A scene from Season 5 of "Arrested Development." (Saeed Adyani/Netflix)
Staff writer

The first time I watched “Arrested Development” reminds me of the first time I drank a cup of joe. The show’s rapid-fire banter, its subtle running jokes (even in the background of some episodes), the bizarre ensemble of unlikable but compulsively watchable characters and the exceedingly clever meta in-jokes peppered throughout it all made for an entirely new television experience. Like that coffee, I found the show exciting and energizing. It was a whole new world, suddenly burst open, and I didn’t think I’d be able to look at TV the same way again.

As any caffeine-drinker knows, however, having the right amount of coffee is key. Too much, after all, isn’t energizing but instead leads to a dull, insistent headache.

Netflix dropped eight episodes of “Arrested Development,” forming the second half of Season 5, on Friday. Many have suggested this might be the final batch of episodes — and I pray they’re correct.

The once-adored show has fallen out of favor twice since Netflix revived it. The first black eye came with Season 4 in 2013, seven years after its cancellation after three seasons on Fox in 2006. Showrunner Mitchell Hurwitz and his crew attempted a radical experiment in the streaming age: to create a show whose episodes could be watched in any order. Each episode followed one specific character and worked as a sort of puzzle, with no true beginning or ending. This was partially due to the cast’s scheduling conflicts, but it also felt like a very “Arrested Development” ploy — only it failed miserably, earning the dismissal of critics and fans alike.

The second came with the first batch of Season 5 episodes, which dropped last May. They felt (somewhat) like a return to form, but the rollout was tainted by sexual harassment allegations against Jeffrey Tambor from fellow cast members from his Amazon show “Transparent,” Trace Lysette and Van Barnes. (Amazon founder Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.) Tambor was dropped from “Transparent” but remained on “Arrested Development” — which led to a disastrous roundtable interview in the New York Times in which Jessica Walter accused Tambor of being verbally abusive on-set, while the show’s male cast members defended him and, in essence, ignored Walter.

But putting all that aside for a moment, and looking only at the content of this second half of Season 5 — it’s still a tough hang, to put it lightly.

The show is so mired in the past that its title no longer induces chuckles but groans. Humor, of course, is always subjective. But the new episodes don’t really seem to traffic in jokes so much as nostalgia. Recurring characters like the always-in-disguise private eye Gene Parmesan appear for mere seconds, not to introduce new jokes but to redo old ones, seemingly just to remind viewers that they exist.

Sometimes, the humor feels outdated, such as the introduction of a group of hard-boiled, criminal gay men who call themselves the Gay Mafia. They fit into a plotline in which Gob has to pretend to be gay (or maybe he really is). The plotline is supposed to be meta, making fun of Gob for his insecurity with his own sexuality. But the jokes fail, leaving the enterprise feeling like the very gay panic humor it’s attempting to mock.

At other times, the show’s references feel painfully outdated. It’s set just before the 2016 election, and the number of Hillary-is-sure-to-win jokes is exhausting. Even its shoehorned Trump jokes, such as Gob referencing “s---hole countries,” don’t feel as fresh as they might have months ago. That’s not even mentioning that a large plot point is set around the bumbling Bluths attempting to build a wall on the border of the United States and Mexico (oddly, to appease the Chinese). That’s a tough sell for comedy these days. Sure, such a plotline could easily produce smart satire — but the show treats the wall like an outlandish idea perpetuated by foolish and selfish people, not a divisive political reality that has caused real-world effects such as the shutdown of the U.S. government.

But the biggest problem with the back half of Season 5 is that it’s simply not funny.

Jerry Seinfeld famously turned down the most lucrative television deal at the time to continue producing “Seinfeld,” because he never wanted to jump the shark. Hurwitz and crew should take a page from the legendary comedian’s book.

“Arrested Development,” once a wonderfully layered experience that rewarded repeated watches more than almost any other show, now just feels like work. It’s the embodiment of a caffeine headache — insistent, annoying and, worst of all, dull.