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TV Review: Arrested Development - Season 5

05.29.2018

Arrested Development, TV Review, Netflix, Comedy, Jason Bateman, Jessica Walter, Will Arnett, Jeffrey Tambor, Tony Hale, Michael Cera

SYNOPSIS: As this Netflix (semi) original series, the Bluths are back together, and finally getting the award they think they deserve - for family of the year. A development which will help Lindsay as she begins her campaign for Congress, to become ‘part of the problem’. But whatever happens, Michael will always come back to save the family. Probably.

Arrested Development, TV Review, Netflix, Comedy, Jason Bateman, Jessica Walter, Will Arnett, Jeffrey Tambor, Tony Hale, Michael Cera

REVIEW: After the divisve fourth season of Arrested Development debuted on Netflix, fans were still clamoring for the further misadventures of the Bluth clan. A cult favorite on FOX, Arrested Development returned on Netflix with a season of episodes that primarily kept the main cast separate. The logistical decison was made due to the various actors working on projects that prevented them from appearing together and necessitated green screen and editing tricks to make them appear to be in the same physical location. With season five, the green screen is gone but there is still something missing that prevents the show from feeling as fresh as it did back in 2003. But, fans of Arrested Development will still find plenty to enjoy as this run of episodes feels closer to the original seasons.

Picking up immediately after the conclusion of the fourth season, Arrested Development spends the first episodes wrapping up plot elements from the fourth season and setting the stage for the new storyline involving the murder of Lucille Austero (Liza Minelli). There are certainly funny moments throughout but it also becomes evident that these were episodes designed to fill in and space out the availability of the cast as many characters are still paired off or on their own for the first three episodes. But, even through the awkardness that is the trademark of this series, the cast still inhabit these roles naturally. It does feel a bit odd seeing Jeffrey Tambor play a character struggling with his masculinity after the current accusations lobbied against him, but the show doesn't linger on his real world legal trouble.

What the show does linger on is the change in the political climate from the last season (2013) when Barack Obama was President to this run during the tenure of Donald Trump. The plot element of a Mexican Border Wall that was a running gag five years ago becomes a very prescient topic this season. Mitch Hurwitz and the writers of Arrested Development mine the Trump campaign for all the jokes they can muster but don't shy away from jabs at Obama. There are even some jokes and references to narrator Ron Howard's work on the troubled production of SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY. It is easy to get lost in the topical jokes over the first episodes of the fifth season, but patience will be rewarded as once you get to episode four, the jokes start to settle in more to what we are used to from the Bluth clan: Gob wackily dealing with a sexual identity crisis, Tobias struggling to be a successful actor, and George Michael and Maebe involved in some kooky schemes that border on sexual tension.

Arrested Development is still clearly Jason Bateman's showcase. But, whereas Michael Bluth was the straight man to the wacky cast of characters, Bateman's performance begins to get drawn in more and more to the level of his siblings and parents. Bateman also appears on screen the most of any of the cast-members, followed closely behind by David Cross and Will Arnett. Portia De Rossi, who retired from acting, only appears in a limited number of episodes but makes great use of her screen time as she runs for Congress and tries to capitalize on the absence of Lucille II. Tony Hale also appears in a very limited capacity but, as always, steals the show as Buster who is now caught up as a murder suspect.

Arrested Development, TV Review, Netflix, Comedy, Jason Bateman, Jessica Walter, Will Arnett, Jeffrey Tambor, Tony Hale, Michael Cera

The best performances this season actually come from Will Arnett, Alia Shawkat and Michael Cera, all of whom could have easily become caricatures of themselves. After fifteen years, the writers have still found a way to make the relationship between George Michael and Maebe funny while giving more depth to the characters. Cera looks so much older than he did when the show started in 2003 and yet you still see him as the goofy son in love with his cousin. Shawkat, who has been turning in great roles in indie films like GREEN ROOM and the TBS series Search Party, is better than she has been in any prior season of this show. Arnett, who is one of the biggest stars out of the cast, is the best element of this season and may even be better than Bateman. As a character, Gob requires a much wider and broader range than any other character, but Arnett moves through each change with ease.

Arrested Development still pales in comparison to what it was over the first three seasons but this fifth run is heads and tails better than season four. That being said, some of the jokes feel telegraphed and fall flat and you can still tell when actors were not available. Instead of characters being cut in via green screen, they are just absent from storylines or briefly explained away with a cutscene. It is noticeable that De Rossi, Tambor, and Hale were not available as often, but we get a substantial amount of time shared between the rest of the cast, especially Jessica Walter, David Cross and Jason Bateman. Fans will absolutley enjoy this reunion with the Bluth family but it does feel like we may not get many more seasons (if any) after this one.

All episodes of Arrested Development's fifth season are now streaming on Netflix.

Source: JoBlo.com

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