On Sunday Netflix unleashed the long-awaited fourth season of critical and cult hit Arrested Development onto an audience rabid for a chocolate-covered-banana fix. Most of us have only had time to get through a handful of episodes, and so far the reactions to the slightly tweaked new format (the new season focuses on a single Bluth family member for each episode, building toward a conflagration of massively dysfunctional proportions) and the relative quality of the new eps seem to be mixed. (I am on the eighth episode and after some initial reservations am all-in – just get through the first few eps, which are the weakest, and you’ll be fine.)
Seven-year hiatus and narrative structure aside, the new season features many of the standbys that made us fall in love with the show in the first place: the model home, GOB’s lousy magic acts, Ann Veal, “Marry me!”, and of course the gay jokes.
Yes, since the very first episode – when Lucille Bluth (the luminous Jessica Walter) accused “the homosexuals” of trying to ruin her yacht party by staging a demonstration nearby – the show has regularly worked gay jokes into its rapid-fire satirical assault on the revered television family unit. And many people didn’t find it funny. Relentless gags about the sexuality of Tobias Funke (David Cross) fell flat with many viewers, as did non-PC jokes about gender identity (as when Maeby tries to convince her love interest that her mother was born a man to get him to stop being interested in her) and frequent appearances by Hot Cops, Queen Mary Dancers, and other assorted frivolous queens who had nothing better to do than strip, dance, and throw shade.
David Cross as Tobias Funke
You may have been offended by these jokes, and you may not. I personally was too busy laughing to care, and I really never got the sense that the show was using the humor maliciously. Honestly, once you stumble across the wordplay brilliance of “Analrapist”, how can you NOT put it on a business card?!
Now that the show is back for another round of Bluth insanity, the gay jokes are back, too – and the show hasn’t backed off a bit. (Read: “ANUSTART”.) To prepare for the new season, let’s look at some of the show’s gay high- and lowlights – and we’ll throw in a few minor spoilers of gay bits that we’ve already come across in season four.
1. Hot Cops, the Queen Mary Dancers, and the Gothic Asshole
The various strippers, gay activists and homo hangouts that regularly pop up on the show are proudly ridiculous stereotypes of gay culture played for easy laughs. But half of the time, the jokes are actually pretty funny – like the time that Tobias’ cab driver drops him off at leather bar the Gothic Asshole instead of the Gothic Castle and once inside the oblivious Tobias forms the Whips-and-Snaps Barbershop Quartet. It’s too ridiculous to take seriously – and who wouldn’t want to see Whips-and-Snaps?! Plus, while the Hot Cops are not necessarily gay, the homoerotic situations they are often placed in and the considerable eye candy they lend to an otherwise mostly skinless show are quite a treat for gay viewers.
Sure, the gay extras are generally rather frivolous and silly – but they’re also clearly enjoying themselves far more than anyone else on the show.
2. Liza with a Diz-zy
Liza. Effing. Minnelli. With vertigo. It’s like she’s stuck in an infinite loop of that scene in Cabaret in the ballroom of Max’s mansion. AND IT IS GLORIOUS.
3.The play’s the thing!
Early in the show’s first season, Tobias becomes the director of his daughter Maeby’s (Alia Shawkat) school play and mistakenly thinks that George Michael (Michael Cera) wants to be in the play so that he can kiss leading man Steve Holt (in reality Maeby is only in the play because she wants to kiss Steve Holt, and George Michael is only in the play because he wants to kiss Maeby). Tobias endeavors to get his star-crossed boys together by casting Steve in the female lead.
4. Portia de Rossi
She’s one of the reigning lesbian queens of Hollywood, people (the other’s her wife). If Portia can laugh at the gay jokes, I think we can, too.
5. Gay Gary
During the show’s second season, GOB (Will Arnett) accidentally makes repeated advances on the Bluth company’s gay employee, Gary. The show’s trademark wordplay-based hijinx ensue (GOB inadvertently refers to Gary as a “poof” when he means to reference the magician magazine Poof!), as well as some delightful awkward physical comedy. The key here is that Gary was played by the adorable and out Abraham Higginbotham, who was a writer and executive story editor and who now is a producer for Modern Family. So I think it’s safe to say he was in on the joke.
6. Barry Zuckerkorn
I honestly don’t know what to make of the Bluth’s inept defense attorney, Barry (Henry Winkler), other that he is a “keep my options open” kind of guy when it comes to sexuality. We’ve seen or heard him make reference to sex with just about everyone you can imagine, and he can recognize a close-up photograph of testicles in a flash. There it is.
7. Officers Carter and Taylor
It is revealed in Season Two that two recurring policemen, Officers Carter (Jerry C. Minor) and Taylor (Jay Johnston), are partners off the beat as well as on, and are the parents of the baby that Maggie Lizer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is carrying. They say that they don’t want to know which of them is the biological father of the child… although considering that one is black and one is white, it might become self-evident. As far as we know they are now living happy lives as dads (we do see Taylor briefly in Season Four on a reality police show).
8. SPOILER ALERT…
Tony Wonder is gay
Midway through the fourth season, we learn that GOB’s illusionist arch-rival Tony Wonder (Ben Stiller) has come out of the closet in a hilariously-titled Attitude article called “I’m Here… I’m Queer… Now I’m Over Here!” Of course, being AD and given the nature of Tony’s rivalry with GOB, this could all be some scam and they will end up revealing that Tony is straight in the end. Still, worth it for that awesome headline.
So what do you think? The gay gags in Arrested Development have been fast and furious and show no signs of slowing in Season Four. Have you felt the jokes are laughing with you or at you?
All 15 new episodes of Arrested Development now available for streaming on Netflix.