'Arrested Development' is damaging Netflix

Spending constraints forced a character-sketch storyline that's turning off critics and infuriating shareholders.

By Jason Notte May 29, 2013 1:42PM
ArrestedDevelopment (© FOX)And now the story of a wealthy on-screen family that took nine episodes to get to the point of its story, and the streaming video company that has no choice but to try holding all those loose parts together.

It's Netflix's (NFLX) "Arrested Development."

The reviews are starting to trickle in after Netflix debuted the online-only season four after Fox (NWS) canceled the series in 2006, and the criticism has one common theme: Netflix made a huge mistake.

The biggest critics, company shareholders, sent the stock plummeting more than 6% Tuesday on the reactions.

The Onion's AV Club credited the show and its creator, Michael Hurwitz, for not lapsing into nostalgia and creating "an important and ground-breaking piece of TV" by starting the series with nine single-episode stories about each of the characters from the original run. Noble as that approach is, it may also be a vast overestimate of the broader Netflix viewing public's patience.

The Daily Beast went point by point in describing why season four was a bust and put the new character-study format at the top of its list. It also blamed Netflix's unorthodox pay scale to lure back stars including Jason Bateman, Portia de Rossi, Michael Cera and David Cross. As a result, Bateman's Michael Bluth is a nonfactor in several episodes, while Cera's George Michael disappears from the series for great lengths at a time, crushing the chemistry and the improvisation of the original series.

The tight budget also forced the new "Arrested Development" to shoot scenes in front of green screens with sets projected on them rather than on actual filming sites. That likely cost the series its best directors, Joe and Anthony Russo. The two passed on new episodes to make next summer's superhero film "Captain America: Winter Soldier" instead.

There's also the small detail that, well, it's seven years later. Shows like Fox's "Family Guy" and "Futurama" and Cartoon Network's "Venture Brothers" can be revived easily because their animated characters don't age and the voice-over talent behind them doesn't require a whole lot of time or money. Everybody involved with "Arrested Development" took a seven-year hiatus.

Even if the show's niche audience comes around, it may be too late to salvage another season or the rumored "Arrested Development" film. And that's why you don't wait almost a decade to bring back a cult hit.

More on moneyNOW

May 29, 2013 8:27PM

Oh, Give me a break the new season is great.

May 29, 2013 8:51PM
So is this article trying to tell me that the loudest segment of society, most likely the same segment that said for the original 3 seasons, "I don't get it," is going to kill off this show again?  The season has been available for 4 days now.  I guess THAT is how long it takes to determine success or failure on MSN...
May 29, 2013 11:11PM
I love it and if you don't like it go watch your Two and a Half Men.
May 29, 2013 11:26PM

 "Everybody involved with "Arrested Development" took a seven-year hiatus'


That's a bunch of crap, they have all been working.


The show was to good for TV, so its no surprise that its to good for the majority of the Netflix crowd.


Thank you Netflix for taking the chance with this, House of cards and Lillehammer. All of the originals have been fantastic streaming television.


Jeff Saadat

Cumming, GA

May 30, 2013 1:22AM
The new season is good. I think the people who don't like it should get back to watching their so called "reality shows" and take a Valium.
May 29, 2013 10:00PM

"And that's why you don't wait almost a decade to bring back a cult hit."


Hmmm....can we say Star Trek?  Yeah, the original movie was disappointing, but that still didn't kill off the franchise.


I always liked Arrested Development when I saw it in its original airing, though not a rabid fan.  I think the new season is also good if not great, and still in the end a victory for Netflix.

May 30, 2013 12:34AM
I really enjoyed the episodes of Arrested Development; I was fan and will continue to watch it whenever any other episodes are created.  The characters were true to form and the guest stars were fun as well.  I am waiting for more.
May 30, 2013 8:35AM
Microsoft has been predicting Netflix's demise for sometime, but nothing could be further from the truth.  Long live Netflix, and thanks for bringing back "Arrested Development."
May 30, 2013 8:36AM

Wow is this article serious!?


This can't be serious at all the new season is awesome.


"Infurating shareholders!?"  What kind of moron would be infurated with a cult classic shows return? 

May 30, 2013 6:43AM
I loved season 4, I seriously LOL'd at the ending and looked forward to seeing each character's episode and the different perspective of the story. I hope the cast/netflix doesn't get discouraged by the BS reviews and listens to the fans instead so that we can see more of the Bluth's!
May 30, 2013 8:16AM
MSN and its parent company NBC/Universal take every opportunity to dump on Netflix because people are leaving the network/cable model in droves for other options.  I, for one, quit cable and moved to Roku for streaming and couldn't be happier.  I only get local stations and for that I really only watch the local news.  NBC, MSNBC, MSN, etc. are dying a slow death.
May 30, 2013 2:47AM
The Onion AV review of season 4 is pretty pretentious.
May 30, 2013 8:54AM

Wow, and history repeats itself; stockholders trying to kill a perfectly good show before the fans even get a chance at it.

May 30, 2013 9:48AM
Isn't his name Mitchell Hurwitz? Makes sense that the writer of this article doesn't even get the creators name right, because he has no idea what he's talking about
May 30, 2013 9:20AM

Last night, I began watching the series again.  I missed watching it after season one.  Those who say this is a failure on Netflix's part after less than a week, and pull out need to look at other ways of investing, like a sock. 



Jun 2, 2013 8:30AM

Wow. Is Jason Notte a "journalist"? I hope not(te). He clearly did not watch it, and instead read a handful of blogs about it, cherry picked the ones that support his dubious thesis, added sensational headline terms that sound like they're ripped from the New York Daily News and called this an "article."


I don't mean to pick on him personally, but this makes me very concerned about our media.  Who was the editor here? No matter how you feel about AD's fourth season, this is NOT journalism, rather it is a terrible example of sensationalizing and misleading hype.


Drawing causality between the stock price drop and the reviews? Lazy and dangerous. And the commenter below is correct that the creator is Mitchell not Michael Hurwitz. Mistakes happen, that's for sure, but this is very sloppy. (Not to mention that, on balance, by press time of this piece more reviews are actually positive than negative, from critics and fan sites alike.)


Is this whole article a cynical attempt to catch a bit of the hype and send it MSN-way? Makes me feel stupid for even commenting.  But I have to.


I hope (but doubt) that MSN does better with its harder-hitting pieces. Alas, this is Fox and CNN caliber fluff-aganda masquerading as journalism. disappointing.

May 30, 2013 9:55AM
Is the author of this article serious?  Where the heck is he getting his information from?  Everything I have read, or even heard on the radio has been nothing but praise for this new season.  I just heard there has even been, as of 6 hours ago, over 100,000 illegal downloads of the season. 

This author seems to be making up statistics and TRYING TO PASS OPINION AS FACT...  As for the Netflix stock, it is normal that stock fluctuates, even 6% on any given day... "Wow" to the fact that it happened right after the release of the season.  Really, cmon...
May 30, 2013 12:45PM
Microsoft has been reporting Netflix dome for a while. Is it a jealous, rejected suiter?  Hats off to Netflix, and to the continuation "Arrested Development.
May 30, 2013 11:38AM

I've never seen this show, but you know what Netflix show is terrible?


That show is so stupid! It was rambling, directionless until the last few episodes of the first season, overpacked with sex scenes between what are supposed to be/portrayed as teenagers... If I wanted that much nudity, I would find some pornography!

The only reason we actually watched the entire season was because we were hoping it would get better, which it never did. Plus it's kind of like not finishing a book. So annoying! I hear House of Cards is actually really good... perhaps if I get bored enough to watch tv again any time soon, I will check it out.

May 30, 2013 10:56AM
anything is better than reality tv
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