Five Things the New Arrested Development Should Do to Stay Great

Some notes as we rejoice over the return of the Bluths.

By Jonathan Weed

Arrested Development is back and everything in the world is beautiful again! So said Facebook, Twitter, and Scandal Makers, exploding with the news that Netflix had officially agreed to air a fourth season of the beloved show via its online subscription service in early 2013. But it's a little early to break out the sparkling cider (or go down to the liquor store and get ourselves some... liquor). A five-year hiatus and a series of failed projects from Mitch Hurwitz since the show's cancellation should make even the most enthusiastic AD fan a little wary. But, never fear, Arrested Development writers: here are five suggestions for keeping the show great.

1. Avoid flashy guest stars.

When Arrested Development's second season was cut short after terrible ratings, Fox told show runner Mitch Hurwitz to find a star. The result was the introduction of Charlize Theron as the beautiful, kind, mentally retarded Rita Leeds. It did not go well: Theron's broad performance upset the show's comedic rhythms, and, even if her inclusion did draw new viewers, it's unlikely that they stuck around for long. (She was, after all, retarded.) Hurwitz might be tempted to use the show's prestige to cast big guest stars in the new episodes, but here's a tip: if he wants to keep the show great, he shouldn't call anyone more famous than Carl Weathers.

2. Lay off of Tobias.

David Cross is a great actor and a great comedian, and Arrested Development has used his skills extremely well. Unfortunately, as the show's ratings fell, Cross's Tobias was forced to do more and more of the show's comedic heavy lifting. Tobias is most effective when he's studiously deluding himself into thinking he's a heterosexual professional actor. His Season 3 arc — mole suit, hair plugs, graft-versus-host, teabagging references — wasn't delusional: it was insane. Let's hope Season 3 was a brief aberration and the new Tobias returns to his roots: community-theater auditions, fire-sale commercials, and serious self-help books about the men inside him.

3. Move beyond old jokes.

In the years since Arrested Development was canceled, some of its best recurring jokes have become well-worn totems of comedic cool. (Nothing makes friends faster than a well timed "Her?") As much as I like jokes about blowing oneself, loading new Arrested Development episodes with references to old ones will make the new season feel stale. And, as tempting as it might be to revisit old plotlines, the writers should be cautious. Look at Season 3's "Making a Stand": a competent episode, but funny new jokes got lost among the weight of references to Season 1's monumental "Pier Pressure." The "Bob Loblaw" puns in Season 3 prove that satisfying recurring jokes can be built from scratch over the course of just a few episodes. The new season should do just that.

4. Put Maeby back in school.

Maeby Fünke has always been the least funny character in the family, but her role as the lazy schemer has often proved indispensible to the mechanics of the show's plot. She's funniest when the show subverts expectations and makes her plans more complicated and conniving than situation deserves. That's why making Maeby a successful film executive was a misstep. When she gets actual power, Maeby isn't ridiculous. She's just ridiculously lucky. The best environment for Maeby is back in high school, where her Machiavellian impulses are thoroughly out of place and the stakes suitably low. If Arrested Development wants to use Maeby to her full potential, the new season should bring her back to her Surely Fünke-impersonating, Steve Holt-loving, crocodile-spelling roots.

5. Don't let George Michael steal the show.

Arrested Development gave a boost to a lot of struggling careers. (Sorry, Jason Bateman, but The Hogan Family wasn't exactly a classic.) But no one benefited more than Michael Cera, America's most unlikely movie star. Cera has been playing a version of George Michael in movies for the last five years and it's made him famous, but the new Arrested Development shouldn't acknowledge that stardom or make him the center of the show. Like Maeby, George Michael does best when the stakes are low. George Michael should stay out of the family business and stick to the supporting role he perfected during the show's first three seasons. Sometimes, there's nothing wrong with sitting back and letting your father teach you a lesson.

Commentarium (41 Comments)

Nov 29 11 - 1:53am
Tommy Phresh

I do kinda see what you're saying, but these suggestions are really the reasons why I love this show so much. I need more Tobias, guest stars, and I love when you see the jokes come full circle. I got a suggestion, more Gene Parmasian, and Franklin.

Dec 01 11 - 3:49pm


Nov 29 11 - 1:54am

Nerve doesn't really seem like the authority on what will make the new season of AD work. Just sayin.

Nov 29 11 - 2:15am

Things that were wrong about this article: Everything. There are so many reasons a new AD season could suck (Sit Down, Shut Up and Running Wilde being the first two that come to mind; putting a fragile, beloved enterprise in a completely untested production format being another), but Rita, Tobias, Maeby and George Michael are NOT those reasons. "That's why making Maeby a successful film executive was a misstep" -- Seriously? The Old Man and the Sea? Return of Gangy? Marry me? That was a freebie? And trying to take the references and running gags out of AD is like trying to take the cheese out of cheesecake. I mean, what's the point? Do you even LIKE cheesecake? If not, instead of changing the delicious cheesy slice so many enjoy, why don't you just find a cake that doesn't have cheese in it? You know, all of the other ones on television? Not too many winking in-jokes on Two and a Half Men, I don't think.

Nov 29 11 - 8:30pm

Brilliantly put. Too bad there's no way to upvote comments here. Hi reddit!

Nov 30 11 - 5:09am

Hi person.

Dec 01 11 - 12:05am

there you are, reddit.

Dec 01 11 - 1:34am

why wasn't i invinted?
i'm never invited:(

Dec 03 11 - 4:04am

It's okay, Digg. I'm not busy either. Want to hang out?

Nov 29 11 - 2:38am

I'd agree with the previous four posters and also add that AD was really, really fantastic at integrating famous guest stars into episodes. Mr. F wasn't the show's best plotline, but some of the greatest stories came from A-list guest stars (Lucille 2, Maggie Lizer, and GOB's wife come to mind).

Nov 29 11 - 3:23am

Maybe it's because I came to the show late and just started watching when Charlize Theron was on, but I thought she was brilliant, and she was the reason I got hooked.

Nov 29 11 - 10:45am

The whole MR F arc was hilarious and genius. It's been years, but my friends and I still says "MR F!" James-Bond-voiceover style when one of us does something oddball or dumb.

Nov 29 11 - 12:53pm

Seriously Nerve, CMON!!!!

Nov 29 11 - 2:49pm

This article shows a different opinion from everyone I've heard from, but I am in full agreement with the previous posters. I'm sure the writers know not to just pound in all of these flashy stars, but the flashy stars were always great fun for me. Ben Stiller was great. Charlize was great. Amy Poehler was great. Lay off Tobias? WHAAAT? COME ON. I love crazy Tobias. More of him and Portia having marriage problems. Old jokes are what make this show pure magic. I enjoy laughing at a joke from 3 episodes ago. I'm sure Egg would agree with me. All of the people show in the picture above are stars of the show, and the writers will give all of them appropriate screen time. It sucks that this show was clearly ahead of its time, but now, it has a chance to have this amazing comeback. The writers won't mess it up. Hopefully. It's arrested development.

Nov 29 11 - 3:05pm

are you guys sure you're fans of this show? because your suggestions suggest otherwise.

Nov 29 11 - 3:07pm

I mean, your article suggest otherwise.

Nov 29 11 - 5:02pm

Let me be the voice of dissent here and say that I think these suggestions are spot on. How disappointing would it be for new episodes of AD to come out and only elicit laughter when they made us go "ahhh yeah, I remember that joke."? Arrested has already established a lengthy list of fantastic in-jokes that it's successfully mined over its 53-episode span. A reference here and there would be great and true to the spirit of the show, but to get bogged down in familiarity out of some misplaced obligation to the fans would, I think, ultimately prove disappointing. It certainly would to me. Also, the Tobias arc in season 3 was one of the low-points of AD's brilliant run. Over the top and cartoonish and blatantly mean-spirited.

I think most of these suggestions are just to ensure that the show doesn't stray too far from what we all love, which is why I find this backlash a little strange. Read a little closer, Nerve isn't suggesting they omit Tobias, Maeby, and George Michael. They're merely saying that they should stay true to the essence of their characters. I love season 3 to death but I do think it was sometimes toeing the line between character and caricature, and I wouldn't mind seeing some of the more outrageous, potentially out of character aspects toned down a bit for its return.

Nov 29 11 - 11:16pm

Absolutely agree.

Nerve got it spot on with this article.

Nov 29 11 - 5:41pm

"...her inclusion did draw new viewers, it's unlikely that they stuck around for long. (She was, after all, retarded.)"

Um, WHAT? Sooo no one at Nerve read that sentence and thought, "hey maybe we shouldn't be insensitive assholes about people with intellectual disabilities!" Ableism at its finest, Nerve.

Nov 29 11 - 9:36pm

Well, that's completely wrong.

Nov 29 11 - 10:23pm

Don't make old joke references? You do realize that is what the whole show is about, right? It's a continual storyline that demands you're involved all the way through. To suggest that you dump the chicken dance or any other of their repetitive jokes is asinine.

Nov 30 11 - 12:20pm

Where in this article did they say "Don't make old joke references"? I think the exact sentence was "loading new Arrested Development episodes with references to old ones will make the new season feel stale". Which is true.

I'd be happy to see the chicken dances again, or a well timed "I've made a huge mistake", but the return of the show shouldn't RELY on those jokes - it should make plenty of new ones.

Nov 30 11 - 8:48pm

But it's not true. It should read "loading new Arrested Development episodes with references to old ones will make the new season feel like all of the other seasons." They have always been loaded with references, and taking that out would be contrary to the spirit of the show.

I don't think anyone is saying that there should be no new jokes or that every episode should be about Michael Ceras -- but there is no reason to be afraid of that based on the previous seasons of Arrested Development. It was always a solid ensemble show that used references to great effect. Oh, and it always had a lot of broad and physical comedy, too.

What really sucks about the article is that it seems to be saying, "Don't do this thing that sucks... the way the third season sucked." The third season did not suck. Straight up.

Nov 29 11 - 11:08pm

"Tobias returns to his roots: community-theater auditions, fire-sale commercials, and serious self-help books about the men inside him. ...3. Move beyond old jokes."

Do you see how this could be a fair bit contradictory?

Nov 30 11 - 11:13am

Hey man, cool story. But I forgot its name...what was it again?

Nov 30 11 - 10:59am

I disagree with all except number 5.

Nov 30 11 - 11:25am

I fully agree with all of them. The show is about subtlety and that's what I found great about it. Shows that put the punch line out there and over exaggerate it ruin it for me. Predictability will ruin this show.

Nov 30 11 - 11:27am

There is always money in the banana stand...

Nov 30 11 - 1:45pm

nothing bad about arrested development, everything on that show was laughs!

Nov 30 11 - 4:20pm

OK, your first two points are ridiculous and unfounded by some utterly classic AD moments. Boo and hiss.

Dec 01 11 - 2:22am
Actual AD fan

Ya I disagree completely with this article, I hope they read it and do the exact opposite

Dec 03 11 - 2:50am
Videoport Jones

Some interesting points. I think the Rita subplot was pretty ballsy, though (and retarded though I may as well be, I was actually surprised by the revelation.)
For another bloggy perspective:

Dec 03 11 - 2:53am
Videoport Jones

I will say that, as quibbly as some of this articles points may be, they are just that- quibbles over one of the best tv shows in history. I don't think the things that didn't work were the result of some decline in quality- to quote a great fucking movie "Like Papa Wallenda said, 'Life is on the wire. The rest is just waiting.'"

Dec 03 11 - 11:37am

Yeah right! Like the guy in the $3000 suit is going to agree with this article! C'MON!

Dec 05 11 - 6:21pm

The name of this article should be, "If you want your show to succeed, then you NEED to hire me". This is so black and white, father knows best BS. When you have a network slashing your budget, and producers trying to direct your actors over your shoulder, it makes it much harder to achieve the "perfect" version of the show you describe.

Dec 05 11 - 9:05pm

Thank God you're not a write for AD. Your strategy seems to be "change everything". No. Just no.

Dec 09 11 - 10:59am

Offensive suggestions. Nerve is a website i will NEVER return to. I have watched this show at least 6 times. Its hillarious and theres not one episode that isnt brilliant writing. As well as stringing plots together and reinfusing jokes from previous episodes it does an incredible job at portraying the characters. Avoid flashy guest stars?? Are you kidding? What is this, everybody love raymond? Thats a huge part of the show. Its fantastic, seeing ben stiller i almost...i was excited. "Less david cross, less micheal cera, less jokes and hmm why dont you just write it how we say because little girls have to be put in school for ratings. "

Dec 14 11 - 9:33am

Charlize Theron completely ruined half of the 3rd season. A single episode? Ok... 5 episodes of the worst subplot to ever be on the show? C'mon!!! The article is right on about Tobias as well during season 3... his little quotes here and there were hilarious during the first two seasons were brilliant, but his wheelchair bound antics wore thin during season 3....

Mar 03 12 - 8:03am

Completely agree, the charlize eps were the lowlight of the whole 3 series. i thought she was terrible and the plot just as bad.

Dec 24 11 - 12:52am
burger king

if AD run on jokes are old then you were never a fan. i'm still laughing, I just found another hidden inside joke today in the Episode "Queen for a day".

Mar 10 12 - 7:22pm

The mole episode is my favorite in the entire series. Tiny town? Tobias as a "spotter" at the gym. Gob saying, "Lord knows they're squinters!" about the Japanese investors. Love it. I'll also defend graft vs host all my life. Uncle Teabag. Hahaha.