Why it will be tough to watch 'Arrested Development' Season 5
The Bluths are back, but blemished by off-screen drama.
From a poor Season 4 to sexual harassment accusations against Jeffrey Tambor, “Arrested Development” is plagued with problems ahead of the Season 5 premiere.
Despite having only four completed seasons to its name, the hit sitcom is about to turn 15 years old. The show has left a massive impact on pop culture, whether through online memes or the infamous “I blue myself” Tobias Fünke gag, and the first half of its fifth season debuts on Netflix May 29.
“It’s great! I mean, who would have thunk it?” says David Cross. “When I was shooting that pilot, if you would have told me that 15 years later we would be revisiting this thing, or that there would be multiple tattoos of Tobias and products and all kinds of stuff, I would have laughed. But it’s a really fun character to do, it’s great writing, it’s an amazing cast I get to work with and it’s a project I’ll always be proud of.”
Unfortunately, the pride Cross and the other cast members feel now finds itself tarnished by several blemishes. It has been since the fourth season premiered on Netflix in 2013, nearly a decade after the show’s three-season run on Fox. Creator Mitchell Hurwitz retooled the show’s format to account for the time between seasons three and four and the actors’ schedules, but the end result didn't sit well with critics and fans. When Hurwitz remixed it ahead of the Season 5 premiere, audiences still weren’t buying it, despite his and Ron Howard’s efforts to make it feel more like the preceding three seasons.
Far more egregious, however, are the sexual harassment allegations made against Tambor, who plays family patriarch George Bluth Sr., on the set of “Transparent.” Despite having earned Emmy and Golden Globe awards for the role of Maura Pfefferman, Tambor was ultimately fired from the Amazon show as a result of the allegations, and a subsequent internal investigation in February.
As the press tour for “Arrested Development” season five began earlier this month, the Hollywood Reporter published an exclusive interview with Tambor where he admitted he was “difficult” at times, like when he blew up at Jessica Walter during filming, but repeatedly denied the sexual assault allegations. The piece was immediately criticized for being too soft on the actor, as well as for the negative manner by which it described his accusers.
If that weren’t enough, when the allegations were brought up by members of the press at the “Arrested Development” Season 5 premiere in Los Angeles in mid-May, most of the cast expressed their support for Tambor. “I love Jeffrey. He’s great. He’s been a pal for many, many years and you know, I wish him well. We support him,” Portia de Rossi, who plays Lindsay Bluth Fünke, told “Entertainment Tonight.”
Jason Bateman, who plays Tambor’s son Michael Bluth, said he couldn’t “wait to see him again” because the actor was always “incredible” whenever he worked. Cross, meanwhile, was more explicit in his comments. “I don’t condone any actions. It doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to just stop being somebody’s friend, you know? I support him as a human being as a person.”
All of this came to a head the week before “Arrested Development” began streaming new episodes on Netflix. In an intense cast interview with the New York Times, Tambor was asked not only about the allegations against him, but the “difficult” episode between him and Walter. Male cast members Bateman, Cross and Will Arnett came to Tambor’s defense, and Walter tearfully declared she had “let go of being angry at him” since “he harassed me, but he did apologize.”
Bateman, Cross, Arnett and Tony Hale were later criticized for seemingly gaslighting Walter and the only other woman in the room, Alia Shawkat, into thinking Tambor’s behavior was unacceptable but typical. In one of the only two moments she spoke throughout the interview, Shawkat rebuffed them. “But that doesn’t mean it’s acceptable. And the point is that things are changing, and people need to respect each other differently.” Most of the men apologized the next day.
Whether you find the show’s recent history troubling or not, the first half of “Arrested Development” Season 5 will be available to stream on Netflix May 29. The second half is due to arrive sometime later this year.