TV Club

Arrested Development Season 4 on Netflix previewed.

Panic attack! What if the new episodes aren’t very good?

Courtesy of Netflix

In Slate’s Arrested Development TV Club, two fans will IM about each episode of Season 4 once they finish watching it. Today, Brow Beat editor David Haglund and editorial assistant Emma Roller prep for the launch of the new season.

David Haglund: Hi Emma.

Emma Roller: Hey, hermano! Hold on, I am having a love affair with this ice cream sandwich.

Haglund: I’m very happy to talk Arrested Development with you before we kick off our two-episodes-a-day, rotating-cast TV Club on Tuesday morning. But I have a confession to make. When I saw the trailer for Season 4, my first thought was: Wait, what if the new episodes aren’t very good? Are you worried at all, or just excited? Do you think it’s possible they made a huge mistake?

Roller: I’ve been riding a roller coaster of emotions leading up to 12:01 a.m. PT on Sunday—excitement, anticipation, trepidation, sudden panic attacks, then elation that my favorite comedy is coming back on the air. As I was reading up on the new season, I noticed Mitch Hurwitz told one interviewer that he’d originally tried to make it so that you could watch the episodes in any order, and later realized that would present continuity problems. I’m not a big stickler about continuity, but I was a bit worried that that meant the jokes would all be sort of islands of humor—I think the show is at its best when you see the jokes build on past episodes. What do you think?

Haglund: Well, in his big Rolling Stone interview, Hurwitz made it sound like a big part of why he ultimately abandoned that watch-in-any-order plan was, in fact, the need for jokes to build in precisely that way. So that’s encouraging.

But that interview made me both more eager and more anxious about what awaits us. The idea that we’re about to see, as Hurwitz suggests, the same scenes in different episodes from different characters’ perspectives sounds amazing. I love that Hurwitz seems to have swung for the fences with this, despite all the logistical difficulties of getting everyone back together. On the other hand, he didn’t sound at all sure that he’d pulled it off—it all seems incredibly chaotic and last-minute. He said that no one, including himself, had actually watched all the episodes in order yet. This was just a few days ago, I think!

Roller: But that makes it feel, in a good way, like the fans (and even the creators) are experiencing this all at once! I haven’t read the whole Rolling Stone interview yet, but the logistics of shooting sounded crazy. They would green-screen a lot of scenes, so on one end it would be Michael talking to “Lindsay,” and then they’d shoot Portia de Rossi’s half of the scene months later. But knowing the show, I wouldn’t be surprised if they make meta-jokes about that dialogue getting screwed up.

Haglund: I’m prepared for many wink-wink jokes about Michael Cera’s supposed reluctance to reunite with everyone, etc. And I have no problem with that. But I’m having a hard time getting excited about the show’s meta-brilliance, for some reason. When Arrested Development premiered, it appeared to be a commentary of some kind on America’s sheltered, coddled, almost-never-punished rich. Then that seemingly central premise was smothered by comedy nerdery and in-jokes—incredible comedy nerdery and stunningly well-played in-jokes, but still. Do you think the new episodes will gesture toward present-day politics at all—this is a series that did an extended Iraq War riff back in the day—or do you think the whole thing will just constantly play off everyone’s favorite callbacks from Seasons 1–3?

Roller: Like you said, it seems like Hurwitz really swung for the fences with this—the guy’s a pro. And while I’m sure there’ll be sendups of the past seasons, I hope to hear Lucille opine on Obama’s America. The show was pretty prescient, politically, in illustrating the collapse of an elite American family before the recession even hit. Where will that leave the Bluths today? At least one character seems to have fled to Spain.

Haglund: I get the pleasure of guessing what that might entail. But I’m not curious about, say, whether Maeby and George Michael hook up. I really don’t care about where these characters are in an emotional sense. I just want them to make me laugh again.

Roller: You’re as cold as ice—but I know what you mean. Will Arnett reveals a little bit about Gob’s character development in this GQ blurb, but this is one show in which I don’t care if the characters show any “growth” at all, so long as the family dynamic is still there. I think that’s another reason this show is so … I don’t want to say “timeless,” but eternally rewatchable for fans. Everyone can relate to the love/hate family relationship, so even the cornball moments come off well. What other developments are you looking forward to? I, for one, am excited for the inevitable Joanie/Fonz/Chachi/Richie reunion.

Haglund: Steve Holt! No, seriously, I’m most looking forward to seeing Maria Bamford on the show. And Kristen Wiig as … um, well, read here if you’re not overly spoiler-sensitive. But … estás loco por las cornballs? I’m not convinced there are any true cornball moments. Revisiting the show, I find that Michael, the supposed moral center of the series, is maybe the least sympathetic character. He’s venal like the rest of us. The others are delightfully delirious—everything they do is so dramatic and flamboyant. They are too fully themselves to be half-assed and insincere in the all-too-human way of Michael Bluth.

This is a weird show.

Roller: I have no follow-up.

Read more in Slate about Arrested Development.