When you think about it, the decision to release Mitch Hurwitz’ recut of the fourth season of “Arrested Development” (now subtitled “Fateful Consequences”) on the eve of the new season’s debut (and on Cinco de Quatro no less) makes perfect business sense.
When it debuted in 2013, the fourth season really didn’t set the world on fire. Even for the most passionate of fans, the new episodes were bloated, many gags didn’t work, and some of the challenges Hurwitz faced in getting the band back together (primarily the conflicting schedules of the key players) were all too evident in the finished product. And while the remix is a significant improvement on the earlier cut, it does highlight just how ill-conceived some of Hurwitz’ original ‘it’s so crazy it might just work’ decisions were as he prepared to make the long-awaited fourth season.
In fairness, ‘Arrested Development’ was a show that always thrived on challenges. Hurwitz and his crew would often incorporate behind the scenes dramas into the stories that unfolded in front of the camera - giving the show the meta quality that was among its many joys to watch.
So, when it became clear that the aforementioned heavily in-demand cast of ‘Arrested Development’ would only have limited time to shoot scenes altogether, Hurwitz came up with a plan that was truly ambitious… if not downright bonkers.
As he envisioned it, each episode of the new season would focus on an individual member of the Bluth clan. His original pitch was that each episode could be viewed independently of the others, in any order. By the time the show made it to air, he’d walked back the last part… and there was a clear order to the new season.
But, with episodes running from between 20 and 40 minutes, a distinct lack of focus and the overwhelming challenge that comes with resurrecting a show that ended with a perfectly satisfying finale, the show failed to satisfy fans who had come to expect far more from their beloved Bluths.
Now, with Season Five just around the corner, Netflix has decided to release Hurwitz’ much-anticipated ‘remix’. For background, the remix was announced the year Season Four came out and appears to have been sitting on the shelf for the better part of
Given the need to try and recapture the existing fanbase and also remind people of the increasingly convoluted twists and turns from Season Four, releasing it with just weeks to go before Season Five debuts makes perfect sense.
On one hand, it’s a mea culpa while, on the other, it offers those who were sitting on the fence a chance to re-evaluate a highly flawed season as well as reacquaint themselves with what had happened to the Bluths when we last saw them.
The good news is, for the most part, it works a lot better.
Starting fairly much the same as the original (with the Cinco de Quatro prologue, followed by a down on his luck Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman) making a very bad decision, ‘Fateful Consequences’ then heads into its own territory - going back to the immediate aftermath of the Season Three finale and telling the unfolding story of the Bluth clan in a far more linear fashion.
The restructured narrative helps ease out the bumps, and the 22-minute episode structure works far more effectively. The pace is brisker, the gags land more effectively and, in general, it feels more like ‘Arrested Development’ than the original cut of Season Four ever did.
By abandoning the ‘Lost’-style flashbacks and the seemingly ‘Rashomon’-inspired structure that was the hallmark of the original cut, the story unfolds in a more digestible format.
And The bad news… the seams show. A lot.
Some scenes feel like they’ve been pasted together from gags designed to play out over multiple episodes. And, while better paced and better structured, the 22-minute episodes don’t really feel like standard 22-minute episodes.
There’s rarely an overriding plot that dominates the whole episode, and rather than having a traditional beginning, middle or end, episodes just… happen. They start and end at random points that seem to be more dictated by the 22-minute duration than any real narrative purpose.
So while it’s a vast improvement, it remains a flawed product. It’s most definitely funnier. And it’s most definitely incentive enough to stick with the show for Season Five (which, based on the material released by Netflix so far, seems to be a considerable return to form). But, it’s also a frustrating experience that makes you wish Hurwitz maintained the show’s convention from the outset.
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