Arrested Development 4×5, “A New Start”

Attested Development: Daddy needs to get his SPOILERS off.

More than any other, I feel this episode really lives and dies with your attachment to Tobias’s character.  Why more than the others?  Because this entire episode is all about re-establishing and entrenching Tobias’s former gags and tendencies, just without other family members.  The bookend scene of a show filming him as a child predator is really funny, just straight Tobias misspeaks and an event we could all picture happening in the earlier seasons.  The other scenes took Tobias and surrounded him with depression, serious issues like drugs and prostitution, and a woman even he’s even more toxic to than Lindsay.  This…does not make for great comedy.  They didn’t even really go for the dark comedy gold, probably because it would have been too great a departure, and tried to lighten things up with the occasional one-off gag.  Basically, I wish they’d just put his India bits in “Indian Takers” and added the Predator show scenes somewhere else.  I didn’t really need much else in there.

OTHER THOUGHTS:

1. I really would’ve figured Tobias more for a street performer of some ridiculous stripe than the picture-with-me thing.

2. I like to think Tobias got his shemale shirt after seeing Lindsay wearing one in a bar (without realizing it was Lindsay).  Then, when Lindsay found it, he pretended he’d gotten it to match hers, as another romantic gesture.

3. Tobias’s physical injuries are only funny if they make everyone gather around at the hospital.  Leave his bones alone now, please.

4. Whyyyyyyy were there never any hot cops or Gothic Asshole leather daddies seen to change course and drive after Tobias due to his new license plate?

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Arrested Development 4×4, “The B Team”

Attested Development: Imagine SPOILERS.

 

This episode just felt like weak tea with no honey to me.  Firstly, it’s back on Michael, who I don’t find funny in this format.  Second, this almost feels more like Ron Howard’s episode than his even, and while Ron Howard’s a nice guy, he’s not Arrested Development funny as an actual character.  Also, it made things slower to get all his stuff in and half the episode felt unneeded.  Plus, the narration just feels forced- “get this” indeed.  Third, the main story’s just about bringing in other people who aren’t as funny as the other cast members we want to see.  Isla Fisher was cute, but again-not really at all funny.  Fourth, all the main plotpoints and setup are things that can be seen coming a mile away.  I feel like I could have this on the background while doing something else and not really miss anything which is the equivalent of blasphemy for this show.  Fifth, the whole talk about a movie and it’s hard to get started doesn’t feel like the clever meta jokes that peppered third season, it feels like a failed joke that’s poking fun at the audience’s joy at finally getting a new season, instead.  Sixth, I don’t know about anyone else, but I was very frustrated from the start to be going back to Michael (or anyone else really, even if it’d been a funnier character) when I’d barely seen so many other people.  Throws off the pacing of the series at large, to me.  So, basically-a B is ambition for this episode.

 

OTHER THOUGHTS:

1. Is there any basis at all for calling google car drivers ostriches?  Or are they trying to make it just stick like ‘pop-pop’ as euphemism?

2. Speaking of which, shouldn’t someone have tried to use ostrich imagery as a euphemism by now?  Or definitely in this season?

Arrested Development 4×3, “Indian Takers”

Attested Development: Eat, Pray, SPOILERS!

I felt this episode really made the most of the new individual-character format:  It was the first one with a strong beginning, middle, and end.  It immersed the viewer in the different environments of Lindsay’s life circumstances in a way that felt engaging, while still being light.  Most importantly, I felt it took the audience from looking at Lindsay as she’d been before-of course she’s really shopping!, she doesn’t like odd smells, etc., into a deeper understanding of her.  She really is trying to be independent.  Not in the best ways, but she takes the initiative to travel here, she seems to be filling her days just fine without getting bored and whining in her section of the giant house, and she leaps into what she perceives as an opportunity.  In the first three seasons she never really took initiative-she decided she couldn’t go through with having sex with the realtor she thought hit on her, she never really bolts in the night, she’s so lazy she takes angry naps.  Here she’s moving, she’s traveling, she’s trying, right from the start.  In her house she’s occupying herself, she’s responding capably to the complaints of her family members when she comes across them (agreeing to cook for Thanksgiving in the first place is a big deal, apologizing for anything, sleeping in the same room with Tobias peacefully, if not the same bed).  Her interaction with Marky transcends her previous male exploits in a number of ways: she previously would have just labeled him gross, she’s deliberately trying to have fun in her own right instead of expecting all her validation to come from him, she listens to what he says enough to know basic facts and accept them, which in itself is a huge step.  Moreover and again, she takes Initiative!  For a woman with Lindsay’s history, this is huge.  This is what I’ve been wanting for her.  I am both frustrated by the amount of reviews that failed to see her new depths and proud that the show managed the transition from Lindsay’s past perceptions to her more progressive internal mindframe so skillfully that it could go unnoticed.  Even for those who don’t agree that Lindsay’s showing change, the way the audience sees her has finally switched from external views to an internal one and that’s still significant.

Moreover, this episode felt balanced in many ways.  It had a lot of visual interest, spiced pretty evenly with humor.  The pace felt mostly steady.  The new branches and circumstances Lindsay encounters are balanced by interactions (real and mental) with family members.  There were mysteries and clues to pick up that didn’t overwhelm the story or make it feel like less than a stand-alone arc.  I really enjoyed it.

OTHER THOUGHTS:

1. Lindsay actually connecting with a cab driver (as opposed to complaining about smells) is a perfect capsule moment for the growth in her I see.

2. I loved seeing the same shirt that caused a mix-up in the show’s pilot, so many years ago (as well as a couple other familiar items).

3. I feel Buster would have been great to have around the house, caring for the rhoomba.

4. Totally called the true identity of the shaman.

5. I love the conmen-perhaps the Bluth family should invest.  “You’ve just bought the best house in the valley!”  “No way-I’d pay 8 dollars to see that tr-illusion!  It’s the most mystical one out of India!”  “That Funke’s the best actor out of work in California!”

6. And that way, you have it.

May Queen poem 2013

“Darling May”

 

Wendy Darling, bud of May,

Shake your future and past away.

Offer the world a nurturing hand,

May brings change to even Neverland.

 

But change is cruel and often rough,

with winds too full and not enough,

Full of riches, seeds, and nature’s joy

to plant over the dreams of a boy.

 

No more pixie dust or flying air,

now there’s lilacs and growing roots there.

Reality turns beautiful with its May Queen,

but it never comes close to memories I’ve seen.

 

Phantoms of those who are now lost,

the peace of time frozen within a frost,

the comfort of seeing life where I can believe,

All this, Darling May forces to leave.

 

It’s a story Mother Earth always tells,

We live to miss others, as savage as hells,

Yet we’re told that Spring is for smiles,

As May brings time’s green, like snapping crocodiles.

 

It’s time to grow past, really give them up,

The Queen’s stories call you to drink from her cup.

Come home to beauty, the world, and to you-

With all the dead shadows and souls that flew.

 

May’s strong magic isn’t happy or nice,

She bewitches even as she rules sacrifice.

In the land shook up with what’s Darling and grows,

We give into our nevers and what our heart knows:

 

That nothing’s the same as our springs’ bud,

Magic dust churns with change into spring’s mud.

 

Now, darling, you’re alone with a life to lead,

but to those who are lost, there’s no May Queen to heed.

No winds can shake them, and time, never-

So only they can keep, and stay forever.

 

This is the second year I’ve decided to make a well-known literary heroine a May Queen figure.  It’s surprisingly easy to see the lore of the May Queen figure in others, when you look.  For last yea’rs Katniss poem, go here: https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2012/05/01/modern-may-queen/

 

 

Arrested Development 4×2 “Borderline Personalities”

Attested Development: SPOILERS, if you sweat that sort of thing!

 

This episode is a testament to Jeffrey Tambor and how wonderful he is in this show.  It felt more like a good reintroduction episode than the first one.  This is also an episode that felt really organic, at least at the beginning.  This is Exactly the sort of shenanigans George Sr. would be up to with sweating and squeezing, this is exactly how George Sr. would plot with mastermind Lucille, and the references to seasons 1-3 are allowed nuance here without losing their edge.  This is also an episode that brought in the kind of new characters fans love-small parts that will never overwhelm an episode, but attention-grabbing and humorous.  This episode improved by having a storyline without an obvious ending.  Right from the start of 4×1, you know Michael’s got to go, and ending up in Phoenix seems obvious.  “Borderline Personalities” brings us character changes, the question of marriage or divorce for the Bluth parents, and a young Barry lawyer who makes all those other-actor flashbacks fun.  There were a few pacing bumps and this episode began a few things that may have been hard to keep track of (such as who was really which brother at which time), but both of these were smoothed over by the sheer slickness of Tambor’s acting.  You’d never have known there was a time-gap for his characters.  In short, watching this episode picked it up for me, but in hindsight it’s less memorable than later episodes.

Other thoughts:

1. Stan Sitwell aaalmost stuck it to him!  I like to think he purposely labels all the bushes on any blueprints he has control over in case George Sr. decides to drop by.

2. “I don’t want these.”  We know, George Sr.  I imagine that line came up a lot whenever Buster or Gob wanted to tag along on a trip/banana stand shift/whatever with you and Michael.

3. Young Elizabeth Taylor will never lose persuasive power.

4. Where do we suppose they got all the lemons if they’re making things there with industrial grade juicers?  From Oscar’s lemon grove??  And where’d they get the sugar?  Who wants to bet that George’s masculine problems stem from having things spiked by one of his new trio of sidekicks?

5. If only George Sr. could get in touch with the Abbot of Kells.  He’d get them to build a waaaaaaaall!

6. A note-I’ve seen a number of people wondering why Gob was groaning in the family scene in this episode.  To them I say, they were talking about witnessing George and Lucille having sex.  Gob has a proven tendency to be disapproving and vocal around this subject-that is why he was groaning.  No other mystery, guys.

7. Clearly, Barry drove all the way down there as a way of billing for hours rather than a half hour phone call.

8. It was actually really nice to see Oscar stand up for himself.  Perhaps Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra’s been encouraging him to become a great leader.

9. This is the weirdest looking ostrich.

10. Perhaps George’s decision to get Kitty implants was his attempt to circumvent his puny-thinking.

 

 

Arrested Development 4×1 “Flight of the Phoenix”

Attested Development: SPOILERS can’t be voted out.

 

Overall, I feel this was a weak start to the series.  Michael as the straight man is incapable of making me laugh the way I’d been looking forward to Arrested Development making me laugh for years.  I had expected Michael to have a break in Cabo for at least a couple days.  Then he’d come back due to a George deal or something, but still-expectations.  Plus, Michael was always the one who was supposed to have options, which made him staying with his kooky family so telling and poignant.  Being hit over the head with the message that nope, now he has no options whatsoever that don’t involve leaning on family members just undercuts that familiar dynamic and the breath of heartwarming that used to keep the hard times plots from overflowing.  I was underwhelmed by the story and overwhelmed by changes.  Luckily, this proved just a jumping off point.  Other thoughts:

1. Oh, Michael.  He can never try to do anything with Lucille 2 without making her dizzy.

2. I do not share the joy in Kristin Wiig and Seth Rogen as young Lucille and George Sr.  First, we had plenty of flashbacks with the actual actors before.  Second and most importantly, in a season where I already feel I don’t get enough of particularly Jessica Walters, seeing her replaced like that feels like a low blow.  Surely that wasn’t actually necessary?

3. See, when Michael’s going on and on and on about a plan like that voting one is usually when Lindsay or Gob or someone walks in and distracts me from it so I’m getting something other than tired at the only gag currently going.  This was the point where I really started to fear this new season.

4. More Loose seal! jokes=always funny.

5. Anyone else curious about the name P-Hound?  Is he going to be, like, Gene Parmesan’s apprentice and sniff out scandals?

6. I feel like using his memories of Gob’s magic hands to “accidentally” squirt soap in Michael’s eyes whenever he tries to join him in the shower should be George Michael’s first move in the battle of privacy.

7. Do we assume George Michael gets everything by scholarship and that’s why he’s unaffected by money troubles thus far?

8. I feel like Michael’s luggage would have had some sort of leftover blueprint or flier for “Sudden Valley” that would have caused him trouble at airport security.  It’s the layout of what-a bomb in the shape of a burning bush?  Or it’s clearly Al Quaeda code for a strike because, after all, the name “Sudden Valley” is a total giveaway?  I feel there could have been a funnier sequence than the voting with that, particularly if they ended up by trying to contact his son for confirmation about his recent lodging or something and then the off-the-phone officer used facial recognition and pulled up the CIA file on George Michael’s Star Wars video as a terrorist training film.  Michael would then be released so as not to tip off his more dangerous son, although probably with a tail-maybe Ice?  (And then P-Hound would be endorsed by the government in his first pro job of officially surveilling George Michael Bluth. ((Instead of him just doing it for Gene Parmesan, clearly at Lucille’s behest, so that she can stay on top of what’s happening with her son with highest potential.  After all, P-Hound did seem to be assigned only after Michael moved in.)))  This is how it goes in my head.

9. I love the airport paintings behind Michael.

10. I am always going to be on board with random ostriches here.

 

Attested Development: Thoughts on Arrested Development Season 4 as a Whole

SPOILER-FREE:

My pleasure in viewing this season was like going up one of those tall, bumpy slides you love to go down.  The first episode left me just sitting on the bottom of the slide going, I’m FINALLY here-where’s the whoosh, the thrill?  Then the next two episodes pushed my pleasure up a bit.  “The B Team” leveled out for me a bit again, but then Tobias’s “A New Start” started curving up the slide again, although I was still really close to the bottom.  I wasn’t ready to declare disappointment but also not feeling it.  Luckily, “Double Crossers”  brought in a Gob who entered with bees, and from there things shot right up into whoosh/thrilling territory (for me and my viewing partner)!  This upswing got me up to the top of the slide (with little leveled-off bumps in parts of The Lindsay and Tobias episodes).  Then, ironically, “It Gets Better” just leveled it off at the top of the slide.  And after that, the episodes went down as the stairs leading up to the slide.  So, bit of a complicated viewing shape, with a less than satisfying beginning and end, but overall a really tall slide, fun, and thrilling.

 

A Few Reasons I Loved It:

-Gob’s always been the best with real character growth and his arc here tops them all!

-I’ve always wanted to see a Lindsay whose storyline is truly separated from Tobias’s.  I’ve felt that, while many of his transcended their relationship-the Blue Man Group, Kitty, etc.-even when Lindsay was trying to get away from him, she never really had anything that was wholly her own.  It was sad.  Now we get to see her figure things out without her husband and even, eventually, making decisions on her own.  It’s wonderful and I appreciate it to death.

-Obviously, the return of several missed and beloved gags.

-The satisfaction of noticing the details, creating theories, and always, always, always getting payoff.

-That special pleasure that happens when things things start coming together, because it sparks all the magic of when you realized that was Really Happening in the first three seasons.

-The acting, it feels just like what we’ve been missing.

 

A Few Reasons Not to Love:

-The real heart of the show before really lay in the dynamic between all of these messed-up characters and is, by definition, mostly gone from episodes that focus only on individuals.  One of the reasons the start of drawing all the connections made the episodes suddenly magical for me is that with the interconnections comes interaction between the characters, and that alone basically always pays off.

-While following the straight man is the obvious way to do it when you’re dealing with all the kooks together, having him without his kooky family will automatically lessen his comedic value by a lot.  Therefore, giving Michael the bookend episodes of this season was a huge mistake-we both looked to get the ball rolling and wrap everything up, with the character with the least humor in his arsenal.  Also, while I heartily approve of the new character in his storyline, we’re not going to care enough about any new character to truly want to end the series with them taking precedence over the other characters we’ve known and loved for years.

-The lack of several sorely missed and highly anticipated gags.

-Without the strict timeframe of real TV, a few of the scenes felt too long and lessened the comedy of the moment while overall making the writing feel slightly less sharp.

-I may be alone in this nitpick, but I felt that Ron Howard got too much time and focus.  I love his narration and appreciate him appearing, but…he’s not who I’m here for and every time he’s onscreen he’s cutting out other interactions that I had stronger connections to and found funnier.

-The first few episodes really did feel like I, as an avid fan, still had to work to stay engaged and find the humor.  And while there were payoffs later, the true brilliance of the first three seasons was how the writers managed to have huge interconnecting story payoffs later while still giving full-on funny stand-alone episodes every time.  So without that second part I can still fully appreciate the long-game writing and acknowledge it’s still the best on TV, but…I felt it was more ambitious before.

More thoughts on individual episodes to come!

 

 

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