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‘Arrested’ Unshackled; Pryor Unleashed; ‘Killing: Review

'Arrested Development'
Jeffrey Tambor and Jason Bateman in season four of "Arrested Development." The comedy series is available only on Netflix. Photographer: Sam Urdank/Netflix via Bloomberg

May 30 (Bloomberg) -- The Bluths, as narration reminds us at the start of each new Netflix episode of “Arrested Development,” are a family whose future was abruptly canceled.

There’s an implication of the unjust in that “abruptly” -- listen carefully and you can almost hear the cheers of the show’s cult-like worshipers rising up in we-told-you-so harmony.

The resurrected “Development” isn’t bad, and sometimes as funny as supporters have long insisted. But it does little to prove that Fox was wrong to pull the plug in 2006 after three seasons of diminishing returns.

With a complicated, “Rashomon”-style structure that takes fully half of the 15 new episodes to really begin paying off, “Development” creator Mitchell Hurwitz reassembles the original cast, including Michael Cera, the former child actor who has gone on to big-screen success.

Actually, “reassembled” might be misleading.

Unlike the Fox series, the characters now rarely appear in whole-family scenes. Each new episode is dominated by a particular Bluth (or in-law), with scenes from, say, a Michael episode retold in later episodes from the viewpoint of sister Lindsay or brother Gob.

Several season-long story arcs play out -- Michael (Jason Bateman) is trying to get everyone to sign off on a biopic, while the rest of the real-estate clan are enmeshed in the scandal-making construction of a wall between the United States and Mexico.

The structure robs us of the central pleasure of the original series: ensemble (and seemingly ad-libbed) comedy.

Netflix’s binge-friendly approach (all the episodes are available for viewing) allows for some surprises.

I would never have guessed Portia de Rossi’s vain, vacuous Lindsay could carry entire episodes, but she does. Score one for the true believers.

“Arrested Development” is available on Netflix. Rating: ***

Richard Pryor

“Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic” is good enough to win over even those with only vague memories of lame, late-career movies (“The Toy”) and scandals (his name and “freebase” are forever linked).

As troubled and troubling as he was brilliant, Pryor laid bare a damaged, self-destructive psyche onstage -- and got laughs.

Filmed performances of his confessional, epithet-laden routines -- 1979’s “Live in Concert” and 1982’s “Live on the Sunset Strip” -- remain influential genre pinnacles.

Director Marina Zenovich includes accolades from, among others, Whoopi Goldberg, Robin Williams, Dave Chappelle and Bob Newhart, while letting Pryor himself do the heavy-lifting. The documentary offers a trove of revealing clips and album snippets from all points in Pryor’s career.

His personal life gets a going-over as friends, colleagues and various ex-wives (he married and remarried seven times) present the comic as a man who could be cruel, self-destructive and was never less than difficult.

We might have been shocked by these revelations -- if Pryor himself hadn’t already turned his life into his art.

“Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic” airs tomorrow on Showtime at 9 p.m. New York time. Rating: ****

‘The Killing’

Despite its well-deserved cancellation, AMC’s “The Killing” is getting a second chance and returns a better show.

While the set-up seems distressingly familiar -- Pacific Northwest, dead teenage girl, “Twin Peaks” gloom -- “The Killing” soon reminds us why its first season held such promise.

This time around, the compelling mystery and well-drawn characters encompass Seattle’s subculture of teenage runaways. The young cast does a quick job of sketching out their roles, particularly newcomer Bex Taylor-Klaus as a lesbian street kid surviving on bravado.

Another new cast member is Peter Sarsgaard, playing a sadistic death row inmate whose possible innocence draws former cop Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos, pairing again with the invaluable Joel Kinnaman) back into action.

“The Killing” airs June 2 on AMC at 8 p.m. New York time. Rating: ***1/2


What the Stars Mean:

***** Fantastic
**** Excellent
*** Good
** So-So
* Poor
(No stars) Avoid

(Greg Evans is a critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

Muse highlights include Jason Harper on cars and Rich Jaroslovski on tech.

To contact the writer on the story: Greg Evans at gregeaevans@yahoo.com.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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