In Slate’s Arrested Development TV Club, two fans will IM about each episode of Season 4 once they finish watching it. Today copy editor Miriam Krule and contributor Seth Stevenson discuss Episode 7, “Colony Collapse.”
Miriam Krule: We're almost at the halfway mark, so I was happy, really relieved, to finally have a Gob episode after a bit too much Michael and George Sr. I guess here's where I have to fess up that I've seen all 15 episodes and just rewatched Episode 7 so we could chat about it. I know I enjoyed this episode much more the second time. But keeping everyone separate for so many episodes seems like a cheap tactic for such a creative show. Where are you in your AD binging?
Seth Stevenson: Oh, hi Miriam. I didn’t notice you there. I thought you were hair.
I'm only up to Episode 7. I haven't peeked ahead yet. But it's become clear that the more episodes I watch, the funnier the series becomes. I’d grown increasingly antsy as I watched the first couple of episodes. I wasn’t laughing much, and it felt like they meandered with little comedic payoff. As the in-jokes pile up, though—and repeat, and repeat again seven to 12 more times—the humor level seems to ascend exponentially. It's sort of a brute force plus persistence approach to comedy.
Krule: Watching this episode I realized that Gob was the character I missed the most—and the one who seems the most like the character I remember from the "original series," which is also a relief. We have similar themes: marriages he knows nothing about, failed tomb illusions, forget-me-nows, Tony Wonder, and the return of Ann and Steve Holt! Steve Holt! looks a bit different (which got a nice meta nod in the episode) but I was kind of shocked by the sharp deterioration of Mae Whitman's acting.
Stevenson: I will hear nothing bad about Mae Whitman! Gob and Buster have always been, for me, the two most purely hilarious characters—the ones who can turn any line reading, any setup, into comedy platinum. So I was delighted we at last get a heavy dose of Will Arnett. But the highlights of this episode for me were, as always, the tiny, delicious details. A few to get started with:
- Tony Wonder's gay magic act. "I'm here! I'm queer! Now I'm over here!"
- The club "and" owned by Jeremy Piven. (Which is an almost insanely untethered meta-joke that plays solely off the credits sequence of a different long-departed sitcom.)
- And of course all the evangelical TV programming. I’m setting my DVR for And As It Is Such So Also As Such Is It Unto You.
What stood out for you?
Krule: I think my favorite gimmick was the subtle note left on the bathroom mirror. I missed it the first time, even without taking a forget-me-now: "Hey Joe/ withabee/ Fun nite/ PS I have sifulus :(" A jab at his name always works—we got another one at the bar when he's talking about his Biblical homonym—but now with a reference to his confusing bee colony. I'm still trying to figure out what's going on with that—who would want a bee as a gift?
Stevenson: It occurs to me that binge-watching this season sort of feels like I’ve been caught in a "roofie circle.” It’s tough sometimes to remember what I’ve seen before, what's new info, and how it all connects.
Krule: It had the potential to get old, but I also loved the ultimate “her?” joke: the venue where Gob and Ann didn’t get married was called the church of the Holy Eternal Rapture.
Are you still humming "Get Away"? It’s been stuck in my head (how can I make that MY ringtone?), though, if we're talking about his entourage, I could have used more JBJ. Why have Jean-Ralphio if you're not going to let him rap?
Stevenson: Agreed on Jean-Ralphio. Criminally underused. And the whole entourage bit left me a little cold, actually. Yes, it created conditions necessary to pull off the wacky and fulfilling Jeremy Piven nightclub signage gag. But other than that, what joys did it really offer? I'd have preferred to watch Gob spend more time with the other Bluths. Or just do "mice-ellaneous" magic tricks—you know, mouse in purse, mouse in drink.
Were you satisfied with the return of ... Steve Holt! And gratified that he shows up in Gob's cell phone contacts as "Steve Holt!"?
Krule: It took me a few minutes (and a few more minutes “something-ing” it) to come to terms with the fact that it was really him. It felt like some kind of vindictive former nerd wanted to get back at all the popular jocks from high school by giving them a receding hairline and having them own a pest control business.
Speaking of "mice-ellaneous" things, did you catch the earnestness with which Gob rebuked Tobias for his suggestion that he could do rabbit-to-mice? That can't be done!
Stevenson: Of course, Miriam. We all know rabbit-to-mice can't be done. Stupid. Now, you've got some mice to scoop out of the sea.
We seem to agree that some of these complex plot machinations feel rather superfluous. This episode ran 35 minutes, which is an eternity for an absurdist screwball show that depends on pure velocity for half its appeal. Way too many mildly funny bits got drawn out until they were barely funny at all. I think the season might have benefited from some 22-minute discipline.
Also, in the first three seasons, it felt like the recurring gags accumulated and crested naturally, as the show evolved. In this format—show created all at once, then released into the wild—the recurring gags feel a smidge less organic.
But amid this carping, I wish to emphasize: With each episode I watch, the season grows on me and becomes ever more delightful. There is a payoff when you pay your dues here.
And when you pay close attention. During a fleeting glimpse of a TV report about how much people dislike magicians, the crawl was a message that in-flight magazines are only available in-flight—and not to passengers in bulkhead seats. The Easter eggs have been hidden with love, and are well worth finding.
Okay. Are we good? ARE WE GOOD?
Krule: There it is! I got my Yes!