updated 05/27/2013 AT 10:00 AM ET
•originally published 05/27/2013 AT 11:30 AM ET
Arrested Development, one of the cleverest sitcoms of all time, returned to life over the weekend, as Netflix launched an entire season of 15 new episodes for instant and, if one so chooses, marathon streaming.
This is a cause for celebration: reviving a cult network classic as digital, 24/7 programming is something like cloning a fresh mastodon from genetic material tweezered off a frozen carcass.
There is no guarantee, however, that the genetic material may not have mutated or deteriorated with time.
That is the case with Arrested Development, which lasted a mere three seasons on Fox despite ecstatic praise and is now regarded as such a classic that this revival has been wildly anticipated (and hyped).
This new, fourth season isn’t bad – otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten through it in a day – but it’s a very different beast from the original, and it’s not nearly as funny. That’s even with the tremendous advantage of the original cast (including Jason Bateman, Will Arnett and Michael Cera) reuniting to play the Bluth family, an unhappy, sometimes ruthless but fundamentally tinpot business dynasty foundering on stupid decisions and underhanded desperation.
The mistake appears to be so simple but so decisive it results in a show that is recognizably Arrested Development but really isn’t at all.