"Arrested Development" season 4 sucks. I hate to be the bearer of heresy/bad news, but really. These are not the Bluths we are looking for. Season 4 is certainly something. It's impressive that it even exists. But it just doesn't bring the magic. And that's because the show forgot what it actually is, or at least used to be: a comedy.
"Arrested Development" season 4 sucks for a variety of reasons, but the chief one is that it takes itself too seriously -- way, way too seriously. The first three seasons were very loosely a commentary on wealth and, later, the Iraq War. But that wasn't the whole point. The point was the dysfunctional relationship between the family members, and the troubles that Michael ran into trying to keep them together. It was not heavily plot-driven, and it was filled with puns, visual gags and a near constant barrage of humor.
"Arrested Development" season 4 isn't like that, and that's why it sucks. Every once in a while, that trademark humor shines through again -- the constant references to "stimmy," or federal stimulus money, is one of the more notable examples. But most of the time, this show is trying to be something it never was -- a Serious Show That's About Things. As a result, it's as much drama as it is comedy. Both sides suffer for it.
The ultimate reason that "Arrested Development" season 4 sucks is two-fold. First, the episode structure -- although it's good for crazy interactions, like when it's revealed that Tobias was the person sitting behind Lindsay on the flight to India -- is to the show's detriment. We liked it in the first place because it was a large ensemble. When most interactions are one-on-one, it's hard to keep up the same level of banter. Too hard for the show to pull it off.
The other half of the ultimate reason "Arrested Development" season 4 sucks is because of what's happened to Michael. First off, he's the bad guy now -- or at least, just as bad as everyone else in the family, much more explicitly than he ever was before. His constant threats to leave people out of the movie don't match up to his old threat to leave the family -- he just comes off as vindictive.
Michael's new job in Ron Howard's office is part of the reason why "Arrested Development" season 4 sucks, too. His new role as a movie producer for himself is just too on the nose -- before, to the extent that he was relatable at all, it was because he had a job we could understand -- real estate executive. But a movie producer producing a movie about his life -- a movie that Mitch Hurwitz actually wants to make -- is just too meta. It's not fun. And the scenes with Ron Howard are pretty rough sometimes.
There are so many other reasons why "Arrested Development" season 4 sucks -- from terrible new characters like DeBrie to the large amount of Tony Wonder to Lucille's sheer and unmitigated evilness. It's a real tragedy. I so very much wanted to like it. I didn't want more of the same -- but I did want a comedy about the Bluths, not social commentary on the financial crisis and Herman Cain and drug abuse.
Oh well. At lease Gene Parmesan is in it.