Arrested Development Season 4 is just OK; maybe it will get better, but maybe not

June 15, 2013.  My phone blinks as a new email arrives in my inbox.

The Subject?

“You wrong.”

The content?

“Arrested dev season 4 rocks.  Your review is wrong.  Ron Howard is funny and perfect in the show.  It is fantastic.”


Andrew T. Cohen, MD, FACS
Chief, Division of Plastic Surgery Cedars Sinai Medical Center

BOOM.  The gauntlet is thrown.  The smack down begins.

Now, I have to hand it to Dr. Cohen.  He emailed me directly.  And he used his real name in response to my latest blog post, “Arrested Development Season 4 is not clever; it’s bad TV.” Unlike “Gene Parmesean,” “Steve Holt,” and “P. Daddy,” who disguised their real names under the facades of AD characters.  I even heard from “Bob Loblaw,” who said, “I’m sorry to say this, but you are a ninny.”

arrested-developmentSay what?  A “ninny?”

Ninny.  /ˈninē/
A foolish person.
nincompoop – simpleton – fool – nitwit – booby – noddy – laughably silly

Where are we?  England?  Is this 1593?  Will Queen Elizabeth I be here?

Never have I ever been called a ninny.

But I appreciated the honesty.  The frankness in every comment that was written to me in novel form, debating (fighting?) my review and defending the show.  But there was something about Dr. Cohen emailing my inbox directly with a subject that had nothing less than a Z Snap in tone and signing it with his actual name, email, website, and phone number that told me: Andrew Cohen, Arrested Development Connoisseur and Plastic Surgeon Extraordinaire, means business.  I respect that.

Now, as I promised in several of my comment responses – I’m looking at you “Vincent,” “Doug,” and “drayfish” – I plan to rewatch the season.  But as one of my colleagues at the Baltimore Post-Examiner put it, “I would hope when you watch season 4 again your opinion doesn’t change too much, just to keep the critics perplexed!”  And he’s right.  I can’t promise my opinion will change dramatically, but I can promise to keep an open mind.

That said, as I sat on the back deck with a beer and some friends and told them the story of Andrew Cohen in my inbox and started mulling over some of the other comments, I realized a few things. Mainly, what makes a story and storytelling “good.”

For one thing, a lot of my commentators said I needed to give the season a little more time.  Watch it again, but don’t binge and watch it all at once.  Just get past the first four or five episodes – that’s when it really starts to pick up.  But see, to me, that doesn’t constitute a good story.  A good story grips us from the beginning and keeps us hooked until the end.  It makes us think and gets us questioning and leaves us resolved, wondering about its message and its theme and how that applies to our own lives.  I’m not really interested in a story that doesn’t start until 2+ hours in.  If AD were a movie, the movie would be over by then.  And nothing would have happened.
Other commentators referred to interviews with AD creator, Mitchell Hurwitz, and said if I had read any of his interviews before the season was released, I would have known what to expect.  But an interview with the creator doesn’t have anything to do with the actual story.  It doesn’t make the story “good.”  If anything, I think an interview does the opposite.  A good story stands on its own, without having every nuance and plot twisted explained.  So, if I need to read an interview with Mitchell Hurwitz in order to understand and appreciate AD, Season 4, that tells me that Hurwitz has some “splaining” to do and that his story isn’t strong enough to stand alone.

Having said that, I realize watching Arrested Development is like marinating a piece of meat.  Our brains need time to soak up the rich jokes, phrases and callbacks, so I think the request to “not binge” is valid.  I did start watching the season again today …and it was OK.  But, then again, I haven’t had time to let it marinate.

So, thanks, Arresties (may I call you that?  You’ll be giving Trekkies a run for their money).  Your readership and your feedback are invaluable.  And thanks, Andrew Cohen, MD.  I’m impressed you have time outside of the OR to email me with such succinct sentences.  I hear you.  Don’t go away mad.  Don’t even go away.  I’m ready to have a conversation.

4 thoughts on “Arrested Development Season 4 is just OK; maybe it will get better, but maybe not

  • June 28, 2013 at 8:23 AM

    Hey Jana I’m a massive Arrested Development fan, but I can’t condone Bob Boblaw’s tone to you!

    What I will add is that AD 1-3 is, for me, the Shakespeare of TV – the comedy equivalent of The Wire.

    I felt on the fence about Season 4. The laugh didn’t come, the editing felt sloppy, everything was overexplained.

    But then, a few days ago, I randomly put on a few episodes as a re-watch, and you know? Guess what, it’s the same AD it’s ever been. Suddenly lines that fell flat before sprang into life – knowing the “ostrich squark” in Lindsay’s episode was actually Maybe being confronted by the beast for the first time, that made me laugh and laugh.

    I feel they harmed season 4 by making it “less funny” on watch 1 than previous episodes, which were always tight, logical and funny. But a re-watch fixes a lot (not all) of that. I can’t wait to keep dipping in and out of them and picking up more and more.

    Lastly – I do slightly feel that this was AD’s turn in the spotlight, and they didn’t take full adantage of it. With the cast split up, thy might have been better going for a Magnolia vibe over a Rashomon one.

    • Jana Stambaugh
      July 11, 2013 at 11:28 PM

      Thanks for your response, Smeddy. I appreciate your thoughtfulness. I’m glad you’re enjoying your subsequent viewings. 🙂

  • June 27, 2013 at 4:13 PM

    It’s your genial friend, Bob Loblaw talking to you again. First off, the creators name is actually Mitchell Hurwitz. Maybe you should get all your facts straight before writing an article, ya big dolt! Thanks for referencing me in your fascinating article. You have to remember that Arrested Development isn’t for everyone. It is not made for simpletons like yourself. You’ve probably just missed a lot of the jokes. Also, I do agree that Arrested Development fans are very loyal. I know that because I am one. If you ever insult Arrested Development, you must know that you’ll be hated by every true Arrested Development fan.

    • Jana Stambaugh
      June 27, 2013 at 5:42 PM

      Nice catch – thanks, Bob. I really admire and appreciate your loyalty to the show. Thanks again.

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