Look, I’ve lived through Lost. I understand that when you’re a fan of certain TV shows, anticipating the show’s return can be as much a part of the fun of being a fan as actually taking in the show itself. In that spirit, I’ve been riding the wave of Arrested Development mania that has been built up over the past year, cresting (and breaking) with this weekend’s debut of season four on Netflix. I’ve made my cutoffs, I’m preparing the ingredients for a Skip’s Scramble, and I’m having friends over to watch at least all of it this weekend, just like dozens of you.
I want to caution you, though: It might not blow you away.
The Prosecution presents exhibit A, a scene from the new season that was released last month as a promotional piece:
Now, you may recognize that there is a joke in there: That Buster Bluth has an uncomfortably intimate relationship with his mother. However, you’ll probably also notice that this scene goes on for far too long. The first three seasons of the show crammed so many jokes into every frame that every time I watch an episode (even an episode I’ve seen scores of times like “Afternoon Delight”) I’m still finding new jokes tucked away in the corners. There was never an inert scene, let alone one that dragged on for a full minute and a half after it ran out of new jokes to throw at you.
The Arrested Development of old was no stranger to repeating a single joke. And it wasn’t even a stranger to repeating the same joke several times in the same scene. But when it did, each repetition revealed something about the characters and/or added to the humor of the situation. In less than a third of the time of the scene above, the series’ original run could tell a joke, repeat it, repeat it again, comment on it, and use it as a way to exposit the Bluth family dynamics:
(Gob seeing everyone doing their chicken dance and exclaiming, “Wait! I have the perfect thing!” before running away to grab his chicken mask was lobbed off of the above clip.)
So, the show may not be as fast-paced, generous and rewarding as it was in its younger and our more vulnerable years.
And secondofly, as Exhibit b, I present to you the recently released Season Four trailer:
There are a LOT of jokes in there, and only two of them are funny (or at least only two of them made me laugh): Michael screaming when he grabs the car door handle, and the woman at the bar disgustedly telling Gob that she has lupus.
I’m not saying don’t watch the new season. We should all watch. I want so many of us to watch that we bring down Netflix’s servers and make them regret not having this available on DVD and BluRay. (Seriously, Netflix, it’s the one historically profitable part of your business and it’s the one you keep trying to kill off.) I’m just saying, let’s all set our bars a little lower. Better to be pleasantly surprised than to see the thing we love crushed under the unbearable weight of our own expectations.
Did you people learn nothing from Lost?