The Ninjabot

Arrested Development Season 4 Review: Part One

Posted on May 29, 2013 at 4:30 am by Nathan Tolle

Arrested Development

I had plans to attend an Arrested Development viewing party on Sunday night, so when all fifteen new episodes became available on Netflix the night before, I chose to prolong the waiting game. I figured if I could wait over seven years for new episodes, surely I could hold out just a little bit longer? The immediate reactions pouring in online were surprisingly tough to ignore; I just had to know whether this much-anticipated event was the ultimate gift for the devoted and extremely patient fan base, or a painful reminder that reunions often cannot meet our hopes and expectations.

I spent about three minutes reading through Facebook comments and IMDb thread titles in hopes of getting a quick consensus—I wasn’t going to open these presents early, but I was going to shake them a little. My heart sank as the negative comments outweighed the positives, so I held onto hope that these were just the casual fans and obnoxious trollers that were disappointed, but the diehards were finding this new season as brilliant and hilarious as the previous three.

I kicked off the Sunday festivities by eating a banana for the first time in over twenty years, finding that when it’s frozen and covered in chocolate and nuts, it’s actually a pretty tasty snack. Then my friend pressed play and Ron Howard’s soothing narration assured me that after so many false hopes and debunked rumors, I was finally allowed to spend a little more time with my beloved Bluth Family. Welcome back Michael, GOB, Tobias, George, George Michael, Lucille, Lindsey, Maebe, Buster, and Barry. Oh how I’ve missed you.

This week I will be reviewing all fifteen episodes. Here is the first batch, which covers episodes 1-4.

Episode 1: Flight of the Phoenix

Rating: B 

arrested development michael

The first of many curveballs hits us immediately as we’re transported back to 1982 with a young George and Lucille Bluth, played by Kristen Wiig (who clearly spent a lot of time perfecting every nuance and mannerism of Jessica Walter) and Seth Rogen, plotting a vicious retaliation because Cinco de Mayo is taking away their housekeepers for the night. After this short and sweet scene, we are reunited with Michael Bluth, and it’s obvious that the past several years have not been kind to him.

Every episode of the new season will focus on a specific character, and this one belongs to Michael. What’s most striking (and a little disorienting) is just how much Michael’s personality has changed since the last time we saw him. With the exception of his son, he was the only responsible and respectable member of the family, but now he appears as pathetic and clueless as his brother GOB. I’m sure many fans will be put off by Michael whoring himself out to Lucille #2 for money, bragging about his youthful hairstyle, and showering with his son (even when there is clearly another shower available right next to him). I guess it just shows you that it’s extremely difficult to remain completely sane when you’re leading a family as dysfunctional as his. Eventually, cruel Father Time will take you down to their level.

The bulk of this episode focuses on Michael moving in with George Michael’s tiny dorm room and not allowing the poor kid any privacy whatsoever. There are some good laughs scattered throughout, such as when GOB forces a forget-me-now pill down Michael’s throat, or when it’s suggested that George Michael start going by “Boy George” to avoid confusion with another erstwhile pop star. It’s also a joy to see so many returning minor characters, like the folically-challenged Stan Sitwell, his beautiful daughter Sally, the newscaster John Beard, Lucille Austero, and of course Barry Zuckerkorn.

It’s not until Michael, George Michael, his other roommate, and Maebe vote on removing one person from the dorm room that the episode truly comes alive and reminds us why we fell in love with this show in the first place. Michael does about as well in this election as he did when he ran for school president, and so it’s only fitting that he should exit with the adorably sad Charlie Brown walk (YES!!!). At least this defeat gives him the motivation to finally make it to Phoenix, where he discovers that car door handles there are as hot as a Cornballer.

Funniest moment: All Michael wants to do is acquire the in-flight magazine Altitude, but first he has to deal with peanuts, empty suitcases, rude flight attendants, and having to explain the ridiculous situation to security.

Episode 2: Borderline Personalities

Rating: D

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I nearly jumped for joy when I learned that this episode would revolve around George Sr. and his twin brother Oscar, two of the most consistently funny characters in the show. So it was rather shocking when, in a crowded room, there was such little laughter for the entire 28 minutes. Here it became apparent how risky it was to give each character their own episode because the show loses some of that rapid, quirky pace—required for juggling so many important characters and various storylines—which we were so accustomed to.

This episode mostly takes place in the suffocating desert on the border, where George is betraying his brother in both a sweat lodge scheme and a plan to put up a wall between America and Mexico. Oscar’s new friends get a lot of screen time and score very few laughs, so it’s not long until we start missing Michael, Tobias, GOB, and the others more than ever. The aura specialist, Heartfire, is particularly disappointing because her subtitles are distracting and sometimes hard to read, forcing you rewind/pause and then wonder why that’s supposed to be amusing.

Even when we’re treated to hallucinations involving Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and the divine spirit of an ostrich, watching this episode feels like sitting in a sweat lodge, begging for lemonade (or funnier scenes) to relieve us. During one early scene, Tobias is in the background twirling around, so it’s clear that greener pastures are ahead…hopefully in episode three.

Funniest moment: The fight between George and Stan Sitwell, in which George shows off those beautiful long locks of his. It was also delightful to see a young Barry Zuckerkorn in a performance so authentic and impressive that I had to see who this young actor was. Yep, Henry Winkler has a son, and he was certainly well cast.

Episode 3: Indian Takers

Rating: B-

arrested-development-season-4

Lindsey’s episode provides several small laughs but nothing that will wake up your neighbors. Soon after Tobias’ singing twirl, she’s reminded once again that her marriage is a sham and that she needs to escape and find herself. She goes home and reads Eat Pray Love, but only until the pray section triggers her impulsive nature to travel to India. There she gets hussled into buying cheap knock-offs and then encouraged by a shaman to return home.

Reunited with her husband, they meet with a realtor (played by Ed Helms) and foolishly purchase a home even more expensive than John Beard’s. Tobias convinces her to attend one of his acting classes, but instead of the Method One Clinic, they end up at Methodone Clinic, and if you pay close attention, you’ll see the same misleading poster that fooled Tobias into auditioning for the Blue Man Group. Tobias never realizes he’s in the wrong place, and when he’s asked how he first got hooked, he responds with, “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” At the clinic, they meet another couple and go on a strange double date where they end up swapping partners and probably ending their marriage once and for all.

Episode three is well-paced, offers a wide variety of locations, and seems to set up several jokes that will be paid off in future episodes. It’s also full of those witty misunderstandings that plague Tobias; and whether he’s failing miserably at improvising, or steering a cocktail tray thinking it’s a steering wheel, he once again steals every scene. Maria Bamford was wisely chosen to join the cast as his new partner-in-crime, and it doesn’t take long to notice that she and David Cross work very well together!

Funniest moment: I guess I’ll go with the scene at CW Swapigans: a Salvation Army meets soup kitchen meets a gastro pub meets a Marxist or Leninist social structure. And fans of the TV show Weeds will be happy to see who is playing the waitress!

Episode 4: The B. Team

Rating: B

arrested development conan

This one gets off to a magnificent start as Michael once again deals with people distracted by his new, but equally unorthodox, mode of transportation. Also, Barry Zuckerkorn is once again in trouble with the law, this time for allegedly entering a school locker room. Fortunately for Barry, his attorney is none other than Bob Loblaw, who proclaims that, “if he can’t reach, then this trial’s a breach!”

Michael gets a new job at Imagine Entertainment where Ron Howard wants to make a movie about the Bluth Family. Also working there is the sailor-tongued and large-breasted Kitty Sanchez, who seems as unstable as ever. Michael hires three beloved returning guest stars to form his ultimate dream team for the movie project: Carl Weathers (who knows how to take advantage of free Grinch stuffed animals), James Lipton (who probably shouldn’t be writing scripts with his new computer thingamajig), and Andy Richter (who naturally comes to mind when you think of a Philip Seymour Hoffman-type)! Now that’s what I’m talking about! While this episode probably focuses a little too much on Hollywood studio procedurals, it delivers the goods in the form of more Barry mug shots, clever references to the Andy Griffith Show and Happy Days, an excellent Conan O’Brien cameo, a derogatory description of bagpipe music, and even a reference to Charlize Theron’s character, Rita.

Funniest moment: Pay attention to the photo booth shots of Michael and his new fling, and you’ll see a certain furry little friend who once terrorized Buster in a photo booth many years ago.

On Thursday I will be back with reviews for the next several episodes. The next one is a real gem!

    • I read a lot of negative reviews as well, but the other day I sat down to watch the first episode. I liked it. It fit the bill, and since I haven’t seen the others I haven’t finished the article so I don’t ruin it for myself. I can’t wait to watch the rest.

    • I’m about halfway through and enjoying it for the most part. I think they could have done without repeating so many of the same scenes from different view points, but I’m in the camp of more Arrested Development is better than no more Arrested Development.

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