Netflix today revealed that Arrested Development, Mitchell Hurwitz’s sitcom about an extended family of comically terrible people, will continue on March 15th. It’s the first announcement confirming the release date for the second half of the show’s fifth season. Episodes 1–8 of season 5 were released simultaneously on the service on May 29th, 2018, so it’s been a long wait for the show to continue. Overall reactions to Netflix’s revival of the show have been mixed to negative, and controversies centering on ensemble member Jeffrey Tambor dogged the show’s 2018 release. That may help explain the long delay, if Netflix has been waiting for cultural tensions to ease somewhat before continuing the season.
Arrested Development originally aired on Fox for three seasons from 2003–2006, and it was a much-praised critical darling and Emmy winner that never did particularly well in the ratings. Netflix revived the show for a fourth season in 2013, but many members of the cast had become significantly more famous since 2003. The show’s primary stars include Jason Bateman, Michael Cera, Will Arnett, Jessica Walter, Alia Shawkat, Tony Hale, and David Cross as members of the formerly rich, rapidly disintegrating Bluth family. Their shooting schedules were difficult to combine, and the fourth season focused on individual, isolated adventures rather than collective ones. Reactions to the fourth season were mixed at best, and for the fifth season, Hurwitz returned to the show’s more conventional ensemble interaction.
But a series of sexual harassment allegations against Tambor, which resulted in him being fired from the Amazon show Transparent, dogged Arrested Development’s reemergence, and a troubled collective New York Times interview with the cast ended up dominating the story around season 5’s first-half release. In that interview, Walter wept while talking about Tambor screaming at her on set, as Bateman, Hale, and Cross all downplayed his behavior. Shawkat was the only one of the group who stood up for Walter. While Walter said she was “over it” and had forgiven Tambor, the gender dynamic around the conversation sparked extensive discussion on social media and a host of apologies and further interviews with the cast, focusing more on the set dynamics and confrontations than on the show.
The other main focus of media attention around season 5 came from a plotline that felt particularly relevant when the show was shot in 2017: the Bluth family’s involvement with the building of a border wall between Mexico and America. That subplot apparently continues in the second half of the season, and with the recent government shutdown over border wall funding still in recent memory, it’s no less relevant now than it was two years ago.
Here’s Netflix’s plot summary for episodes 9–16 of Arrested Development season 5:
In the second half of Arrested Development’s fifth season, pressures mount on the Bluth family as Buster heads toward a murder trial. The Bluth company is on the hook to build a ’smart’ border wall that puts them in debt and risks exposing a software hoax perpetrated by George-Michael. Soon the gay mafia is involved and it appears that even Michael can’t save the family this time. And Tobias becomes a Golden Girl.