There are two types of Arrested Development fans: the ones who are going to love the new episodes unconditionally, and those who are a little nervous about reviving a show seven years after it was cancelled. For those fidgety millions out there who maybe haven't gotten through the whole thing yet, here is a (spoiler free!) run down of what people are saying so far.
Yes, it's true, you haven't been hallucinating. At 12 a.m. PT Sunday, Netflix released all 15 episodes of the new fourth season of Arrested Development. It was not an elaborate ruse. Some people stayed up all night just to watch the first few episodes before the rest of the world. Other set alarms. Others woke up at a reasonable hour but then wasted their day away inside, on the couch, binge-watching until their eyeballs started to bleed. Have we watched it yet? No, but we don't need to. Other people who get paid to do this sort of thing already have. And the reaction to the show so far is, surprisingly, a mixed one.
Some people love the show just as much as they did when the show was first on, or, more likely, when they caught up with the DVDs a few years too late. "The new season is not only as smart and absurdly funny as ever, but also reflects the rapid changes in how we watch television," writes the San Francisco Chronicle's David Wiegand. Entertainment Weekly's Annie Barrett was recapping every episode, live, while she barrelled through them starting right when the show was released. She has since disappeared, probably to bed, but her summaries are delirious with exclamations and excitement. (And also spoilers. So many spoilers.) But there are others who are not as on board with the new episodes. Nathan Rabin, the former head writer for The AV Club, writes that the show has "lost a step" in his early assessment of the very first episode for the Wall Street Journal. "The pacing is notably slower than during its original run and the show lacks the breathtaking density that characterized its glorious past," he writes. The show isn't as great as it was, he explains later, but it's still going to make you laugh. The Guardian's Hadley Freeman echoed Rabin's sentiments in her review. "It takes some getting used to, but by the fifth episode, the patience begins to pay off," she says. "I didn't adore the show in the way I instantly adored the first three series, but I was admiring it, and even enjoying it in a new way. So far, I'm keeping the faith." That the critical reception is measured and careful and not slobbering and embarrassing is encouraging, both for the show and the wonderful world of TV criticism.
What's even more shocking is that the breathless hordes of Arrested Development fans, who have spent the last week talking Sunday up like its the return of Christ on Easter, haven't fallen immediately in love with the show. The common folk on Twitter have noticed the show isn't quite the same. Some have even said the show is terrible:
The new Arrested Development is pretty dark. I love it.— James Del (@JDel) May 26, 2013
it took five or six episodes but the new season of arrested development is actually pretty good. i can't believe it.— ryan lambert (@twolinepass) May 26, 2013
First ep. of ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT was pretty great. A couple of weak jokes but overall I'm thinking it might not suck. Hooray!— Glen Matthews (@GlenJM) May 26, 2013
New arrested development is like hanging out with high school friends but it's not the same anymore or funny or good and very forced— Sam Biddle (@samfbiddle) May 26, 2013
just finished episode 3 arrested development. so far all are pretty terrible.— Lauren Leto (@laurenleto) May 26, 2013
If anything, the new eps of Arrested Development just make me want to re-watch the olds ones (so far)— Jenna Wortham ♥ (@jennydeluxe) May 26, 2013
We honestly expected to search for dissenting opinions, but they weren't that hard to find. Expectations were so high. The myths of Arrested Development's brilliance were written in every cave across the world. And yet the show is not the same. It did not live up to its billing, but only because the billing was "one of the greatest shows of all time." That's not fair. And, of course, these are all very preliminary opinions. Maybe everyone will come around after repeat viewings. Maybe something will happen in later episodes that ties everything together and makes this season earn the same revery given to the first three seasons. Maybe these reviewers were grumpy from waking up way too early to watch a silly TV show and everyone else will love it. Until then, this revival is a fun spin down memory lane, a nostalgia trip for a bygone era of greatness, but ultimately it's the Rolling Stones' last tour of television.