This is the first (not-spoilery!) post in a series from Atlantic writers on Arrested Development's fourth season.
It was at a Memorial Day barbecue that I realized Arrested Development had broken my brain.
Chatting with a friend, it became clear we both went to lunch at the same restaurant hours earlier without seeing each other. The party host, not wanting his cat to escape outside, would intermittently interrupt conversation to bark, "Only house rule: keep the door shut!" One attendee abruptly announced she had a doctor's appointment to catch and then sprinted down the street, into a cab. Surely, I started to think, the friend who'd missed me at lunch had been dining with a long-lost relative of mine; the cat would escape despite the host's warnings, causing mayhem; the cab was actually being driven by the doctor the partygoer had been on her way to see. The feeling was overwhelming: I was living in an Arrested Development episode.
This is the reality-warping power of the binge-watch. (The last time Netflix dropped a highly hyped entire season of TV on the world, a sociopathic Kevin Spacey temporarily hijacked viewers' internal monologues.) It's also the surprising power of the resurrected Arrested Development. On one level, surrealism defines the 15 episodes posted online this past Sunday: The Bluth family somehow gets up to even insaner exploits than they did during the three original seasons that aired on Fox from 2003 to 2006. But sit through eight or so hours set in methadone clinics mistaken for method-acting classes and courtrooms that double as crab shacks, and the bizarre logic of the show's world starts to make sense—because it's the logic of our own.