So the guy in a $4,000 suit has to explain the best and worst of ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT Season 5 to the guy who doesn’t make that in four months? COME ON! Netflix has just released the first half of the 5th season — or, as Lucille helpfully puts it:

“We said no leaks, and now we’re streaming all over everyone?”

ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT Season 5 promised a return to ensemble form after actor scheduling conflicts forced season 4 to be a bit of a disjointed mess. (A mess so disjointed that a remix barely managed to salvage it. I liked it better than most did, but that’s another discussion altogether).

Does the new season deliver on its lofty promise? Well, yes and no. Let’s take a closer look at what works and what doesn’t work in a little feature I like to call the Best and Worst of ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT Season 5. Please note that, obviously, this article contains spoilers for Season 5. If you read further before watching, you’ll have made a huge mistake. (I can and will do this all day).

Best: It Is As Witty As Ever

Arrested Development Season 5
Courtesy of Netflix

The core pleasure of ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT lies in its clever writing, witty wordplay, and ingenious callbacks to earlier moments. Thankfully, much of this wit shines through in the new season. Some of my favorite bits include perfect character moments:

Maeby: It was easy to find. I just looked in your computer under “Secrets.”

George Michael: You looked in my “Please Don’t Read” folder?

Maeby: No that one was empty. I found it in “Just Odds and Ends.”

George Michael: (despondent) Great, you got past my double bluff.

Potshots at the current state of Hollywood:

Kitty: You don’t understand how hard it is in Hollywood right now. You have to crank out these family dramas before they let you make your dream superhero movie.

Michael: You have a dream superhero movie?

Kitty: I want to remake SPIDER-MAN 2. The first one.

And, as always, Michael’s little asides to himself about his family’s weirdness:

Buster: I’ve got plenty of regrets with mom. We used to always want to play dress up – her as Jackie O, me as John John… well, I guess we did get to do that [cue dress-up montage]. I guess that isn’t a regret.

Michael: (to himself) Well, it should be.

And the callbacks. Ohhh, the callbacks! Candy beans, “always leave a note,” the Sitwells’ glue-on eyebrows, George Michael’s muscle suit, Mr. F (I nearly died at the Mexican version of the jingle, “Meester Efe!) Rest assured, if nothing else, ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT Season 5 still makes me laugh.

Worst: The Plot Is Way Too Complicated

When the entire first episode of your season is just a narrator-driven recap of the previous season, there might be a plot issue. ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT has always featured intricate plot lines that often took an entire season to play out, but the plotting always took a back-seat to the comedy. In Season 4, I fear that the writers doubled down on the plot machinations, and many of them continue here.

Probably my least favorite is the Michael / George Michael / Rebel Alley love triangle. Isla Fisher, playing Rebel, is as charming as ever, but I find the entire Ron Howard & family storyline is a bit too meta, even for this show. (Although it was fun to see Bryce pop in for a cameo).

Overall, though, the love triangle thread strains credulity and leads to lots of drawn-out, awkward non-confrontations between Michael and George Michael that could be solved with a sentence or two. (Although to be fair, I found their eventual underwater make-up conversation to be well-written and sweet).

Then there’s the ongoing plot of Lucille 2’s (Liza Minnelli) disappearance / possible murder. It’s a good hook on which to hang a season, but as a plot point it kind of comes and goes at random and it’s never fully clear what, in fact, her status is. I get that it’s meant to be a mystery, but at times it feels more like an underdeveloped background detail. I definitely had to rewind a couple of times because I thought I missed something.

GOTHAM Season 4 Premiere Recap: Pax Penguina

Best: Jessica Walter

Arrested Development Season 5
Courtesy of Netflix

Jessica Walter is a comedic genius. There, I said it. Everyone always points to GOB or Tobias when discussing the AD MVP, but to me, it’s always been the old Seaward herself, Lucille. The Bluth family matriarch is the primary architect of both its wealth and its dysfunction. Walter delivers brutally cutting remarks with a smile, a wink, or, most distressingly above all, merely a glance.

Like when discussing her lifelong rival, Lucille 2, she deadpans: “I will not let that woman steal everything I’ve taken from her.” Or when taking a shot at estranged husband George Sr.: “If you could tear anything in two, you’d still have a shot at me.” Or, the way she beams pleasantly at Sally Sitwell (Christine Taylor) while proclaiming, “You’re no stranger to stuffing tissue places when you don’t have the goods.”

All great lines, surely, but in Walter’s reliable hands, they become uproarious.

Perhaps her most telling character moment comes early on when each of her children hovers on the brink of an emotional epiphany. Only they immediately snap back to their old selfish ways after she calls them each in turn.

And finally, the Bluths (and by extension, the show itself) have never, so accurately, been summed up than when she uttered the sacred family motto, “Forget but never forgive.”

Worst: Jeffrey Tambor

It’s becoming more and more difficult in this era to separate the art from the artist. As much as I’d like to enjoy an episode of television without real-world events intruding, I found it almost impossible to not wince every time Jeffrey Tambor appeared on the screen.

Tambor was fired from his show Transparent late last year due to several sexual misconduct allegations. More recently, a New York Times interview with the cast of the show caused a great deal of controversy after Walter tearfully addressed allegations of Tambor verbally abusing her on set. I won’t comment on those instances further, but needless to say, it’s been pretty well documented that Tambor is kind of a creep.

And as much as I’d prefer that Tambor’s real-life behavior not affect my enjoyment of the show, it did, every time he showed up. On top of that, the George Sr.’s storyline in ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT Season 5 just sucks. It continues a pretty lame ‘transitioning’ plot thread from Season 4 (get it? Because of Transparent? Har har!and takes it further by revealing he’s been accidentally taking estrogen pills, which have been ruining his libido and masculinity, thus making him weak. It’s in poor taste… but perhaps more damning, it’s just boring and unfunny.

I would be fine if George Sr. did not show up in further seasons.

5 Ways to Fix ARROW In Time For Season 6

Best: Maeby’s Fake Aging

Arrested Development Season 5
Courtesy of Netflix

One of the recurring gags throughout the original run featured a teenaged Maeby (Alia Shawkat) pretending to be an adult while having a full, successful career as a movie producer. ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT Season 5 cleverly continues this thread with a plotline in which Maeby cons a retirement home into letting her live there for free by pretending to be Lucille 2’s septuagenarian sister.

Hilarity Ensues. She wears giant fake teeth and glasses and speaks in a sassy, old-timey grandmother accent. She lives with former Bluth rival Stan Sitwell (Ed Begley Jr.) and they immediately fall into an old bickering couple routine. And best of all, as she excitedly tells George Michael: “When people catch on, they either forget or they die!” It’s Shawkat’s best work in the series to date.

Worst: Where The Hell Was Portia?

Arrested Development Season 5
Courtesy of Netflix

But where was Maeby’s mom, Lindsay? I didn’t officially time it, but if I had to guess, I would say that Portia de Rossi appears in this season for less than 15 total minutes. And when she does appear, most of her scenes feature such obvious green-screen manipulation that even the most gullible viewer could tell she wasn’t in the same room as the rest of the cast. It’s ridiculous.

A quick Google search reveals that de Rossi has “retired from acting.” Fair enough, but then why “half” come out of retirement to appear in ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT Season 5? If you’re gonna retire, then stick to your guns and stay retired. But if you choose to come back for a role, then come back for real and don’t just literally phone it in for a couple of scenes.

It didn’t make any sense to me and it actively hurt the show.

Best: Tobias Impersonating Everyone In The Family

Arrested Development Season 5
Courtesy of Netflix

Good old, pathetic Tobias (David Cross). Afraid that he’ll be dropped from the family once his divorce with Lindsay finalizes, he concocts a scheme to stay a Bluth by playing the role of Michael while he’s gone. Then he becomes each member of the family in turn, looking more ridiculous as he goes.

Instead of shaving his mustache and sideburns, he opts to try to hide them with a “skin-colored” dye, which ends up being a neon pink color that he refuses to acknowledge. It’s pure Tobias and it’s hysterical. Additional kudos to the storyline of Tobias’s (potential) son, Murphy Brown (SNL’s Kyle Mooney). Murph wants more than anything to become a veterinarian, but Tobias pushes him into clowning, mirroring his own misguided desire to become a renowned “ac-tor.”

ONE PUNCH MAN Season 2 Picked Up By VIZ Media

Worst: GOB’s Weird Homophobia

When we last left Will Arnett’s GOB, he was desperately trying to forget a sexual fling he had with rival magician Tony Wonder (Ben Stiller) by taking a never-ending string of “forget-me-nows” (aka roofies).

Season 5 continues this storyline… for the entire run of the first half season. He and George Sr. go on a trip to “f–k their way through Mexico” in order to prove their masculinity. But neither manage much more than buying matching t-shirts that say “horny.”

GOB then spends the rest of the season desperately trying to deny his love for Tony. He even goes so far as visiting a “Closet Conversion” company and asks them to make him straight, but then buys the company and threatens to fire anyone who reveals his very obvious mistake – for they merely rearrange people’s closets, you see.

The homophobia feels very odd and tone-deaf, especially in 2018. And on top of that, GOB is best when in full blustery peacock mode. To have him spend the season being so meek and inhibited is a waste of Arnett’s talents.

Best: There Is More ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT Season 5 To Come!

And yet! It’s difficult to judge any of these storylines as they currently stand because we’re only halfway through them. According to Netflix, we can expect the rest of the episodes sometime later this year. Despite some of my misgivings about the first half of ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT Season 5, I always find it a pleasure to reunite with the Bluths. More episodes on the horizon is always a good thing.

ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT fans are going to be all right. (And not because we’ve lost our left hand).

Show ComicsVerse some Love! Leave a Reply!