In Slate’s Arrested Development TV Club, two fans will IM about each episode of Season 4 once they finish watching it. Today, Slate intern Byron Boneparth and technology columnist Farhad Manjoo recap Episode 13, “It Gets Better.”
Byron Boneparth: Do you prefer to be addressed as Farhad the Ticklemonster or simply Mr. F?
Farhad Manjoo: Oh, call me Mr. F!
Boneparth: In your last TV club appearance, Mr. F, you seemed very disappointed with the new season, calling the episodes you had watched to date “slow, bloated, and just not that funny.” Has your opinion improved over the course of the last 10 installments, or are you still underwhelmed?
Manjoo: Yeah, I was kind of bummed back then. That was my nadir—I’m happy to say that I’ve enjoyed the show much more since then. I still think there are slow moments and that Hurwitz could have exercised more restraint with some of the scenes. But I’ve been impressed with the choreography, with the seemingly impossible ways each episode builds on the last. In some ways I think the show is shaping up to be a landmark achievement, something that isn’t perfect but that will mark the way forward for TV writers for years to come.
Boneparth: It’s good to hear you’ve come around. I totally agree on the unique and novel format of this season. The downside of this, of course, is that the first four or five episodes were too slowly paced and also lacked appearances from many of the show’s main characters, like Gob, for instance, who didn’t really make a big splash until halfway through the season.
Manjoo: This episode was one of my favorites so far. That’s partly because I love George Michael. His Ellen DeGeneres–speaking style, the way he mumbles and half-finishes every other sentence, is completely endearing. But I also loved how well this episode paired with the previous episode. Here, by shifting perspective from Maeby to George Michael, we get a totally different story: FakeBlock turns out to be a fake, and George Michael turns out to still be in love with Maeby. Though I hope he follows his own advice: “I wouldn’t put all my Annes in that basket.”
Boneparth: George Michael was never really one of my favorite characters during the show’s initial run, but I have to say that I think he’s probably come the furthest in terms of character development among the main cast—for better and for worse. The great thing about the last two episodes for me is that prior to viewing them it seemed like Maeby and George Michael were the only two characters who were actually getting along with their lives and prospering, with Maeby winning that lifetime achievement Opie and with George Michael developing a successful Web app. Truth is, of course, that Maeby’s award is merely a consolation prize for a career prematurely gone south and that George Michael, despite being an “overtly sexual” dynamo with snazzy matador pants, has become a rather lame inveterate liar in the finest Bluth family tradition. These revelations are both disappointing and deeply comically satisfying at the same time.
Manjoo: I loved the scene where George Michael learns to lie. Part of it is the beauty of the B.S. he’s spewing—I’m subject to a lot of tech industry puffery, and George Michael’s spiel is as confidently authentic as any I’ve ever seen. “It’s just a Boolean-driven aggregation of what programmers call hacker traps!”
Also, I spotted the first reference this season to my—and everyone else’s, I assume—favorite Arrested Development gag: the various Bluths’ awful chicken dances. George Michael is just about to demonstrate his chicken impersonation when he’s distracted by a phone call. I’m hoping we’ll see the rest of it soon.
Boneparth: Yes, sadly, the chicken dance has been conspicuous in its absence this season. I was however elated to witness the return on the Cornballer. Not only was the scene with Seth Rogan and Kristen Wiig as the young Lucille and George Sr. quite funny in its own right, but I loved the explanation for George Michael’s impeccable sense of rhythm being that hare-brained BabyTock scheme. I can only assume you’re not using something similar for your own children.
Manjoo: I wouldn’t use BabyTock, but I’d definitely buy a Cornballer.
Did you notice the shot of Tracey Bluth, Michael’s dead wife, in the BabyTock commercial? The Arrested Development Wiki confirms that this was the first time we’ve seen her. Oddly poignant moment, I thought.
I hear you’ve already watched the whole season, but I only just finished this one. With two more episodes to go, I’m worried where this is heading. I don’t see any sort of satisfying narrative conclusion coming. But I’m already beginning to feel a sense of loss. Last week I was bored with this show. Now I’m captivated. But it’s almost done and I don’t think I’m ready to let go. Perhaps this is the danger of our new binge-watching reality. At least when Breaking Bad comes back, I’ll have a couple months to savor it and get used to the end. But the Bluths just got here and now they’re almost gone again!
Boneparth: I know how you feel. Binging on this season was sort of like growing and losing a limb within the space of 72 hours. And now, as Buster would say, I’m a monster.
I’m not going to spoil the rest of the season (although it is tempting!) but I will say that some of your worries are probably justified. I can only assume that the whole thing is meant to be left sort of open-ended for the sake of a forthcoming Arrested Development movie, which is good news to us fans but at the same time fraught with its own concerns. If these episodes felt overlong and plodding at just over half an hour in length, how will a 90-minute feature film fare in this regard? Granted, this is a first-world problem of the highest magnitude, but it still sort of keeps me up at night.
Manjoo: I’m not sure how I feel about a movie. I think this Netflix thing could be perfect. They should just keep doing this. As Maeby says, the future’s in TV. Er, I mean, The Netflick.