There was something about James Lipton wearing a backwards cap, blasting Tina Turner’s pop anthem “Simply the Best” that fired me up to write the review for Arrested Development’s fourth episode “The B Team”. It was probably because the song told me exactly how to feel about the second episode that Michael is the main focus of: “You’re simply the best, better than all the rest.”
“The B Team” is the first complete episode of the season. It’s the first one that really feels like Arrested Development is where it needs to be. The previous Michael episode “The Flight of the Phoenix” was about Michael trying to find his footing when everything and everyone seemed against him. It was a big change and at times Michael left this lingering feeling of awkwardness, like maybe this character was written into a comedic corner he couldn’t wiggle out of.
Mitch Hurwitz pulled his main character out of his prolonged slump by giving Michael a better sense of direction in “The B Team”. This was a major reason why it was overall a much more satisfying episode than the previous three. With Michael finding a new calling as a hotshot movie producer and bullshitting his way into a date with an actress whose name he fails to learn (Isla Fisher), the episode has two solid plot points that ably run together at the end of the episode.
It’s as dense in jokes as it is in guest stars, with Ron Howard, Carl Weathers, John Krasinski, James Lipton, Andy Richter, Conan O’Brien, Scott Baio and Isla Fisher all making appearances. Forgive me if I blinked and missed one. Although it seemed excessive and a little distracting from the point of the episode, trying to throw as many guest stars into the episode as possible and seeing what sticks paid off in key scenes with Isla Fisher, Conan O’Brien and Max Winkler, who steals another brief scene as a young Barry Zuckercorn. In maybe the most pleasing few minutes of the season so far, Michael assembles a ragtag movie crew of James Lipton, Andy Richter and Carl Weathers to show Ron he could finally do something without his father’s help.
At this point, we’re starting to see the pieces of previous episodes fit into the larger context of the season like an elaborate puzzle. There’s no denying that episode four packed enough jokes in to be the funniest one to date. This episode stays linear for the most part and that keeps a lot of the jokes in the moment, like Michael’s quips in his dialogue with the actress, rather than flashbacks that we might not understand for until the end of the season. But Arrested Development has nothing to apologize for. Just ask the quote machine, Carl Weathers: “It’s better to ask for forgiveness than beg for permission”. Amen, Carl.