Like anyone who was a fan of the first three seasons, I was excited but also unsure about whether season four could live up to the great name Arrested Development has built up over the last ten years. This would theoretically be even harder to match, with the innovative concept of the mini-series meaning that each episode was based around one character but events collide between characters and so there is lots of tying up loose ends and crossing over as the season goes on; this is obviously completely different to the original three seasons which were more chronological between the whole family with flashbacks and running jokes/foreshadowing providing the extra touch. Re-creating a series seven years after it was cancelled is always going to be tough- as it must have been with the various stars’ schedules and some even having to film scenes separately from their co-stars- but although reviews currently seem mixed, for me the gamble has very much paid off. In standard Arrested Development style, there are some rather convoluted plot points that vary in their success, but even the less than perfect ones still provide plenty of laughs along the way. The Mexico/USA wall idea got a bit confused, but the characters’ simultaneous confusion means that those sections aren’t a complete write off- especially with the confused instructions between Lucille, GOB and George/Oscar. The George/Oscar theme gets good, especially when George has no testosterone left and Oscar gets quite “amorous”.
Equally, my other least favourite parts included Lindsay and Tobias’ flings with Marky Bark and DeBrie; although both had their moments, especially Tobias with the return of his long-awaited accidental euphemisms and heavy handed speech, Marky Bark in particular got old quite quickly. The ostrich was an absolute delight though (the moment when it ran straight into Jason Bateman was akin in brilliance to his facial expression when he fell off his chair in the original series).
It was fun seeing how George Michael and Maeby had grown out of their teenage years, especially as they often weren’t given as much to work with plot-wise as the adults in the original series, but now they get their own episodes just like everyone else (with George Michael even finishing the season). It was interesting how the Michael/George Michael father-son dynamic had developed into more of a Michael/GOB type brotherly rivalry, and since those were always some of the best and funniest moments this only adds to the awesomeness.
Speaking of GOB….. he is still incredible! He’s the only character whose episodes/plots/jokes are always hit, never miss (every single actor is on top form, it’s just some of the material isn’t quite perfect). GOB was the only one whose episodes/welcome appearances throughout made me regularly laugh out loud; I find this a fairly good judge, as I often laugh internally and just go along enjoying something so it takes really good stuff to get a big external laugh off me. Will Arnett is constantly scene stealing and the Sound of Silence music cue is ingenious. His relationship with Ann provides ample jokes (as does her interaction with Tony Wonder when his example of forgetting her name is the best yet) and his recurring lines such as the one we were all waiting for, “I’ve made a huge mistake”, are consistently brilliant. In fact, this is the case with every gag brought back from the original series: a stand out for me has to be the sad walk accompanied by the Charlie Brown music, first exhibited by Michael leaving George Michael’s dorm room. The clever thing about this season is that it successfully balances the callbacks to what came before that fans were dying for with always moving forward with each character and using a different story structure. This means that the series is quite individual and able to stand alone with its longer episodes (although you do really need to know what happened at the end of season 3 for a lot of it to make sense initially).
The season’s guest stars are also as eclectic and brilliant as ever, with Ben Stiller and Isla Fisher both massive movie stars who are around for quite a lot of it and who work wonderfully with GOB and Michael/George Michael respectively. Mae Whitman returning as Ann is also pitch perfect once again, with the biggest “her?” joke ever, and other highlights (old and new) include Alan Tudyk, Andy Richter (he just keeps popping up and it’s wonderful) and Kristen Wiig and Seth Rogen as young Lucille and George.
Other than the occasional plot confusion, my only real problem with the season is its mixing: the music is often much too loud for the dialogue and it sometimes overlaps where it probably shouldn’t. I never thought that it would be because of Lucille 2 that I’d be left on a cliffhanger and wanting more, but somehow that’s what this whole thing led up to! Now we just have to hope that the previously promised movie (or even the rumoured extra season) really does come to light- and soon.