There’s an ugliness to this fourth season of Arrested Development.
I’ve been trying to pinpoint what, besides the obvious (a layered, convoluted structure of call-backs and call-forwards, limited scenes with the entire family), is so different about this fourth season of Arrested Development. And it’s the ugliness.
The Bluth family were never going to win family of the year. They trade biting one zingers like other families swap stories. Their barbed wit is one of the main reasons I love the show. And yes Maeby (Ali Shawkat) has always been more mature than all the adults who surrounded her. She was, after all, a movie executive while she was still in high school.
But whoring out her mother in order to fund a business? That’s a low I didn’t want to see the show sink to and it leaves an unsavory cookie behind in my laptop. Turns out, not much humor can be mined from being your mother’s pimp. Likewise, Tobias (David Cross) and Lindsay forgetting about Maeby (Portia de Rossi) periodically is funny (I loved when Maeby was standing next to them at the real estate office. “I could have spoken up but I just wanted to see if you guys got there.”) But the extraordinary self-centered couple not realizing for five years that their only daughter never graduated from high school? That’s not particularly funny. It’s more depressing which I’m sure wasn’t what Arrested Development is going for here.
In general, there’s been far too little of George Michael (Michael Cera) and Maeby this season. “Senioritis” is the 12th episode of a 15-episode season and the first and only one told from Maeby’s perspective. We’re still waiting on George Michael. I believe this is due to Cera’s busy schedule but the duo’s absence leaves a void in the series. The kissing cousins always brought a certain sweetness to the acerbic series and tempered some of the family’s nasty behavior. George Michael’s oh-so-wrong, but oh-so-adorable crush on his cousin was one of my favorite aspects of the original series. It is, after all, where Cera perfected his endearing nervous shtick. To see their awkward romance completely abandoned here is, I’m just going to go ahead and say it, a huge mistake.
By episode 11, the aforementioned layered, convoluted structure was becoming a little too layered and a little too convoluted. So I love the reveal that Maeby was the shaman who told Lindsay that she’s full of shit in episode three. I kept meaning to figure out who the actor was—thinking it must have been some famous face in disguise. The Maeby reveal is a sublime example of the Season Four storytelling structure really paying off.
And we learned that the $50,000 check wasn’t Lucille (Jessica Walter) trying to pay for Maeby to have a facelift but a royalty check for Maeby’s movie “Gangie 4: Facelift.” Plus Maeby’s squeals were attributed to an ostrich and a vulture in previous episodes. But, as I head into the final three episodes, I remain concerned that the big, overarching plot is starting to lose me. I’ve lost track of/lost interest in the wall/no wall conundrum, who owes favors to whom, and exactly how Lucille Austero (Liza Minnelli) ties into everything.
All my complaints aside, there are still some high points to the episode. Maeby got a great “marry me” in there. Jeff Garlin returned as Maeby’s former boss Mort Meyers. I’m not sure we needed to see Mort again but having him break into a window to the Curb Your Enthusiasm theme definitely made his appearance worth it. And there were a lot of fun digs at the Hollywood industry. A lifetime achievement award is only given after you die or, even worse, after your career is considered dead. The Deadline Hollywood headline (“Funke Flunks Imagine. Non-Grad. Ron Mad”) is pitch perfect. We learn the origins of George Michael’s fake name George Maharris. And I loved Michael (Jason Bateman) again trying to explain just how the roommate vote in episode one was supposed to work.
But Maeby trying to trap Perfecto (Eli Vargas) into sleeping with her because she thought he was an undercover cop only to discover that she’s the one who committed statutory rape is definitely not the best story line the show has ever come up with. Nor is the fact that Maeby ends up being arrested at the end of the episode. Was it all worth just to hear Ron Howard intone, “She had made . . .” before Maeby says, “Oh no. I’m fine.” Perhaps. Perhaps.
Other thoughts on “Senioritis:”
• That was Keri Russell’s voice as the widower of the real estate agent played by Ed Helms. Russell starred opposite Will Arnett in Mitch Hurwitz’s quickly canceled FOX series Running Wilde.
• Tobias got a call back for “something called The Big Bang Theory.”
• According to IMDB, Vargas has been on Arrested Development before. He played a “Mexican teenager” in “Amigos,” a 2004.
• George Michael has never met Lucille 2. What the what?
• Did Google really give the rights to use its name to the upcoming Owen Wilson/Vince Vaughn movie The Internship and not to Arrested Development? “Do a something search on it.”
• It’s easier to get out of Scientology than it is to shut down your Facebook page.
• “Call it The Fakeblock. It’s cleaner.” The anti-Social Network indeed.
• “I think movies are dead. Maybe it’s a TV show.”