Jason Bateman and Liza Minnelli
Seven years after Fox canceled the Emmy-winning and critically acclaimed sitcom Arrested Development, the battling Bluths are back in 15 new episodes, available for streaming starting today on Netflix.
The new episodes, which the service cheekily presents as “A Netflix Semi Original Series,” reunites all the original principal players from the show’s original 2003-06 run as well as bringing back several guest favorites (hello, Liza Minnelli as Lucille Two and Judy Greer as Kitty Sanchez!). This time around, though, series creator Mitch Hurwitz is less interested in telling a conventionally linear story than in filling us in on each individual member of the extended Bluth family, ideally to form a bridge toward an Arrested Development feature film he’s been envisioning for years.
With that in mind, each episode focuses on a single character, although other family members are, of course, tangentially involved. Obviously, that must have helped during production, since not all principles were required for every episode, and it doesn’t reduce the number of solid belly laughs per episode (each of which runs to close or over a full half hour, not the puny 21 minutes-plus currently afforded a sitcom on a commercial network).
Still, there’s a bit of a loss in not seeing all the Bluth-Funkes together more often. I didn’t actually realize that until episode three, when suddenly I caught myself grinning broadly at seeing Michael (Jason Bateman), George (Jeffrey Tambor), Lindsay (Portia de Rossi), Lucille (Jessica Walter), Gob (Will Arnett), Buster (Tony Hale) and Tobias (David Cross) all in a room together for the first time in these new episodes.
But then, Arrested Development never has followed the conventional sitcom rules. Where else could you learn that one of the principal female characters has fallen in love with an accidental member of Al-Qaeda who suffers from “face blindness” and runs an ostrich farm and think to yourself, “Yes, that sounds about right”? Or see a sexually ambiguous male character who has resolved to make a new start in his life do so by buying a new vanity plate for his car reading “ANUSTART”?
There are so many fresh surprises and brilliant jokes in these new episodes that I’ll leave fans to discover most of them on their own, but my heartfelt thanks to whoever had the inspired idea to hire Kristen Wiig and Seth Rogen to play the younger Lucille and George Bluth in recurring flashbacks, as well as 24 sweetheart Mary Lynn Rajskub as an “aura specialist” named Heartfire.
Waiter! More hot ham water, all around, on me!
David Cross and Porta de Rossi