Tobias Fünke and the "misleading" way he talks is most likely the only reason you've ever told anyone that you'd be glad to suck up a chubby. He's a one-liner machine, a dumping ground for awkward, sexually ambiguous jokes and turns of phrase that wouldn't play in the mouths of the other characters but that the writers always seem to want to use, any which way they can. But no matter what Tobias says, he's so innocently endearing that you just want to kiss him between the cheeks.
I left the Lindsay episode pleasantly unsatisfied, marking the first time in the early part of Season 4, including the fourth episode, that I wanted a particular thread to continue for some reason other than to move us along to the rest of the episodes. "A New Start" fleshed out the story from "Indian Takers" and provided a firm backend for Tobias and Lindsay's evolving marriage. Or the shambles of a disastrous and doomed relationship, whichever you prefer.
One side effect of these new episodes each being dedicated to the perspective of a single character is that they're providing heavy development for characters that might've only been one-dimensional in the past. Tobias, while a favorite of mine, was little more than a mixture of physical comedy and subtle (and not so subtle) gay jokes. But, even if it's just due to the additional screen time and not through any change in the writing of the character, "A New Start" added new layers to Tobias as a person who's honestly trying to make his life work and to do good by his family, even if that "good" is dedicated to a new and dangerously diseased family. I mean, Debrie does have all the -itises.
But while the episode was both an opportunity to flesh out the Fünke part of the overall story and a place for Tobias to become a more fully realized character, it still felt like service for that final scene. Whether or not it's true, it feels like Tobias's story started creatively from his being on John Beard's To Catch a Local Predator. Everything else seemed like a way to assist Lindsay's story and to give him a reason to say, "Daddy needs to get his rocks off." Only Tobias, with the "misleading" way he talks, would come out with correct arrangement of well-meaning but terrible-sounding conversation to get his skull broken in a fourth place. On the patio.
If there was a drawback to this episode, it's that it relied so heavily on "Indian Takers" for the audience to get the most out of it (which really makes you question why anyone in the AD camp ever said viewers could watch the new episodes out of order). If the key to defining a "strong episode" of a TV series is that it can stand alone, "A New Start" would struggle to qualify. While the jokes were sharp and it's always a pleasure to see David Cross play Tobias, the episode doesn't compare to others that do hold up out of context. If I think back to "Motherboy XXX," "Top Banana," or "Good Grief," there's no comparison. Partially because it's unfair. Those episodes were meant to be (mostly) self-contained units. "A New Start" was not.
I can see why some viewers have labeled this episode a valley in the ups and downs of the early part of Season 4. I understand that maybe too much Tobias is a bad thing, that a lot of his story depends on Lindsay's, and that having so much of the comedy stem from his entendre can get old. I understand, but I don't agree. At the risk of sounding like a blowhard, I think "A New Start" worked in a way many others so far haven't. Tobias being the one who sat behind Lindsay on the plane, "Anustart," the hapless devotion to his perceived craft, turning down Lucille 2's gig at Austerity, and then right up to John Beard getting to play Chris Hansen all built upp a strongly written and performed, if not heavily plotted, half-hour. I'm just afraid that it blew its wad with Tobias too early.
LET'S GET IN THERE AND FIND SOME ANSWERS
– I respect Maria Bamford for the decades of comedic work she's done on stage, in television, and as a voice actor. I hope she doesn't really run like that.
– Which is more offensive? No tip or tipping in quarters?
– The MST3K reference on Arrested Development. Anyone who fell into the overlap of the very tiny circles in that Venn diagram felt their heads exploding.
– Can someone give Nelson Franklin another show? Please? Just put him and David Walton in a sitcom together. It'll work.
– Again with the duck thing. Again with the hilarity. I'm not sure what it is about watching the Fünkes cower while trying to cook a live duck that's so funny to me. "Hot orange!" "It's throwing its voice!" Although the perfectly framed Fünke family portrait at the end of the sequence was weird.
– That was definitely G.O.B.'s voice inviting Debrie and the other "party girls" into the limo. I'm ready for his episode now.
– "Should I just improv my way out of a marriage? Yes and..." I think the natural evolution for Tobias's bad acting is terrible, cliched improvisation. I'm waiting for when he pulls out an imaginary gun like Michael Scott.
– Interestingly, the episode that focused on Tobias depicted him as probably the most hetero-normative he's ever appeared, from him impulsively kissing a girl to being the "rock" for his lady. "No, you're neat."
– Tobias is a doctor and Debrie has a law degree. Modern-day Huxtables?