Mitch Hurwitz's first shot at bringing "Arrested Development" back for Netflix may have alienated some with its odd structure, but the debut of Season 5's first half a year ago underwhelmed many and — as is absolutely fair game to discuss with this of all shows — was metatextually marred by the allegations against Jeffrey Tambor and that disastrous New York Times interview. Are the Bluths worth a third resurrected go-around, or are you better off watching one of the dozens of true Netflix originals they helped shepherd into existence? Here's what the reviews have to say:
It's Not Like Season 4, But It's No Fresh Start Either
Season 5.2, as I'll call it, helpfully jettisons some of the bloat that made Season 4 such a slog, and introduces some familiar Arrested Development tropes to proceedings that aren't necessarily retreads, but also don't break any new ground for the show.
Splitting Season 5 Up Over A Year Hasn't Helped Any Of The Topical Trump Humor
In some respects, the Trump administration has been both a godsend and a curse to the writers, offering a source of satire while pretty much eclipsing anything that they can muster. So while it's mildly amusing that a subplot involves the anything-for-a-buck Bluth family borrowing Chinese money to try building a wall, the jokes are chasing a news cycle that frequently feels as if it has already lapped them.
In 2019, expecting jokes about Trump University and the border wall to land with anything other than a concussive thud is hubris; the same goes for incredibly dated groaners about the gay mafia being run by a toe-tapping Argyle Austero (Tommy Tune) and subplots about 'saving face' with Chinese investors.
It Still Aims To Be One Of The More Outlandish Sitcoms You've Ever Seen…
For long stretches, the plot is abandoned in favor of random excursions and functional gags. It's rarely a good sign when your reaction to any narrative progress is, "Oh yeah! That's what that guy was doing."
Arrested Development still aims to be manic and wacky. But like aging athletes losing their strength, Hurwitz and his cast and crew seem to have lost some of their speed and intensity. Their jokes lack the sharp snap and wicked curve of old.
… Though The Cast Does The Heavy Lifting For The Writing
The cast is as sharp as ever — even the creakiest joke setups can be saved and delivered well by Arnett, Hale or Walter — but the show now just feels like it's going through the motions.
The murderers' row of a cast — including Jason Bateman and Will Arnett, who have had time to go star in separate Netflix shows they've produced — generally seems to be having fun each time they slip back into these characters.
It's Still Strange Seeing Jeffrey Tambor In These Episodes
It bears repeating — it's incredibly disquieting to see Tambor still in the mix after the fiasco surrounding his sexual harassment allegations and the PR shitshow that preceded the season's first half. (Perhaps this is part of the reason why the second half is coming out to comparatively little fanfare.) He still has tremendous chops as both George Sr. and Oscar, but it's eerie to see the lingering poltergeist of one of his most famous characters pop back onto Netflix screens nearly a year after the allegations came to light.
Neither Inventive Moments Or Consecutive Bummers Make The Episodes More Than Just… More Of The Show
The ninth episode of Season 5, "Unexpected Company," despite being a mid-season premiere, feels like a fresher start than we've gotten from the show since its original run. There's a slapstick sequence that quite literally hearkens back to the Keystone Cops that would have been right at home in Season 1.
Last year's eight episodes weren't great, but they weren't terrible. But season 5's second half essentially plays out the same storylines, many of which began during the underrated season four. Still, there's no obvious reason why these episodes should be so painfully, tediously unfunny.
The second half isn't bad, but it's bumpier, longer, and less hopeful than its initial episodes. It also is what it is. Rather than looking forward to what's next, or hoping "Arrested Development" will get back to being its old, classic self, these episodes are simply here, in your queue, waiting for whenever you're ready.
While season 5 returned to some of the ensemble joys missing from season 4, it's still not enough to save the show from feeling deeply stale. As the California sun sets on the Bluth family's story, it might well be time to hop on the stair car and drive off for grander climes, and even more sudden-er valleys.
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