It’s time to talk about Arrested Development. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long. The fourth season was released, all 15 episodes at once, on May 26. It took me a good five days to finish the season. In the blogosphere (Is that something people say? I’m going with it.) I’m late with this review. All the good critics binge-watched the season and promptly released their thoughts. But I am neither a critic nor a binge-watcher. Ok, fine. Yes. I am, in fact, a binge-watcher. But I’m not a critic, and that’s my excuse.
I tried my best to take these new episodes slowly. I wanted to savor the season. After all, the future is unclear. These could be (God forbid) the last 15 episodes of Arrested Development ever made. But of course I sat down to watch one episode and always ended up watching at least three. And this season really is one to be watched in one sitting. Or in five sittings. Less than ten, definitely. Season four is a unit. The jokes aren’t truly funny unless they build quickly and consecutively on each other. You almost have to watch every episode before you can appreciate what you’ve seen.
The storytelling format in this season is unique. Every episode takes place during approximately the same time, but each one follows a different character’s story. If I’m correct the episodes follow the characters in this order: Michael, George Sr., Lindsay, Michael, Tobias, George Sr., Gob, Lindsay, Tobias, Lucille, Gob, Maeby, George Michael, Buster, and George Michael.
Essentially what this format does is reveal the strong characters and the weak ones. While this family certainly works together, every character doesn’t work individually. This season felt a bit like reading a Song of Ice and Fire book for me. Each chapter focuses on one character’s point of view. I’m always hoping for a Tyrion chapter, but all too often I get some random Greyjoy. In season four of Arrested Development, I kept hoping for Gob or Buster, but I constantly got George Sr. or Lindsay.
In my opinion the season can be reviewed simply by discussing each character and their episodes. Even when characters were given two episodes to improve or get weaker, the quality didn’t usually waver. If one Gob episode was great, so was the other.
I’ll start with Michael, as he is clearly the glue holding this show together. Michael’s episodes were a bit like lukewarm hot chocolate. The episodes were comfortable and pleasant, but they weren’t great. Michael works well as the straight man. The moral compass. He doesn’t work as well without the zany antics of his family to react to. But Jason Bateman is a likeable guy and he has good comic delivery, so Michael’s episodes always worked for me. I never hoped to get one, but I wasn’t really disappointed when I did. His episodes served well to further the story. Michael’s episodes were also nice because they often contained more interactions with other Bluths. His quest to get signatures for the film made it easier to explain why he was constantly bumping into people.
George Sr.’s episodes were my least favorite of the season by far. They were unfunny, confusing, and boring. And it’s not Jeffrey Tambor’s fault. It really isn’t. The tough truth is that George Sr. just isn’t a very good character on his own. He’s not interesting. Let’s think back to previous seasons. George Sr. didn’t really have his own story lines. He existed to create story lines for the family and occasionally do hilarious things. There isn’t enough there for his character to carry episodes and this season proved it. Likewise Oscar isn’t strong enough to be a central character either. And what the hell was going on with him this season? I got to a point where I could hardly keep up with who was Oscar and who was George Sr. Maybe that was the point. I don’t know. Either way these episodes just made me uncomfortable… and a little bit irrationally angry, for reasons I can’t even explain.
Lindsay’s episodes suffered in a different way than George Sr.’s. Where George Sr. wasn’t interesting enough to carry episodes, Lindsay wasn’t likable enough. I want to like Lindsay. I really do. I’ve tried. In the past I’ve compared her to Britta Perry from Community, another character that fans tend to hate. I love Britta. I vehemently defend her. But unfortunately, I just can’t bring myself to do the same for Lindsay. I don’t like her. Plain and simple. And that’s why I didn’t like Lindsay’s episodes. She’s fairly interesting and her story line was much easier to follow than George Sr.’s ridiculous wall-building adventure, but a basic dislike for a character makes it hard to be happy when she’s the character being focused on.
Just as I strongly dislike Lindsay, conversely, I adore Tobias. I would watch Tobias do anything. That’s how delightful I find him. His episodes don’t involve the most engaging story lines, and I didn’t like Debris at all, but just because they featured Tobias, I liked them. Debris was one of the weakest parts of the new season for me. I’m not sure if that’s an unpopular or a popular opinion, but luckily I don’t care either way. I thought she was dull and got entirely too much screen time. I’m far too lazy to do the math, but I would be willing to bet that if you combined the amount of screen time Lucille Austero and Debris had, it would outnumber the amount of time we saw certain Bluths. They were around way too much. However, like I said, I was still happy with Tobias’ episodes. If nothing else, I was pleased because of the “Ninja please!” gem. Oh, and “anustart,” of course. The running anus tart jokes might have been my favorites of the entire season.
Where to begin with Gob? Gob’s episodes were by far my favorites of the season. No matter how you look at it they were the strongest. Gob was the most engaging lead and his story lines were hilarious. The Tony Wonder episode remains one of my favorites of any season of Arrested Development. It isn’t surprising that Gob was able to carry his own episodes better than other characters. After all, he’s always been a fan favorite. But he wasn’t always one of my favorites. Before the fourth season, I wasn’t a big fan of Gob. I thought he was funny, but a bit shallow and a one-trick pony. I didn’t see what everyone else seemed to see. I have since seen the error of my ways. Maybe his character developed well in the fourth season, or maybe his episodes were just so much drastically better than every other character’s that I was forced to enjoy Gob, but either way, he’s now one of my favorite characters on the show. And I’m shipping Gob and Tony Wonder for life. OTP alert!
Lucille was given one episode in the season, and I think she could have carried more. One of my major complaints about this season was that Lucille wasn’t used the way she should have been. Lucille is a fabulous character. Hilariously flawed and somehow still lovable. However, if you only watched the fourth season, you might not realize just how strong Lucille can be. Her episode was entertaining, but I think the concept of Lucille in jail had a lot more untapped potential. I wish we had spent less time on the fact that none of her family could come to her trial, and a little more time with her while she was in jail. I wasn’t necessarily unhappy with what I saw of Lucille; I just wish I had seen more.
One character I was pleasantly surprised with was Maeby. She’s never been a particularly important character. Maeby has always been in the background. She’s been great, but never a forerunner. Of course this format makes every character a main character for at least one episode, and I think the lead was a good look for Maeby. It was fun to see more of her. When you think about it, a lot of terrible things happened to Maeby. She lost jobs, felt betrayed, and often seemed to have nowhere to turn. She could have come across as a kicked puppy, like Michael, but she never did. Maeby seemed in control even when she wasn’t. Her character has an amazing presence on screen. She always seems to know exactly what move she should make. A sense of self like that is comforting to the viewer. Maeby is easy to root for.
George Michael sure did become a Bluth in this season. He lied and betrayed with the best of them, and he lived up to his name. Whether you think that’s a good thing or not is totally up to you. For me it was unbelievably fun and just a little heartbreaking. George Michael always represented innocence on the show. He was sweet and kind. He told the truth and had a moral compass that was much stronger than even Michael’s. He was the one with the most to lose. A nice kid with a bright future, it was inevitable that being a Bluth would screw with his head. Now he’s more of a nice, misguided kid who’s in way over his head. I’m afraid for his future. Where Maeby has a general sense of confidence, George Michael has the opposite. Watching him is watching the calm before the storm. It seems like everything could fall apart around him at any moment. It’s fun to watch, but it’s stressful. It takes a lot out of you. Regardless, I really enjoyed his episodes.
Ah, Buster. He’s sort of everyone’s unspoken favorite, isn’t he? You have to love Buster. It doesn’t matter how you feel about every other character, you have to love Buster. And he truly is a solid, hilarious character. There’s so much to him. His episode was great. At times Buster shines through as the Bluth with the most potential to be great. But then he promptly reverts back to his mother-obsessed ways. Lucille sure did screw him up. Seeing Buster without Lucille was a treat and I think he was stronger without her. Now, I think the reason for that was probably the issues the writers seemed to have with Lucille this season, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that Buster really shined on his own.
So here’s the breakdown. Was season four weak? Sure, parts of it were. The George Sr. episodes and Lindsay episodes were weak. Was season four strong? Yep. Some episodes were stronger than past seasons, specifically the Gob episodes. As a whole, despite my complaining, I was pleased with the fourth season of Arrested Development. It had its issues, but the great episodes were strong enough to overpower the weak ones. Arrested Development remains one of the cleverest shows on television and even if season four wasn’t as funny as it has been in the past, the cleverness remained. Now I’m just hoping we get a movie, because I’m not happy with that ending being the last we see of the Bluths.
- Am I the only one who found the number of guest stars ridiculous and forced? I understand that Arrested Development is cool now and everyone wants to be a part of it, but everyone doesn’t have to be a part of it. Some cameos were good. Conan was funny. Dan Harmon was funny. Those stand out for me. The others? They mostly felt dull and forced.
- Why the hell can’t people stop talking about Portia de Rossi’s face? If she wants to get plastic surgery, let her. It doesn’t matter. I’ve seen so many articles about the “changes in Lindsay’s appearance” and I couldn’t care less at this point.
- Steve Holt is a darling and I want to hug him. He’s grown up to be the most normal, responsible person on Arrested Development. I love that. He doesn’t know it, but I’m pretty sure he’s much better off without Gob in his life.
- If a movie does happen, I request the return of Annyong.
Wow. I sure did ramble in this review. Sorry about that. Or you’re welcome? I don’t know. Maybe you people like rambling. I think I’m done now. Maybe. Almost. Ok. Now I’m done.