Flight of the Phoenix
Original Air Date: May 26, 2013
Lauren A. – Sr. Reviewer
“And now, the story of a family whose future was abruptly cancelled…” It’s the first laugh in the long-overdue and hugely hyped return of Arrested Development, the show Netflix revived this weekend for a fourth season after its untimely cancellation in 2006. Well, fans – both originals and those who caught the bug via DVDs or streaming episodes – don’t blue yourselves. The Bluths are back.
As the narrator (Ron Howard) clears his throat, we see the Bluths celebrating Cinco de Cuatro, a holiday we learn a young Lucille and George Sr. (hilariously captured by Kristen Wiig and Seth Rogen) dreamed up in a Grinch-like moment of hatred towards celebrating Mexicans. Fast forward 30 years, and Michael Bluth is in the midst of Cinco de Cuatro festivities, climbing the Austero-Bluth stair car. Michael owes Lucille 2 $700,000, and he’s ready to seduce her until she falls for him (literally, the vertigo, remember?) and forgives his debt.
Back in the model home after debasing himself with Lucille 2, Michael runs into Gob. The two aren’t talking due to some recent unpleasantness. When Michael sees something he shouldn’t, Gob forces a Forget Me Now – more commonly known as a roofie – into Michael’s mouth.
In flashbacks, we learn that 6 months ago Michael enrolled in University of Phoenix online, and lived with George Michael in his dorm at UC Irvine. George Michael was mistakenly given his own dorm room by the Twin Club members in admissions who thought the room would be shared by another set of twins. Now he’s been assigned an actual roommate, P-Hound, and Michael is cramping his son’s style. George Michael is developing internet privacy software called Fake Block. I love the allusions to social networking with Michael Cera’s character, since everyone thought he was the star of The Social Network. Typical AD cleverness.
We finally flashback to the boat party where we left the Bluths so many years ago. While Lucille hijacked a ship (and ultimately turned back to shore), Michael and George Michael sailed off into the sunset. They returned three months later for Lucille’s hearing, which will rely largely on maritime law. Great seafood jokes and loose seal references ensue. Lucille says the family can rely on their stimmy (stimulus package) money, but George Sr. says he’s already spent the money on 4,000 acres of California desert, where he’ll move now that he and Lucille are getting divorced (much to Buster’s horror). When Lucille denies Michael a cut of the stimmy, he trades his shares in the company to Lucille 2, giving her control of the business, and takes $700,000 to finish out Sudden Valley, the never-developed neighborhood surrounding the model home the Bluth siblings shared for so many years. He bursts back into the parental Bluth’s residence to announce that he’s done with the family. Again.
Michael sends George Michael off to college in the stair car, builds up Sudden Valley (minus roads and any other development), and skips Lucille’s trial. When the housing market collapses, we get some brilliant Development hiatus jokes, and Michael gets a ghost town of his own making. It’s only 3 years later, after the death of Pete the mailman, that Michael gives up and moves in to George Michael’s dorm.
Michael is waiting for a featured profile in Altitude, an in-flight magazine, to put him back at the top of his game, but the profile ends up being a bust. Additionally, Maeby visits George Michael in college, and the two devise a plan to get Michael out of the dorm. Through a complicated voting process, with George Michael desperately wanting Michael out and desperately not wanting Michael to know, Michael ends up homeless and despondent yet again, only now with the knowledge that George Michael betrayed him. After a brief detour in Phoenix, Michael returns to Balboa Towers and the completely trashed family condo, passing a red head in the hallway, and getting tackled by an ostrich inside.
I’ve always wanted the best for Michael, so I was saddened to see that the years since the big boat party have not been kind to him, but the return of AD was still solid. The guest stars alone – Liza Minnelli, Christine Taylor, and the guys from Workaholics (in addition to Wiig and Rogen) made my excitement for the show’s return feel justified. Though the inaugural episode didn’t pick up too many of the Bluth-centric favorite jokes, it had the same feel and flow of the original seasons. I’m excited to get to my favorite joke throwbacks, and to figure out what in the world Lindsay was doing with an ostrich.
Did Arrested Development’s return leave you wanting to watch back-to-back Bluths, or did the season’s opener feel like just another tumbleweed to kick? Leave your TwoCents below!