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'Arrested Development' review: Fifth season is for the show's hard-core fans

Jessica Walter, left, Jeffrey Tambor, David Cross and

Jessica Walter, left, Jeffrey Tambor, David Cross and Will Arnett star in "Arrested Development." Credit: Netflix/Saeed Adyani

THE SERIES "Arrested Development"

WHEN | WHERE Now streaming on Netflix

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Last seen on the famed Stair Car, Lucille Austero (Liza Minnelli) has since disappeared, and foul play is considered, with either Buster (Tony Hale) or his robotic hand as primary suspects. Meanwhile, lots of cliffhangers are resolved, sort of, including answers to the future of George-Michael's (Michael Cera) software company, Fakeblock; the outcome of the U.S.-Mexico wall that George (Jeffrey Tambor) and Lindsay (Portia de Rossi) planned to build; and that love triangle with Michael (Jason Bateman), George-Michael and Rebel Alley (Isla Fisher). The first eight episodes of what will eventually be a 16-episode season launched last week. 

MY SAY For hard-core fans of "Arrested Development" — which, incidentally, are the only kind of "Arrested Development" fans there are anymore — it's probably not the worst idea in the world to watch some of the "remixed" fourth season before proceeding to the fifth, time or patience permitting. This could help appreciate the fifth season even more.

When creator Mitch Hurwitz rebooted the fourth season in 2013, he didn't quite have all his ducks, or actors, in a row. The entire season's storyline was therefore broken up according to "actor availability," which is Hollywood-speak for "the money isn't quite good enough to get me to drop my other projects for this."

The result was not quite a reboot, and not quite "AD" either. It seemed as if the Bluths existed on different planes of existence that didn't quite intermesh. The "remix" made up for that, or tried to. Hurwitz chopped up the entire season and then patched it all back together again to make the Bluths, and story, commingle. This Frankenshow was hard to watch, hard to follow, hard to justify.  

At long, long last, "Arrested" has finally arrived as it should. The entire cast cleared their schedule for this. Ron Howard made an extended cameo. (Howard, whose Imagine Entertainment produces the show, is also its showrunner — and part of an extended joke.) Everything, and everyone, is in order, or was.

But because the universe is utterly indifferent to the Bluths and maybe a little bit to Hurwitz too, something bad happened before launch. In February, Jeffrey Tambor was fired from "Transparent" after sexual harassment allegations, then during an interview with The New York Times, co-star Jessica Walter revealed that Tambor had verbally abused her on set as well. Both revelations were like two long scratches across the LP of the fifth season. How that affects fans' enjoyment is impossible to say.How it could not, however, seems impossible, too.

That's a shame because there's much to enjoy here. This first half of the fifth season does seem like a show that has all the time in the world, which translates into the occasional scene that lasts a beat or two longer than advisable. Making sense of "Arrested Development" is antithetical to the show's true spirit, but longer scenes mean slower pacing, and slower pacing forces viewers to figure things out and ... well, that's not a good idea. 

But the pleasures are abundant: The brilliant Maria Bamford makes a cameo as Lindsay Bluth, while, for a good chunk of the season, Maeby Fünke (Alia Shawkat) turns into "Annette"; Rance Howard — Ron Howard's dad — makes a priceless cameo; Gob (Will Arnett) buys a closet conversion company that only makes closets; Barry Zuckerkorn (Henry Winkler) returns, after he is bailed out of jail by Michael, who was trying to bail out Buster. 

It's all packed with inside jokes and callbacks of inside jokes. This one's for the fans. A shame Tambor's behavior crashed the party.

BOTTOM LINE Better than the fourth season — which isn't saying much, admittedly — with lots of pleasures, and some padding, too.

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