More frustrating is the case of Arrested Development. Its fourth season, the first for Netflix, was bizarre, sprawling, and inconsistent, yet often uproarious. As The Atlantic's Chris Orr wrote, it's "something that doesn't really have a name, or a meaningful precedent: not a series, or a movie, or even a mini-series, but rather a single, eight-hour work of dada televisual art." So it makes some sense that it's not up for Best Comedy.
But why is its sole nomination in a non-technical category for a role that a lot of people thought was among the weaker points of the new season--Jason Bateman as Michael Bluth?
Bateman is an excellent actor, and his character is the ostensible protagonist of Arrested Development. Since the start of the series, he's played the straight man to his kooky relatives, the guy impressed by how normal he is compared with his hook-having, Magicians' Alliance-betraying family members. One of the show's many ironies, of course, is that Michael really isn't that different, that he shares his kin's congenital self-centeredness. But in the original Fox seasons, a sense decency and love of family--especially love of son--kept him relatable.
In Season Four, he's even more central to the show. Famously, showrunner Mitchell Hurwitz struggled to reassemble the old cast for this new run of episodes, and schedules conflicted so much that he ended up having to use green screens and write-around techniques to bring the old ensemble together. Each installment therefore revolves around one particular character in the Bluth family. But Michael always makes an appearance, usually as part of his quest for signatures to obtain the rights to make a movie based on his family's life.
The most jarring aspect of this season, though, was how show creator Mitchell Hurwitz and his writers seemed to flip a switch on Bateman's character, turning him into a full-fledged sociopathic weirdo with no explanation of why. Well, there's a "why" in the sense that you can sort of understand why they did it: to enable the season-long exploration of how he screws up his relationship with his son George Michael, ensuring that the Bluth clans' dysfunction lives on for another generation. But the show never offers a motivation for his transformation. He's separated from the rest of his family, yes, but that doesn't mean he'd be blind to the fact that he's cramping George Michael's life by taking up residence in his room. It doesn't really explain his OCD-like obsession with parliamentary procedures over dorm evictions. Most crucially, it doesn't mean he'd feel OK about sleeping with the woman he believes to be his boss's mistress and he knows to be his son's girlfriend.
Old Michael might have initially traveled down these paths and then realized his mistake and turned back. New Michael, though, isn't just self-righteous and oblivious--he's recklessly, cruelly obstinate.