Arrested Development – Season 4, Episode 5, “A New Start” Review

Rating: 9.0

Here we go! This is the kind of episode I’m talkin’ about. Maybe it was the fact that Maria Bamford was a featured player, or that David Cross will never cease to be a ray of comedic sunshine. Was it because the hijinks were as extreme as ever, or is it because the episodes are starting to connect more tangibly? Many things seemed to come together in this one, and I feel like I’ve reached a turning point in the season, quality-wise.

Where the last episode that featured Tobias focused mostly on Lindsey, this one practically leaves Lindsey in the dust. This is a new experience for me as an Arrested Development fan, and I have to say I love it. David Cross is a delight to watch as Tobias, as his character is earnest in the most maddening way. Viewers already know this, though, so to freshen it up we get to see Tobias maddened by the realization that everyone thinks he’s gay (or at least joke about it all the time). His reaction is, of course, defiance and a contrived excuse to continue his pursuit of acting.

In said pursuit he mistakenly attends a meth clinic and meets a new partner in crime: phonetically-named “party girl” Debrie Bardeaux (played by Maria Bamford). Their chemistry is peculiar and perfect, and like many other characters in the show they look for success in all the wrong places. Tobias’s refusal to admit that he doesn’t know what he’s doing combined with Debrie’s drug-addled compliance make for some cartoonish scenarios and tragic laughs. Maria is bewitching in her vulnerability, though one still doesn’t want to get too close for fear of the odd bite or shouted non-sequitur. For me, her contribution is so far the highlight of the season.

Aside from the successful performances, this episode follows organically from the last in its continuation of a Hollywood-centric story. As Michael is brushing elbows with the biggest names, Tobias and Debrie have to keep changing theirs due to character look-a-like busking problems. The fantasy world that Tobias has created in his mind is relentless, keeping him from seeing the dirty streets upon which he now panhandles (at least 500 feet from the entrance of Disneyland) or hearing the trepidations of his disease-ridden girlfriend. One wonders what it will take to make any of the Bluth clan see what is right in front of them: failure and delusion.

While Tobias keeps his fragile dreams somewhat intact, the show itself continues its postmodern joyride with more conceptual walls being broken. It’s almost as if the Bluth family is working on a new housing project in which they need to demolish the pretenses that TV and life are somehow separated, that disparate TV shows are not connected, or that the “fourth wall” has any sort of structural integrity…but where is integrity in Arrested Development?

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