MeToo Movement Transforms New Season Of 'Arrested Development'

May 28, 2018
Originally published on May 28, 2018 4:58 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

New episodes of "Arrested Development" arrive on Netflix tomorrow against a backdrop of off-screen drama. Cast members last week struggled to address allegations of misconduct by one of the co-stars. NPR TV critic Eric Deggans says that episode has forever changed how he sees the series.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT (MAIN TITLE)")

RON HOWARD: (As Narrator) Now, the story of a wealthy family who lost everything and the one son who had no choice but to keep them all together.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: This was supposed to be a fun and breezy review of a good but not great new season of "Arrested Development." Netflix drops eight episodes tomorrow - half of the fifth season. And the show's star-studded cast gamely returns as the dysfunctional Bluth family, continuing storylines started years ago that now look contemporary, like this moment where matriarch Lucille Bluth, played by Jessica Walter, watches a certain president reference an idea the show first featured in 2013 - building a wall on America's border with Mexico.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT")

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I will build a great, great wall on our Southern border.

JESSICA WALTER: (As Lucille Bluth) Which was my idea.

TRUMP: And I will have Mexico pay for that wall.

WALTER: (As Lucille Bluth) OK. That is a clever twist.

DEGGANS: But Walter had a moment last week during a press interview with her cast mates that makes it tough to enjoy the show's comedy. It's centered on her co-star Jeffrey Tambor. Tambor was fired from Amazon's drama series "Transparent" after allegations of sexual harassment from two staffers. He admitted being mean and difficult on that set, but denied any sexual harassment. Netflix, however, has stood by Tambor, submitting his work playing George Bluth Sr. on "Arrested Development" for Emmy consideration, which led to this exchange during an interview with The New York Times, where Walter talked about coping with how Tambor yelled at her while filming "Arrested Development," even as her male co-stars tried to downplay the issue.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

WALTER: In, like, almost 60 years of working, I've never had anybody yell at me like that on a set, and it's hard to deal with it. But I'm over it now. I just let it go right here.

DEGGANS: Well, I wasn't over it while watching Tambor crack jokes on screen. Several of Walter's male cast mates have since apologized for how they mansplained away Tambor's behavior in that interview. But in watching scenes with all of them together, I couldn't help wondering, was Walter being treated like that off-screen? And if I consume these new episodes without acknowledging that question, would I make it easier for everyone - the cast, Netflix and viewers - to deny her pain and move on like nothing happened? The question of how to feel about artistic work created by accused and admitted abusers is nothing new, of course. Award-winning work by Bill Cosby, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K. and Woody Allen has all faced new scrutiny in recent years. But here, Netflix is asking fans to watch new episodes as the cast is still grappling with Tambor's behavior. For me, that brought the fun in many scenes to a screeching halt. That's why it's so important for the industry to crack down on such behavior - especially by big stars - in the first place because learning about it later can irreversibly change how you see even the most beloved series. I'm Eric Deggans. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.