I'm reviewing every episode of Arrested Development season 4 immediately after I see it for the first time -- so if you haven't seen the rest of the season yet, don't worry! You can check out my other episode reviews here.
Tobias Funke has always been Arrested Development's funniest character. That's my opinion, anyway. He's the perfect comic mix of harmless and oblivious, and he's played to perfection by David Cross, one of my favorite comedians. He was the focus of Arrested Development season 4's fifth episode, "A New Start," or, as I'll always call it, "Anus Tart." The episode managed to create some really fantastic new running jokes ("anus tart" being the best of them), and it gave us the scene we never knew we wanted: Tobias being caught on 'To Catch a Predator.'
As has slowly started to become a pattern with this season, the humor did at times feel a little strained -- Tobias breaking his skull "in __ places" was funny the first time, but it didn't have much staying power. Maybe it was meant to reflect Tobias's desperation to get a laugh, but it just ran out of steam as a joke pretty quickly.
The Fantastic Four references were pretty darn funny, though -- particularly because of their similarity to the actual low-budget Fantastic Four film that never saw the light of day -- and there was something just hilarious about Tobias being caught for copyright infringement by the least likely people (a child and a homeless man). And while I was certain that was how the To Catch a Predator sting was going to end up, I was laughing too hard to care when we didn't get that payoff.
But the episode was really about Tobias's attempt to gain self-awareness, and his complete inability to do so. Even with Lindsay's revelation to Tobias that everyone thinks he's gay and his vehement denial that he is, he can't help but come across that way -- whether it be the brilliant license plate "anustart" or the fact that he watched three films in a gay porn series. The episode ended with Tobias's apparent realization that his way of speaking might be affecting his life in a negative way, but we never saw if he fully made that realization, or if it was thrown away, just like that opportunity to become a doctor again.
While Maria Bamford is a great comic, I'm still not really into her character, DeBrie. She's really just this sort of pathetic character with whom Tobias has latched himself, and it's really hard to laugh at her when her poverty actually seems somewhat realistic, and not the result of her own obliviousness. I do like the fact that she has a law degree, though -- I'm almost certain that will pay off down the line.
On to the next episode, but first, a slurry of thoughts:
-- So Tobias isn't actually gay, he's just the victim of his own unwitting double entendres? Or is his relationship with DeBrie just continued repression? It's getting tougher and tougher to tell.
-- Reporter John Beard is getting a LOT of screentime this season already. Is he getting set up with a storyline here?
-- I love the idea of the orthodox law firm Feinberg, Feinberg, Feinberg, and Feinberg. It's such a good visual gag; I hope we see more of them.
-- Tobias's interaction with the Canadian on the plane was a pretty understated moment of culture shock, but I'm betting it pays off somewhere down the line.
-- The movie choices Tobias had on the airplane included Fantastic Four, Thomas Jane's 'Junk,' Thomas Jane's 'Homeless Dad,' and 'Love, Indubitably.' Great callbacks.
-- Well, it looks like The Hangover Part III wasn't the only disappointing part of Ed Helms' weekend; his real estate agent character killed himself -- and he died in vain.
-- While I liked the idea of "anus tart" simply being a go-to insult for Lindsay and the taxi driver to use, it was still nice to see it get some payoff here. It's the season's top contender for best running joke so far.
--Seriously, Gob has gotten almost no screentime at all since the first episode. Where is that guy, guy?