Arrested Development "Smashed" Review: Fantastic One and a Lousy Two

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Arrested Development S04E09: "Smashed"

Maybe the yawn-worthy episodes that've followed "Colony Collapse" are supposed to serve as breathers until we get to something with a little more meat to it.

Arrested Development's incrementally improving fourth season seems to have peaked with the G.O.B. episode, more or less giving us rote installments following up with first with Lindsay and now with Tobias. "Smashed" didn't even offer many opportunities for one-liner miscommunications, Tobias's bread and butter.

While I absolutely approve of the season making every effort to flesh out characters that we love in ways we haven't seen before (by transforming Tobias into a person with emotional motivation rather than just a walking punchline, for instance), the journey has occasionally proved to be fraught with mediocre jokes and awkward references.

I'm starting to feel like one of the pitfalls of doing a season like this, where all the jokes interconnect and, therefore, last for several episodes, is that sometimes the long-running bits wear out simply because they're addressed so often. The Fantastic 4 gags, including the cease-and-desist letters, the lawyers, and the blurred logo, were completely spent by the time Tobias approached Ron Howard to ask for the rights. I never wanted to hear the word "fantastic" and any number together again. So when we finally reached the reference we'd all been waiting for, Tobias "blueing" himself, I was angry we were still dealing with it. And then the "blue myself" joke misfired, possibly due to Tobias fatigue, possibly because the joke itself might have been better as a one-off back in Season 2 since the verb tense is really awkward... or perhaps it was simply a combination of the two that made me analyze verb tense instead of being engaged with the episode.

In fact, some of the newer, subtler jokes landed much better than the older, more established ones. Tobias feeling like he had to tell everyone that he's a registered sex offender (it was even in the byline of his script: Tobias Fünke, M.D., S.O.) was enough to get a laugh from me each time it came up. I also liked how the episode continued with G.O.B.'s poor-man meal of choice, mustard covered in imitation parmesan cheese, and opportunities for MST3K to show up are always welcome. Though I do wish we'd had a couple lines from the boys on the Satellite of Love. And the dismissal of the "analrapist" joke with Tobias realizing "theralist" might get him attacked less often was a good turn for the character and farewell to the gag. I would imagine that prison might've left Tobias scared straight against using it. So to speak.

Also, Maria Bamford. She's been great as a broken woman we can laugh at and not feel guilty about. You may feel wrong about laughing at the strung-out junkie wandering your neighborhood, peeing in corners. But the voice of Hot Dog Princess makes it easy for you to let out those feelings of Schadenfreude without the burden of social responsibility. "Just let me die." Hahaha. She wants to die.

So here's the deal with this season so far. It's been a roller coaster so far, but not in the way that we wanted it to be. Mitch Hurwitz warned us that we'd risk comedy fatigue if we binged. But I'm worried about fatigue from premise and format. Everything being repeated in every episode makes things feel too similar sometimes, and if a given joke doesn't have multiple sides to it, each with their own uniquely funny bits, it's like the same punchlines are being repeated over and over and it's exhausting. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that, in nine episodes, eight of them have been about the same four characters. I'm not sure if the season could work in any other way (I trust Hurwitz knows what he's doing on that front), but I'm ready for some new blood.


LET'S HAVE A RAP ABOUT, FIRST NAMES ONLY PLEASE

– I didn't watch beyond the first episode of Smash when it was on because I had better things to do, and if I wanted to see Katharine McPhee be ridiculous, I could just re-watch that episode of Community. Other than the healthier-looking woman stepping forward and saying she was a performer and could play Sue Storm, were there any other references to the failed NBC show? I didn't see anyone with a Snidely Whiplash mustache tying a damsel to train tracks, so I assume there were no Ellis gags.

– I was slightly disappointed that G.O.B. and Tobias got together, both of them broke and downtrodden, yet no one mentioned the idea of reviving Gobias Industries. Although I did really like that G.O.B. was not at all surprised, nor did he show any sympathetic feeling for Tobias admitting he's a registered sex offender. Just a "that's about right" kind of look and noise.

– "Hello, Anus Tart." Lucille! Being a villain! I love it. Jessica Walter is the glue that held much of that rehearsal sequence together. It might've been unbearable otherwise. That DeBrie was relatively unaffected by it because she was consumed with her need for pills (or maybe being demeaned by a motherly figure was a trigger) was also funny.

– Sometimes when I watch Ron Howard act, I forget that he used to be an actor. That being said, the man is a scene-stealer. It looks like her really relishes the opportunity to be the not-so-nice guy.

– Once again, we got more of Michael's point of view within an episode that wasn't at all about him. However, I've come to terms with the fact that such shifts in perspective should be allowed, given that the theme of this season is that all the characters are holding their individual selves together, which means the influential agent who used to hold everyone together should pop up every once in awhile and go against the grain of the episode in order to better set up how he's doing the opposite now.

– The Mr. F joke was also a little shoehorned. I liked hearing the jingle and I can justify it since Argyle was threatening Michael just as he thought the Brits were, but Mr. F turned out to be someone who wasn't a threat at all. So, unless Argyle didn't mean anything he said about hunting Michael down for the money, the correlation is off.

– So, can Marky Bark not see the difference between Lindsay's face and a blue one? Did Marky not recognize that Tobias wasn't Lindsay when he spoke?

– This episode needed more John Slattery.