‘Arrested Development’ Season 5, Part 1 Review: Familiar, but Faded.

When we last left the Bluth Family at the annual Cinco de Cuatro celebration at the end of season four, it seemed as if things were looking particularly bad for the family. Michael had a falling out with his son over a girl and was punched in the face; Gob attempted to ruin his professional rival’s career but ended up in bed with him instead; Lucille asked for a divorce from George Sr.; Lindsay decided to run for office on an anti-immigrant platform; Tobias and Maeby, in separate incidents of misunderstanding, ended up on the sex offender registry; George-Michael’s FakeBlock lie continued to grow beyond his control; and Buster was arrested for the murder of Lucille Austero.

Season five explores a few of season four’s threads as the family tries to deal with their numerous issues, and is a return to the traditional story telling form fans of the show are used to. Like any season of the show, a lot is going on with each character and plots intertwine. The most notable plots are Lindsay’s campaign, Michael trying to reconnect with this son, Gob dealing with his sexuality, Buster’s incarceration, and Maeby living out another pretend persona for her own personal gain.

One of the best aspects of this season are the fourth wall breaks when it comes to the voiceover. Ron Howard has been the narrator of the series since its inception, but last season the producer/director was introduced as a character on the show as a fictionalized version of himself. Now, not only do we get classic moments in the voiceover of the narrator contradicting something a character says, but we get little jabs at Howard himself. While this may have been an aspect last season too, the jabs this time seem a bit more hard hitting, and the fact that it’s Howard commenting on himself just adds that much more humor to the situation. The writers are definitely playing up his “good guy” reputation in a fun way. I hope we get to see more of him as the season progresses.

Maeby’s narrative is a particular high point this season. Always one for deception to get what she wants, Maeby carries on a relationship with her family’s rival Stan Sitwell in order to keep living in Lucille Austero’s secret tryst hideaway. Even though audiences are used to this kind of narrative from Maeby, the ante is upped because she must dress the part of a 75-year-old woman. This is way more enjoyable than her pretending to be a studio exec when she was still in high school, or a high school student when she should have been in college. Her awkward interactions with Stan are priceless and she really captures the essence of a cool grandmotherly figure not only in her look but her actions.

It’s refreshing to see all the Bluths on the same set together again without the use of camera trickery to achieve that affect. And while it is nice that the show is following a familiar format, there is just something off about the season so far. There is a saying that you can’t go home again, and I think that’s starting to really ring true with this once beloved show. The magic that existed in those first three seasons just isn’t there anymore. It’s not bad, just mediocre with spots of good. Maybe these issues will be erased when the rest of the season debuts later this year, but so far I’m not holding out much hope.

The mid-season doesn’t really end on any notable cliffhanger to make the viewer crave for more episodes to be dropped on the platform right now. Since this is just part of a season, it’s to be determined if all the threads will be neatly tied together or if elements and characters are forgotten. So far it feels like elements have been dropped by the wayside, but I’m hoping that they’ll be picked back up once the second half debuts.

Overall, season five will feel familiar in format to longtime fans but is missing what made the show special the first time around.

3 / 5

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