Why yes, it *is* awkward to watch the new season of Arrested Development because of all the behind-the-scenes Bluth drama
Full disclosure: I meant to watch the new season of Arrested Development a few weeks ago. Since Netflix is nice (hi Netflix, love you!), I usually get screeners for new upcoming seasons and series, and Arrested Development was no different. I remember squealing with glee when they arrived in my inbox, and I meant to watch them. But then, the rest of life got in the way and I kept not watching the eight episodes of the first half of Season 5, but it was always in the back of my mind to do so.
And then that New York Times interview with the cast — the one where Jessica Walter is moved to tears recounting her experience on set involving harassment by co-star Jeffrey Tambor — happened. This was last Thursday. Season 5 of Arrested Development is now out today, a mere five days later. It’s in these last five days that I watched the eight new episodes of Arrested Development and hoo boy, it is not a clear cut situation for comedy anymore.
Do not get me wrong, I love Arrested Development with all my heart. Spend 10 minutes with me, and I will undoubtedly make some sort of Arrested Development joke or reference, whether obvious or veiled. I have watched the first three seasons of the series so many times it should be criminal. I can even manage through Season 4, and I think the “remix” version isn’t half bad. As for Season 5, it’s also not half bad, as the show returns back to its norm, with an A, B, and C plot that interweave with one another — but with a weird amount of green screen used to convince us that characters are together in the same room, and it’s a little bit jarring.
But we’re not here to talk about green screen. We’re here to talk about what it’s like watching your favorite show after you’ve learned that the matriarch of your favorite fictional and dysfunctional family was reduced to tears while talking about her time shooting the series. The long and short of it is that Tambor (who plays George Sr., and from the sound of it will always play George Sr.) was fired from his role on Amazon’s Transparent for inappropriate and sexual behavior; while all of this was going on, Netflix stood by the actor, saying that he would appear in the upcoming new Arrested Development season. And then Tambor gave an interview with The Hollywood Reporter discussing his allegations and mentioned that he also had an on-set altercation with Walter. That brings us to the NYT interview, where it’s brought up again.
However, instead of letting Walter and Tambor talk about what happened between them, Jason Bateman steps in and does all the talking himself, and 90% of the time defends Tambor while telling Walter that he’s not trying to “belittle” her experience.
Narrator: But he was trying to belittle it.
And sure, the apology tour for this interview started the very next day, with Bateman apologizing (along with Tony Hale and David Cross, who were both in the room) but the damage had already been done. Now I had to go into Season 5 of my most favorite TV show knowing that shit went down behind the scenes and was not resolved.
But sure, go ahead and boot up the new episodes, now streaming on Netflix.
It’s hard to not notice that so few moments happen between Mom and Dad Bluth in Season 5. For the most part of the new season, Lucille is (spoiler alert) living in a hidden Bluth beach house with Tobias. George Sr. is in Mexico…and honestly, I’ve already forgotten where else he goes because it’s so forgettable in itself.
Watching the scenes between Lucille and Michael are also awkward, because it’s hard not to think about the fact that Bateman defended Tambor while Walter was crying. We don’t know what the altercation between the stars was, and we don’t know how it was resolved or even when it happened. But just knowing that it happened is enough to leave a gray cloud over the apartment at Balboa Towers. It now feels like I’m watching these new episodes while tiptoeing on egg shells myself, because what is going to be the moment when it all comes crashing down?
We’re obviously not going to see that on-screen, and more than likely the whole incident will be swept under the rug, just like so many of these incidents are. It’s just a horrible shame that the interview, coupled with the new season, makes Season 5 very uncomfortable to watch. And [in J. Walter Weatherman voice] that’s why you never make Jessica Walter cry.