Michael (Jason Bateman) tries to flirt with Rebel (Isla Fisher).

Michael (Jason Bateman) tries to flirt with Rebel (Isla Fisher).

[rating:3/5]

First reactions: Gob! Gob spotting! Oh my goodness-Buster too?  This must be my lucky day.

Reactions shortly following the first: Oh it’s cool; I guess an entire episode starring Ron Howard’s voiceover was much better than a full episode of Buster’s spattering or Gob’s evil recitation of “Michael.”

Oh and we totally needed ANOTHER George Sr. centric episode after how well the first one worked out. And I guess we definitely needed even more of Michael being sad and alone off on some other television show where the likes of James Lipton shows up.

Totally worth nearly two hours of my life.

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Reactions a couple hours after my quick rise to annoyance had cooled down: As a whole the three of them were definitely solid but still are missing the spark that made it such a good and engaging show—however there may seem to be an upswing drawing near.

This week I’ve come to some hard earned truths about this show that it took breaking up the family dynamic to face (and not just that they work—acting wise—better as a unit rather than broken up segments).

1, They really are all awful human beings:

It’s wicked easy to pinpoint many of the family members’ shortcomings. Nearly all of them are self-serving as well as self-obsessed. None are willing to fully extend their efforts for the need of another family member. Many of them are vain and none of them take the idea of commitment as an end in itself. However, these negative attributes are all well and good if they make the audience laugh. A criminal lack of decorum, decadent proportions of ego, plain old evil, all can be ignored if and when the audience is laughing. If they’re not, if they’re like me and spend a decent amount of episodes four through six not laughing, those personality traits grow tiresome.

In episode four, we see more of Michael’s superiority complex and his willful decision to lie about his career in order to a get a girl’s attention as well as screw over his father. In the first three seasons Michael often was the saint to the rest of the Bluth sinners but now, when we’re granted access to a full half hour of just Michael, we realize he’s just as manipulative and just as arrogant as every other member in his family. On the outset that’s a good thing—livening up the “straight man” character and giving him his own quirks and faults is important in developing a character, but when the focus is on him and we’re spending every minute invested with this character, it’s grating.

Isla Fisher on the other hand is adorable and fantastic and charming and in a sea of guest stars in one episode should have been allowed to stand out all the more. She plays Rebel, Ron Howard’s daughter, who Michael believes is Ron Howard’s girlfriend.

See, this is promising stuff.

So Michael by episode’s end has tricked his father into signing for a movie deal, only to learn the movie directed by Ron Howard would be about him and George Michael, the ultimate father/son deception story. Michael is now stuck between a rock and a hard place. He can make a lot of money but only by either deceiving his son or by making a fool of himself.

2. There can be too much of a good thing:

Part of the show’s charm has always been the witticisms and snark by Ron Howard’s narration that accompanied the episodes, often times just as funny as the jokes inside the actual context of the show. However, too much of a good thing can become over saturated which became apparent in the Tobias centered episode. David Cross clearly stepped it up once he was allowed a full episode to shine—even if he does remain to be phoning some of the quieter moments in—and delivers a few hearty laughs, many of which come when he’s overacting as Tobias trying to find an acting gig. We get his point of view of his and Lindsay’s momentary break from their marriage as he also flies to India to “find himself” and while there, he’s hit by a car two minutes into his stay and sent to the hospital where he’s told he’d be a great comedian.

Back in the States he decides to take a “Method One” method acting class, which turns out to be an AA meeting for methadone addicts. He finds a new girl, Lindsay finds a new guy and they split ways once again.

It would have been all the funnier if we’d been allowed more actual dialogue from Tobias rather than Ron Howard narrating in between almost every other line. One of the best things about the show in the past has been its willingness to treat the audience members as intelligent viewers who didn’t need the material spelled out for them in weighty exposition tricks.

They kind of did that here.

We could understand the parallels between Lindsay and Tobias and how in their screwed up style they really are well suited for one another. We got the superhero licensing gag, we got the to catch a predator gag, we didn’t need each punch line to be overtaken by the narration.

Tobias has never been a personal favorite for me like he has been for so many others, but I can readily admit that despite working better as a side character they used him to his greatest abilities for this episode. He was balls out ridiculous, he was oddly sad, and we were even given evidence of his continuing effort at being a never nude.

3. Most of the charm came from the family dynamic:

Why did I become so instantly excided when I saw Gob? No, not because I think he’s magnificently handsome (although that’s a plus). Rather, I was excited because I’d been hoping to see MORE of the family since the first episode. I’m sick of George Sr. and his schemes. I’m sick of Michael moping about. And I’m sick of no Gob and no Buster! So although the two of them are still woefully underused thus far, my interest was at the very least piqued because of their brief arrivals. Will Arnett is brilliant as Gob and could give a master class on line delivery along with Charles Dance (Game of Thrones) and Max Greenfield (New Girl) and due to his Uncle Oscar’s manipulations and his brother and father’s nature of preservation is brought on to work for one of them. But not for his betterments but for theirs.

Typical.

It is however a George Sr. centric episode and one of the least enjoyable ones they’ve ever released. Mainly because it was boring, not because of the acting, but because of the overall struggling pace as well as the writing that seemed to drag the overall effort down.

I hate that I have to tear down this show but it’s six episodes in and I’m not impressed. Jeffery Tambor is very talented and his rant about how emotional he is and about how he hates the way he looks is fantastically done and funny to boot, but it’s a brief moment of success in a half hour of pure dull repetition. We’re getting Michael’s storyline but in reverse and while it will likely pay off greatly by this seasons end it fails to succeed now in creating an interesting and cohesive storyline.

Or maybe I’m just not getting it.

The episode had George Sr. finding out that his wall idea is a bust and now having to find a way to placate his brother Oscar as well as deceive Lucille #2 about the whole ordeal. It almost works out until the last two minutes when she learns (although the info is mildly misconstrued) that George Sr. has paid off one of her opponents.

That’s not the case but enough for another rivalry to begin and for one of the larger portions of the season’s storyline to heat up.

None of the episodes were necessarily bad—although the casual racism continues to be an issue that I’m having trouble not diverting into tangents about—but they’re so utterly lack luster that it’s almost beginning to feel like a waste of time watching them. I’d almost rather skip to Gob’s episodes, Buster’s one episode and maybe even the last two than have to muddle through the mediocre which is almost as bad as an outrageously terrible episode.

At least that way it would be entertaining.

This show is stuffed with crazy talented comedians and writers who’ve always managed to impress in the past even in their less than perfect moments, but for some reason they’re failing to deliver. I’ve heard that even though it’s the show not at its best it’s still better than anything out today and I can’t help but wonder if these people haven’t watched any television since 2006. I would say that any episode of New Girl this past season surpasses each episode I’ve seen thus far and I’m sure Parks and Rec fans as well as Louie, Wilfred and Community fans would beg to differ as well. There are some highly intelligent as well as enjoyable comedies on TV today and it’s upping the ante for Arrested Development. It has the potential to still be the best comedy around but it needs to work harder now than simply relying on old tricks that built its popularity last time.

Gob is up next and I’m crossing my fingers he doesn’t disappoint.

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