Can Netflix Make ‘Arrested Development’ Funny This Time?

source: Netflix
source: Netflix

Fans of the cult comedy Arrested Development met Netflix’s resurrection of the series last year with a decidedly mixed reaction, but the streaming service is taking another crack at it by picking up the show for an unexpected fifth season. Will Arnett confirmed to Jimmy Fallon in an appearance on The Tonight Show that the cult favorite Arrested Development is coming back to Netflix for another season, a surprising announcement since the fourth season on the streaming service was thought to be show’s last hoorah.

“It is gonna happen. We don’t know when but it is gonna happen,” Arnett said. That confirmation comes after Netflix’s Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos told USA Today that he was “positive” another season of the show is in the future, “it’s just a matter of when.”

The kooky comedy about the dysfunctional, formerly affluent Bluth family ran on Fox for three seasons and received raves from critics before it was cancelled due to poor ratings. The series starred Jeffrey Tambor as the manipulative Bluth patriarch; Jason Bateman as the industrious young son looking to turn the family company around and away from corruption; Portia de Rossi as the materialistic and spoiled sister; Will Arnett as the idiot magician brother; Jessica Walter as the bitchy and hypocritical alcoholic mother; Tony Hale as the young, socially inept brother who is crippled by anxiety from over-mothering; and a very young Michael Cera as the idealistic and innocent grandson who is rendered a nervous wreck by his family’s constant immoral behavior.

The show was initially praised for unique writing from Mitchell Hurwitz and the hilarious dynamic created between the cast members. The first season has an 89 score on Metacritic, indicating nearly universal acclaim from critics, who said things like: “I don’t know about you, but I’m not used to laughing out loud alone in front of the TV. Honestly, I was startled.”

The fourth season premiered on Netflix seven years after the third season ended, and the way the show was reinterpreted for the streaming service wasn’t very well-received by some fans. One of the biggest criticisms of season four was that the members of the Bluth family weren’t together enough to provide the ensemble comedic dynamic that made the original show so great. The fourth season was structured so that each episode focused on a different character in the family, in part because the actors couldn’t arrange their schedules in order to have enough time to shoot the whole season together.

“You need to have watched [the previous three seasons] to comprehend Season 4 — to understand much of its humor or to make sense of its convoluted plot — but if you truly loved them, it’s hard to imagine being anything but disappointed with this new rendition,” said a New York Times review of season four, which criticized the show’s creators for getting too caught up in the binge-watching model, creating elaborate time jumps and meta-references, and not just delivering funny jokes. Overall the fourth season didn’t do as well with critics, getting a mixed 71 rating on Metacritic.

Sarandos said that this issue would be resolved before they started making the fifth season of the show, saying that it was “a fair criticism” of season four “that the cast didn’t appear on screen often enough together.” If Netflix could get all the actors in the same room for the time it takes to make a full season of the show, Arrested Development could reach its Fox-level highs again or even surpass them by not having the restrictions inherent in working on network television.

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