In Slate’s Arrested Development TV Club, two fans will IM about each episode of Season 4 once they finish watching it. Today, Brow Beat assistant Aisha Harris and video producer Chris Wade recap Episode 11, “A New Attitude.”
Aisha Harris: So, Chris: If you had to choose, would you rather visit the Gothic Asshole or the Little Ball Room?
Chris Wade: Can I go to the Little Ball Room on gay magic night?
Harris: Only if you shave your legs first. Gob’s episodes have worked the most consistently for me of any this new season, storytelling-wise and funny-wise. This one in particular, in which Gob and long-time magician (ahem, illusionist) rival Tony Wonder begin to develop “feelings” for one another, I found especially enjoyable from beginning to end. What did you think?
Wade: Gob is a little more removed from the main plot than the other family members, so yes, I think it definitely feels that his adventure here is more self-contained, which makes it more satisfying on its own. At this point in the season it’s kind of nice to take a break from the more densely plotted material with the wall and Michael’s movie and just watch Gob make a huge mistake. And his relationship with Tony Wonder is indeed magical.
Harris: It was great to see Ben Stiller play a larger role here—Tony’s stage performance as a “gay” magician, which is supposed to tap into the difficulties of coming out in the magic world, was hilarious and wonderfully over-the-top. I couldn’t help but feel like this was a sort of send-up of Lady Gaga’s pandering to the gay community with her performances. (Though, as far as we know, Gaga identifies as bisexual, whereas Tony Wonder is just plain lying to switch up his act and gain new fans.)
Wade: I loved Tony’s gay Illusion so much. The monologue during the setup is hilarious.
Harris: Yes! “A magician has many secrets … but there was one I was forced to keep … by society.” Arrested Development has always straddled the line delicately between borderline offensive and just plain funny when it comes to its jokes about gay culture, primarily through Tobias’ character. I’ve always found it to be successful in handling such subjects, but I think this had the potential to be rather ingratiating.
Wade: It works for me like watching a stage farce, just suspending your disbelief that those masks would fool anyone and appreciating the hijinks conceptually as if they would. This episode uses it as a way to have two kind of dumb guys accidentally trick each other/themselves, rather than as a way to do any gay panic jokes.
Harris: It’s also really smart in that the way its premise is that Gob is actually experiencing genuine, real emotions for another person, rather than feeling motivated purely by his own greed/ego.
As Ron Howard’s voice-over explains, this strange, new feeling is “friendship,” which they’ve mistaken for being sexually attracted to one another.
Wade: And the fact that having real feelings immediately makes him suspicious or uncomfortable is great. The Tony Wonder plot was a nice twist on so many levels. I was sure the legs we saw in episode one belonged to Ann.
Harris: I feel like so many revelations were packed into this single episode. It kind of felt like a farcical soap opera. Sally Sitwell is screwing around with Tony, who’s actually not gay. And, it took me a second viewing to get this, but it seems pretty clear that Sally, like her father, doesn’t have much luck with keeping her hair. How I missed it the first time around, I don’t know, because watching it again it’s so obvious, especially with that longer than usual pause for the audience to let it sink in. The caterpillar, the moth in the drain …
Wade: Most of the new Arrested episodes feel a little long to me, but this one had a lot of nice moments of stretching out jokes and bits to let them really sink in. I’m thinking of all the moments of Gob and Tony “same”-ing at each other. As well as “his life … my life … our life …”
Harris: They truly are perfect for each other—both incredibly vain but lacking self-awareness. And willing to go above and beyond reason in order to get what they want. They carry their schemes so far that they come to fully believe in it themselves.
Wade: And then lose sight of the reason they were even doing it to begin with. Wow, I just remembered Gob chewing his way out of that fake boulder and started laughing to myself. I feel that way about a lot of watching Season 4. There’s so much going on that a lot doesn’t land on the initial watch, which left me feeling a little “eh” about the whole thing. But whenever I get to thinking about it I end up remembering joke after joke that continues to delight me.
Harris: This time around, I also had a greater appreciation for the way in which Gob is connected to those few characters he interacts with. With Anne, he’s still completely turned off by her and willing to use her in order to get back at Tony. Michael and Gob’s “boy fight” in the ball pit (and the accompanying original song that went with it—“Balls in the air!”) was fun and recalled all of their fights in the original series run.
Wade: I was actually a little disappointed with the ball fight. The execution was lackluster.
Harris: And speaking of balls—I’m so glad Steve Holt! finally got the balls (and the sense) to put his father in his place. Or at the very least he attempted to, since after all, it was Steve’s birthday.
Wade: Poor Steve Holt!