"It's hard to imagine being anything but disappointed with this new rendition," ended a fairly scathing New York Times review of Arrested Development's fourth season. Will Arnett, one of the stars of the series, never got that far. He quit reading after one paragraph.
"I think that's irresponsible," he said of the piece, written by a reviewer who had time to watch only eight of the 15 episodes after they were released simultaneously on Netflix late last month (although Arnett thought it was four). "I think that you need to watch all the episodes."
The highly anticipated return of the critically acclaimed (but ratings challenged) series, originally broadcast on Fox, was a disappointment to much of the show's cult following, who took to social media to voice their displeasure almost immediately after its release. From critics, the reviews were mixed. Some liked it, but The Guardian called it a noble failure – "a big, bloated behemoth of a show that has glimpses of genius but is only partly successful." Variety called it "an interesting idea that was more exciting on paper." The Hollywood Reporter said "after a slowish start … the comedic payout begins to multiply with each succeeding episode."
The Toronto-born Arnett, at the Banff World Media Festival this week to accept the Canadian Award of Distinction, told The Globe and Mail that it was difficult for the show to live up to the very high expectations of its devoted fan following, but that creator Mitchell Hurwitz did the right thing by "changing it up." And he predicts history will be kind to it.
"There has been a decent amount of negative backlash and I think five years from now, people will look back and say, 'Wow, we didn't understand what we were looking at,' " said Arnett, who feels Hurwitz was ahead of his time with the original show as well.
While Arnett believes it was the right decision to release all of the episodes at once, he encourages fans not to binge watch.
"I urge people to watch them slowly and really absorb all the material that's coming at them – cause it's a lot and there are a lot of loose ends and pieces that connect – and really watch all the episodes and take a minute and think about what they've just watched, because nobody's ever done anything like it before," Arnett said.
"He used this new delivery system to tell the story," he said. "It became part of the way he told the story of the Bluths."
Arnett, 43, plays G.O.B. (pronounced "Job") Bluth, the pathetic but loveable eldest son of the family, a failure as a magician and a failure at life. He was nominated for an Emmy for the role, and two Screen Actors Guild Awards along with the rest of the cast for outstanding performance in an ensemble.
After the series was cancelled by Fox, Arnett starred in and co-created Running Wilde with Hurwitz, which was cancelled by Fox in its first season, then Up All Night, starring opposite Christina Applegate. Arnett, who separated last year from actor Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation), will play a recently divorced reporter dealing with his own parents' marital troubles on the upcoming CBS sitcom The Millers.
Looking very fit, Arnett was thoughtful and serious on the subject of critics' reviews. "I don't think that comedy should be reviewed," he said. "Why would I take the advice of somebody whom I don't know on what they think is funny? … Some people love The Three Stooges; some people think it's the dumbest thing they've ever seen. And there's no right or wrong. So how can you write a review on comedy? It's absurd."
That said, he did read at least part of The New York Times review. And that put an end to the review-reading.
"I don't … mean to sound defensive about the bad reviews and I don't mean to single out one particular reviewer; it's just the one that I read. And I'd heard there were some others. Everybody's entitled and that's his job and he's got kids who need braces. So I think at that moment it felt very cool to give it a negative review."