While the first three episodes of the fourth season of Arrested Development are great, there is somewhat of a learning curve watching the Bluths in a new format. It takes a while to get used to the interconnectivity of the plots at times and the pacing doesn’t feel as rushed, not constrained by a 21-minute episode. Having blasted through the entire fourth season hours after being posted, I can say that “The B. Team” ends up being one of the more straightforward episodes and the first episode that keeps things as tight as AD’s first three seasons.
After starting the season with the Michael-centric “Flight of the Phoenix” episode, where Michael has failed with the Sudden Valley development and George-Michael has kicked him out of living in his dorm room, Michael is now given a new shot at success as a movie producer. Following up on the final moments of “Development Arrested,” Ron Howard calls Michael to his office to get things started on the Bluth movie. The project has been in, well, arrested development, since Maeby never had the rights of the Bluth family when she started the project. Michael now has to acquire signatures from his scattered family in order to get the movie back on the rails.
While leaving his meeting with Howard, George meets Rebel, played by Isla Fisher, who is an actress that reminds Michael of his dead wife. Michael instantly falls for her in a cliché meet-cute moment, doesn’t get her name, and goes around Hollywood trying to find out who she is. He eventually comes to the conclusion that she’s Ron Howard’s girlfriend-on-the-side, when in actuality, she’s Ron’s daughter.
“The B. Team” sets many of the major plot elements of the fourth season into motion, as both Rebel and “The Untitled Michael B. Project,” as the movie is called, both are big parts of where the season goes. It’s one of the few completely linear episodes and with the exception of George Sr., none of the other Bluths make an appearance. Even though each episode is character specific, it’s rare in the season to have this few cameos from the other family members.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t familiar faces though, as “The B. Team” is packed with fan-favorites and references. Carl Weathers, Warden Gentles and Andy Richter all join with Michael as his “dream team” for the movie, and Bob Loblaw and Kitty Sanchez make brief, but memorable appearances. Even Conan O’Brien shows up to insult Richter as a co-host.
“The B. Team” is especially great when making fun of Ron Howard and Brian Grazer’s Imagine Entertainment, as Michael is put on the floor below the Imagine heads, a set of offices that is very reminiscent of Floor 7 ½ from Being John Malkovich. Michael shares the offices with a surplus of less-successful Imagine projects, as the hallway has several framed Psycho remake posters, and Michael’s office is filled with extra Curious George stuffed animals and posters for projects that never came to be, such as More Angels and Demons.
If watching the first three episodes make you feel a little uncertain about the different style that Arrested Development goes in the fourth season, “The B. Team” is one of the best episodes of the new season, sets up huge plots for the rest of new episodes, while also feeling the most like old school AD, filled with cameos, references and inside jokes. Howard says it best when he states that the heartbeat of the film is the father-son dynamic, something that becomes increasingly true as the season progresses. The first three episodes sets up the broad strokes of where these characters have been. “The B. Team” does a fantastic job of setting up where these characters are going, and it only gets more insane from here.