In Slate’s Arrested Development TV Club, two fans will IM about each episode of Season 4 once they finish watching it. Today interactives editor Chris Kirk and senior project manager David Stern discuss Episode 4, “The B. Team.”
Chris Kirk: “The B. Team” sees Michael Bluth taken out of his element, the real estate business, and thrown into the film business. But before we get into this episode, what are your thoughts on the season thus far?
David Stern: I’m mixed about it. It’s great to see all these characters again, and to see how some of them have evolved in our years apart. I think what’s missing is their ability to interact with each other. They’re a lot less funny as individuals than they are when can play off each other. But we’ve learned to be patient with this series—there have often been long setup stretches punctuated by short periods of almost unparalleled hilarity. I just wish the interludes between the funny bits were shorter.
Kirk: Because the episodes focus on one character at a time, it’s almost as if each is an episode in a different Arrested Development spinoff series. And spinoffs only succeed when they develop their own compelling identity, characters, and plot threads. I’m not sure that Arrested Development has really succeeded in giving each character a good spinoff. But after “The B. Team,” I think I'm starting to like Michael’s. As the episode opens, Michael is getting a new car, which is (what I presume to be) one of the cars that Google deploys to take the pictures that show up on Google Maps.
Stern: That’s a safe assumption. “Hey Gare-bear, I think we got an ostrich!” yells one Google employee to the other.
Kirk: “I’m used to some stares” or, rather, “I’m used to some stairs,” has become my favorite line of the season so far. It somehow went right over my head in the season trailer. Though I am sad to see the stair car go, I think the Google car is a promising successor. I also appreciated the reappearance of Bob Loblaw with his “Bob Loblaw Law Bomb.”
Stern: That also made me laugh. And it was a nice continuation of a long series of plays on Bob Loblaw’s name. We also saw a lot of Barry Zuckerkorn, whom I haven’t found particularly amusing in the past, but whose cocky and obnoxious younger self tickles my funny bone.
Kirk: Michael goes to Imagine, Ron Howard’s real-life production company. The sign on the top of the building reads: “Where dreams drop into make-believe as surely as a drop of water falls into a bigger thing of water in slow motion,” a play on the Imagine logo that you’ve seen a hundred times. Michael runs into Kitty.
Stern: I’ve really enjoyed Kitty’s evolution. She’s gone from hilariously misinterpreting every situation as an opportunity to lift up her shirt (“this is the last time you’ll ever see these!”) to hilariously misinterpreting every situation as an opportunity to shout down perceived male competitive aggression. This seems to have accompanied her rise from George Bluth Sr.’s secretary to movie executive.
Kirk: I liked the flashback in which she throws Maeby’s script into a bin labeled “Not going forward development.” Sometimes I find little things like that on Arrested Development inexplicably funny.
Stern: All the stuff about the moon landing being fake didn’t really work for me, though.
Kirk: As is often the case with Arrested Development, I’m not sure if it wasn’t funny or that I just didn’t get it. Maybe a commenter can explain to me why that part was in fact hilarious.
Stern: While on-screen Ron Howard wasn’t funny on his own, I hope and expect they’ll use the interaction between his narrator self and actual self in interesting ways. Isla Fisher, who recently appeared in The Great Gatsby, is another celebrity showing up this season. What did you make of her as Michael’s new romantic interest?
Kirk: This episode continued several running gags about Michael and women, which include but are not limited to: 1) He’s a bumbling fool with them; 2) he’s oblivious to critical details about them; and 3) he maintains elaborate lies to hold their attention, e.g., that he’s a movie producer or likes Scottish music.
Stern: Or that his son was seven…teen. He makes an absurd and awkward comment, as usual, telling her that she reminds him of his dead wife.
Kirk: George Sr. also appears to be finding new love with Lucille 2. Michael talks to him in the hallway, and another one my favorite exchanges in this episode happens. “You sign this and I don’t see any reason why we can't make him seem very, um, uh, uh ... ”
Stern: “Nice?” George Bluth does eventually come around, though I was left wondering if this was another example of his manipulative trickery. A theme of the first three seasons was George Sr. pretending to do something nice for his family while actually working purely for his own self-interest. Or maybe he’s really changed? He seems far less confident after the failure of his desert hallucination business. Maybe his Mexican porn peace offering was given with good intentions?
Kirk: Let’s finish up by discussing the actual B Team that Michael assembles.
Stern: Warden Gentles, Carl Weathers, and Andy Richter! Quite a trio. James Lipton is the only one who doesn’t get to play himself. Although in a way his character’s basically the prison warden version of the host of Inside the Actor’s Studio.
Kirk: The show continues, I think with some effectiveness, the gag that Carl Weathers is a huge freeloader. Thoughts on the episode as a whole?
Stern: This felt like we were getting a narrative arc for the season as a whole. The movie-within-a-TV-show (which will eventually become a movie, in theory) paradigm is a powerful one that’s been applied many times before. It’s reminiscent most recently of The Office’s final season, but also of The Producers and even Fellini’s 8½.
Kirk: It’s good to see a primary plot thread crystallize, if that’s what we’re looking at here. I liked "The B. Team." Parts of it fell flat. Parts of it went completely over my head. Parts of it were hilarious. In short, it was like any other episode of Arrested Development.
Stern: Except for one key difference: We’re watching it for the first time!