It’s time for “Arrested Development” to become a beautiful memory. The fifth season, which begins streaming Tuesday on Netflix, proves that not every canceled TV series should be resurrected.
The first three seasons of the show that aired on Fox from 2003 to 2006 — well, at least the first two — were fresh and hilarious. Arguably about the funniest thing on TV back then.
But Season 5 really is “Arrested Development.” It feels like a repeat. Feels like old news. And not just because it’s mostly set in 2015 and Lucille (Jessica Walters) — inspired by Donald Trump’s presidential bid — pushes her plan to build a wall on the Mexican border and talks Lindsay (Portia de Rossi) into running for Congress as sort of a Trump clone.
Don’t get me wrong. Season 5 is a vast improvement over the misfire that was Season 4, which streamed on Netflix in 2013. We could make excuses as to why — it was tough scheduling all those actors — but it was a huge disappointment.
This time around, it feels like the same “Arrested Development.” Exactly the same old “Arrested Development,” in too many ways.
Michael (Jason Bateman) is still trying to pull back from his family, but he can’t. He never will.
Michael and his son, George Michael (Michael Cera), having discovered that they both, um, “dated” the same woman (Isla Fisher), are beyond awkward with one another.
It’s one of the recurring bits that feel played out 15 years after the show premiered.
Hey, it’s nice to have the whole family back together again, as opposed to those unwatchable single-character episodes from Season 4.
Buster (Tony Hale) is still unbelievably weird. Gob (Will Arnett) is acting screwy because he’s fallen in love. Geoge Sr. (Jeffrey Tambor) is loud and obnoxious. And the narrative slows to a crawl when the plotlines involving Maeby (Alia Shawkat) or Tobias (David Cross) take center stage.
(I’m not going to specify — no spoilers here.)
Yes, it’s nice to see “Arrested Development” return to form after the misfire that was Season 4. But there doesn’t seem much reason to bring the show back if it’s just going to make basically the same episodes it made in Seasons 1-3.
Netflix will stream the first eight episodes of Season 5 on Tuesday; critics have seen the first seven. They’re occasionally amusing, but I’d recommend against binge-watching — the more I saw, the less interesting it became.
Fifteen years ago, “Arrested Development” perfectly captured the times. A wealthy family got rich through, um, questionable means and lost most of their money. And, because the show was always on the edge of cancellation, creator/executive producer Mitch Hurwitz and his team just did what they wanted with the characters and the storylines, figuring they weren’t going to be around for long.
(It ran 53 episodes on Fox, which was about 50 more than the ratings merited.)
But it isn’t easy to bring back a show after a yearslong hiatus. “Roseanne” and “Will & Grace” are the exceptions, because they’ve managed to capture the tenor of today and bring their characters into the present.
“Arrested Development” … not so much.
(And you have to wonder if “Murphy Brown” — a show that was so much about what was in the headlines from 1988-98 — can pull it off when it returns to CBS in the fall.)
The good news is that you can stream the original run of “Arrested Development” on Netflix. If you’ve never seen it, you’re in for a treat. And, yes, it’s a great show to binge.
As for you “Arrested Development” fans, well, set your expectations low. If you don’t expect a lot out of Season 5, you won’t be disappointed.
But I find myself thinking that the show was a jewel better kept on the shelf — occasionally relived with repeat viewing — and that the revival just isn’t worth it.