For what’s rumoured to be the last ever time (again), Arrested Development has returned to our screens for a final batch of episodes, though this time in the light of the allegations made against Jeffrey Tambor and Jessica Walter’s revelations of what it was like to work with him, along with Portia de Rossi quitting acting and Alia Shawkat not being up for another season it seems likely to be the case. And maybe it’s for the best, the flawed fourth season had some decent episodes but a few which were really weak, and while the fifth was an improvement it never reached the highs of the first three seasons.
Unfortunately the latest of these new episodes is the worst of season five so far, and given that the critical response to them elsewhere has been very negative it doesn’t bode well at all. There’s still some funny moments, it’s Arrested Development after all and the cast is made up of some of the best comedic actors in the business, but the script often lets them down and gives them material which even the funniest man alive wouldn’t be able to do much with. The amount of plotlines going on at the same time is an issue as well, rather than one or two central stories it’s all over the place and we’ve got George Michael’s failing Faceblock company, Oscar and Buster on the run from the law, Michael trying to save the company yet a-bloody-gain, G.O.B. trying to come to terms with his homosexuality, Tobias hanging about with his secret fake family in the attic and George Snr. and Lucille’s struggling relationship. And Lindsay? Well, she’s buggered off now and isn’t mentioned once, which feels slightly odd.
Due to this each storyline doesn’t get the chance to develop and be fleshed out, it feels rushed and the jokes that are there often misfire. Out of all of them Michael’s is the funniest as he tries to uncover exactly what is going on with the company, while hanging out with G.O.B. and an assistant who treats the latter like a dog, giving him treats when he does something right, but soon G.O.B. quits his job (and in a very dodgy moment does a racist impersonation of an Indian employee who has a clear English accent) and decides to enter a religious programme which will make him straight again in a plotline which has one funny joke right at the end of the show and a lot of very, very bland ones. Tobias has a couple of decent moments at least, mostly with his fake family, but there’s another few tiresome gags about him being gay which they really need to stop doing now, they managed to get a lot of great jokes out of the concept in the first three seasons but now it’s beyond tired. Oh, and George Snr. tries to commit suicide by gassing himself in an electric car, which made me laugh, but sadly that’s the end of the positives.
The downsides are sadly numerous too, George Snr and Lucille’s relationship breaking down is tedious and repetitive, and the jokes are just rubbish, with weak misunderstandings and petty arguing that didn’t even make me smile. George Michael’s Faceblock nonsense had it’s moments in the first part of season five but as he desperately tries to keep the fact that he hasn’t actually created anything from Isla Fisher’s Rebel and employs fake protesters it’s painful to witness, and even worse are scenes with Oscar and Buster on the run having previously broken Buster out of prison despite him being released that same day, they’re chained together and so there’s lots of slapstick with them fallling over a lot but it’s not funny in the slightest, which is odd as this is a show which normally excels when it comes to physical comedy. When they bump in to Stan Sitwell he thinks they’re taking him hostage in a convoluted moment which is completely lacking in humour, and then the episode comes to an end with George Snr. trying to convince Lucille that he is a fun guy by bouncing about in a giant ball on the ocean while screaming for help, only for the coastguard to misinterpret his screams and ignore him. It should be funny, in previous seasons it might have been, but here it’s flat and strangely irritating.
In an interview with Deadline Mitch Hurwitz admitted that when it came to writing these episodes he was increasingly unreliable, delivering scripts late and adding last minute rewrites, to the point that the cast had to stage an intervention as a lot of the material didn’t make sense to them, and boy can you tell. They give it all they can but certain scenes just don’t work and I can’t help but feel that it’s because they weren’t aware of the context of such moments, but Hurwitz and the rest of the writing team have to take the blame for coming up with some painfully unfunny moments as wel, with way too many jokes which just don’t work, and the episode as a whole is a real disappointment.
I hope this is just a blip and the rest of the season will be a return to form but as mentioned at the beginning of this review advance word suggest the opposite applies, which is all rather worrying. The first three seasons of Arrested Development are among my favourite ever pieces of comedy, and if no more had been made it would easily have been in my top five best ever sitcoms list. But these new episodes have tarnished it’s legacy, and if it’s as bad as has been rumoured it may be worth pretending they never existed and only watch until the end of season three if it’s to be enjoyed in the future. Either way I’ll be back with a review of the final episode in a few day’s time, and I just hope Hurwitz somehow does manage to create a satisfying ending to the Bluth family saga. Sadly I’m not optimistic that he will though.