The dynamic between the manic and ridiculous characters that we once loved so much is fairly non-existent (mostly due to the fact that characters rarely share scenes together as a result of actor scheduling conflicts). The show has always used call-backs and has focused on being self-referential, but now it seems forced, boring and almost solipsistic.

In retrospect, it would be no surprise if Hurowitz thinks, as his characters on many occasions, that he has made a huge mistake.

The Bluths might well be done for, but after the calamity that is season 5, will anybody miss them?

Ryan Carrick

Image Credit: Netflix