The Importance of Character Interaction: A Lesson from Season 4 of Arrested Development

I am a big fan of the television series Arrested Development. I have the first three seasons on DVD, and I have watched each season at least ten times. I love Arrested Development for many reasons. To name a few, the writing is clever, the characters are ridiculously awesome, and the show is still funny ten years later. Plus, there is always money in the banana stand. Needless to say, when I heard about season four coming to Netflix, I was excited. However, as my husband and I learned more about the upcoming season, we became a bit worried. The format of the fourth season of Arrested Development is completely different. I like that Mitch Hurwitz is being creative and trying new things with the flexibility of Netflix. But, I was disappointed to hear every episode was centered around one character. Later, I learned part of the reason for the change was the availability of the cast. Arrested Development was a springboard for much of the cast into greater acting fame. Therefore, it was difficult to gather the cast together for filming.

In case you live in a hole, the complete fourth season of Arrested Development was released to Netflix on Sunday May 26. The season has 15 episodes of varying length with most around 30 minutes. My husband and I have been making our way through the season since its release date. We finally finished the season over the weekend and were a bit disappointed  because some of our worries going into this season were correct.

The new format of the show loses much of the essence and fun of Arrested Development. Each episode focuses on one character for a span of time. During the episode, there is little interaction between the focus character and the rest of the cast; the fun interplay between the characters is lost. I love the show because putting all the stellar actors and ridiculous characters into a room together is a recipe for greatness. Many of the characters do not hold up on their own, but some do. For example, the Gob, Tobias, and George Michael episodes are great.

Season four of Arrested Development reminded me of the importance of character interaction in stories.  An author might have a great character, but not a great story without a good supporting cast. A good story needs good interplay, dialogue, and relationships between the characters. George Michael isn't nearly as funny without Maeby in the story. Harry Potter isn't the same boy without Ron and Hermoine. Psych detective Shawn Spencer needs his sidekick Gus to solve crimes and keep the laughs rolling.

So thanks to Arrested Development for reminding me of the importance of character interaction, even if it means Season 4 isn't everything I hoped.