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Review: The return of 'Arrested Development'

A mid-'00s classic comedy from Mitchell Hurwitz,

A mid-'00s classic comedy from Mitchell Hurwitz, "Arrested Development" was as funny, original and odd as anything most viewers had ever seen on a major TV network. Its influence remains wide and deep, and, in fact, the series has been born again on Netflix. Credit: Fox

"Arrested Development," a beloved series by a very few number of people, last aired on Fox, Feb. 10, 2006, closing with the words — entirely facetious — by producer and narrator Ron Howard that "maybe there should be a movie."

No movie (yet) but the long-aborning series reprisal began this morning on Netflix — all 15 4th-season episodes were available for download at 3 a.m.

But even with its idiosyncratic circuitry of logic, humor, plot and character unlike anything else on TV, the production of "Arrested Development" must be like riding a bike — once learned, never forgotten — because the new version is exactly right: Right tone, flavor, approach and story.

Fans who eagerly worked through all 15 are probably elated — exhausted but elated. I went through the first two, covering the stories of Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman), and George Sr. and his twin brother Oscar (Jeffrey Tambor). Elation is exactly the right word.

Netflix declined to send the episodes out for review, sparking concern among some critics that the new version would be a pallid stinker. But producer and creator Matthew Hurwitz (veteran "AD" writer Jim Vallely is also behind this) argued that the 15 episodes, each covering the story of each Bluth family member since the 2006 cancellation, needed to be seen together because each story and episode is interrelated. (The anthology approach was designed to accommodate the schedules of the many original stars, all busy, who included Portia De Rossi, David Cross, Michael Cera, Will Arnett, Jessica Walter and Tony Hale.)

In fact, fans can probably dip in anywhere. The first episode covered the story of Michael Bluth, still a helicopter parent hovering over George Michael (Cera), now at UC/Irvine; meanwhile, Oscar and George Sr. were running a sweat lodge in Arizona — long story but of course there was a scam involved.

The episodes included major star cameos, including Kristen Wiig and Seth Rogen as the younger Lucille (Jessica Walter) and George, while Liza Minnelli reprised her role as "Lucille II" and Henry Winkler was back as the sub-competent family lawyer, Barry Zuckerhorn.

It was just like old times, and the times remain very, very good.

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