AD was canceled seven years ago and I still can't quite believe it's been revived. I feared it would turn out to be a zombie embarrassment, what with all these years since anything was written and the actors played their characters. I was doubly happy, then, when I watched the 4th Season premiere and saw that the crew was as risky as ever in their humor. And, yes, it's still funny, especially for an episode centered on Michael.
Speaking of him, he's not the same man we left in 2003. When we first see him, he's lost everything, and is willing to do anything, including trying to seduce a woman approaching her seventies. Don't get me wrong, Lucille Austero is a lovely lady; Michael is doing it purely for financial reasons, though, and this is something neither of them can stand. She can't stand at all, by the way.
Indeed, I like this Michael better than the one in the original run. He was always the straight man inside a madhouse. Now, it seems that this role is going to George Michael (not the singer, his son), who's now become more aware of himself, his family, and of the association made with George Michael (not the son, the singer). The result is that Michael is doing more crazy stuff and being funnier.
This episode also displayed three great strengths of the show.
First, it's incredibly self referential. We're constantly reminded of plot points of previous episodes, and characters return all the time. The best part is that they somehow make it matter to the moment we're seeing. It all served the show well, considering the long gap.
Second, it's not for a casual audience, but there's great payoff. Facts and lines that seem gratuitous at first turn out to be important later on, or end up being the punchline of a joke we haven't seen the set up for yet. It all leads to amazing interconnection of everything with everything, and pleasurable rewatchability. In order to really understand the plot, you have to watch everything, and to enjoy every joke, you must watch it again. It gets funnier with time, too. An example of that is George Senior's and Lucille's divorce, which is only mentioned here, but will be explained and mocked on the next episode. And the ostrich will be explained many episodes from now. That's also why I can barely talk about the plot here.
Finally, it refuses to give us a real heartfelt moment. It's a comedy, and it stays that way until the end. Even a sad scene, such as Michael's vote-out, has a funny set-up (the endless scheming to vote the roommate out), a funny misstep in the execution (George Michael's mistaken vote), a running gag (the Snoopy sad song), and a funny follow-up (airport staff discussing the scheming). Sentimentality is a trap most sitcoms fall for; not this one.
Overall, a great start for what I hope will be a great season.
Bits and pieces
- I missed the narrator. His delivery is so precise. It's the only thing Ron Howard has done that I liked, apart from Bryce Dallas Howard.
- When I heard they'd have episodes explaining what each character had been doing during the gap, I thought they'd interact very little, but for the end of the season. It's much better the way it is.
- How great were Seth Rogen and Kristen Wiig as younger George Senior and Lucille?
- Expect lots of cameos on the next episodes.
- I think they overdid the vertigo jokes a bit.
- "Cinco de Quatro" is a joke only AD could have pulled off.
- I wonder who GOB was with.
A few funny lines
Narrator: "Neither had expected to see each other after some recent unpleasantness."
GOB: "I didn't expect to be seeing you again after all the... unpleasantness."
Lucille: "Oh, your one year of law school is going to beat Barry's three?"
Michael: "Let me get this straight. I still have to do all the work as the president of the company, but I can't use any of the money for the company, and you won't let me help with your case, but you'd still like for me to testify at your trial. Is that right?"
Lucille: I just want you to say I was a loving mother."
Michael: "And now perjury."
P-Hound: "There's a girl in there."
Michael: "There is? Where the hell is George Michael?"
Three and a half out of four relatives living in your dorm.