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The Bluths are back together again—with more simultaneous screen time than in Season 4—in the latest Arrested Development reunion on Netflix.

The plotting of this season involves a little too much crazy stuff regarding Lucille 2 (Liza Minnelli) and the shared girlfriend (Isla Fisher) of Michael (Jason Bateman) and George Michael (Michael Cera), making things a bit haphazard. That doesn’t stop it from being very funny.

There’s a lot of weirdness at play. Buster (Tony Hale) does jail time (during which he touches a mouse!), while Tobias (David Cross) obsesses with impersonating everybody in the family. Cross remains the funniest guy on this show; he goes full-blown insane this season. Gob (Will Arnett) is dealing with feelings for fellow magician Tony Wonder (Ben Stiller), so he makes a visit to a Closet Conversion facility (which is not what he thinks). Maeby (Alia Shawkat), for reasons I won’t explain, winds up brilliantly impersonating an old Jewish woman in a retirement community.

Even it is a bit frantic, Arrested Development remains one of the funniest shows on TV. (Who knew Henry Winkler was going to be so funny when he grew up?) When it slows down for stuff like a barbecue at Ron Howard’s house (including cameos by Bryce Dallas Howard and the rest of the Howard family), it’s as funny as it ever was.

Netflix currently has eight episodes streaming now, with eight more coming later this year.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

Marco Polo (Friday, Dec. 12, Netflix), series debut: Networks are jumping on the sweeping, quasi-historical period-piece bandwagon: HBO set it off with Game of Thrones; History has Vikings; Starz has Outlander and Black Sails; AMC has Turn and Hell on Wheels, The CW (still?) has Reign; and now Netflix is dropping the 10-episode Marco Polo. Showtime, who were ahead of the curve with The Tudors years ago (and, currently, Penny Dreadful), could launch a dark, sexy H.M.S. Pinafore any day now. Netflix’s version of Marco Polo—it’s difficult to just say once, ain’t it?—focuses on the early (read: young and hot) years of the infamous adventurer, and while the source material is vast, and the series’ budget is vaster ($90 million!), CW-lite star Lorenzo Richelmy can’t carry this behemoth, which seems to have been scripted via a dartboard and several boxes of wine. As couch-bound winter-binge eye candy, however, it’s oddly perfect. Netflix FTW.

Nick Offerman: American Ham (Friday, Dec. 12, Netflix), standup special: Meanwhile, in a far narrower niche, Parks and Recreation star Nick Offerman—you know, Ron Swanson—debuts his one-man show American Ham on the streaming service, which offers far more creative space than those prefab Comedy Central specials. (Check out the wonderfully weird Chelsea Peretti: One of the Greats, which premiered on Netflix in November.) Offerman is, and simultaneously is certainly not, Swanson: American Ham’s “10 Tips for a Prosperous Life” mostly involve proper oral-sex techniques, overshares you’d never hear from Ron, but the rest is the kind of man-up-or-shut-up material you’d expect—and there are even some musical numbers, though he’s no Duke Silver. American Ham comes off more like a demo than a finished product (even though it screened at Sundance 2014), but Offerman drives it home through sheer force of personality—and, really, it’s not the worst comedy special from a Parks and Rec star.

Best Christmas Party Ever (Saturday, Dec. 13, Hallmark), movie: Uptight Jennie (Torrey DeVitto, Pretty Little Liars) thinks she’ll be inheriting New York City’s hottest party-planning business after the holidays—but then the boss’ fun, hunky nephew (Steve Lund, Bitten) shows up to claim the gig. Will she learn to loosen up, fall in love, know her place and set aside those silly career aspirations? Yes—and just in time for the big Christmas party, which she organized. Oh, Christmas in Vancouver, er, New York City.

Ascension (Monday, Dec. 15, Syfy), miniseries debut: Syfy has made the case that the network is serious about getting back into actual sci-fi this year, and the three-night event Ascension is a helluva convincing capper. Ascension is a top-secret U.S. starship launched in 1963 at the behest of President John F. Kennedy, who believed that since mankind seemed bent on blowing itself up here, we might as well send 600 men, women and children on a 100-year space mission to find a new, habitable planet. While they live and repopulate in a sealed, old-school-Star-Trek-meets-Mad-Men environment, back on 2014 Earth, the Ascension project is simply a 51-year-old “conspiracy theory” few people believe and the government won’t acknowledge. When orderly-if-dull life aboard the ship is disrupted by a murder—the first ever—the plot accelerates from zero to WTF? rapidly, with the first two-hour installment ending in a mind-blowing twist. The aesthetic is gorgeous; the cast is solid (especially Tricia Helfer, back in full-tilt Battlestar Galactica villainess mode as the ship’s “first lady”); and Ascension’s story is genuinely new and unpredictable. Welcome back, sci-fi Syfy. (Continues Tuesday, Dec. 16, and Wednesday, Dec. 17.)


DVD ROUNDUP FOR DEC. 16!

The Americans: Season 2

Covert KGB operatives Elizabeth and Philip Jennings (Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys) are in deeper than ever as the Cold War escalates, alliances are tested, and ’80s wig technology fails to keep pace. Soundtrack available on cassette. (Fox)

Arrested Development: Season 4

The Bluth family is back, if not necessarily all onscreen at the same time, in the 2013 Netflix comeback season that had critics raving, “Well, it’s better than no new season, right?” Right, and it’s still funnier than any other TV comedy. (Fox)

Cam2Cam

Tourists in Bangkok are turning up beheaded after visiting a sex website, so of course traveler Allie (Tammin Sursok) jumps right in and meets up with some guys who run a sex website. You’ll never not use Chatroulette the same way again. (IFC)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Michael Bay further plunders your childhood with the reboot that pairs four super-turtles with a $125 million budget, no story and the thespian talents of Megan Fox—and it’s still better than the ’90s originals. Can’t wait for the sequel! (Paramount)

This Is Where I Leave You

Funny people (Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Adam Driver, Rose Byrne, Dax Shepard, Kathryn Hahn and others) unite to make one of those maudlin, semi-indie films with few laughs, because they’re Serious Actors, man. (Warner Bros.)

More New DVD/VOD Releases:

Cowboy Bebop: The Complete Series, Coyote, Dark Mountain, The Device, The Devil’s Hand, Extant: Season 1, Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever, Left of Center, Magic in the Moonlight, The Maze Runner, The Skeleton Twins, Stonehearst Asylum.

Published in TV

Netflix subscribers who find the entertainment selection a little weak at times currently have access to one of the year’s greatest television surprises: An new 15-episode season of Arrested Development is currently available on the streaming service, and it’s as if one of TV history’s funniest and oddest families never left.

Each episode generally focuses on one character, like Jason Bateman’s Michael Bluth, with the other family members playing supporting roles. The episodes’ chronologies overlap, but the character focus changes. This amounts to a lot of fun.

If you are a fan, you will not be disappointed. Will Arnett’s Gob still performs magic to the refrain of Europe’s “The Final Countdown.” David Cross’ Tobias is still a “never nude.” Portia de Rossi’s Lindsay is still shopping-obsessed, and so on.

The new shows also feature great cameos, including Ron Howard providing more than his voice, and a blessed reunion of Henry Winkler and Scott Baio.

There’s been some talk of an Arrested Development movie. As far as I see it, this is a 7 1/2 hour movie, since you can currently watch them all in a row.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing