"Now, the story of a wealthy family who lost everything and the one son who had no choice but to hold them all together.
It's Arrested Development."
Arrested Development was a television series that aired on Fox between 2003 and 2006. Throughout its three-year run, it won six Emmys and a Golden Globe, as well as the 2004 TV Land "Future Classic" Award. Its cancellation in 2006 was due to low ratings, despite critical acclaim and a cult fan base.
The show was shot and packaged in the style of a mock documentary and was heavily influenced by reality TV. Its use of a single-camera setup and creative editing are indicative of this. It was created by Ellen creator Mitchell Hurwitz and was produced by himself and, among others, Ron Howard.
Basic plot setup
(There may be some minor spoilers
here -- but fear not; I left out the juicy stuff.)
Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman) thinks his father, George Sr. (Jeffrey Tambor) is about to name him CEO of the family's development company when he learns that there will be a major announcement regarding the company's future at a party on the family's yacht. To his surprise and disappointment, however, his mother, Lucille (Jessica Walter) is named the company's chief executive. Later on, the party is interrupted when police boats approach the yacht and arrest George Sr. for, among other things, embezzlement and fraud.
Michael is eventually forced to take control of the company while living in one of its model homes with his twin sister, Lindsay (Portia de Rossi, brother-in-law, Tobias (David Cross), niece, Maeby (Alia Shawkat) and son, George Michael (Michael Cera). His older brother, GOB. (Will Arnett) also surfaces frequently, whereas his younger brother, Buster (Tony Hale) lives with their mother.
Michael quickly learns that the rest of his family, apart from his son, is extremely lazy and is accustomed to handouts from the company chequebook. He attempts to wean them off this by trying to force them to get jobs, with hilarious results.
Meanwhile, the family's legal problems continue. The Bluth's longtime attorney, Barry Zuckerkorn, (Henry Winkler) is incredibly incompetent and often neglects to do important work relating to the case. All the while, George Sr. decides he enjoys prison and winds up engaged in a variety of misadventures there.
The case against the Bluths intensifies after it is revealed that the company was hired to build homes in Iraq, putting George Sr. in a position in which he could be convicted of light treason. Much of the second and third seasons follow the family's quest to determine how much of this is true, with surprising (and amusing) results.
The series is narrated by Ron Howard.
Michael is the Bluth family's middle child. He is younger than GOB, older than Buster and Lindsay's twin.
He is the most stable
member of the Bluth family and similarly had the most stable relationship
. His wife died of ovarian cancer
two years before the series began. He has one son.
Michael became president of the Bluth Company after his father's arrest in the pilot episode. He is easily the most honest and principled member of the family, and he attempts to bring the company back on track both financially and ethically throughout the series. He is devoted to his family, though they drive him crazy, and though he threatens to leave town and start his life anew at various points in the series. He is most loyal to his son, whom he pressures academically because he wants him to succeed in life.
Since the death of his wife, Michael has not found much luck in love. He has occasional love interests throughout the series, but nothing ever seems to work out.
He played the prosecuting attorney in a high school production of an original play, "The Trial of Captain Hook." This is brought up sporadically, often in reference to his unofficial role as the family's all-but-official defence attorney. The family often mocks him for it.
George Bluth, Sr.
George is the Bluth family's patriarch. A self-made businessman, he began his business career by opening the family's famous frozen banana stand on the boardwalk. This eventually gave way to the family's development company, which builds homes and housing projects. He is criticized throughout the series for only admiring or encouraging one quality in each of his children ("Michael has the brains, GOB has the charm, I have the looks, Buster has the..." "High-fastening pants."
He was also seen as a somewhat authoritarian parent who would teach his children elaborate lessons with the aid of a one-armed man named J. Walter Weatherman.
George openly cheated on his wife, Lucille, at various points during their marriage. Among the "other women" were his assistant, Kitty and a variety of call girls. It was revealed in one episode that George resorted to drastic measures after he felt that Lindsay's teachers had "poisoned" her against him.
George maintained his innocence throughout the entire series and was adamant that he was a patsy in the Iraqi dealings. He became fond of prison after becoming quite involved in various aspects of prison life, particularly softball. After a number of escape attempts, however, Michael arranged to have him put under house arrest -- forcing him to stay home with Lucille may well have been a far greater punishment than prison.
Lucille is the Bluth family's matriarch and is a prominent socialiate within the community. Her role within the family -- and subsequently the company -- has been to maintain the family's social image. She is criticized (most often by her children) for her overtly critical nature. She is particularly critical of Lindsay, who is obviously not overweight, and constantly implies that she should lose weight.
She is (along with Lindsay) one of the family's most materialistic members and is constantly begging Michael for access to company funds after George Sr.'s arrest. She also drinks to excess and spends much of her time at the family's country club.
Lucille maintains an iron grip on her youngest son, Buster. She treats him like a small child, limiting his food choices and performing a number of tasks any grown man should be able to perform for herself. She insists on doing a number of potentially embarrassing tasks with Buster, including participating in the annual Motherboy conference.
Much like Lucille Bluth, Lindsay is a very materialistic member of the family. She does not have much of an interest in working and would much rather go shopping. She is neither a particularly attentive mother to Maebe , nor a particularly attentive wife to Tobias.
After she and Tobias decide to pursue an open relationship, Lindsay is bent on having an affair with a new male partner. She does not have much success, indicating that her time with Tobias has caused her to become clueless in terms of dating.
Lindsay is interested in the visual aspects of activism; that is, she gets involved in activist causes in order to be seen rather than to effect substantial change. She is convinced that her relationship with Tobias is doomed, yet stays with him anyway. She enjoys being the centre of attention and, it was revealed in one episode, was forced to repeat the ninth grade in high school.
George Oscar Bluth (called by his initials, GOB, which is pronounced like the Biblical prophet Job), is the family's oldest son. He is a professional magician who had recently been removed from the Magicians' Alliance because the secret to one of his tricks was revealed on the nightly news after George Sr. was arrested.
GOB pines for his father's approval and is often used by him to keep Michael from changing the business practices too much. He once married a complete stranger after a series of escalating dares and was unable to have the marriage anulled after his ego prevented him from admitting that they never consumated the marriage. He is characterized by, among other things, his less-than-impressive magic stunts, his frequent use of Europe's 'The Final Countdown' as his theme song, his catchphrase "Come ON!" and his chicken dance, which he frequently uses to mock Buster.
GOB was briefly the Bluth Company president -- Michael did the behind-the-scenes work while GOB held the title (and large office) because he was briefly implicated in the case.
Byron 'Buster' Bluth
Buster is the Bluth family's youngest son; while he is said to be 32 in the first season, he still lives with his mother and is treated like a child by much of his family. He was a student of cartography in his youth and attended the Milford Academy, where children are "neither seen nor heard."
Buster has an unhealthy relationship with his mother, to the point of having penned an essay entitled "Why I Want to Marry My Mother" as a child. While he is devoted to her, he resents her constant interference in his life and wants to get away from her and be more independent.
He eventually enlists in the U.S. Army -- or, rather, is enlisted by his mother after a Michael Moore impersonator dares her to sign him up. Before shipping out for Iraq, Buster engages in an act of defiance against his mother and goes swimming in the ocean, something she has long forbidden him from doing. The excitement is short-lived, however, after a seal bites off his hand, preventing him from engaging in military combat.
Buster is characterized by his relative invisibility (he is always hiding behind something) and his catchphrase, "Hey, brother!"
Tobias is a former psychologist; his licence to practice was revoked after he attempted to save a man he thought was unconscious, but was instead merely sleeping. He broke the man's sternum. In addition to this, he was widely ostracized for the title he gave himself after combining his two practices of analysis and therapy.
He eventually decides that acting is his true calling and auditions for a variety of parts. His most promising lead is with the Blue Man Group, which he at first confuses with a support group for depressed men. He is eventually hired on as an understudy, leading him to cover himself with blue paint every show night just in case they end up needing him. They usually don't.
Tobias is a "never nude," which is, according to the show's narrator, "exactly what it sounds like." It is a medical condition that prevents him from ever being completely nude; he wears blue-jean cutoffs under his pants. They are worn in the shower and at all other times. This does not sit well with his wife, Lindsay, to whom he is (for most intents and purposes more or less) emotionally estranged.
Throughout the series, Tobias makes a number of references that might be perceived as an admission of homosexuality. While the other characters are convinced that he is indeed gay, Tobias is oblivious to this.
George Michael Bluth
George Michael is Michael's son; he was named after his grandfather and father and not George Michael. Like his father, he is an honest figure and only wants to do what is right.
He's also in love with his cousin.
George Michael realizes he has romantic feelings for Maeby in the first few episodes. He is constantly looking for ways to get closer to her, even if it means going along with her bizarre and often immoral schemes. He works as a manager at the Bluth Frozen Banana Stand and normally does well in school (even if he did get that one A-).
Maeby is Lindsay and Tobias's daughter, though Lucille has brought whether she was conceived naturally into question. Maeby's goal in life is to be the complete opposite of her mother; she goes out of her way to oppose the causes her mother supports and vice-versa.
She is not a particularly good student but cons her way into a job at a film studio. Maebe has a crush on Steve Holt, a popular boy at school. She also has a fake persona named Surely, a girl with a disability that she milks for sympathy and money.
She is the exact opposite of George Michael. Does she return his feelings? Maybe.
Barry is the family's attorney. Despite what Lucille and others keep saying about him ("he's very
good,") he's not very good. In fact, he's awful
. In unrelated news, he is also hinted to be a self-hating gay man who patronizes male prostitutes
Bob is the attorney the family eventually hires to replace Barry. In a hilarious bit of intertextuality, he is played by Scott Baio, and one of his first lines is "This isn't the first time I've been called in to replace Barry Zuckerkorn." Indeed, Baio was brought onto the cast of Happy Days as a pseudo-replacement for the Fonz, played by Henry Winkler (Barry).
"Lucille II" is Lucille Bluth's friend and rival. She also becomes Buster's love interest, much to Lucille Bluth's annoyance. She suffers from chronic vertigo and is played by Liza Minnelli.
Annyong is Lucille's adopted Korean child. She signed the adoption papers to teach Buster a lesson, then promptly forgot about it until he arrived. The family does not realize that his name is not really 'Annyong,' but that it is rather the Korean word for 'hello.'
Kitty is the Bluth Company's disgruntled former secretary and George Sr.'s mistress. She knows too much about his dealings to be fired. She also likes to flash people.
Oscar is George Sr.'s twin brother. He had an affair with Lucille both some years back and in the second season. He also continuously hints that he's Buster's real father. Oscar is by all accounts a hippie and knows a great deal about marijuana.
All three seasons are available on DVD
. Each disc features cast and crew commentary for one episode.
The show's producers were sued by the members of the music group named Arrested Development because they felt the show infringed on their work as a band. The case was settled and the producers agreed to explicitly make the distinction between the band and the show. They poked fun at this in the episode Motherboy XXX.
There were 53 episodes in total.
Intertextuality is a major part of this series; it makes many references to previous and future episodes as well as completely independent TV shows and movies. It particularly draws on the cast and crew's previous projects. For instance:
Creator and producer Mitchell Hurwitz was a writer for The Golden Girls. The seniors' home on The Golden Girls was named Shady Pines; the name is used for the rehab facility in Arrested Development.
A number of Ron Howard's narration lines make reference to his past work on The Andy Griffith Show and Happy Days.
As attorney Barry Zuckerkorn, Henry Winkler both does his famous Fonz pose and hops over a dead shark on a pier.
When Tobias wants to spend time in prison to research his role as Frightened Inmate #2, he is allowed to do so because the "new warden was an appreciator of the arts." James Lipton, who played the "new warden," hosts Inside the Actor's Studio.
While Lucille Austero (Liza Minnelli) and Michael are at Tobias's bar, the Queen Mary, "New York, New York" (Minnelli's signature song) begins to play in the background. And then Tobias sings.
And many more...