arrested development season 5 review

Now the story of a once-hilarious show that was cancelled by Fox, only to be saved by Netflix and become incredibly disappointing in the process. It’s Arrested Development. And it’s back for season 5.

arrested development season 5

Arrested Development Is Back! Is The New Season Any Good?

Arrested Development returns for season 5 on Netflix, and it’s becoming increasingly clear that everyone involved with bringing the show back from the dead has made a huge mistake. Netflix’s season 4 was a strange experiment – the busy schedules of the ensemble cast made a traditional season of the show impossible. As a result, every character was given their own specific episode to shine. While this may have seemed like a good idea in theory, it was anything but. The magic of watching these players act off each other was gone, and the show suffered because of it.

In the lead-up to season 5, word had heard that Arrested Development would get back to basics, and have the cast interacting with each other far more than they had in season 4. The good news: season 5 does have a lot more moments of the main cast together again. The bad news: it’s still not working.

There’s a slight irony to the fact that a show called Arrested Development just can’t seem to grow anymore, but that’s where we are with the series. What once seemed hysterical and innovative now seems stale. There’s a malaise that’s settled into the show, and the (very talented) cast all seem genuinely bored with their parts. Only Ron Howard, as the dependably funny narrator, sounds like he’s having a good time. (In fact, Howard is probably the only consistently-funny presence on the show now. One hilarious moment involves a scene that seems to be going on way too long, only to have Howard cheerfully pipe-in: “Why are we still watching this scene?”)

arrested development netflix

What’s Arrested Development Season 5 About?

Arrested Development season 5 picks up immediately after the end the Arrested Development season 4. And when I say “immediately”, I mean immediately. The first few seconds of this season are the last few seconds of the previous. Which means that while we may be living in the hell-year 2018, the Bluths are still stuck in 2015.

Lucille Austero, aka Lucille 2 (Liza Minnelli), has gone missing, and no one is letting on to where she is. Has she been murdered? Was one of the members of the Bluth clan involved? This “mystery” becomes a running joke of the season, with Michael Bluth – who used to be the only sane member of the family but now seems to be just as crazy as everyone else – constantly asking characters where Lucille 2 is, only to have other characters look around with shifty eyes and say, “No one knows…”

Meanwhile, Michael is still dealing with the fall-out of having dated the same woman as his son, George Michael. In the midst of all this, Michael’s sister Lindsay decides to run for office, and the Bluths decide to give themselves an award. If none of that sounds solid enough to make up an actual storyline, that’s because it isn’t. Because the real answer to the question, “What is Arrested Development season 5 about?” is “Nothing.” And I don’t mean in the intentionally-meta way Seinfeld was about nothing. I mean the series is spinning its wheels, unable to zero in on what it wants to be anymore.

Since this season is set in 2015, the beginning of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign keeps playing out in the background. There is, of course, a way to turn this into comedy – Trump and his inept family of crooks, idiots and con artists could easily be a mirror to the Bluth family. But this season never really gets to that point – it instead just throws some archival footage of Trump ranting and raving on TV in the background, and assumes that’ll be enough. It’s not.

arrested development tambor

Is Jeffrey Tambor Back?

Yes he is. Tambor was fired from his award-winning role on Transparent after being accused of sexual harassment by his Transparent co-stars Van Barnes and Trace Lysette. Tambor has gone on record saying he was “mean” and “difficult” on the set of the show, but denied the sexual harassment claims. An internal review at Amazon thought otherwise.

In the wake of all this, many wondered if Tambor would be cut from Arrested Development – a show he technically plays two characters on: Bluth patriarch George Sr., and George Sr.’s brother Oscar. Arrested Development decided to stick with Tambor. In the show’s defense, the bulk of Tambor’s scenes were shot before the allegations against him surfaced. But that will likely provide little to no comfort to anyone who feels he shouldn’t be part of this series after such allegations.

Arrested Development creator Mitch Hurwitz went on record with Entertainment Weekly to defend Tambor:

“He acknowledges that Tambor — with whom he’s worked for 20 years and whom he considers a friend — can be “difficult” and “a grump,” but says that “Jeffrey has never evinced that kind of behavior.” Emphatically stating that “we all stand with victims of sexual abuse…”

No matter what you may think of the allegations against Tambor, it’s still hard to reconcile his appearance here. To be clear: I think Tambor is an excellent actor and a gifted comedic performer, but every time he appears on screen, there’s a now-unpleasant air that’s hard to shake. And when the show attempts to make jokes about his work on Transparent – at one point, George dons a woman’s wig, only to have narrator Ron Howard refer to him as “Cis-male George Sr.” and add, “George Sr. realized his impersonation of a woman wasn’t going to win him any awards…” – it never really sits right.

bluths

What’s Up With The Bluth Family This Season?

Let’s break it down character by character.

Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman) – As always, Michael is tired of his family and their lying, manipulative ways. And as always, he keeps coming back to them. Michael is also dealing with the fall-out of dating Rebel Alley, Ron Howard’s illegitimate daughter played by Isla Fisher. As you’ll recall, Michael’s son George Michael was also dating Rebel Alley, and when Michael finally confessed this, George Michael punched him in the face. Michael also spends a good chunk of this season trying to figure out what happened to Lucille 2.

George Michael (Michael Cera) – George Michael is also trying to come to terms with the Rebel Alley situation. But more than that, he’s also feeling very guilty about punching his father in the face, and keeps trying to find the right moment to apologize (with disastrous results). George Michael also continues to struggle with his feelings for his cousin Maeby.

Maeby (Alia Shawkat) – Shawkat has grown into the best performer on the show at this point. Unfortunately, the show doesn’t have much for her to do, despite throwing multiple plotlines at the character. Maeby is both running her mother’s political campaign and also posing as an elderly person to take up residence in a senior living center. She’s also trying to lay low after discovering she accidentally had an affair with a 17-year-old last season.

Lindsay (Portia de Rossi) – Lindsay, Maeby’s mother and Michael’s sister, is running for office. And that’s it. In the five episodes made available to press before the new season’s debut, Lindsay just sort of drifts around in the background, waiting for more scenes.

Tobias (David Cross) – Lindsay’s soon-to-be-ex-husband starts the season as the therapist to Lindsay and Michael’s mother Lucille. Beyond that, Tobias is just struggling to stay a part of the Bluth family – while others may use an impending divorce to distance themselves from such a crazy group, Tobias has nowhere else to go.

Lucille (Jessica Walter) – After seeing a clip of Donald Trump on television, Lucille gets it in her head to make Lindsay run for office. She also tries – sort of – to be a bit nicer to her family, but that doesn’t last long. Like most other characters, Lucille doesn’t have a lot to do here, but Walter is so damn good that it almost doesn’t matter.

George Sr. (Jeffrey Tambor) – After learning of his incredibly low testosterone levels, George Sr. desperately wants to prove he’s still a strong, virulent male. As you can imagine, he doesn’t do a very good job of this.

G.O.B. (Will Arnett) – Gay panic has set-in for Michael’s brother G.O.B. after G.O.B. had a season 4 affair with fellow-magician Tony Wonder (Ben Stiller).

Buster (Tony Hale) – Buster is in jail. You’ll have to watch the show to find out why!

Arrested Development Season 5 Maeby

Should You Watch Arrested Development Season 5?

No, you shouldn’t. I’m sure if you’re a fan of the show you will, though – and I won’t blame you. In its original incarnation, Arrested Development was one of the funniest, smartest comedies on TV, and the cast was dynamite. The prospect of spending more time in this world, with these characters, will likely be too hard to pass up for many viewers.

But the sad truth is, this show has run its course. When Netflix saved Arrested Development from cancellation, it felt like a victory. But now that we have two seasons of the show on Netflix, it’s clear that maybe – just maybe – Arrested Development should’ve stayed cancelled. The magic is gone, the cast seems bored and tired, and we’re all left wondering why this is even still going on.

My advice: ignore the new season and just re-watch the original run of the show. And then immediately stop when season 3 ends.

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