Fans are rejoicing that Arrested Development is finally back for that long awaited fifth season on Netflix. After the controversial Rashomon-style storytelling of the fourth season, the Bluths are back together and they’re funnier and even more dysfunctional than ever! Arrested Development is genuinely one of the funniest shows in the history of television. Fans are rewatching episodes from over ten years ago and still discovering new jokes that they never noticed before. Out of dozens of fantastic shows, here are ten Arrested Development episodes that won’t be a huge mistake to watch!
10. Motherboy XXX
Incest is one of the key areas that network sitcoms tend to avoid. It is not a family friendly topic. If incest is portrayed in a TV show, it’s not usually played for humor and it’s not usually portrayed on a broadcast network. It’s usually depicted in the vein of Jaime and Cercei Lannister’s relationship. However, the Oedipal relationship shared by Buster and Lucille in Arrested Development is so brilliantly funny because it’s done subtly. They don’t have an outright romantic relationship, but there is an unsettling underlying sexual tension, and there’s a lot of comedy to be mined from Buster trying to break free from his mother’s manipulation and become an independent adult. So goes “Motherboy XXX,” in which Lucille takes George Michael to be her partner in the Motherboy pageant and Michael and Buster set out to save him. The idea that the name Motherboy is shared by a rock band is a nice little addition, too, because it makes the whole thing feel more real. Motherboy is believable as the name of a glam metal band from the same era as Poison and Kiss and Motley Crue and Guns ‘n’ Roses. It’s also a perfect example of a meta, layered Arrested Development joke, since it’s a reference to the legal battle the show’s producers had with the band Arrested Development over their use of the name.
9. Emotional Baggage
As time goes on, Arrested Development is going more and more off the rails. But they can still knock it out of the park sometimes with a comic idea that’s so brilliant and so original that it makes up for any shortcomings. In the case of the recently released first half of the fifth season, it was the party at Ron Howard’s house where George Michael got to meet the extended clan. There’s the director rejoicing at the fact that George Michael has dyed his hair “Howard Red” and Bryce Dallas Howard bitching about her (fictional) sister behind her back and Rance Howard sitting in a weird little surveillance room, watching the party on various different screens displaying CCTV footage from around the house, and communicating with Ron using a single look to tell him how to direct his true crime series. Ever since the show’s producer and narrator Ron Howard was introduced as a regular character on the show, appearing as a fictionalized version of himself, his appearances have been very hit and miss. Sometimes they’re funny, but then there are also times that it seems gratuitous. But in the case of the Howard family barbecue in “Emotional Baggage,” it definitely works.
8. The Cabin Show
Pretty much every season of Arrested Development begins with Michael planning to leave the Bluth family with his son and then finding that he can’t escape them. In some cases, he returns because he didn’t make enough of an event out of leaving and he wants to rub it in their faces, and then other times, like in the season 3 premiere episode “The Cabin Show,” he wakes up to find his father driving the cabin he’s staying in down the highway on the back of a truck. It’s an ingenious comedic setup that elicits belly laughs even after a number of rewatchings. Series creator Mitchell Hurwitz himself has said that the show was always meant to be rewatched a bunch of times, and failed primarily because it was made a few years before it was possible to rewatch TV shows. He explained, “I was doing a show that was all about rewatchability before there was technology that really provided that opportunity – before DVRs etc. In retrospect, it was more than audacious – it was foolish.” With this in mind, it seems like a no brainer that the show ended up at Netflix, where it’s always there to watch it and rewatch it and pinpoint moments and analyze each frame whenever you so please.
Few shows have done as much with their pilot episode as Arrested Development did. Mitchell Hurwitz had pitched the idea of a “riches to rags” family story in the wake of corporate scandals like Enron to Ron Howard and the mega producer had taken a very hands on approach with the pilot, even offering to provide the voiceover narration and getting his old friend Liza Minnelli on board to play Lucille 2. This meant that Hurwitz had the flexibility to realize his very specific and unusual and brilliant creative vision. He had so many ideas for this show that he had to pack into the short space of time that is allowed for a half hour network sitcom – and he succeeded! As The AV Club’s reviewer put it, “Between the on screen titles, the narration, the quick insert shots, the brief flashbacks, and the rapid fire dialogue, creator Mitchell Hurwitz and his team of writers, directors, and editors impart massive amounts of information in a short span of time.” Plus, Hurwitz won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series for his hilarious pilot script. It is one of the finest TV pilot episodes ever made, seriously.
6. The Parent Traps
A lot of the show’s fourth season was a pretty epic disappointment, because the cast was never together and the storyline got way, way, way too confusing with it being out of order and split between the characters and told across several years and very sprawling. When Mitchell Hurwitz reedited the whole season to feel more like Arrested Development should feel, with a suitable episode length and a more chronological order and a little bit of each character in every episode, it actually turned out to be a lot better. The best of the recut season 4 is definitely “The Parent Traps,” which sees Michael moving into George Michael’s dorm room at college, much to the boy’s annoyance. There are so many great moments of cringe comedy and awkward conversations, because George Michael keeps dropping hints that he doesn’t want his dad there and Michael just isn’t getting it at all. Then when it comes down to a vote of who they’re going to kick out of the dorm, everything is set up for the perfect ending: Michael has tried to orchestrate the vote to get P-Hound out while P-Hound and George Michael have staged it to get Michael out, and everyone is packed and ready to go and when the vote is drawn, the person has to leave in silence. The final death blow is that one of the votes says “Dad” crossed out before “Michael.” And then Michael just has to stand up, take his bags, and leave.
5. Marta Complex
The hysterically funny season 1 episode “Marta Complex” does a lot of playing around with the comedy of misunderstandings. Michael falls for Gob’s girlfriend Marta and they start seeing each other. Then Marta tells them both about her feelings for their “hermano” (which, as you probably know, is Spanish for “brother”) and they each go on a search for a third man named Hermano. It’s an unlikely mix-up, since most people will know what “hermano” means, but in typical Arrested Development fashion, a bunch of self-aware jokes are made about it. In “Beef Consommé,” Gob says, “You’re a good guy, mon frère. That means ‘brother’ in French. I don’t know why I know that. I took four years of Spanish!” And anyway, the episode’s real star is Carl Weathers, whose cheapness makes him one of the funniest supporting characters on the show – and what’s even better is that Weathers himself came up with the idea. “Whoa, whoa, whoa. There’s still plenty of meat on that bone. Now, you take this home, throw it in a pot, add some broth, a potato. Baby, you’ve got a stew going.” His obsession with cutting costs and making stew is so delightfully absurd, but it’s also so, so hilarious.
4. The One Where Michael Leaves
The season 2 premiere episode of Arrested Development, “The One Where Michael Leaves,” gave us what is arguably the funniest scene in the history of the show, even to this day. It’s the one that makes you just by thinking about it. It’s the one that always gets quoted and gave us the show’s most endearing and beloved running gag. This scene, of course, is the first one in which Tobias “blue himself.” A paranoid Michael comes into the house and suspects that there might be spyware around there somewhere, so he takes a sledgehammer and smashes it through the wall. We hear Tobias scream and then poke his blue face through the hole in the wall. “Are you crazy?!” he asks, to which Michael fires back, “Are you blue?” Tobias smiles and says, “Only in color, Michael. Only in color.” Then he comes around into the kitchen and we see that he is totally blue, wearing nothing but a pair of cut-offs. It’s one of the funniest scenes ever put on television. What makes it even funnier is his revelation that he painted his body entirely blue before even auditioning to be an understudy for the Blue Man Group.
3. Afternoon Delight
So many classic Arrested Development moments come from the episode “Afternoon Delight.” It’s hard to count them all, frankly. You’ve got Michael bonding with Maeby, which is always a joy for the complete clash of cultures and values and ideals, and the moment that they begin singing “Afternoon Delight” together at a company party before realizing halfway through it that the lyrics are more sexual than they seem and it’s not an appropriate song for a guy to sing with his teenage niece. And then you’ve got Gob constantly going on about how much his suit cost, raising the price every single time he mentions it, and then firing everyone in the whole company after they roast him and he – to put it delicately – does not have a sense of humor about himself. Lucille deafens Tobias with her rape horn and then gets high on some pot brownies that Oscar has made and ends up running over Tobias when he’s too deaf to hear the car coming and she’s too high to see him under her wheels. As we’ve seen from the recent fifth season, pairings of Tobias and Lucille are always a lot of fun, too, so that was a real treat.
Every single camera comedy show on TV these days makes meta references to itself, like Community and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and 30 Rock, but it all started with Arrested Development. By the third season of the show, with a much shorter episode order than they had been given in the earlier years when Fox executives were more optimistic about the mainstream prospects of the show, the AD producers could tell they were on their way out. All throughout this episode, the voiceover narrator is trying to convince the viewers that the show could be a successful mainstream sitcom, like promising “a clear cut situation with the promise of comedy.” He also, at one point, desperately begs you to “tell your friends” about the show in order to boost the ratings. It was kind of like the writers realized their smart show was not going to survive on the Fox network, so they figured they might as well have some fun with it while they were still on the air. Andy Richter plays himself and his four fictional quintuplet brothers in one of the greatest examples of a celebrity appearing in a comedy movie or TV show to make fun of themselves. The Bluths also suggest bringing in an Oscar winner (i.e. Charlize Theron) to boost their image and gain more followers – the lack of subtlety is what makes it so darn funny.
Season 2’s “¡Amigos!” has it all. It has enough of the series’ trademark belly laughs and the character moments and the twisty plot development and the non-sequitur flashbacks that it stands out as the show’s finest hour (well, half hour). It has Gob hiring a bounty hunter named Ice to hunt down Michael, just because he thinks Michael is spending the quality time with his father that Gob thinks he deserves, and he tries to become Ice’s friend because he’s such a desperate loser – it’s such a classic Gob storyline, so in character. And the episode has Lucille freaking out with excitement every time her private investigator Gene Parmesan reveals himself to be right next to her in a disguise. There are a ton of great Ann moments, too, as Michael begins to make it clearer and clearer to George Michael that he doesn’t like his girlfriend and George Michael desperately tries to get them to get along with one another – until Michael goes and leaves her in Mexico. The whole episode is just one big laugh riot, really, and Michael’s treatment of Ann is particularly enjoyable, since we start to get glimpses of a character who isn’t as perfect as he likes to think he is and how he’d been portrayed throughout season 1. We see the show becoming more daring and it’s glorious.