Sunday, May 26, 2013

#ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT is back

Okay, so I was one of those people who stayed up until midnight last night to see the premier of ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT on Netflix. How often does a season debut of a situation comedy qualify as an “event”? Quick! Name the new Ann Heche show that premiered last week! But the articles and interest on social networks for #ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT (everything has a hash tag these days) have been so huge I’ve even seen other writers acknowledged besides Mitch Hurwitz.

So I eagerly watched it. There were things I laughed at and loved and other things that I thought weighed the episode down. And then I read a review from a big AD aficionado and all the things I loved he had problems with and all the things I had trouble with he adored.

So instead of giving my review, I really want to hear what you thought. This is such an unusual situation because the expectations are soooo high. Especially among uber fans who have waited seven long years for this. I imagine most of the people who watched last night were these fans (especially in the east coast where it premiered at 3 AM – I wouldn’t watch the premier of my own show if that’s when it aired) so I ask – were you thrilled, disappointed, a little of both, or just relieved that Liza Minnelli didn’t get any scarier?

And for the more casual fan, curious viewer who just got sucked into the hype, or person who tried to download TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL but clicked the wrong box – what did you think? Did you say, “What is Kristen Wiig doing on the show in an avocado mask?” or were you laughing too hard to care? Would you keep watching? Did you keep watching?

How many episodes did you watch last night? Do you plan to binge and watch them all at one time or space them out? Do you plan to watch them in order? Were your expectations met? Does Portia look different to you? Are you in a foreign country and have no fucking clue what I’m talking about?  And finally -- what do you think of what other people think?

Thanks for chiming in. I look forward to your thoughts. And the new Ann Heche show is called SAVE IT or SAVE ME or SAVE… SOMETHING.  I dunno.  No hash tag necessary. 

45 comments:

Anonymous said...

I dunno, Ken. It's your thoughts I wanted to know, since it seems to me you've always damned that show with faint praise. Never mind the new season, what about the earlier ones?

Phillip B said...

Not a Netflix subscriber, and this will not cause me to sign up - so I'll wait for the movie!

Pat Quinn said...

I can understand why they did one character per episode. It was a unique opportunity to catch up on a show that is character driven as much as it is about running gags.

It does take away a little of the show's humor though. Michael Bluth is a straight man character who works great sandwiched in between the craziness of GOB and Tobias.

I assume that they put the shows in order to build the depth of the newer gags so that the more flamboyant characters can squeeze them for all they are worth.

I think that it makes sense that you can't look at these episodes as a regular season of television. This is new and I appreciate this 15 episode dump for what it is... it's not TV...it's not HBO ... It's a new way to format episodic entertainment.

While I have only watched three episodes so far and none of them as entertaining as the previous season's shows, I don't doubt that the experience of watching all 15 will be great.

Pat Reeder said...

Sorry I can't comment on it. I was among the millions who started watching this show, wasn't blown away by it, found Will Arnett annoying and unfunny, and tuned it out. If you like it, congratulations on getting it back. But I'm hacked that after seven long years of writers in publications like Entertainment Weekly working beside-the-point whines about "AD" being canceled into every inappropriate article, they were finally starting to move on with their lives, and now, it's back. So after they watch the 15 new episodes, they'll start whining again that there aren't more.

I don't constantly bring up how angry I still am about "My World and Welcome To It" being canceled, so how about giving the "AD" fetishism a rest?

Aaron Hazouri said...

I have to agree with Pat Reeder - I saw the first couple episodes of this show way back when, and I just wasn't interested. So I moved on. I can't understand the fanaticism it inspires. But I'm glad those fanatics have 15 new episodes over which to fanaticize!

Brian McClain said...

There's so much to talk about concerning the new episodes, and it's such a complex situation. Were the new episodes (I watched about four) everything I hoped they'd be? Honestly, no. But they were pretty darn good nonetheless.

I dismissed the character-based episodes since they were done out of necessity, but this also meant that my least favorite characters (specifically Lindsay) would have somewhat disappointing episodes right of the bat. Also, I know the age obviously can't be helped, but it was kind of a (5-mile-high) wall to get past for some characters, especially Portia de Rossi, who looked like so different that it took some getting used to. My biggest complaint, though, might owe to it being so late, or maybe I just couldn't keep up, but I felt like the jumping around in time they did is a little overwhelming. I remember specifically in the fourth episode that I realized about halfway through that I had no idea when in the story this was taking place, and I had the same feeling in the second episode as well. This does make for some genius crossovers, and I saw tons that haven't even paid off yet in the first four episodes, but you really have to pay attention to make it through coherently.

One more critical remark (minor spoilers for this): the second episode, which heavily featured George Sr. and Oscar, tried to confuse people with both of them on screen, but it was too easy to understand which was which. For a long-time fan of the show, it was way to easy to just figure out. Very minor complaint though.

I don't want to sound ungrateful, or that I didn't love what I've seen thus far! This was a once in a lifetime experience to see such a beloved show revived (in such an unconventional way, no less), and 15 episodes is certainly a generous amount. And I am loving many things about the new episodes. The celebrity cameos are literally everywhere, with nods to The Office and Workaholics, as well as including just random folks from around Hollywood, and I love to see that. Some jokes fall a little flat, but many made me laugh out loud, probably waking up the whole house.

Overall, does it have its problems? Of course. Is it everything I had hoped it would be? Not completely. But do I love it anyways? Absolutely. We're all incredibly lucky to be watching new Arrested Development again in the first place, and despite some shortcomings (similar to Season Four of Community), it's still worth tuning in for and loving all the same.

Nelly Wilson said...

Found it hard to watch Amanda De Rogers without expecting Ellen DeGeneres to appear and say "this is my wife Portia."

Covarr said...

I'm only two episodes in, but here's my thoughts so far. Ron Howard sounds like he has a cold, the plot jumps around WAY too much, the episodes taking place at the same time and individual character focuses seriously hampers pacing and hinders a lot of the dynamics that made the show so great before, Michael has been nothing but out of character so far, the story is so convoluted that simply explaining it means there's not enough room left for jokes, there's way too much narration and not enough dialogue...

But most of all, it lacks balance. When they focus on a single character for an entire half hour (not the 22 minutes of standard broadcast), the audience basically gets to see a single joke stretched out. The show is as chaotic as ever, but all of that chaos is tied to flashbacks and seemingly-random storytelling, rather than the over-the-top but tightly interwoven plot threads of the previous seasons.

All in all, I feel like AD works best as an ensemble show, the way it was originally designed. This new season, though still watchable, does not really resemble the Arrested Development I know and love at all. I can definitely respect that they wanted to try something new, but this sort of experimentation doesn't really suit the show. In spite of my disappointment, I will continue watching, and I really do hope it gets another season so that they can put everyone together again and do it right.

Johnny Walker said...

Ah! I can't wait to watch them. Bizarrely in the UK there's no news of Arrested Development on the Netflix website -- but it IS there. I just signed up for my free trial and will report my thoughts back when I can.

Given how this season is structured, I do wonder if judgement has to be reserved until you've seen all of them. (No idea, just a guess.)

I hope it's a success, not just for the sake of us fans, but because it could open the door to a whole new model if it is.

Jane said...

I signed up for Netflix yesterday, specifically so I could watch this show.

I binge-watched the entire season starting at midnight. (I live in CA) Now I'm getting ready to go to a party someone is having to do it all over again. (But come on, how could I have waited for the party?)

Throughout the night, I checked some tweets and blogs so I could feel the joy and enthusiasm of watching it with some hardcore fans.

The show was wonderful! I thought everything was woven together so well, with great reveals throughout.

It's the response that I was underwhelmed with. So many people were talking about Portia's face. We've all aged 7 years. Yet, I didn't hear really anyone talking about the men on the show. I just think that speaks to how we generally treat women.

(And I believe that had she naturally aged 7 years without any cosmetic enhancements, we'd be hearing the same amount of talk about how "old" she's gotten.)

So, that was disappointing. It was also disappointing how quick people seemed to be to complain about things. Critiquing is one thing. But can't we just be a little happy and thankful that this show actually came back? Honestly, it was so well written! I'm sure there are problems (or at least what one perceives to be problems) with it, as there are with everything. But, I wish the internet would've focused more on the positive.

I loved it, and can't wait to go watch it again!

Paul Duca said...

I have a feeling the people who are watching Anne Heche's SAVE ME...are the ones who can accept the premise that her character, after a near-death experience, had decided she' a faith healer. Likely those are the ones who cheered when she left Ellen Degeneres and married the first man that came down the pike.

lucifervandross said...

Central time of course got it at 2:01 so the plan was to stay up and watch the first two. Which we did at my girlfriend's sister's house and then drove home. I remember enjoying it, but right now (having only been awake for about 15 minutes) I think I am still a little foggy to pick out certain things. Plan to watch the rest here in a bit. Moving slower than i'd like, but i had been doing long work days with minimal amounts of sleep leading into yesterday's 22 hour day (including an 8 hour work shift at 7 am and I am not a morning person). My honest opinion is that seeing as 12 is not that late and from 12-3 a person could have watched half of the series, where as someone on the west coast would have had to have stayed up from 3-6 to do the same, the west coast arguably got it first no matter what, so they should have done 12 ET, who cares if east coasters got it at 9pm. I would have gladly sacrificed that to have gotten it at 11 last night.

But i am a super fan, there was a point in time where i was just watching the dvds on a constant loop (i'd say 2005-2007) and not watching much else. So I will probably see this so many times that the fogginess of last night will probably be replaced with vivid memorization. Only time will tell though.

Justin T. said...

Did anyone else notice the "Season Five Trailer" hidden on Netflix's AD page? That made me smile almost as much as the new episodes.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

Seriously, what's with putting a # in front of everything these days? What's the purpose of that?

Great Big Radio Guy said...

#socialmedia. Also, we finally have a name for the # symbol instead of "little tic tac toe thingie."

Mac said...

I haven't seen it, I'm going to visit a friend with netflix next weekend and binge on it - it's very interesting to get an overview of opinions here, and if you want to expand further on what you think of it Ken, I'm sure we'd all be interested in your pro-comedy writer's take.

I want it to be amazing so badly. World peace and an end to mankind's suffering can wait; right now AD blowing me away like the original series is my dearest wish.

Anonymous said...

I watched the first episode at midnight. I thought it was just OK. My GF was not in a good mood afterward. We will watch the rest hoping for it to pick-up steam. Essentially, not very funny and some of the subplots dragged on too long. The tumbleweed scene was the best out of them all. I guess I need to lower my low expectations going in.

Covarr said...

Okay, to follow up to my previous comment, six episodes in now, and the show has definitely picked up. More jokes, more interaction between characters... Now that most of the necessary exposition is out of the way, it's getting a lot better.

Matt Neffer, Boy Spotwelder said...

Watched the premiere a few minutes after midnight last night. Loved it; like seeing an old friend. Will likely binge on 3 or 4 this evening but don't want to watch them too fast.

Cap'n Bob said...

Never watched it and don't much care, but I was intrigued by the idea of 15 episodes. It sounds like the format of the old cliff-hanger serials the theaters showed on Saturday matinees.

Terry said...

I liked Arrested Development when it was on TV,and I watched it weekly. But I never liked it enough to get the DVDs, so I'm not getting netflix just for this. There was a show called "Kitchen Confidential" that came on after AD that I liked so much better. I think Fox only ran 4 episodes of Kitchen Confidential, but I found the full season on DVD and watch those shows often.

XJill said...

I'm was a big fan of the show but no so much that I ever watched it after it aired or bought DVDs or anything so I was never a cult follower who knows every line. I'm going to wait a few weeks until Game of Thrones is over to get my free 1 month netflix trial and watch them. I'm still trying to catch up on my season finales on my DVR and Doctor Who On Demand. Once I'm all caught up on "regular" tv I'll do Netflix. Everyone tells me I'll love House of Cads as well.

Too Late said...

I'm planning to see an episode a day, so I've only seen one so far. For me, AD is the kind of show that needs a bit of time to set in.

I found some of Flight of the Phoenix (S4E1) a bit clunky in terms of pacing and story, but mostly I'm just happy to see some new Arrested Development. As I see more episodes, I expect that things will fit together better. As some commenters have mentioned, it might be best to look at the overall season rather than individual episodes.

I got a kick out of Michael's obtuseness about Maeby and her role in George Michael's life.

Johnny Walker said...

As I suspected, like the original series, it seems that it gets more rewarding the more you watch.

On the flipside, the story feels more convoluted than ever (maybe it's because I'm really tired, but my brain hurt after a while), and 40 mins for the first episode may have been a mistake.

The cameos have been pretty amazing, but they're a bit distracting at times (Seth Rogen).

(One random note: It's a bit weird that Netflix skips to the next episode before the credits have even finished. Seeing how it's their own show, I'm surprised there isn't some contractual agreement ensuring everyone gets a proper credit.)

Anyhow, enjoying being back with those characters and in that world again, and looking forward to watching it unfold.

Geoff G said...

Reserving judgment until I've seen more. Some scenes in the first episode seemed like they were constructed around people's availability. I wonder if that'd be the case if Netflix threw a little more money at it. Not necessarily to get everyone in the room at the same time but at least to ensure that the edited end product seems more seamless.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

@Great Big Radio Guy Yeah, it's called a "pound sign".

Brian said...

I started over at the beginning to get the "feel" of the series again. Can't wait to get to the new episodes. I'm glad Netflix is shaking things up a bit in the entertainment business.

BigTed said...

I love it. I watched 10 episodes in a row, and not only were they funny on their own, but they're bound together like a jigsaw puzzle of continuing jokes and plot lines.

No, it's not the greatest comedy ever -- it isn't, say, 'The Simpsons' seasons 3-8 -- but it's every bit as good as the original episodes. If you didn't like those, you won't like these, but if you did you certainly won't be disappointed.

Add in the fact that you're getting an extra 8 hours or so of commercial-free comedy included in your monthly Netflix subscription, and it's the entertainment bargain of the year.

Howard Ron Ron ta do Ron Ron said...

Couldn't make it thru the 1st episode. Others are saying it gets better. I say, could it get any worse? I consider myself an easy laugher, but I don't think I chuckled once in the 15 or 20 min. I watched. Maybe this will grow on you but I'm guessing you had to be hooked on the orig. series to appreciate this iteration. Just not for me.

An (is my actual name) said...

I'm a fan of AD:TOS. I've watched every episode more times than I care to admit, and have just started watching S4. So far, I've seen the first two episodes.

The first was a bit of a slog, no doubt due to all the exposition that was required, but I think also due to its focus on the 3 most sane characters of the bunch. Michael, George Michael and Maeby are the "straight men" IMO, and without the insane part of the family in play, the episode was bound to fall flat. Making Michael the most neurotic of the group was a left turn, and the character doesn't work well in that context. The dialogue was clunky around the dorm situation, and the vote discussion went on far too long. Also, I could have done without the Wiig/Rogan cameos, tbh.

The second episode definitely picked up a bit, though it's still not up to speed with TOS. The character focus shift was more than welcome, and it felt like they were approaching their groove. Again, the cameos don't work for me. I want to spend more time with the actors I enjoyed the first time around, and with their chemistry as a group. The absence of Lindsey and Tobias is glaring at this point, and I need waaaayy more Lucille and Buster.

Two other random observations: It seems like the audio is a bit muddy. It's sometimes hard to differentiate the narration from the dialogue. Also, the lighting seems kinda flat. A lot of shadows and cold spots that caught my eye. Neither one of those things is a show breaker though.

In short, yeah, slow start, but AD has earned some patience from me. I'll watch a few more tonight and hope for more laughs. No matter what, I'll be watching the whole season, 'cause I'm loyal like that.

in response to Howard Ron Ron ta do Ron Ron: said...

You didn't laugh ONCE in the first 20 minutes? I laughed in the first minute.

*spoiler alert* You didn't laugh at the first appearance of Kristen Wiig and Seth Rogen? That was perfect casting, and a wonderful way to start the show.

Unknown said...

It is funny how I agree about some things and disagree about others.

I binge watched. How could I not? And the fun in Arrested has always been the second and third viewings.

What I appreciated was what Pat Quinn said - this was a 15 episode dump that can't be considered TV. It's very different even from something like House of Cards. The entire construction of the narrative means that the individual episodes don't necessarily have a strong through-line or A-story, and I think that might hurt the season as a whole.

But what it sacrifices in individual narrative it makes up with the jigsaw puzzle of the event interactions. Seeing the key events from multiple perspectives made the season unique to me. By the time I got to the later episodes, seeing how things interwove, I just wanted to finish to go back and rewatch the first episodes.

Is it my favorite thing ever? Maybe not. But it might be the first episodic content released for the web that feels like it was made for the internet and not for TV.

DapperDanbo said...

My wife and I watched the first three episodes at 3 AM EST, slept a few hours, then watched the other 12 non-stop. I would say that going into it, I felt like my expectations were lower rather than higher. It'd been seven years since the gang was together, everyone's careers have taken off and changed them probably, the show's being welcomed back instead of shooed away, etc. There were plenty of reasons why it wouldn't be the same. I tried watching Mitch Hurwitz's other big shows since AD, "Sit Down, Shut Up" and "Running Wilde" and wasn't really impressed. At worst, I thought maybe AD would be like those shows: sorta funny, but nothing like the first three seasons.

Fortunately, I was wrong. The format took some getting used to, but by the time we got to Maeby's and Buster's episodes, I felt like we were watching old AD. The pace, the timing, the performances, the gags, the writing...it all felt normal. I'm already starting to dig some of the new jokes. Others might think Anustart is a desperate attempt to repeat Analrapist, but I still loved it. "We've got us an anus tart!" Also, I loved the cuisine of choice in the model home: parmesan cheese with mustard on top.

My favorite episodes were probably the two Tobias ones, Buster's, Gob's, and possibly Maeby's. I felt like Will Arnett and Michael Cera's scenes together were really fun, especially at the Gothic Assh--Castle.

Seems like they're pretty willing to do more since they barely wrapped anything up by the end, but I don't want a movie or another season like this. Maybe if Mitch & Ron went back to one season of a regular, staggered format and then did a movie.

As an aspiring writer, this show is like a master's course in comedy writing. Ken, would you say it's probably easier to produce AD than it looks or is it actually worse?

Pamela Atherton said...

I agree with Covarr and Johnny Walker. I was extremely disappointed with the first 4 episodes. It was slow, I missed the ensemble dynamics, they didn't have the jump cutting that infused energy.

But as the episodes built up, everything fell into place in the way that made Arrested Development so funny in the first place. Throwaway remarks now have meaning.

I do feel the show suffered from not being as ensemble. It's like the cast of FRIENDS - none of them has had as big of a success on their own as they had in FRIENDS because we needed all the character dynamics.

On the whole, I love the new way of watching. I am personally a binge-watcher. This suited me just fine. Plus, I would have missed jokes if I had had to wait.

Something else that I really enjoyed were all the inside jokes. The names of Hurwitz's shows thrown in as dialogue. And imagine how hard the writers had to work to get Liza Minnelli's STERILE CUCKOO in there!

On the whole, it wasn't as funny as the original series... but I still felt it had some very funny moments.

Sarah said...

It took until episode 4 for it to really get going. I think I am so used to 21 minutes of show that 30 minutes felt a little long. The choice to focus on one character per episode was interesting, but I would have liked to see more of the whole family together. Overall, I enjoyed it. Kristen Wiig as young Lucille was perfect.

Erika said...

I'm glad to see that I wasn't the only one thrown off by each episode focusing on one character. I like what I've seen thus far, but I miss the old way of going back-and-forth between characters stories that eventually intertwine. Also, Michael, George Sr., and Lindsay aren't my favorite characters. I'm five episodes in and FINALLY got to see Tobias. Tobias, GOB, George Michael, and Lucille were always had the most interesting and hilarious storylines in the series to me. I'm not looking forward to Buster's episode.

Matthew Taticek said...

I liked the format of one character per episode. I think it was the best way to deal with the time passing between the season 3 finale and this premier. I think in following seasons they will revert back to the usual format from seasons 1-3.

The only criticism I really had for it was the long run times on some of the episodes. Dealing with those 21-24 minute episode time constraints forces writing and jokes to be much tighter. The long beat gags with George Michael delaying his reaction and Ron Howard narrating over it for example. When I'd see this gag on a normal televised show, it would land better for me because I know that the show has time constraints and this is what they choose to do with it. In the case of Netflix, if they want to make a gag take 2 minutes to set up, they can just add 2 minutes to the show.

If you write a script for regular TV and it runs long, you are going to go back and tighten it up. Here no such problem.

chuckcd said...

Don't have Netflix.

Mike Carlin said...

I am really enjoying Netflix's AD...

Not always fall-down funny, but they've gone waaaaay out of their way to take advantage of Netflix's format and delivery system.

Rather than writing an episode a week they've clearly written all 15 episodes before starting to film... and also just KNOWING how many episodes they had to play with (without the constant threat of being cancelled) has really freed them to INVENT A FORMAT.

I'm dazzled by what they have created here as a whole... something never before attempted by my estimation!

Yay, Arrested Development!

Johnny Walker said...

An said: "The first was a bit of a slog, no doubt due to all the exposition that was required, but I think also due to its focus on the 3 most sane characters of the bunch. Michael, George Michael and Maeby are the "straight men" IMO, and without the insane part of the family in play, the episode was bound to fall flat. Making Michael the most neurotic of the group was a left turn, and the character doesn't work well in that context. The dialogue was clunky around the dorm situation, and the vote discussion went on far too long. Also, I could have done without the Wiig/Rogan cameos, tbh."

I completely agree with this! That's exactly what was wrong with the first episode.

Thankfully, watching more pays off, and (as others have pointed out) it's attempting something very different from traditional TV -- making specific use of Netflix's differences over TV. I kinda like it.

Johnny Walker said...

@chuckcd - You can get a month's free trial for Netflix. That's what I did.

Joseph Dickerson said...

Like the guy in the $3,000 suit is going to tell you what he thought about the new Arrested Development season? COME ON!

I binge watched it and was up until 3PM EST.

I wanted to stop but then the first GOB episode... it was magnificent. After that, I had to watch the rest.

It was a slow start, but by golly, once it hit first gear it just WORKED. I really appreciated the call-backs to some of the classic jokes, but I was extremely happy it wasn't a "greatest hits" collection. Lots of new jokes, ideas, and off-the-wall concepts that were So. Damn. Good.

Is it perfect? Nope, but season 3 wasn't ever. It was like reading a comedy novel... some of the parts were labored, some were astonishingly funny. The whole package? Brilliant. Inspired. It made me happy.

And isn't that the point of comedy? To make people happy?

I know lots of people didn't like it, and I expected a backlash because of the hype and (unrealistic) expectations. But these episodes will age like fine wine, and the criticism will fade. I can see people revisiting and discovering the show because of these new episodes, and that is a good thing. For everyone.

Jason said...

A bit late to the party but..

It wasn't quite the same humor as the original show. It wasn't just "season 4", it was more like an 8-hour AD movie. Like the original series, you have to get a couple of episodes in before the jokes start really landing (largely with references to earlier episodes)

I'm fine with that, and I enjoyed it, right up until it ended and I was wondering where the last two episodes were that would tie up the remaining loose ends.


Argh!!

Bradley said...

Seasons 1 and 2 of AR are among the funniest seasons of any TV show, ever, but then season 3 came along and overstuffed the episodes with gags and guest stars, bogging down the comedy with confusing details that didn't even go anywhere. I was hoping the new season would be a return to what they executed so perfectly in 1 & 2, but unfortunately they went the other route and jammed a decade's worth of ideas into 15 schizophrenic episodes.

I keep hoping the real joke is that we're supposed to rip the new season and edit it ourselves. Perhaps there's a perfect show in there somewhere for hardcore fans willing to edit the single character episodes into one coherent whole. A sort of do-it-yourself model. Now that would be genius...

As it stands, it's an occasionally funny, always muddled, choose-your-own-adventure sitcom.

Jennifer Aguiar said...

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