No programme is more infuriatingly chuffed with itself. When the comedy about the rich but dysfunctional Bluth family first aired, it had pace, density, irreverence and a surprisingly dark satirical heart. For two series, the writing and ensemble performance maintained a remarkably high standard. In the third the quality dropped off precipitously and Fox, the original studio, put the programme out of its misery.
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Over the next decade, however, as more and more fans discovered the early episodes, this mercy killing came to be seen as an assassination. Netflix sensed an opportunity to flaunt its new power and got the band back together. As the cast were too busy to be in the same place at the same time for long, the structure was broken down into a series of more or less nonsensical buddy plots.
Ron Howard's narration, which had been deployed to sharp effect in the early episodes, was forced to do more and more witless exposition. Four was so poorly received that Mitch Hurwitz, the show's creator, released a completely recut version in the run-up to the new programmes, and the original is no longer available on Netflix.
T he most we can say of the fifth season, from the five episodes made available to critics, is that it is not as bad as the fourth. The cast are together in the same room for longer, allowing flashes of the repartee that once gave it such a manic comic energy.
F ifteen years since the first episode it is interesting to see which characters, and their actors, have aged well. Lucille and Lindsay spit poison like a couple of pampered cobras. Yet as good as it is to see them back on form, the script is tired and self-referential to the point of smugness. Old jokes are rehashed, old locations revisited.
Despite the return of Liza Minnelli and the Hot Cops, this is a great example of the period in which Arrested Development was repeating jokes from better episodes — and not in a meta way, but a lazy one. Uh-oh, season five is getting plot heavy! Much like George Sr. This is the point in season four when even the jokes that work make you long to get back to better leading characters like Michael and Gob. We also get some more Judy Greer as Kitty, although the Tony Wonder plot destroys that gag with an audio cameo by Ben Stiller that was probably recorded over Skype.
The Buster episode of season four comes too late to be as effective as it could have been, despite its solid jokes. Gob moves upstairs just so they can see the roof of the Rite-Aid, while Tobias moves on to an amazing George Michael impression because no one was buying him as a straight man. How great would it have been if Maeby had to live with Gene Parmesan instead? The up-and-down fourth season kind of comes together in this finale, though it serves up too many subplots to possibly recount here.
And this two-parter in the middle of season one is the low point for that great year. Even the other plots feel repetitive and uninspired. The meta aspect elevates this one a bit — Arrested Development fans were teased with the possibility of a feature film for years after the Fox cancelation — as does a solid guest turn by Isla Fisher as another woman that Michael falls for before he has any idea who she is.
He does that a lot, huh? The alopecia jokes get tired quickly and the other stuff feels like repeated jokes from better episodes, sometimes literally so with clips. Good news: The episodes get much funnier from here on out. Notable for the premiere of George Bluth Sr. Lucille wants some cash to fix Buster, George Sr.
One of the weaker episodes of season two feels like a something of a letdown after the genius of the Motherboy pageant and the initial arc of Buster losing his hand.
One of the better episodes of season four works because of how strong an actress Alia Shawkat has become in the years since the Fox cancellation. See also: Search Party. In the penultimate episode of season three, the Bluth boys actually go to Iraq and stumble upon a house full of Saddam Hussein look-alikes.
Jane Lynch and Heather Graham guest star in an episode that feels like a restart to the season after the Marta story line. Even George Michael gets his first non-Maeby crush in the form of his ethics teacher played by Graham , but his dad swoops in and ruins it. The season-two finale gets most of the Bluth family onto the front lawn of the courthouse for an all-out brawl as their model home a. Meanwhile, Gob records Franklin Comes Alive. But when it loops back into the complex narrative of the season, it actually gets less interesting.
Season five starts much more promisingly, with an energy that comes from reuniting most of the cast in a single episode again — something that the previous season infamously avoided with its character-specific installments. The subplot about Lindsay trying to get the Ten Commandments removed from the courthouse steps because she broke a heel is hilarious in concept, but underdeveloped.
This is effectively when season five starts, as the first two episodes sent everyone to Mexico and tied up old loose ends which somehow got untied again in subsequent, disappointing episodes. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Bob Loblaw! Most importantly, it marks the first time that we learn that Tobias is a never-nude. It also features the return of J. Walter Weatherman, the one-armed friend of George who taught horrifying lessons to the Bluth children, and culminates with a series of pranks that are truly something special.
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The best episode of season four centers on Gob getting married to Ann Veal and turning the whole thing into another excuse for an illusion. This time, the magician gets trapped in a fake boulder and Tobias serves as his assistant. Everyone panics when it looks like George Michael wants to ask Ann Veal to pre-marry him. Veal Ione Skye develops an attraction to him. All of the Veal stuff is funny, but without a doubt, the funniest moment is Mrs. Ben Stiller delivers one of the best-ever Arrested Development cameos as Tony Wonder, the king of the magicians, a.
Meanwhile, Tobias tries to get a job at the Bluth Company to spy for George.
It also features the great bit where Gob loses an old man in his Aztec Tomb trick — sorry, illusion. Meanwhile, the Bluths think that Pop-Pop is dead and plan a wake for him, highlighted by a trick from Gob, of course, that goes horribly awry. Two equally funny subplots fight for screen time as Buster gets punched out by a narcoleptic stripper after going on a juice bender at a ridiculous bachelor party, naturally , and Tobias tries to reunite Dr. George Michael goes to visit his father in prison for the first time, right after the old man basically gets a man killed during a jail baseball game.
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Everyone needs to get to work when Michael realizes that his family has been taking checks from the corporation without doing much of anything in return. Even Annyong gets a job at the banana stand. Years before Bridesmaids , Paul Feig helmed this season-one finale with the great revelation that the Bluth Corporation built homes for Saddam Hussein. Best of all is the closing scene, in which the very literal Dr. Martin Mull debuts as the mediocre private investigator Gene Parmesan, whose goofy attempts at costumes always impress Lucille Bluth.
The gang memorably goes to Mexico to try and find George Sr. To top it off, this very funny episode is capped by everyone leaving poor Ann Veal south of the border. One of the most meta episodes in TV history finds the Bluths staging an event to save their company, just as Arrested Development itself was on the bubble of cancellation at Fox. There are even wink-wink references to the Bluths not being likable and the possibility of the show being picked up by HBO and Showtime.
The Cornballer! Steve Holt!