Did the return of Arrested Development over the weekend delight or disappoint fans of the irreverent sitcom? So far reactions are mixed.
Originally broadcast from 2003 to 2006 on the Fox Network, Arrested Development focused on the wildly dysfunctional Bluth family with the seemingly stable Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman) as the central protagonist. Fox eventually cancelled the show due to low ratings and fan anticipation for the resurrected version from the streaming-video service Netflix has been mounting in recent weeks.
Were the new episodes worth the wait? On The Hollywood Reporter website, critic Tim Goodman dismissed the negative Twitter feedback in advance of Sunday's return of Arrested Development and praised the show's return to eclectic form.
"The series quickly found its pacing, the elaborate Rashomon structure revealed its glorious ambition, and the combination of absurdity and intelligence meshed as well or better than you might have remembered from the original three seasons," wrote Goodman.
Similarly, reviewer Robert Lloyd of The L.A. Times decreed that Arrested Development had made a "joyous return" and applauded Netflix's decision to make all 15 fourth-season episodes immediately available to subscribers. "Nowadays, a TV series is digested like a novel, taken fast or slow, at the viewer's convenience and pleasure."
On The Guardian website, reviewer Hadley Freeman delivered an overwhelmingly positive précis of the first five episodes and advised fans of the series to stick with the story. "Sometimes it feels breathtakingly brilliant and other times it just feels confusing," wrote Freeman. "It takes some getting used to but by the fifth episode the patience begins to pay off."
In The Telegraph, critic Ross Jones awarded the Development series opener three stars out of five and cautioned that first-time viewers could be confused by the show's trademark wry approach: "Embracing the impenetrably self-referential joke-within-joke formula that got it taken off the air in the first place, the new series makes no concessions whatsoever to new viewers."
And as should have been expected, some people were decidedly unimpressed by the quirky sitcom's return. On the website for the trade publication Variety, reviewer Brian Lowry said that the new season "plays a bit like a reunion special, where the individual cast members come out and take their curtain calls…There's a sort of awkwardness to it, as if nobody has much to say."
Lowry also wrote: "Arrested Development's long-awaited encore is like a lot of TV development –- namely, an interesting idea that was more exciting on paper."