Coca-coca-caw! Chaw chee-chaw! A coodle-doodle-do! No matter how you dance like a chicken, you can put on your cut-offs, pour yourself some Cloudmir Vodka, and enjoy this list of 48 dysfunctional facts about Arrested Development.
Arrested Development Facts
48. No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service
David Cross had to fight to keep Tobias’s terrible mustache. Fox executive Gayle Berman had a rule for male characters in sitcoms: no hats, no mustaches, no fluffy shirts.
47. The More the Merrier
Mitch Hurwitz’s original script for the Arrested Development pilot was 70 pages long, which is double the standard length for a 22-minute sitcom. The show had one of the highest jokes-per-minute ratios of any show on TV.
46. Franny & Bluthy
Hurwitz told The AV Club that his initial concept for the Bluth family was inspired by J.D. Salinger’s short stories about the Glass family (who appear in Franny & Zooey and Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction). After The Royal Tenenbaums came out, he scrapped his New York intellectuals angle and retooled his idea into a mockumentary about a California family of dummies.
45. Dumbest Guys in the Room
Hurwitz was also inspired by white-collar criminals whose hubris and extravagance lead to their downfall, like the businessmen behind Enron. Hurwitz pitched the idea of following a family going from “riches to rags.” And so the Bluths were born.
44. Fake Endings
Each episode of Arrested Development ends with “teaser” scenes from the next episode—but these scenes never actually happen. Hurwitz told The AV Club that these gags were intended to convince potential advertisers that there was more of the series shot and to entice viewers to come back the next week. Said Hurwitz, “One of the questions they asked of the test audiences after they screened the pilot is “Would you see it again?” It was a great way to get those numbers high. It was like, “Oh, I have to. There’s another one coming.”
43. Apt Description
In an interview included as a special feature the Season 1 DVD box set, series star Jason Bateman described the show as “The Royal Tenenbaums shot like Cops”
A running gag in the show is the forgettable face of George Michael’s girlfriend, Ann. Ann was so forgettable that nobody seemed to notice that she was played by two different actresses. Alessandra Torresani played Ann in her debut appearance in the first season, then the role was taken over permanently by Mae Whitman. No wonder Michael was always asking, “Her?”
41. Three Martas
Ann Veal wasn’t the only character played by multiple actresses: the role of Marta Estrella was played by three different people. Gob and Michael’s love interest was played by Patricia Velasquez, Leonor Varela, and an uncredited actress.
40. Made for Her
Lindsay Bluth was the only character rewritten for an actor after Hurwitz was blown away by how funny Portia de Rossi was in her audition.
39. Domo Arigato
Arrested Development was praised for its self-referential jokes and self-awareness. Jokes often poked fun at the actors’ real-life careers. In a gag in Season 3, Buster gets his hook stuck in the stair car dashboard while dancing to “Mr. Roboto” by Styx. This is a reference to a 1999 Volkswagen commercial featuring a then-unknown Tony Hale singing and dancing to the song.
38. That’s Gotta Hurt
In “For British Eyes Only,” Michael tells George Sr. “That’s a wonderful performance, Dad. You’re a regular Brad Garrett.” This is a dig at actor Jeffrey Tambour, who played George Sr. Brad Garrett won a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series over Tambour the previous season.
37. Happy Accident
Executive Producer Ron Howard became the series narrator by accident. While finalizing the cast and crew, the former Happy Days star filled in for the role, but his voice and delivery worked so well with the tone of the show, he stuck with it.
36. It’s Who You Know
Ron Howard’s Hollywood connections served the show well. When producers told Howard that Liza Minnelli was their “dream” choice to play Lucille 2, Howard asked her himself. The two were old friends—Minnelli used to babysit Howard as a child.
Henry Winkler, who starred with Howard on Happy Days joined the cast as bumbling lawyer Barry Zuckercorn. A few Happy Days jokes snuck in, such as Winkler performing Fonzie’s signature hair-combing look-in-the-mirror-and-shrug gesture whenever Zuckercorn looks in a mirror.
34. Jumping the Shark
A Happy Days stunt coined the phrase “Jumping the Shark”, referring to a scene where the Fonz jumped over a shark on water skis. The phrase has come to refer to the phenomenon where TV shows attempt bigger and more absurd stunts to distract viewers from the quality of the show declining. Arrested Development couldn’t resist the joke, and filmed a scene of Zuckercorn jumping over a shark while on his way to Burger King in Season Two.
33. Second Chance
Andy Richter’s sitcom Quintuplets may have been canceled after only one season, but he got to play quintuplets on Arrested Development. Richter made a cameo in Season 2, but the year after his own show was canceled, he returned to play quintuplets Rocky Richter, Emmet Richter, Chereth Richter, and Donnie Richter, and, of course, himself.
32. Just in Case
Michael Cera, who played George Michael Bluth, had an understudy. Cera, who is Canadian, was having visa issues while filming the pilot. He had to go to Tijuana, Mexico to obtain another visa, so Michael Angarano was cast on standby to play George Michael in case Cera was deported.
31. Before He Was Famous
Arrested Development was Michael Cera’s breakout role, and he was still relatively unknown when the show first aired. According to the Arrested Development Documentary Project, when Cera walked the red carpet with Will Arnett and Jason Bateman at their first Emmys in 2002, they were shocked to hear photographers shouting “Michael Cera! Michael Cera!” at them. That is, until they realized that Cera was standing between Michael Douglas and Sarah Jessica Parker, and the photogs were actually chanting “Michael! Sarah!” at the two megastars.
30. That Hair
The character of Oscar Bluth, George Sr.’s identical twin brother, was born of a joke after Jeffrey Tambour entered the writers’ room wearing a wig. “The next day, Oscar was born,” he said.
29. Playing Himself
Those living outside of Orange County may not have noticed, but the news anchor who appears throughout Arrested Development is real-life anchor John Beard. At the time the show aired, he was anchoring the evening news for Fox Los Angeles affiliate KTTV in Orange County. When Arrested Development aired at 9:30, it was common for viewers to see Beard do a scene on the show, then see him anchor the real news right after at 10:00.
Rob Corddry’s gun-loving actor character Moses Taylor takes his name from NRA spokesman Charlton Heston. Heston’s two most famous roles were Moses, from The Ten Commandments and George Taylor in Planet of the Apes.
27. Sued Development
Arrested Development was sued by an Atlanta hip-hop group of the same name, who cited consumer confusion and brand dilution, and finally settled for an undisclosed sum out of court. The show poked fun at the frivolous lawsuit in the episode “Motherboy XXX”—the narrator claims he is “legally required to make a distinction” and point out that the pageant called “Motherboy” is in no way affiliated with the fictional band Motherboy.
26. Who Is Motherboy?
A photo of Motherboy, the fictional KISS-like metal band made up by the show to poke fun at a real lawsuit, is shown for only a few seconds, but eagle-eyed fans noticed similarities between the Motherboy rockers and the show’s real-life cast members. If you look closely, under the makeup you’ll see Jason Bateman, Jeffrey Tambour, Tony Hale, Will Arnett—plus a cameo by legendary comedy writer Robert Smigel.
25. Suppressed Laughter
With scripts as funny as episodes of Arrested Development, it’s a wonder the actors could get through scenes without laughing. According to Will Arnett, nobody made the other actors “break” (i.e. crack up during the scene) more than Tony Hale, who played Buster.
24. Husband & Wife
In the show’s first season, Gob Bluth marries a seal dealer whose name he can never remember, which turns into a running gag through the show. Will Arnett, who plays Gob, could definitely remember the actress’s name though—she was played by Amy Poehler, Arnett’s real-life wife. Gob’s only guess about his wife’s name was pretty close: at one point Gob claims if he knew it, he’d mock her with it, saying, “Bad example: if her name is Amy, I’ll call her Blamey.”
23. No Soup for You!
In a scene from “For British Eyes Only,” when Michael confronts George Sr. about his meeting with Saddam Hussein, George Sr. claims, “I thought that was the guy who played the Soup Nazi… I told him how much I liked his work.” Later in the season, one of the Saddam Hussein lookalikes is played by Larry Thomas, who played the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld.
22. Blah Blah Blah
Scott Baio joined the cast to play the smooth, no-nonsense lawyer Bob Loblaw. The tongue-twister name is used as a gag throughout the show (such as his website, the Bob Loblaw Law Blog, and a headline reading “Bob Loblaw Lobs Law Bomb”). Because of his thick New York accent, Baio over-pronounced the “aw” in “Loblaw” and took a while to realize the name was a joke.
21. Job Perks
What was Henry Winkler’s favorite part of playing Barry Zuckerkorn? He got to keep the ties.
20. There’s Always Money in the Banana Stand
Bluth’s Frozen Banana Stand was inspired by real life. Series creator Mitch Hurwitz and his brother Michael started a chocolate-chip cookie business in 1976 when they were still teenagers. With help from their father, they renovated a taco stand in Newport Beach, where Arrested Development is set. In 2013, Hurwitz said that the cookie business put him and his brother through college, and still thrives with a brick-and-mortar location in Boston and mail order business nationwide.
19. Uncle Jack
“Uncle” Jack (played by Martin Short) is loosely based off real-life fitness guru Jack LaLanne. The terse speech, mannerisms, dress, and dyed jet-black hair are all trademarks of Lalanne, who, unlike Uncle Jack, was, at 90 years old, still mobile and agile when the episode aired.
18. Sound Familiar?
In an episode in Season Four, George-Michael is seen watching a cartoon show. That show is actually Sit Down, Shut Up, an animated show featuring the voices of Will Arnett and Jason Bateman, who play George-Michael’s uncle and father on Arrested Development.
17. Sad Music
A running gag in the show is, whenever a character is dejected, to show the character walking slow, with head and arms hanging, along to a song from A Charlie Brown Christmas called “Christmas Time is Here.” This started in the episode “Good Grief,” named for Charlie Brown’s famous catchphrase. When George-Michael walks by, dejected, you can see a black and white beagle napping atop red doghouse in the background.
16. Can’t Catch Up
Lucille Bluth’s housekeeper Lupe is often given hand-me-downs of the family’s clothing and furniture. In the show, on Holidays she’s always shown wearing sweaters that are two holidays behind. She wears a “BOO!” sweatshirt during a Christmas party and a “Gobble Gobble” sweatshirt on Valentine’s Day. In one episode featuring a flashback 1994 in which she’s wearing a Bush/Quayle sweatshirt (presumably from their unsuccessful Presidential run in 1992).
15. Hidden Jokes
Two fictional restaurants on Arrested Development are Miss Temple’s (said to be popular on Friday nights) and Skip Church’s, where characters go for Sunday brunch. The names of the restaurants are subtle jokes—Jews who skip synagogue to go to Miss Temple’s on a Friday night would be doing just that—missing temple. Any Christians who dine on a Skip’s Scramble at Sunday brunch at Skip Church’s would also be skipping church.
14. Highbrow Reference
When Buster discovers that his biological father is not George Sr., but George’s brother, Oscar, he begins calling Oscar his “uncle-father.” This reference may have flown over many heads—it’s a reference to Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Hamlet’s uncle killed his father and married his mother—in Act II, Scene 2 he quips, ”… my uncle-father and aunt-mother are deceived…”
13. Splitting The Vote
In the episode “Immaculate Election”, the student council race was created to mirror the 2004 Presidential race. George-Michael represented John Kerry, Steve Holt stood in for George W. Bush, and Rav Nadir represented—you guessed it—Ralph Nader.
You may not have recognized the actor who played Dr. Stein, who re-attaches Gob’s fingers and adds some spring to his step. He’s incredibly famous, but not for his face. Dan Castellaneta is better known as the voice of Homer Simpson on Fox’s The Simpsons. He even slips in a “D’oh!”
11. So Meta
Here’s another Happy Days reference: in Season Three, when Bob Loblaw, played by Scott Baio, replaces Barry Zuckercorn, played by Henry Winkle, as the Bluth’s family lawyer he quips, “Look, this is not the first time I’ve been brought in to replace Barry Zuckerkorn. I think I can do for you everything he did. Plus, I skew younger. With juries and so forth.” It wasn’t, in fact, the first time: Baio was brought in to play Chachi Arcola, the younger cousin of Fonzie, on Happy Days—effectively replacing Fonzie in order to appeal to younger viewers.
10. Sibling Rivalry
In Season three, Michael Bluth discovers—or thinks he has discovered—a long-lost sister. The sister, Nellie, was played by Justine Bateman, Jason Bateman’s sister in real life. In the show, it’s unclear whether Michael and Nellie are actually brother and sister, and before Nellie learns the truth, the series made much of the tension and awkward humor over whether or not the real-life siblings would kiss on-screen.
9. Borrowed Frame
When Michael’s love interest, Rita, played by Charlize Theron, is revealed to have had plastic surgery, a “before” picture is shown. That photo is actually a still from her film Monster, for which she had gained 30 pounds and wore extensive special-effects make-up to make her look like serial killer Aileen Wuornos.
8. Sneaky Cuss
As a Primetime show, Arrested Development had to keep their language clean, bleeping expletives and covering characters’ mouths if they cursed. The show did cleverly sneak one by the sensors: in “Afternoon Delight,” a scene starts in while GOB is in the middle of talking, saying “-king $6,300 suit. Come on!” Later in the episode, there’s a flashback to the first part of GOB’s sentence, in which he says, “No, Al. I want to spill booze all over my fu…” The expletive snuck through being censored because it was cut in half.
Season Four features Isla Fisher as Rebel Alley, the love interest of both Michael and his son George-Michael. The narrator, voiced by Ron Howard, explains that the fictional character Rebel is Ron Howard’s illegitimate daughter, and is named like Howard’s other children: her middle name (Alley) is taken from her place of conception—like Bryce Dallas Howard, conceived in Dallas. An extra joke is that Cheryl, Howard’s real-life wife, has the maiden name “Alley.”
6. Subtle Dig
Arrested Development was constantly under threat of being canceled and numerous references are made to this throughout the show. In the premiere of Season 2, Michael mentions that the Bluth Company’s model home contract had been “reduced from 22 to 18 homes”—a direct reference to Fox cutting the episode order for the second season from 22 to 18 episodes.
Arrested Development was finally canceled in 2006 after it’s third season. At the time, Nielsen had yet to begin counting ratings from DVR—which Jason Bateman thought was the show’s natural format. “I think people quickly realized, ‘Well, I’m better served to watch this show after I’ve recorded it,’” he said. The fast-paced jokes played better when not broken up by commercials, but it meant the show’s viewers were going uncounted.
4. Never Nude
Tobias’s psychological aversion to being naked, aka a “Never Nude”, is an actual diagnosed anxiety called gymnophobia. However, the compulsion to always wear jean cut-offs under clothes was made up for the show.
Netflix announced it was renewing Arrested Development for a fourth season in 2013 — ten years after the first season aired. They announced Season 5 in 2015, and have confirmed that the fifth season, featuring the full cast, will hit Netflix’s streaming platform in 2018. One of the planned storylines, alluded to in season 4, was to have George Bluth start living life as a woman. At the end of season 4, he had no testosterone left. However, in light of his role in the Amazon series Transparent, it looks like this plot line has already been scrapped.
2. Star Power
The show was so packed with guest stars that some had to settle for a non-speaking role, including Jack Black, who only appeared briefly in the background in one episode. There were other stars that Hurwitz wanted to appear but that they simply never had time for, including Sacha Baron Cohen, Ricky Gervais, and Christopher Walken.
1. First Kiss
Actress Alia Shawkat was only 14 when she took the role of Maeby Fünke. She hadn’t ever kissed a boy until she shared her first kiss on-screen with Michael Cera. She told The AV Club it was a bit awkward—especially with her father on-set watching her.