11:45 am EDT, May 26, 2013

‘Arrested Development’ season 4 early impressions: ‘Showstealer Pro,’ old gags return, and more

Arrested Development season 4 on Netflix has only been available for less than 12 hours at the time of this writing, but already fans are talking feverishly about the new episodes.

All fifteen new Arrested Development episodes premiered at 3:01 a.m. eastern, and many fans decided to burn the midnight oil to get through as many as possible in the middle of the night.

We’ve been particularly curious as to how closely the show would follow its original three seasons which aired over seven years ago. Creator Mitch Hurwitz decided to keep many things the same. For example, curse words are still bleeped as if these episodes were airing on network television (Netflix does not need to censor anything).

The title sequences are also the same, but Ron Howard’s narration changes slightly for each one to note the character that the particular episode will focus on. For example, “It’s Tobias’ Arrested Development.”

The character spotlights are one aspect that have changed hugely between seasons 3 and 4. Whereas with past seasons we would see a mash up of character storylines in one episode, in season 4 each episode focuses on one character. Their storyline is loosely connected to a broader story (and the theme of the family keeping themselves together), and not all characters appear in every episode. This is because the work schedules of the actors who had limited time to film the show.

Although some aspects of Arrested Development feel new, we definitely see the return of several in-jokes. For example, the sad Charlie Brown walk…

Tobias' Charlie Brown walk in Arrested Development season 4

Many of the new episodes run for at least 30 minutes – a huge step up over seasons one through three. Episodes in seasons 1 through 3 lasted 21 or 22 minutes because of the need for commercials. Though there are no longer commercials you have to sit through, the show is still cut up into multiple acts, and you’ll get a brief reminder of what just happened at the beginning of acts two and three.

‘Showstealer Pro’

In several episodes of Arrested Development season 4 there is a watermark that appears overtop flashbacks to when the show aired on Fox. The watermark reads “Showstealer Pro Trial Version,” as if Netflix couldn’t afford to pay for the full version of a program that steals old television clips. The “Showstealer Pro” text misled some who then took to Twitter to question whether it was a mistake or not:

As good as seasons one through three?

Because of how each episode in Arrested Development season 4 focuses on one character, it’s hard to compare the show to seasons 1 through 3. The good news is that the actors are still on top of their characters, and Mitch’s writing is as creative as ever. We’ll need more time to digest (and watch!) the episodes, but for now we can safely say that the magic of the original show has indeed been brought back. And, it was wise for Netflix to have unmade a huge mistake.

What have you noticed in Arrested Development season 4? Hit the comments to talk about it!

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