TV reviews

Arrested Development 5×01 – ‘Family Leave’ – TV Review

“Michael Bluth had been away from his family for two months, and his life had never seemed better.”

On Arrested Development it can be hard to keep track of what’s happening when. Season four in particular, whether you watch the original release or the recent ‘Fateful Consequences’ edit, skipped around a lot in order to tell a complicated set of interwoven stories.

But it’s been five years since season four premiered, and when season five was announced just a few short weeks ago, one of the big questions was where it would pick up from. With the cast ageing 15 years across five seasons, would it find a way to gloss over the cliff-hangers from season four, and skip forward to the present day? Or would it pick up where it left off, on Cinco de Cuatro?

And the answer is that season five begins two days later, on May 6th, after Michael Bluth has involuntarily and unknowingly Forget-Me-Nowed his way through not one, but two nights, thanks to his brother Gob (Will Arnett). And then it starts to skip around.

The first episode of the season, ‘Family Leave’ focuses largely on Michael, and it’s great to see Jason Bateman slip right back into the role, complete with his character’s distinctive speech rhythm and facial expressions. It’s like he’s never been away.

Michael Cera has also found his way right back into the role of George Michael, with his confused and slightly hangdog expression, and his faltering way of speaking, trying to negotiate how to relate to his father after recently punching him. We catch brief glimpses of the rest of the Bluth family – including poor unrecognised STEVE HOLT! (Justin Grant Wade) – and these are just enough to assure us that the characters are still in the show, and to whet our appetites for seeing more of them.

The thrust of this episode is ‘What happened to Lucille Austero?’ (Liza Minnelli) who seems to have disappeared after the events of Cinco, and is now being treated as a missing person in a police investigation. This is likely to cast suspicion on just about all of the Bluth family, except for George Michael, who still doesn’t know who she is because he has never met her. This is a fact that many viewers will have missed until it was explicitly pointed out!

In just 25 minutes this first episode manages exposition, a whole load of call-backs, and what look to be the initial set ups for a variety of intriguing plots. Arrested Development, it would seem, is back with a bang.

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