When The X-Files returned to Fox in January 2016, fans were apprehensive. Would the revival hold up over time? Could it make up for the original iteration’s lackluster ninth season?
Alas, not all reboots and revivals are created equal. While NBC’s season 9 revival of Will & Grace is Certified Fresh at 86% on the Tomatometer, the CW’s new take on Dynasty fell flat with a 53% Tomatometer score.
On the flip side, some titles like streaming series Cobra Kai, a sequel to the famous Karate Kid films, become big hits. The YouTube Red show premiered May 2 and has maintained a 100% score to land in the top spot of our scorecard of shows based on previous titles that returned from the dead.
Tony Hale, America’s First Bag-Man on HBO’s comedy Veep, chatted with Rotten Tomatoes this week while taking a break from shooting Alvin & the Chipmunks: Chip Road. In the fourth installment of the Chipmunks franchise, Hale plays the villain — a far cry from Gary Walsh, the oft-abused right hand of POTUS; or Buster Bluth, the awkward mama’s boy who lost his left hand to a loose seal.
See why Gary is ultimately okay with Selina Meyer’s abuse, what it was like being Liza Minnelli’s boyfriend, and how he got to meet one of his comedic heroes.
Sarah Ricard for Rotten Tomatoes: It seems like what we’ve been building towards with Gary and Selina really came to a head in episode two this season, in the last scene of “East Wing.”
Tony Hale: Oh, yeah. It’s one of those things where he’s obviously been emasculated. I think his life story has been one big emasculating experience but for the three seasons, he’s been beaten down. You know what it was? When she said to Gary, “You’re just a middle-aged man who sanitizes my tweezers.” I think that was the last straw. In his world, he’s everything to her. She is his queen. I think in his perfect world, they’d get married and she desperately needs him. She can’t do right without him. For her to say those words, it’s like, ‘I’m sorry what?’ That’s when it snaps. That’s when the universe came crumbling down.
You know what’s so fun though? What’s great about this show is they give you the time to work the material and they kind of place it in front of you. Then we have two or three weeks of rehearsal before we shoot where we’ve had time to see what gels. When I saw that scene that they had written, they gave us a good few hours just to find the rhythm and to find those bits that made it escalate and what made Gary break and what made her wake up. Like when he said, “Can you find somebody else to do what I did?” And she goes, “On Labor Day?” Something horrific happened on Labor Day and to find that rhythm is such a gift because many times you don’t get that. Staff just come in and you really don’t have a lot of time.
RT: Right. I can imagine that, compared to Arrested Development — especially with that last season shot all piecemeal — you probably didn’t have the kind of runway that you would on this show where you get the scripts a couple of weeks early and get to really dig into it.
Hale: Yeah, sure. Exactly. And on Arrested, Mitch was such a genius. He would be like, “So, by the way, this is what’s happening.” He would kind of give us the story and you just trusted that he knew where the pieces of the puzzle fit. It was a real trust exercise with that because I remember when Buster’s hand got eaten off. There was foreshadowing of that way, way back that I didn’t even recognize. He had this whole plan in his head.
RT: Right! He’s a real architect.
Hale: That’s a great way of putting it. He’s just a total architect. A mental architect.
RT: Have you seen Liza Minnelli since you guys did that show?
Hale: No. I miss her. She’s a really special person. I loved being around her. I loved hearing her stories. Look at her life. She just has the best stories. When she told the stories, they never came from a place of ego. They just came from a place of like, ‘Listen to my life and what I’ve experienced.’ I could just sit there all day long.
RT: I was just watching Billy Crystal with Bill Maher as he was telling some story about being in the box at Yankees stadium with George W Bush and a bunch of other famous people. Anyone else would be name-dropping, but he’s not name-dropping because he’s Billy Crystal and that’s his life.
Hale: Exactly. That’s his reality.
RT: And how cool for you that your life keeps intersecting with all these icons.
Hale: I don’t know how the hell that happened. I’m looking around like, ‘What? Where am I? Liza Manelli is my girlfriend? What?'”
RT: Have you ever met anyone where you were kind of blown away?
Hale: I would say that when I met Tim Conway. I was just at some event and he was being honored. I grew up on The Carol Burnett Show. He was a guy that could do the smallest thing and it just moved the audience. It was so funny. He obviously made every other cast member break. [The cast was] given these crazy routines, but he never pushed the comedy. He just trusted the chaos around him. All he had to do was just stare straight ahead or do some eye movement or something and it just threw you. It was so funny because you knew the situation he was in.
RT: As you say that, I’m reminded of some of the things that Gary did in this week’s episode, “Storms and Pancakes.” Selina says some things that are kind of dirty and they cut to you. She says something about paying for her ‘tits’ and they cut to you cringing to what she’s saying. It’s so subtle but you’re so obviously bothered whenever she talks like that.
Hale: Because, think about it. Words like that should not leave [her mouth]. She’s Jesus in Gary’s world. When Jesus throws those kind of words, it’s like, ‘I’m sorry. What did you just throw out there? Of course, you can’t be like what are you saying!’ He just has to be politely like, ‘Uh-huh, uh-huh,’ but his entire internal state is exploding.
RT: When you were talking about what happened on Labor Day in episode two, did you have a backstory in mind?
Hale: We talked about it actually because we were just wanting to give weight to it. There was something about it. If I was too detailed with it, then I would get in my head about it. I want to know but I don’t. I gave it a lot of weight because it’s almost like you think, ‘If I murdered somebody, it takes it to a different place.’ I’ve already broken up with her boyfriends for her and searched through her trash for what probably were sex toys or something. You kind of go, ‘What is the absolute worst thing? Did I kill somebody? Can Gary kill?’ Then you think, “For her? Sure.” It had to have the weight though to shut her up. Obviously, she had no problem with giving me the awful responsibility of breaking up with her boyfriend or doing horrendous things.
RT: True. The fact that she was the Vice President. It really could be anything with like huge consequences.
Hale: I love that. Now she’s obviously the President, and when she was Vice President I had a lot more access to her. I was next to her. When she’s President, especially in the first episode, I didn’t have the access. That is emotional suicide. To be distant from her, he doesn’t know what to do with his body. He loses all function in everything. That was the worst. He would rather her cuss and scream obscenities. At least if she’s hitting him, she’s touching him. He would take that over distance. Distance is the worst.
RT: I loved the scene after the fight when all is restored and you feed her the sponge cake. He feels so empowered again, like everything’s been restored in their dynamic.
Hale: Also, it doesn’t phase him is that he says for the second time, “It’s a light sponge,” and she goes, “Yeah, you said that.” Such verbal abuse.
RT: That was so funny. I know that on the set it can get a little mean with the name-calling.
Hale: Poor Timothy Simons.
RT: I know. He seems to get the worst of it. When you guys are playing off each other, have you ever gone too far?
Hale: That’s a great question. We’ve gone so far in names to each other that I can’t imagine any farther. It’s verbal abuse but it’s like happening to somebody’s physical person hood. It gets so hateful. Timothy gets the worst of it. He was called human scaffolding. He was called the largest single celled organism. Absolutely awful. I mean, I’ve been called cow eyes, but again, I’d rather have those names called to me than be alone.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Veep airs Sundays on HBO at 10:30 p.m. Read reviews for season four here.
Arrested Development was doing that whole ‘get cancelled by a network and then come back on Netflix’ thing before it was cool. And if you have no idea what’s hidden in the banana stand, how to pronounce “Gob,” why a loose seal is dangerous, or what an analrapist does for a living, then you’re long overdue to binge Arrested Development, “the story of a wealthy family who lost everything, and the one son who had no choice but to keep them all together.”
What’s the premise? After patriarch George Bluth goes to jail for fraud, his adult son Michael moves the Bluth clan into a model home on a construction site, hoping to salvage the family business and keep the peace among his ne’er-do-well relatives.
What’s it like? Think Dynasty meets Family Guy. With rapid-fire jokes (you might need to watch this show a couple times to catch them all), funny flashbacks, dirty entendres, and absurdly dysfunctional characters, Arrested Development‘s multi-generational meta-sitcom pokes fun at everything — especially itself. Executive producer Ron Howard performs double duty as the show’s all-knowing narrator, giving the show a folksy, yarn-spinning feel a la The Wonder Years, simultaneously calling attention to how much Arrested Development is not Happy Days. The dichotomy of children acting like adults and adults acting like children echoes the dynamic of Lisa and Homer Simpson, while the complexity of the plot evokes some of Larry David’s most satisfying episodes of Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm.
How long will it take? Arrested Development is four seasons for a total of 68 episodes. In true sitcom style, each installment of the show runs 22 minutes, making your binge about 25 hours. You could do that all at once, right? If not, try watching four a day to be done in under three weeks.
What do the critics think? Arrested Development is one of those shows that people love to recommend to their friends — including the critics. During season one, Charlie Brooker of The Guardian wrote, “It’s so good I’m going to shut up about it now — just make sure you tune in and get hooked.” Jesse Hassenger of PopMatters echoed this sentiment in season two, saying “Writing — nay, thinking — about Arrested fosters in me two unproductive urges: to describe how hilarious the show is, and to beg people to watch it.” Even season four, which came to Netflix long after the spell of Arrested Development had lifted, is Certified Fresh at 78 percent on the Tomatometer. AV Club’s Todd VanDerWerff wrote of the Netflix revival, “Though this fourth season is rough in places, it’s also unquestionably an important and ground-breaking piece of TV.”
Why should I watch this? If for no other reason, watch Arrested Development to open your life up to a whole new world of novelty t-shirts. An assault of wordplay, long-running bits, sight gags, and quotable moments, Arrested Development feels like being a part of the world’s greatest inside joke. It’s the show that launched 1,000 gifs, and yet the endearing relationship between Michael (Jason Bateman) and his son George Michael (Michael Cera), keeps Arrested Development grounded in reality. Meanwhile, whether it’s David Cross as the sexually ambiguous Tobias Funke, Portia de Rossi as his self-obsessed wife, Will Arnett as the part-time magician GOB (pronounced like the Biblical “Job”), Tony Hale as the Oedipal and delicate Buster, Alia Shawkat as the wise-beyond-her-years Maeby, or any other member of the ensemble, you’re bound to have a favorite character. And then there’s Liza Minnelli.
What’s my next step? If you enjoy the lightning pace of Arrested Development, you should try HBO’s Veep, which co-stars Tony Hale in a slightly dialed-down version of Buster as Gary, Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s “bagman.” Similarly, Tina Fey’s 30 Rock is an unrelenting and hilarious series of gags with broad characters who never break type. Fans of Lucille Bluth (Jessica Walter) might enjoy her similar character in the FX cartoon Archer, a barrage of running jokes and verbal misdirection. Also, the British/American co-production The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret reunites Will Arnett and David Cross in a little-known cringe comedy. For self-referential TV shows, try Community, Family Guy, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and the now-obscure Soap, a soap opera parody which ran from 1977 to 1981.
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Variety lets us know that DreamWorks is currently mounting a new interpretation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel "Strangers on a Train." Originally turned into a classic 1951 thriller by Alfred Hitchcock, the new "Strangers" is about "a psychiatrist who murders an exec’s clingy mistress and wants him to return the favor by killing the shrink’s sister." First-time (yet award-winning) director Noam Murro has been hired to direct the adaptation, and he’ll be working on the screenplay by David Seltzer ("The Omen") and Rand Ravich ("The Astronaut’s Wife").Murro was recently the recipient of a DGA award for his work on TV commercials.