Mark: So readers, if you can believe it, it's been over FOUR YEARS since Kyle and I last teamed up. Man, where does the time go? Kyle, give the people an update on what you've been up to since 2009.
Kyle: Called to the Bar, baby, two heartbreaking playoff runs by the Tigers...not necessarily in that order. Wait, no, EXACTLY in that order.
Mark: As for me, I got a new pair of sneakers. They're good....not great. So to sum up, both our lives have been jam-packed with new developments.
Kyle: It's been a wild ride...
Mark: Our development certainly hasn't been "arrested," to say the least. #Segueway
Kyle: Pun count: 1. To be clear, my position on puns remains unchanged: I'm against them.
Mark: You're pundeterred
Kyle: Jaysus. We're in trouble. But, hey, it's good to be back. Has anything changed on the internet since 2009? [Does quick Google search] Good Lord.
Mark: Geez, Twitter was barely a thing in June 2009. And "Pinterest" was only the name of my Harold Pinter fan page on Geocities
So just because I mentioned segueways, did you know that in the original series, every time GOB rode up on his Segway, it led to a change in topic? His Segway was literally used as a segue between scenes. This blew my mind. How layered is this freaking show?
Kyle: That is amazing. I can't remember the article that comes up in, but it's one of those "50 crazy cool things you didn't know about Arrested Development," and I swear 44 of them are completely made up and/or utter coincidences. The GOB thing appears to be legit.
Mark: And you could do another 50 things from this fourth season alone. On a scale of 1-10, how mind-bending did you find the story?
Kyle: In terms of paying off things in ep 16 that came up in ep 1? Probably a solid 8.5...but I'm honestly not sure if that really enhanced my viewing experience. You? I know you were considerably more impressed with the storytelling than I.
Mark: I'm a sucker for any show that makes you really think and pay attention. I watch so much TV (shocking!) that it's fairly easy for me to predict story turns just because I'm used to watching shows and anticipating the narrative twists. With AD, though, it took me a couple of eps just to catch onto what they were doing, let alone where the story could possibly be going. I was very impressed. I'm in awe of the sheet narrative conceit that was at play here. You'll appreciate this, or be enraged by it, but one reviewer compared the new season to a TV version of Infinite Jest
Kyle: TEAM UP OVER. Gah...I mean, superficially, sure, but...no, this is hurting my brain. We need to move on. (Interesting though...will need to get that source from you. Also, read IJ...and we can do a 50,000 word team up. Now if THAT isn't a selling point, I don't know what is.)
Mark: Sold! We can expect that team-up to take place around 2017. What didn't you like about the way the episodes were made/structured/designed, etc.?
Kyle: It's a good question. I guess I feel as though my initial confusion as to what the hell was going on wasn't worth the long-term payoff (i.e. plotlines making sense in the back half of the season). I've heard from many different critics that the show really improves once you go through it a second time, but I honestly think that's asking a bit too much of viewers. Do you think Hurwitz deliberately made it more layered for binge-viewing?
Mark: No question. I think Hurwitz's logic was, "people will watch this over and over, and they have the means to do this easily given the Netflix venue, so why not give them something to really sink their teeth into?" Of course, that's a different animal than, "let's make this as funny as possible."
Kyle: True...although how is that any different than purchasing the full season DVD three months after it airs? Re: the latter point: very true.
Mark: To defend Hurwitz, though, I'd argue that a major part (maybe THE major part) of AD's brilliance is how everything is so layered and how it demands rewatches. So the fourth season took that to the Nth degree
Kyle: Good point re: the connection between its brilliance and its layeredness (is so a word).
Mark: It is now!
Kyle: I suppose I feel as though if Hurwitz consciously sacrificed comedy for the sake of continuity, that was a massive miscalculation (which is to say: I wish the individual episodes were funnier as opposed to simply parts of a whole)
Mark: Fair point. In the original 53 eps, there wasn't a dud among them. You could argue the two or three worst individual AD episodes all happened this season.
Kyle: OH, I assume we're getting to that...
Mark: It's been pretty much universally-agreed upon that the two George-centric episodes were stinkers, and nobody seems to like the first Lindsey ep either.
Kyle: Why Hurwitz would front-load with George Sr. eps (two of the first five, I believe), is absolutely beyond me. The second George Sr. ep is the first and only time I contemplated simply not finishing the season...it was endless.
Mark: Plus the Michael episodes have a lot of new information. So, when all five of these come within the first six episodes, it definitely makes for a slow start.
Kyle: I still think the ordering needs to be called into question, since the first third really crushed my enthusiasm for the season, while the last third was pretty brilliant (but, because of the slow start, only helped raise the season on the whole--in my mind--to slightly above-average). But, with all the information that needed to be dumped (as you mentioned), maybe this was a necessity.
Mark: It's weird that Hurwitz originally said "you can watch the eps in any order!" when that's clearly not true. Maybe he figured to get the info dump episodes out of the way early so we enjoy the uninterrupted run of gold in the latter half/third of the season.
Kyle: Yeah, there's absolutely no logical explanation for that statement (which he rapidly distanced himself from in the weeks leading up to the premiere). He must have been hitting the sweat lodge pretty hard...Speaking of sweat lodges, I just discovered that Dan Harmon is in one of those scenes (ep 2, I believe). I apologize if this is not even remotely new information.
Mark: He was one of the gurus, yeah. I thought it looked vaguely like him, or the guy who played Dan Dority on Deadwood.
Kyle: (Confesses he still hasn't seen Deadwood.)
Mark: TEAM UP OVER
Kyle: Made the chapter in Sepinwall's book a little inscrutable...
Mark: I may be influenced by the low quality of the George episodes, or this could be the reason for their low quality, but it occurs to me that George Sr is the weakest character on the show. He was kind of the McGuffin of the first three seasons rather than a fully-developed character, who was funny in contact with others but never needed to be on his own. George as a solo act carrying two episodes, however....not so much
Kyle: Wow...never really thought about George Sr. that way, but you're totally right.
Mark: Even the thought of George as the mastermind behind all the schemes went out in the window in the S3 finale when he revealed Lucille was behind everything. So George was really left with no character beats aside from being an incompetent con man...so basically GOB without the magic
Kyle: Or as Oscar's foil, which never failed to entertain prior to this season. Should we use this as a jumping off point to discuss the merits of having character-centric episodes? Are you--as I am--pretty unconvinced that this was actually a necessary evil? We've heard so much about it being impossible to reconcile everyone's shooting schedules, but how, exactly, is this any different than getting an ensemble together to film a movie?
Mark: I think it was such a challenge getting everyone back and on board and they compromised with the "character episode" idea. So Hurwitz decided that instead of the cast intersecting and mingling like they always did, he'd have the story do it instead. You'd think for a S5 (now that it's more of a proven entity that another season could actually happen) they'd get everyone locked up and reunite the Bluths.
Kyle: The only full-cast scene that springs to mind is the strategy session in Lucille's living room where Michael tells everyone to go fuck themselves. Can you think of another one?
Mark: That was the only one, which they wisely kept going back to as much as possible (and it was funny since they kept revealing more jokes to it, like Ann hiding in the corner or it actually being George Michael's off-to-college party). There was the scene following the yacht theft thought that was clearly heavily green-screened.
Kyle: Gosh..forgot about it being college party. Banner reference and everything! Also, not to be uncharitable, but--really--it's not as though any of these actors (Bateman and Cera aside, I suppose) are such successes OUTSIDE of AD that they shouldn't have attempted to make time for the series. OK, "uncharitable" is being charitable.
Mark: I get that schedules were busy but man, THAT busy? They barely had any scenes with three Bluths at any given time
Kyle: I think doing S5 the same way as S4 would be a huge mistake...
Mark: I was just stunned that, of all of them, Tony Hale ended up being the busiest. Buster was barely in the season at all, aside from his centric-episode (which was admittedly terrific)
Kyle: That was a great episode. I will never tire of that oversized hand gag. Never, I tell you. I could see AD conflicting with Veep's shooting schedule given that Veep S2 just ended.
Mark: Very possible. And lord knows Arnett was busy with Up All Night HA HA HA HA
Mark: I was expecting the whole family (and the whole plot) to finally come together as one at Cinco De Quatro at the end, but nope.
Kyle: I think that might be my biggest issue with the whole season, in that S4 appears to be building towards something big, seeminly just after Cinco de Quatro (nearly every episode culminates at Cd4) and then it just peters out. That was frankly baffling. You know what, just in typing that, I'm totally kind of getting that Infinite Jest comparison. How about that...
Mark: Yeah, I mean your boy DF Wallace wasn't exactly big on wrapping up endings either, ya know.
Kyle: Too soon. Also, wish you hadn't used "wrapping."
Mark: That wasn't a suicide joke!
Kyle: OH...never mind then. Great, so now I'm the weird one.
Mark: At the end of Broom Of The System I was like, "did the last 20 pages fall out of my book, or what?"
Kyle: lol...yeah. BotS literally ends mid-sentence, so that's a fair point. Am I right that there are only two or three scenes max that come chronologically AFTER Cinco de Quatro? (there's a chrono supercut out there, I just haven't seen it)
Mark: The only post-Cinco scene that comes to mind was maybe a quick shot of Lindsey at her future campaign headquarters? The total lack of closure is the best hint yet that there's more AD coming, whether it's a fifth season or a movie. If nothing else, we need to see George Michael's chicken dance
Kyle: That was cruel, wasn't it? Really felt like Hurwitz was winding up the true fans there.
Mark: That was one of two moments in watching the series when I literally said HOLY SHIT out loud. The other was when they finally showed Tracey Bluth, in such a throwaway moment.
Kyle: Yup...certainly unexpected.
Mark: And it was Maria Thayer, one of my 'should be a bigger star' candidates!
Kyle: She will always be "that girl from Forgetting Sarah Marshall" for me.
Mark: That's right! Her and McBrayer! The ultimate coupling of "indeterminate age" actors
Kyle: Can I use this as an opportunity to reference one of my all-time favorite lines on the show? (Tobias: "And second-of-ly, I know you’re the big marriage expert. Oh, I’m sorry. I forgot. Your wife is dead. [beat] I’m sorry. That was 100% inappropriate, and I do apologize profusely.") Yes, I think I can.
Mark: That was an amazing moment. If the show wasn't so tightly plotted, I'd wonder if Cross had improvised that. So I guess given the season's format, we should state how we watched all the new episodes. You spread them out over a week or so, right?
Kyle: My intention--though, in retrospect, it makes zero sense--was to marathon the whole season in one (or maximum two) nights. It ended up taking me about ten days. (I will throw Carrie under the bus a little bit here, in that she fell asleep approximately five minutes into 90% of the episodes she watched with me, creating a whole "should I watch another one, or pack it in?" dynamic; though, in fairness, I usually kept watching,) You?
Mark: Husband of the year. I semi-binged. I watched three on the first day, I think four the next day and then crammed the rest into the third day. And this was after rewatching the original 53 episodes in the week prior, so yeah, it was real shut-in of a week for me
Kyle: And did you go through S4 a second time? If so, at what rate?
Mark: Haven't watched it a second time yet, though I plan to. I might've spread my initial viewing out a bit more had that last half of the season not been so good. It was around the first GOB ep or the second Tobias ep that it all started clicking and paying off and feeling like the old AD, and I just didn't want to stop once the season finally got on a roll.
Kyle: That sounds about right. My other big complaint about S4 is how limp the political commentary was compared to the show's original run. There was some decent stuff with the housing crisis (Lindsay and Tobias's NINJA loan springs to mind), but the whole Herman Cain thing really fell flat. How did that land for you?
Mark: Didn't land well with me either, you're right. The problem was that while the original series' political humour was about stuff that was happening directly at the time, S4's material tried to touch on everything over the last seven years and felt scattershot. Like, a Herman Cain spoof in 2013 is yesterday's news
Kyle: Good point. The Cain thing just felt really easy too...a caricature of a caricature (though I suppose you could say the same thing about the Dubya stuff during the first go round).
Mark: Bush was still president then, though. Cain was barely relevant even when he was running since he was so obviously a joke candidate. It's unfortunate since Terry Crews is a funny actor but he didn't have much to do.....yet Herman Love had the most screentime of any tertiary character save for Lucille and maybe Rebel or Ron Howard
Kyle: Yup...that was a miscue for sure....and the wall stuff was pretty shitty too.
Mark: Yeah, boy, the wall jokes. George not being able to decipher that drawing was a real jump-the-shark moment for his character
Kyle: ...and the interminable explanations...double and triple crosses. It's the only time AD has ever been actively unfunny for me. (And in an episode featuring the wonderful John Slattery to boot--I feel sick.)
Mark: At least Slattery himself was pretty funny. He was arguably the best of the new characters.
Kyle: Not exactly stiff competition, mind you.
Mark: The more minor the 'new' characters got, the better, it seemed. Like, Kristen Wiig and Max Winkler just had a few scenes each but they killed. Andy Richter as his various brothers never stopped being funny for me. Tommy Tune as Argyle Austero was hilarious just because it's freakin' Tommy Tune. But the ones they tried to build episodes around (Herbert Love, Marky Bark, even DeBris though I liked her the most) fell flat.
Kyle: Oh, forgot about Tommy Tune, that was quality. Marky Bark was atrocious. DeBris had her moments.
Mark: The only funny bit about Marky Bark was that it came out about a week after the series was released that Brad Pitt legitimately has a type of 'face blindness'
Kyle: Yeah, that was definitely some odd timing. Did you read the bit about people speculating that the whole face blindness thing was a commentary on Portia de Rossi being virtually unrecognizable compared to version 1.0?
Mark: See, I was wondering about that. She looked a lot more 'normal' in the red wig and shorter hair later in the season, so was the heavily-plastic'd look just part of her character in the early going?
Kyle: I don't think so...
Mark: De Rossi looked pretty normal on Better Off Ted
Kyle: Yeah, that's true...but she also had that whole severe look thing going on...could be deceiving. Hmmm...apparently it's DeBriE.
Mark: Ah, I seE
Kyle: well played. So what DID work for you, comedy-wise? Any runners that you found particularly memorable?
Mark: I enjoyed Barry's trial...them never mentioning the word 'Google'....Michael continually revisiting his roommate vote-out plan to see where it went awry....the aforementioned scenes with Wiig and young Winkler....and maybe it was just the comic nerd in me but they made every pun possible involving the Fantastic Four and they were all funny
Kyle: The vote-out stuff was hysterical. I was stunned to discover that some critics pointed to that as an example of the show having lost its fastball.
Mark: It's probably because I'm a Survivor fan, but I never fail to be entertained by idiots out-thinking themselves by coming up with overly-complex voting schemes. Oh, and the slow reveal of why George Michael was so popular amongst his neighbours in the model home neighbourhood. That was amazing.
Kyle: The neighborhood stuff was outstanding. I really dug the Maeby yearbook sequence (a nice shout out to the Steve Holt stuff in the original series), and GM and P-Hound being so dismissive of the woodblock apps out there.
Mark: And the neighbourhood of model homes was....a fake block. Boom!
Kyle: Nice. Oh, can't forget "ANUSTART." I'm ashamed it's taken me this long to reference it. And, hell, it was fun to have so many John Beard cameos.
Mark: Even he got his own storyline! Of the old supporting characters, I think he, Bob Loblaw, Carl Weathers and the Richters came off the best.
Kyle: Ron Howard being kind of a dick was thoroughly enjoyable too (particularly him telling Michael it would be more fun if his wife died on camera).
Mark: That whole episode at Imagine was weird, just because it was SO naval-gazing and there was SO much obvious green-screening. Yet still, it was funny. You forget that Howard is a good comedic actor himself.
Kyle: Agreed...he was a pleasant addition. Definitely took me ages to make the connection between Barry buying the step-ladder at the hardware store and his trial. So maybe it's less that I don't like layering and more that I'm just an idiot.
Mark: "And that, was a Bob Loblaw law bomb." "That was a low blow, Loblaw."
Kyle: lol, speaking of Ron Howard: did you encounter any issues with the sound mixing/editing (I can never remember which is which). It definitely seemed as though Howard's narration cut off some dialogue it wasn't meant to.
Mark: Not that I can recall. The only editing issue I had was that the episodes all seemed five minutes too long.
Kyle: LOL. Oof. Absolutely. Longest one was, what, 38 minutes? That's pretty unforgivable....or it was in this context (Lindsay or George Sr.). If it was George Michael, that would be fine.
Mark: You mentioned favourite running gags...what were your top one-off gags?
Kyle: Has to be the Buster-Lucille smoking scene, no? You?
Mark: Oh man, that was way up there. That's one case where it didn't need to be edited down, since it kept going and going and getting funnier every time. For me, the giant 'HER?' sign in the church was a laugh-out-loud moment. Or Peter Scolari starring in the Spanish version of Angels & Demons knockoff, or GOB and Tony Wonder talking themselves into sleeping with each other. The Christian talk show called "And As It Is Such So Also As Such Is It Unto You," or the club actually being named "And...Jeremy Piven."
Kyle: LOL...those are all great. Though I found John Kasinski's cameo a bit distracting, "you're not charring my tree" is a pretty awesome line.
Mark: And sadly, the joke about George Michael not knowing who Lucille Austero was turned out to be not exactly accurate.
Kyle: Yeah, I assume your reaction to the GM-Lucille Austero thing was the same as mine ("could that possibly be true?").
Mark: There's a scene in S2 where at one point someone refers to Buster and his girlfriend, and GM goes, "that's his girlfriend? I thought he was her nurse." So you can argue that George Michael didn't actually MEET Lucille at this point, but he'd know something of her, I guess.
Mark: Man, if only that had turned out to be true. Maeby turning out to be Lindsay's guru was a nice gag
Kyle: Yup...that was good. It was really only when Lindsay came back to the U.S. that her storyline went to shit. Do I still find myself humming "Getaway"? Yes, yes, I do.
Mark: Hurwitz has now spent a solid decade teasing his old Golden Girls buddy Marc Cherry. That's amazing.
Mark: Favourite episodes?
Kyle: Tough one. One of: Senioritis (4.12), It Gets Better (4.13), Off the Hook (4.14), or The B-Team (4.04). A New Attitude (4.11) is close. I honestly can't pick one, but I'm thinking Senioritis or It Gets Better would probably get the nod. You?
Mark: I agree. Both eps (and Off The Hook) are helped by the fact that we'd seen so little of Maeby, GM and Buster up to that point that it was a relief to finally get to their episodes. I'd go with It Gets Better, Senioritis and Off The Hook are the best ones, with honourable mention to the two GOB eps and the two Tobias eps.
Kyle: Sounds about right (in that you're agreeing with me...)
Mark: And I think we similarly both agree that 'Double Crossers' was the worst of the season and (imo) the worst of the entire series
Mark: One other topic of discussion....how'd you feel about Michael being essentially the villain of the season?
Kyle: Can't say I ever became totally comfortable with it. I read somewhere recently that what made the original run so great was that Michael behaved like he was so much better than the family, yet routinely demonstrated himself to be more than capable of being just as self-involved as the rest of them (essentially, yeah, GOB's an asshole, but he KNOWS he's an asshole, while Michael thinks he's the good guy but is nearly as much as an asshole as GOB) and to a certain extent that's true (I'm thinking specifically of Michael dating GM's teacher --Heather Graham-- in S1, even though he knows it's wrong, along with pretty much the entirety of the Julia Louis-Dreyfus plot), but I think this season took that to its logical extreme (Michael in full asshole mode) and was worse off as a consequence.
It might be trite to say that the show like this needs an emotional center, but I think it's true...and I think that's supposed to be Michael. And for him to act like an oblivious sociopath (I suppose that's probably redundant) for virtually the entirety of the season was really jarring. Arguably it would be ok if you simply shifted that center to George Michael, but given that he had such a small role until the final five eps, that really wasn't possible. You? Article that cited that approximate thesis is here, btw:
Mark: True. It's like Michael needed the rest of his family to essentially induce him to be a good guy, if just to spite them or be superior to them if nothing else. Without his family all around, Michael was a rudderless ship. S1-S3 Michael wouldn't have tried to so blatantly fool his son re: them both dating Rebel. Though there was a really nice acting moment from Bateman....when he's describing Rebel to George, he goes "she's Tracey, Dad" with such desperation that you can see he legitimately believes he can recapture in Rebel the love for his departed wife. That almost excuses the lengths he goes to in trying to break up her and George Michael.
Kyle: Yup, it definitely leads to a couple of surprisingly moving emotional beats (the one you just referenced, plus the punch at the end of ep 15). We're so trained to see Michael eventually come to his senses once George Michael is involved that when he gets hit, it really (sorry) lands. I also really didn't like him living in GM's dorm room (even if it set up my favorite scene of the season). It just felt so tonally off that I could never really get over it.
Mark: True. It took Michael's cluelessness about his son to a pathetic extreme.
Kyle: I'm fairly intrigued as to where this takes the show, since the Michael-GM relationship has always played such a central role on the show and now it's in shambles.
Mark: Presumably S5/the movie would end with them reconciling
Kyle: Has to be, right? Do we agree that S5 THEN a movie is more likely than just a movie?
Mark: I've never seen the need for a movie. If this season tells us anything, it's that Hurwitz simply is overflowing with material and needs at least a full series to get it all in. (Remember, S4 was supposed to be just 12 eps and kept growing and growing.)
Kyle: That's true. So...how do you rank the seasons now? (must be done to scale)
Mark: S4 has to be at the bottom because this was the first AD season that had duds. That said, I still think it was very entertaining and it lived up to the series' reputation. I'd go S2, S1, S3, S4
Kyle: Yeah, I go back and forth between S1 and S2, but Amigos (2.04, I think) is my favorite ep, so S2 gets the nod. My order is exactly the same. However, if S1 and S2 are both 9.5s or 10s, and S3 is let's say an 8, I think S4 is like a 5.5 or a 6. Seems harsh, but I'm not sure if I'm willing to go any higher.
Mark: I'd say S3 is only a 9 since the Rita storyline isn't great on a rewatch. I'd rank S4 higher than that, maybe 7.5 just because the payoffs were largely worth it and because I loved the narrative conceit so much. I'm giving them points for the attempt, basically.
Kyle: Rita story is a pretty major misfire, but ok. It's also worth noting that S4 suffers in large part because it's being compared to Pantheon seasons.
Mark: No question. Impossible expectations, really. No other (American) series had tried anything remotely like this, coming back after so long for a revived series
Mark: And, given the cast limitations, they were forced to do something different and possibly outside of Hurwitz's comfort zone. Had all nine cast members been fully available and ready to go, who knows how S4 would've played out.
Kyle: Which is why I kind of wished he'd waited until that situation presented itself, but I guess the counter-argument is that he had to do a (somewhat bastardized) S4 to give himself the opportunity to do a "proper" S5 or movie. Now or never, essentially
Mark: Indeed. It'd already been seven years, he had to strike while the iron was lukewarm, if not hot
Mark: Bottom line, you're happy to have more Arrested Development in your life
Kyle: I'll admit that I was pretty massively letdown WHILE actually watching it...and even (albeit less so) after finishing it. But, yeah, for sure. But my enthusiasm for S5 will definitely be significantly impacted by what kind of format Hurwitz embraces/is forced to accept. If it's an ensemble situation, I'm all in. If it's piecemeal, boy, I don't know...You?
Mark: I'm all-in, regardless. I can't conceive of there being new Arrested Development out in the world and me choosing to not see it. I don't care if Hurwitz delivers S5 in the form of 1500 Vine videos, I'll watch
Kyle: Oh, there's no way I won't watch. I'm just worried that the show runs the risk of losing what really made it special if they go the same direction in S5 as they did in S4. Having said that, even below-average AD is still better than most comedies out there.
Mark: And really, I'd argue that even if S5 is also a letdown, it still won't erase the legacy of S1-S3. It's like how the Simpsons can make B/B- seasons forever and it still won't detract from their first decade. Let's just hope the next iteration allows for more than three Bluths to be in the same room at the same time.
Kyle: Sounds good.
Mark: Odds on what happens first....Arrested Dev's movie/fifth season, or our next team-up?
Kyle: MAN...to borrow a line from the Sorkin supercut sequel, I think it's 6/5 and pick-em. I'd really like to finish the movie thing, but who knows? I'll give us the slight edge...
Mark: We could've finished the movie series ages ago but ONE of us had to go and have a child, KYLE.
Kyle: I know. I ruined things for everyone.
Mark: Didn't even name her Markette, either. I won't lie, I was offended.
Kyle: lol...if you would've let me use a "q" I think I could have convinced Carrie. NOW who's being selfish?