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

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.


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Don't know if this was an intentional nod to one of the jokes (with this show, probably is), but remember when in "My Mother the Car" from season 1, Gob and Michael are talking about Lucille still having her driver's license and Gob says it's a fake - "She wanted to look 48. I nearly airbrushed her into oblivion. Ended up checking "albino" in the form." Well, Jessica Walter is looking very "airbrushed into oblivion" in the title sequence at the end, when they show her name. Noticed it a little while back and thought I'd share, since it's one of those great little details only AD could even think of. Has anyone else made that connection?
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"You keep writing this infantile, ridiculous melody over and over and over again, and I say that as your director; as your therapist I'm happy that you're expressing yourself, but as a director I don't have to like it, and I don't, but also good for you, therapist now speaking, but also, no." - Tobias Funke

I laugh every time I think about David Cross saying this.
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"Your show is bad and you should feel bad!" - John Zoidberg, M.D.

Honestly, I didn't enjoy this episode much, but partly that's the format, it's clear if this had been mixed into several episodes with other jokes it would have softened the blow considerably of this flight of fancy storyline for Tobias. Yes, there were a lot of jokes that missed the mark and even hurt to see called back, but those probably would have been cut or reworked in a REAL episode.

I don't want to watch a Tobias show, he's a limited range of a character and his growth makes using old jokes feel like he's hamstrung as a character, held back to one dimension. You speak of Tobias' emotional motivation, but it's chiefly just more selfishness, and it has nothing to do with who he was in the series before, he's now a different character wearing Tobias' mannerisms and motivations.

Every episode this season needed more John Slattery, he was great.
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i dunno this made me lol --"I never wanted to hear the word "fantastic" and any number together again."
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This is the point where the new format is really starting to grate on me. First, it confirmed my suspicions from the previous Tobias episode...that Tobias can't carry his own episode. Second, the non-linear format is making it hard to keep track of time. Third, I can't tell George and Oscar apart anymore, but that's really somewhat unrelated to this episode in particular.

In fact, it just seems like every episode since Colony Collapse has served no purpose other than to make me look forward to the next Gob episode.
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oh but yeah the sex offender jokes got me every time too. and the 'blue myself' was just awkward.

disagree on the ron howard front though I found both him (when not narrating) and all of the references to him increasingly tired.
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I thought Mr. F was just playing because Argyle was Mr. Fantastic...
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Smash was a guilty pleasure of mine. I've seen all the eps, and was sad to see it go. That said, until you mentioned it, I had no idea there were supposed to be any gags that were spoofing it. I'll have to look harder when I re-watch it.
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i loved the fourth season, but im pretty disappointed Franklin didn't make an appearance!

my favorite tobias line is "there's a new daddy in town. a discipline daddy.'
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Best Tobias line ever: "I know you're the big marriage expert. Oh, I'm sorry, I forgot. Your wife is dead...... I'm sorry, that was 100% inappropriate and I do apologize profusely."
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Well this review was a little more entertaining to read than the previews one Nick, in my humble opinion. But I think it's still too much about which joked worked/didn't work, which I don't find it very useful or interesting. A person that has watched this episode weeks ago doesn't really remember what jokes they found more/less funny, only a person that just finished watching it. And a person that didn't watch it, I think, won't be very sure if you recommend watching or not, in other words, if yo think it's time and money well spend or not. Maybe it's not the same for you but, although making me laugh matters, the comedies (series or movies) that I most liked were the ones that made me smile from the beginning until the end, which often weren't the ones that made me laugh out loud the most. I probably didn't laugh as much during season 4 of A.D. as I did during the other 3 seasons, but I had a smile on my face during every minute I was watching it, which is more than I can say for almost every other comedy series/movies that I've watched in the recent years. But maybe that's just me...

And I don't remember seeing the same exact punchlines repeated in every episode like you did. Yes some situations are replayed from a different perspective, but that new perspective was almost always completely different from what I'd imagined before, making it as funny as the first time. Plus, this way the series stimulates our imagination and dares us to guess what we didn't see the first time, encouraging us to create a joke in our mind, and then reveals us what "really" happened, generating another joke with the same situation (unless you imagined exactly like it turned out, which I didn't). In my humble opinion, those situations are inventive, well conceived and not overused. Seeing all those different perspectives, from each different character, of the same situation, was one of the most amusing things of this season, probably last one, of A.D.. But then again, maybe that's just me...

To end my comment on a positive note for you, rest assured you'll have the "new blood" you're ready for, since that there are NO MORE Michael, George Sr., Tobias or Lindsay episodes in the rest of the season ;)
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Tobias's episodes were the two worst of the new season, in my opinion. And this was the worse of the two. It was actually a bit painful to watch at parts, and I think I can say with confidence it's the worst episode of AD ever.

Thankfully, from this point on, we got some fresh characters, and things got much better. Tobias works best as a background character that pops up and delivers a funny line.
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