First, I'd like to take this moment to apologize for one of the longest titles I've ever put on this website. I got kind of caught up in the whole thing and couldn't stop myself. Now, the topic at hand.
Before I actually discuss my feelings about the 4th season of Arrested Development, I feel there is some basic background information that is necessary to understand. First and foremost, I want everyone to understand that I watched the fourth season of the show within a week of it's release. I am writing about it now because I am compelled by a very powerful and uncontrollable laziness. It dominates my every interaction with the world. Second, I think it is important to understand the perspective that I am approaching the show from. That perspective is, specifically, the perspective of a complete Arrested Development virgin. As I understand it, the show was on television quite some time ago and was cancelled. I never watched the show while it was on television nor did anyone encourage me to do so. I assume my case is somewhat indicative of why it was cancelled. Furthermore, I understand that in the time since the show was on television it has become somewhat of a favorite among young people and people who own DVD players. In the first several years after cancellation, I was inundated with recommendations (read demands) that I watch the show immediately. As I have explained previously, there is no more sure-fire way to make me ignore an element of pop-culture (or non-pop-culture) than to overwhelm me with recommendations (read demands). While I understand that no individual overwhelmed me, the effect is cumulative and has a inevitable conclusion. I did not watch the show at any point in the intervening years. Since I had never watched the show prior to the launch of the new season, I watched the entire series contiguously.
I think that I can safely say that I deeply enjoyed the entire series from beginning to end. I am certain that I laughed harder while watching the show than I have ever laughed at a TV show in my life. Most good comedies, the show is dependent on the uniqueness of the personalities and the interaction of said personalities. Arrested Development is no exception. What makes Arrested Development special is the quirkiness and severity of the personalities. More importantly, the characters of Arrested Development are all unique interpretations of the same basic element of personality. Each and every character demonstrates a disturbingly intense level of self-involvement. Every character functions and interacts with every other character based on their own individual blend of narcissism. And that, friends, is the crux of many of the complaints that I have read about the new season.
On more than one occasion, I have read and heard people saying that the characters and their personalities seemed to have changed between the new season and the previous seasons. I think that this is a patently incorrect observation that is born, somewhat, of the nostalgia that many people have for the original three seasons. Even if a fan of the show has watched the DVDs of the show continuously since their release, they are still influenced by the passage of time since they originally watched the show. As happens with any media, the positive and negative elements of the work expand and contract as the mind continues to re-contextualize them. The same holds true for the personalities of the characters in Arrested Development. For example, I have heard multiple complaints that Michael has become significantly more self-absorbed than he was in the original seasons. From what I have seen, Michael has not changed rather his presentation has changed. In the original seasons, we watched a conglomerated story of all the characters at a specific period of time. In the fourth season, each episode focuses on a specific character and their behavior during an extended period of time. With such a detailed view of Michael, viewers finally have a chance to see all of the self-obsessed actions and interactions that he presumably undertook in the original seasons but were glossed over in the interest of progressing the story.
As someone who watched the original seasons for the first time only a few days before the release of the newest season, I see the behavior of Michael and the other characters in season four as continuations and amplifications of the personalities featured in seasons one through three. In a strange sort of way, I think that this unusual viewing style might have allowed me to see the show in a different light than the hardcore fans. In fact, I would almost say that this created a perspective closer to the one that conceived of by the creators.
I would say that this lesson applies much more broadly than just Arrested Development. In the past, I have been guilty of the hallmark nerd crime of complaining that new iterations ruin the previous art. It is easy to see from the Arrested Development scenario that this assertion is mostly bullshit and we all just need to shut up and move past our stranglehold on the past. I'm looking at you guys growing Victorian style mustaches or claiming that anything from the 90's is vintage.
My personal recommendation, re-watch all of Arrested Development and do your best to forget that you ever saw it before. I suppose you also try a pretty severe bump to the head but I'm not going to recommend it.