When we last left our heroes, Michael was fleeing for sanctuary from his family with a shame-stricken teenaged son in tow — George Michael had recently succumbed to his romantic feelings for cousin Maeby (only to find out that she was not, in fact, his biological cousin). The Bluth men, on a maritime road to salvation, had the highest of hopes for their futures. And once we heard that we’d be catching back up with them, so did we. And while there might well be a good deal of shining light ahead, all parties are going to have to wade through a bit of disappointment first. (If you’re not watching at all, we’ve prepared an Arrested Development counter-programming guide for you.)
With so much catch-up to play, the first of Arrested Development’s Netflix episodes doesn’t quite have time to give you every bit of laughter you might have been anticipating from the revival of the near perfect comedy. And since this premiere ep is tailored to Michael Bluth, with the others said to be adapting a similar formula in regards to the other characters, we might find ourselves sneering a bit at the season’s overall laugh output. But we have to remember: these stories were constructed as an introduction. Their purpose isn’t to stand alone, but to set up the movie… the movie that we’re still not entirely sure will ever actually happen, but that we’re at least closer than ever to believing jut might.
Michael’s Arrested Season 4 ep, “Flight of the Phoenix,” does delve back into a handful of beloved old running gags — “You’re a crook, Captain Hook” being a personal favorite — but they serve more as “Remember this?” tangents than actual punchlines. Again, we can’t expect much more, especially from the first string of these new episodes. Arrested doesn’t just have to live up to its old funny, but to reinvent its old universe, an extremely intricate and specifically ordained one. And in reintroducing us to Michael, to (briefly) the other family members, and to the sort of mismanaged reality that we loved ten years back, the first of the new eps does succeed. In that way, it’s enjoyable and engrossing. As funny as we remember? Hardly. But before it can really get to that, it has a job to do, and it’s doing it.