Let’s face it: Watching Arrested Development now might not be as easy as it was back when it premiered 15 years ago. The canceled Fox series, which was revived by Netflix in 2013 for a critically panned fourth season, returns Tuesday, May 29 for a fifth season that…you demanded? Somebody demanded. Regardless, it’s here and so is all of its recent baggage.
The fourth season largely featured the beloved ensemble cast separate from one another, their stories connecting tangentially with more being revealed as you watched further into the season. The “experiment” didn’t really work and Arrested creator Mitch Hurwitz recut the season into a traditional 22-episode season released earlier in May 2018.
What made Arrested Development so special was the cast, which includes Jessica Walter, David Cross, Alia Shawkat, Portia De Rossi, Will Arnett, Tony Hale, Michael Cera, Jason Bateman and Jeffrey Tambor. The cast also makes watching the fifth season all the more difficult.
If you’re able to get over the bad taste the fourth season’s story structure left in your mouth, recent headlines and allegations are the most recent hurdle to enjoying the new episodes. It all started with allegations of misconduct leveled against Tambor on set of Transparent. What followed was a vague statement seemingly announcing the Emmy winner’s exit from the Amazon series, an investigation and then an official announcement’ of Tambor’s departure. He gave an interview with The Hollywood Reporter that seemed to be an attempt to rehab his public image, almost to say, “Hey, you can watch me in Arrested Development” and be OK about it.
In the THR interview there’s a reference to an incident Tambor and Walter had on Arrested Development. There’s a line the stood out: “a rep for Walter says, ‘Jessica does not wish to talk about Jeffrey Tambor.'” However, Walter did talk about Tambor—in his presence—as part of a New York Times interview with much of the cast.
In the interview, which generated numerous headlines, Walter tearfully talked about the incident she had with Tambor on set and said it was time for her to forgive him.
“I have to let go of being angry at him,” Walter told the NY Times, and noted in “almost 60 years of working, I’ve never had anybody yell at me like that on a set and it’s hard to deal with, but I’m over it now.”
What stood out was how her costars seemed to gaslight the acclaimed actress into thinking what took place between her and Tambor was normal, a typical Hollywood happening. “But that doesn’t mean it’s acceptable,” Shawkat told her costars. Bateman, Hale and Cross have all apologized publicly and privately since the interview was published. After that article and the apologies, planned press tours were canceled, but Arrested Development stayed on track at Netflix.
“This gang means a lot to me, lo these 15 years when I first met them. They really mean a lot to me. For all of us, 15 years ago, it really is a mark for our careers. There’s no price on it,” Walter told E! News’ Zuri Hall at the Arrested Development season five premiere, which took place ahead of the New York Times interview.
It’s clear the show means a lot to the actors. De Rossi said it’s the only project that can get her to come out of acting retirement. “Like the name suggests, Arrested Development, right? I’m kind of stuck as a Bluth for the rest of my days…And I’m happy that I can’t get out of it ‘cause it’s so brilliant and I’m so proud to be part of it,” de Rossi told E! News. And the show means a lot to fans too—including this writer. Arrested Development is brilliant, as de Rossi said. It includes some of the best jokes and commentary out there. However, real-world happenings have made it hard to get excited about the return of the fictional Bluth family.
Is it a matter of separating the art and the artist? Who knew a sitcom could bring up so many conflicting feelings? Whatever decision you, as a viewer, make about Arrested Development, is the right decision because it’s one you made for yourself. It’s on you, as a viewer, to decide whether you can watch and still enjoy Arrested Development.
If you do watch, know this: “Pleasure” is what fans will get from the new season, Walter said.
“They’re going to have a lot of pleasure,” she said, “and if they don’t? We’ll have to come back in five years!”
Arrested Development season five is now streaming on Netflix.