Re-watch: Arrested Development, Season 2

24 May

Season 2

I’m rewatching, like many in America and throughout the world (but mostly in America, surely), Arrested Development, straight through, to get in the spirit for the new episodes appearing this weekend.  I talked about season 1 here; a bunch of scattershot notes about season 2 now.

A few words on Buster’s hand being eaten by a seal.  Cutting off a character’s hand is one of the most insane character changes to ever happen in a comedy (people occasionally die on the more serious comedies (M*A*S*H) but I’d argue this is more insane in a way), and while I think it’s super awesome, my first reaction (and I doubt I’m the only one) was what the fuck.  This reaction was doubly so since his hand came off not in the main episode, but in a “on the next Arrested Development” section at the end, which makes it easy to not pay attention to, since only about half of events in that section actually come true.  What makes it even better is both the foreshadowing of Buster losing his hand which occurs multiple times in the second season before it happens, which I certainly didn’t notice, because a character having his hand bit off by a seal is not a possibility you think to look out for. I also enjoy that the show offers an easy potential return to the status quo by mentioning that if the hand was found, it could be reattached, but then that’s a fake out and the hook stays. Just a brilliant and ballsy move all around.

A quick note on the “On the next Arrested Development” segment: it’s a brilliant idea, having a fake next on, making fun of the ludicrous three suspenseful promises made on these segments across television, and I’m surprised no one did it before (or maybe they did and I don’t know about it which is very possible).  What’s partly brilliant is that while the events shown are never on the actual next Arrested Development, sometimes they’re actually canonical events which impact the next episode, like Buster losing his hand, and sometimes they have nothing to do with anything and are inconsequential.

I love that they can use the “next on” device in multiple ways.  They can use it for a cheap joke, a non-sequitur vaguely related to the current episode that there was no room for, or as a way to quickly and succinctly wrap up a plotline from the previous episode in a line or two without having to waste any actual episode time on it.

The second season definitely starts getting a little bit more out there than the first, a process that will go even further in the third.  One example of this is Maeby’s plotline, working as a movie studio executive, a position she conned her way in to.  The plot is incredibly ludicrous, and it would bother me a lot more if it wasn’t also my favorite recurring Maeby bit in the series.  It gives her a chance to also use my favorite recurring Maeby line, “Marry Me!”

One of the second season bits veering off into ridiculousness is the introduction of Gob’s puppet Franklin.  I love Franklin, but it’s definitely kind of insane, especially the way it seems to have a mind of its own, which takes over Buster when he’s using Franklin as well.  Also, the introduction of Mrs. Doubtfire/Mary Poppins clone, Mrs. Featherbottom, the faux British nanny Tobias dresses up as to be closer to his kids when he’s kicked out of the model house by Lindsay.  Did I mention one of the characters has his hand eaten by a seal with a taste for mammals?

After a season in which George Michael is solely focused on his cousin, Season 2 is the season of Ann, which leads to some of my favorite jokes of the season, and severs for a platform for banter between my two possibly favorite characters from the season, Michael and George Michael.  From the debut of the absolutely disgusting mayonegg, to Ann-hog, to simply many repeated, “hers?” and “I don’t like Ann,” it never really gets old.  George Michael gets a chance to show off some genius physical comedy in episode Good Grief, when, after Ann breaks up with him, he returns to the model house with his head down and crumbles into a mess on the floor.

Gob has some serious winners as well.  “Michael, if I make this comeback, I’ll buy you a hundred George Michaels that you can teach to drive,” as a response to Michael when Michael says he needs to help out his son rather than do something for Gob.  After he tells Michael he runs a pretty tight ship as President of the Bluth company, Michael notes he put in a pool table.  “It’s a gaming ship,” Gob replies pithily.

Favorite episodes.  Good Grief, The Immaculate Election, and Afternoon Delight stand out quickly as serious contenders.  Good Grief has the aforementioned George Michael fetal position scene, as well as some solid Ice the bounty hunter.  The Immaculate Election and Afternoon Delight both feature some excellent Gob work.  The Immaculate Election has Gob’s wonderful election tape for George Michael “the girls like him just fine, young and old – it doesn’t matter in the dark,” while Afternoon Delight has the recurring, “Come on” as Gob continues to increase the value of his suit to demonstrate how much he doesn’t care about his employees.

I thought I’d be more certain of whether I liked this season or the first better, and I’m still not sure.    If I could make a season out of the second half of the first season and the first half of the second, that would probably be the winner, but it’s all pretty good.  Good show.  Looking forward to season 3.

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