The ‘Transparent’ Joke In ‘Arrested Development’ Season 5 Is Uncomfortable & SO Unnecessary
Before he was Maura on Transparent, Jeffrey Tambor was George Sr. on Arrested Development. And while Season 4 of the Netflix series hinted at George possibly transitioning, there is a direct Transparent joke in Arrested Development Season 5. George dressed as a woman in the series last set of new episodes, but that couldn't have been a reference to the award-winning family drama; the timing doesn't work out. So it wasn't necessary to the plot for Arrested to keep these very specific jokes about the actor's other most famous role in the new season.
Earlier this year, Tambor was fired from Transparent after Amazon investigated accusations of sexual harassment made against the actor. Tambor has denied these claims, but that doesn't make this Arrested Development Season 5 joke any less uncomfortable. Spoilers for all of Arrested Development Season 5 follow.
Considering Tambor's alleged behavior on the set of Transparent, Arrested Development fans may be taken aback that the former gets a nod in the very first episode of Season 5. Lieutenant Toddler, a police officer investigating the disappearance of Lucille 2, asks Michael about the red-haired woman her partner had seen at the penthouse the day earlier. As narrator Ron Howard reminds viewers, that was "cismale George Sr." In Season 4, George Sr. pretended to be a woman after he found out he had very low testosterone levels and very high estrogen levels. Howard then says, "George Sr. soon realized his impression of a woman wasn't going to win him any awards. So he took off in his trailer for Mexico to forget his shameful mistakes."
For his role as Maura, who is transgender, Tambor won two Emmys and a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a comedy series. And while those accolades may have been something to celebrate before the accusations, the joke now seems insensitive to the two women who accused him of sexual harassment on the set of Transparent; the woman who claimed she experienced an earlier incident of harassment in 2001; and anyone triggered by those accusations. Bustle reached out to Netflix regarding the Transparent jokes in Arrested Development, and the company declined to comment.
Before Amazon let him go, Tambor released a statement that denied the allegations and included the sentence, "Given the politicized atmosphere that seems to have afflicted our set, I don’t see how I can return to Transparent." In a May 2018 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, he clarified that this statement was not his resignation. But Amazon made the decision for him. Tambor also admitted to THR that he would yell on the set of Transparent and was "rude" and "moody." Vulture asked Tambor in an interview if these allegations changed the mood on set of Arrested Development Season 5. "That happened after we finished," Tambor said. "We were on the penultimate week of filming the series when the Transparent allegations came out."
In his Hollywood Reporter interview, Tambor also brought up how he had a "blowup" directed at Jessica Walter (Lucille) on the set of Arrested Development. He claimed that afterward, he "profusely apologized." Members of the Arrested Development cast had been defending Tambor ahead of Season 5, but an interview to The New York Times proved that Tambor's behavior had affected at least one of them. (Alia Shawkat, who plays Maeby, told IndieWire in late April of the accusations, "I support the voices of the victims, though, whatever they said.")
During the Times roundtable interview, Walter became emotional about how Tambor had verbally abused her in the past. During this discussion, her male costars Will Arnett, Jason Bateman, David Cross, and Tony Hale seemed to minimize the incident and its impact on her. (Only Shawkat defended Walter.) Bateman, Hale, and Cross have since stated they regret the way they treated Walter in the interview.
As for Transparent, it does make sense that Arrested Development had to address the fact that George Sr. was dressed as a woman last time viewers saw him. Deadline reported that showrunner Mitch Hurwitz had planned on having George Sr. transition to a woman after Season 4. But then Tambor went on to star in Transparent the next year, so Hurwitz scrapped the idea. But the show could have shifted that storyline without referencing the awards Tambor won for Transparent — or the "shameful mistakes" he had made. For instance, in Season 5 Episode 7, it's revealed that Lucille has been tricking George into taking estrogen to explain his hormone levels. That scene contains no allusions to Transparent and is far better for it. Since filming was nearly wrapped up, editing Episode 1 might have required a reshoot. But it would have been the far more respectful choice.
Clearly, many of the main people involved in Arrested Development support Tambor and so maybe the joke didn't seem like a big deal to them. But with society finally realizing the importance of listening to victims' stories, the series should have removed it out of respect for the people who accused Tambor. Yes, due to Tambor's involvement with Transparent for four seasons, it was an easy joke to make. But it's rare that the easy way out is the right way out and Arrested Development's Transparent joke is just another example of that.
Editor's Note: This piece has been updated to adhere to Bustle's editorial standards.