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Arresting Development

Posted by Rankyn Phyle on 2013 Jun 26

I finally got around to watching the new season of Arrested Development (after re-watching seasons 1-3 for a refresher) and I’ve got mixed feelings.

On one hand it was cool to see the story continue but the way they chose to tell the story was a little overwhelming.
That’s not to say that I didn’t like it… In fact I thought it was quite interesting.

However, unlike the earlier seasons (and most other shows), it’s not told sequentially… All of the episodes are telling a single, parallel story.
This means that it had to rely much more heavily on narration than in previous seasons just to keep the story on track because it’s way to easy to forget what you’re seeing.

For instance, you may see a brief scene in episode 1 that’s relatively straightforward but in episode 4 you see the same scene from a different character’s point of view with more background leading up to it and something that was kind of out in left field in episode 1 (not unusual for the show) suddenly makes perfect sense in episode 4 because you’re finally seeing it in context.

It kind of reminded me of the old show Three’s Company and their “overheard innuendo” gags where Jack and Chrissy are in the kitchen doing something harmless like baking a cake. Then Janet comes home and stops just outside the kitchen door and overhears them and suspects they’re having sex (or the 70’s TV equivalent) in clear violation of the roommate rules.
Then the rest of the episode was spent focused on her reaction to what she thought she heard even though you the viewer knew the whole story.

Now imagine that same episode except that you don’t know any more about what was going on in the kitchen than Janet does and Jack and Chrissy keep doing and saying things that seem to confirm the conclusion that both Janet and the viewer have drawn.
It won’t be until a few episodes later that you get to see the exact same period in time but from Jack and Chrissy’s point of view that shows the whole thing was just one big misunderstanding.

So like I said… I thought it was an interesting way to tell the story but because it keeps constantly looping back on itself, the narrator had to play a much more aggressive role than he did in the original series just to keep you on course.

Bottom line: Did I like it?
I’m not sure.

It was a departure from the story of the first 3 seasons (which is only fair because several years have passed) and I thought the method of telling the story was interesting BUT that also means the narrative is very convoluted and you have to follow along very closely to keep up.

I think what made the first 3 seasons of the show so enjoyable was that it was light but clever comedy.
Season 4 is still just as clever but you’ve got to work so much harder to keep up with the story and I don’t know if it would have been possible to do this in the “traditional” weekly episodic format because it practically demands that you watch every episode as fast as you can before you forget what happened.

If you haven’t seen Arrested Development, it’s certainly worth watching but you have to start from season 1 because it’s one of those shows that assumes you’ve seen every episode and doesn’t make much of an effort to slow down and let you catch up.

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