19 of 39 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars
Fourth Season doesn't come close to the first 3, 16 Jan. 2014
To be specific, this review is purely about the content of the fourth season and not the DVD itself. I can only comment from having watched this on Netflix recently.
To be fair to the producers and director Mitchell Hurwitz, to pick up a TV series after 6 years is not an easy task. You face the barriers of ensuring the storyline continues smoothly, the actors can get back into character, the pace of the show runs the same way and the jokes, running jokes and wit is of the same calibre. It is my opinion that none of these were achieved in this fourth season.
Rather than have one continuous storyline, the fourth season focuses on what happened to each character after the end of the third season (each episode is dedicated to one character's "arrested development" (hey, that's the name of the show! #runningjoke)). This mismatch of back and forth events is quite confusing to follow, hence the non-smooth continuation of the storyline.
You can see many of the actors really struggle to get back into character - perhaps most disappointingly, the lead, Jason Bateman, does not carry as the same Michael Bluth from the first 3 series. His dialogue often sounds like he is just reading from the script rather than acting. This disjointed effort is also seen in many other characters, including GOB (Will Arnett). Linzi (Portia Di Russi), one of the few actors who maintains their character pretty close to the mark, has had a complete change of appearance. So much so, that my initial thought was that they had got a different actress to play her.
With the different direction of non-continuous storyline, the pace of the show slows down a lot. There are a lot of pauses at things which on script probably look funny, but when played out leave the show hanging like a bad comedian at a stand up gig. This isn't even saved by bringing in names like Ron Howard (as himself) or Isla Fisher (as Rebel Alley). While they do a good job with what they have, they don't really add much to this disappointing sequel series. Above all, there is the annoyance of the narrator seemingly having more lines than the actors. Perhaps their budget meant that more work had to be given to the narrator? Whatever the reasoning, the constant voice-over does become irritating and takes away somewhat from the heart of the show.
Finally, the main jokes of the show overbear on running jokes to the nth degree. At times it seems almost every punchline references a past series, which as any good comedy writer will know, only ever works in subtlety. There is nothing subtle about the blatant blasts to the past, worsened by how often they use the same reference repeatedly, rather than using an array of different references. The joke about using some cheap trial version software to play flashbacks is funny at first but gets old quickly.
Don't get me wrong. There are some funny moments in this series and some very funny ones. And credit is due to Netflix or whoever was responsible for thsi series for salvaging the exact same cast, which can't have been an easy feat. Quite often with revivals like this, you expect there to be at least one substitute actor.
But, overall, it feels like a completely different comedy - one that, had it been like this from the start, would not have been anywhere near as successful. You get the feel from it that it was done on a budget, to make a quick buck and to try and revive a franchise, publicised as exclusively for Netflix (which probably explains the cheap budget). I think the money would have been better spent on a movie, tying up any loose ends from the third series, rather than launching a fourth series completely out of the blue 6 years later.
So in conclusion - worth watching once to see what happened next, but I probably wouldn't give it a second look.