Jeffrey Tambor returning to Arrested Development is problematic for Netflix

Mike P Williams

Sexual misconduct in the workplace, notably in the glitzy world of Hollywood, has been under public scrutiny since the accusations against Harvey Weinstein surfaced last October.

However, with the fifth season of Arrested Development landing exclusively on Netflix, the inclusion of George Sr., played by Jeffrey Tambor, has raised some eyebrows and generated debate whether he should be there, after accusations against him were made public.

During his time on Amazon Prime’s Transparent he was accused of twice being inappropriate, as claims of sexual misconduct arose in the wake of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements that have seen several prominent men fall from their seemingly untouchable positions of fame, wealth, and privilege; as their careers turn to tatters within hours of allegations surfacing.

Weinstein was outted as an alleged sexual predator that subsequently saw numerous celebs speak up against him, companies distance themselves from the once respected film producer, and his one-time thriving TWC production house close to death and on the verge of bankruptcy.

Tambor has always denied the accusations falling under the #MeToo bracket, insisting that some of his behaviour onset was inexcusable when it came to treatment of people and regarding his own attitude, but says he’s innocent, after claiming in his second statement: ‘I have never been a predator — ever.’

Yet there lies another problem and that’s with Netflix themselves.

Despite the first part of Arrested Development’s fifth season hitting the streaming service and, in my opinion, failing to live up to any of its prior offerings, there emerged a bigger, existing problem whereby a ‘boys club’ attitude exposed itself after an interview with its cast revealed the treatment Jessica Walter received onset.

Need something to watch this weekend? Check out our list of the best new shows and movies to stream right now. On the list this week: Arrested Development season 5 — part 1, Blade Runner 2049, and more.
Need something to watch this weekend? Check out our list of the best new shows and movies to stream right now. On the list this week: Arrested Development season 5 — part 1, Blade Runner 2049, and more.

As with Kevin Spacey, who was accused of making sexual advances towards a then 14-year-old Anthony Rapp, Netflix immediately dropped him from the hugely successful House of Cards, a show he’d starred and thrived in across five seasons and given (some say rightly so) to his co-star Robyn Wright.

So why has Tambor not suffered the same treatment and what makes his situation different?

Why has Tambor been given a so-called ‘free pass’ to continue his acting career while others are destroyed overnight?

His situation is admittedly under slightly differing circumstances than Spacey’s or even Louis CK who, by their own admission, admitted culpability and apologised in regards to the accusations made against them.

Is that the significant difference? One person admits wrongdoing and is condemned, but when someone denies accusations it’s fair game? That certainly wasn’t the case for Weinstein who denied everything and is facing jail.

Continuing to include Tambor in Arrested Development puts Netflix, in this instance, in a tricky position. They should in theory take the same stance with all accused – when you begin to base someone’s career on individual merit and decide where the line should be drawn it sends out a message, which is both dangerous and problematic.

The Hollywood Reporter call it ‘one of the most complex cases of the #MeToo era’ when Tambor spoke up about the accusations.

Accused by two transgender women, Van Barnes, Tambor’s former assistant, and Trace Lysette, an actress on Transparent, an internal inquiry Tambor deemed his presence in the show untenable and was dismissed.

The actor insists his temperamental behaviour was inexcusable and admits all of that, but denies the more intrusive or inappropriate claims levelled against him.

The cast of Arrested Development circa 2004. (PA)
The cast of Arrested Development circa 2004. (PA)

So what is Netflix meant to do in this instance?

There are noted ‘blurred lines’ as per the interview article suggests, with Transparent creator Jill Soloway saying she was always going stand by his accusers and never once suggests they were lying.

‘I never told him I was going to accuse Van or Trace of being liars. He knew that nobody could do that. And I was really working with him to help him understand that a simple apology would go a really long way. I was hoping to get him there,’ she said.

After condemnation and punishment from Transparent, why hasn’t this applied to Arrested Development? Have, as the article implies, the lines between a dirty joke and actual harassment become somewhat murky?

Interestingly, Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos boldly declared that Tambor will be appearing at all the media events along with the rest of the cast (prior to them being canned), yet their stance on sexual harassment and support of #MeToo feels a tad conflicted.

Is his inclusion valid and not a controversial talking point or is this a far too common example of double standards within the bubble of hypocrisy that is the TV and movie industries? At the very least Netflix, it appears, are expressing a confused stance on where they align on how their stars conduct themselves.

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