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Scott D. Pierce
Scott D. Pierce writes about television for the Salt Lake Tribune. Vice president of the Television Critics Associationn, he's covered TV in Utah since 1990.

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5 reasons to temper your enthusiasm about “Arrested Development”

Netflix is going to release all 15 episodes of the new season of "Arrested Development" on Sunday, and fans are all excited. Including yours truly, who was exhorting viewers to watch the show throughout the length of its 53-episode run from 2003-2006.

It didn’t work. Despite mountains of praise from TV critics, "Arrested Development" was a ratings flop. Fox did everything imaginable to find it an audience — including giving some episodes the best lead-in possible, "American Idol" at the height of its popularity — but American viewers rejected the show.

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It has, however, become a cult classic in the past seven years. Which accounts for Netflix taking the chance on producing these episodes.

Maybe it will be great. Maybe it won’t. But if you’re excited about the return of "Arrested Development," here are five reasons to temper your enthusiasm:

1. These episodes are the opening act of an "Arrested Development" movie that may or may not ever be produced.

According to Jason Bateman (who stars as Michael Bluth), Season 4 is "just the first act of what we hope to continue and complete in a movie, which would be Act 2 and Act 3. These are episodes that set that up. One does not work without the other."

Bateman promised a "satisfying conclusion to these episodes if, for some unfortunate reason, the movie does not happen. But they are all meant to work within one another, sort of a hybrid package of "Arrested Development" stuff.

2. Asked if he is at least a little bit worried that these episodes might fail and tarnish the series’ legacy, creator/executive producer Mitch Hurwitz admitted he is.

"I could vomit right this moment," he said. "Literally, I could vomit on cue. So yes."

3. Bateman pretty much went out of his way to dampen expectations.

"If one was to be fair to these episodes, you cannot and should not, hopefully, compare them to what the series was where you had 22 minutes and you had all the characters in every single episode," Bateman said. "This is something that is completely different on purpose creatively per the format that Netflix affords us per the long term and larger long form of the whole story."

4. Expectations are out of whack with reality. "Arrested Development" was a great TV comedy, but if you’re expecting Season 4 to be The Greatest TV Comedy of All Time, you’re going to be disappointed. Nothing can live up to that kind of billing.

5. Netflix did not make any of the episode available to critics for review. A network spokeswoman made excuses for that: Because all 15 episodes wouldn’t be available for review "We didn’t want to deliver a less than optimal experience."

That, quite frankly, is baloney. It’s the same sort of excuse we hear from networks when they don’t want critics to see a pilot because it’s bad.

I don’t honestly believe "Arrested Development" is going to be bad, but this makes me worry it might be. This is exactly the way movie studios treat their B-grade horror movies.



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