TV picks: ‘Arrested Development,’ biopics, ‘Longmire,’ cartoons

Netflix’s “Arrested Development”
Will Arnett, left, David Cross and Portia de Rossi in Netflix’s “Arrested Development.”
(Sam Urdank for Netflix)
Los Angeles Times Television Critic

“Arrested Development” (Netflix, Sunday, then anytime). The 15-episode, seven-years-belated fourth season of what was formerly a Fox comedy and now belongs to the Internet is not being offered in advance for critical review, so you know as much as I do. Apart from appeasing the critical community, and, as my wife pointed out, not wrecking our Memorial Day weekend by making us work on Sunday, there doesn’t seem to be any reason to make it available. Public interest is already running high — higher, anyway, than when the show was actually on — and the producers don’t have to worry about winning their time slot, because they have don’t have one. The whole series will become available at once Sunday, and then remain available, to Netflix subscribers, something like forever; new subscriptions will be the only metric that matters. I don’t think for a moment that this coyness disguises any sort of tactical damage control — given that the old team (who are back every man-jack and woman-jill of them) had an unerring sense of how to make this show, I suspect watching the new episodes will be like running into an old friend from whom the longest separation feels like no time at all. The third season ended not at a moment of resolution but of escape — escape is a kind of resolution, I know — with Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman) and son George Michael (Michael Cera) and Michael’s father, George (Jeffrey Tambor), sailing off to Mexico; Michael’s mother, Lucille (Jessica Walter), hijacking the Queen Mary to evade the SEC; and George Michael’s cousin, Maeby (Alia Shawkat), who turned out not to be his cousin, pitching her family story to “AD” executive producer (and narrator) Ron Howard, who didn’t see it as a TV show. (But maybe a movie.) Some things have no doubt happened in the interim.

“Behind the Candelabra (HBO, Sunday), “Ring of Fire” (Lifetime, Monday). I feel about biopics a little the way Joan Crawford did about wire hangers, but people will make them, and they do have their pleasures. “Behind the Candelabra” is Steven Soderbergh’s lavish, star-studded Liberace study, through the eyes of companion Scott Thorson, on whose 1988 memoir it’s based. Richard LaGravenese’s screenplay, which does not attempt to place Liberace’s music in any sort of cultural context, is unusually smart and unhurried for this sort of picture. With Michael Douglas and Matt Damon as excellent leads, much of it plays like a kind of a slightly drugged screwball comedy, though things turn serious, though not judgmental, at the end. (It is a kindly film, overall.) The supporting cast includes a mustachioed Scott Bakula, bespectacled Dan Aykroyd and long-haired Rob Lowe, hilarious as a cosmetic surgeon who has taken too much of his own medicine. The less expensive “Ring of Fire,” directed by Allison Anders, takes the rocky yet durable romance of June Carter and Johnny Cash, previously re-created in “Walk the Line,” from Carter’s point of view — and it does have the woman-triumphant spine of a Lifetime movie. Jewel, the Alaskan songbird, plays Carter, whom she resembles from certain angles, and acquits herself admirably. She can sing too. As Cash, Matt Ross doesn’t get in hailing distance of Johnny’s great American bass-baritone, but he has the moves and enough of the inimitable (and yet much-imitated) vibe. Leaping through the years, the narrative doesn’t quite gel, but discrete scenes play well and the musical numbers feel right. X’s John Doe plays June’s uncle A.P. Carter, Francis Conroy is her mother, Maybelle.

Longmire (A&E, Mondays). While big-time cable series like “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad” manage to stick in the cultural and personal consciousness through all the long months of their absence, others stay out of mind as they stay out of sight. I had forgotten you, “Longmire,” as much as I enjoyed your first season — and here you are suddenly back again, picking up seemingly where we left off, with the election pitting rural Wyoming Sheriff Walt Longmire (Robert Taylor) against the deputy seeking to replace him still in progress. Walt, who mourns a late wife and has issues with his daughter, remains sad. “You don’t say much,” a villain tells him in the Season 2 premiere, “but you have an unquiet mind.” Taylor has something of the rough-edged, taciturn appeal of late-period Wayne, Cooper, Stewart and McCrea — old dogs who won’t be put down -- which is mirrored in the landscape and the weather, which are players here too. Lou Diamond Phillips as Walt’s best friend, a barkeep and sometime tracker, is well used; ditto Katee Sackhoff, whom you loved or should have on “Battlestar Galactica,” as the more faithful of Walt’s deputies. Her work here gives you no reason to long for Starbuck.

“Sanjay & Craig” (Nickelodeon, Saturdays), “LEGO Star Wars: The Yoda Chronicles” (Cartoon Network, Wednesday). “Sanjay & Craig,” about a boy and his talking snake, comes from Jim Dirschberger, Andreas Trolf and Jay Howell, the character designer on “Bob’s Burgers” (the family resemblance is striking); Chris Viscardi and Will McRobb, who created and maintained “The Adventures of Pete & Pete” in an earlier, some say Golden Age of Nick, are its executive producers. Toontown has had any number of human-animal dyads getting up to crazy mischief over the years, but the mischief here is crazier (and louder) than usual. There is a “butt transplant,” a laughter apocalypse. Written by “Simpsons” vet Mike Price, “The Yoda Chronicles” follows in the tradition of “LEGO Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Out” and “LEGO Star Wars: The Padawan Menace” and is the first of three specials this year. This is how all future “Star Wars” projects should be made, with self-awareness and self-parody, in LEGO-style CGI (though actual animated LEGO pieces would be better still).


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