Way back in the pioneer days of reality TV, long before it was a major source for binge watching, both viewers and critics spent a great deal of time analyzing why everyone was so mesmerized. While there is continued speculation about which plot lines are genuine and which are calculated maneuvers systematically designed to hook audiences, there’s one resounding thing about reality TV that has not changed— the phenomenon of making viewers feel better about their own lives by watching others behaving badly.
Our love of reality TV can, at least partially, explain why we love to watch television about horrible, terrible no-good people. Some call it the Seinfeld effect, but it goes beyond that. Shows like Always Sunny in Philadelphia and You’re the Worst, highlight heinous human behaviour for the sake of entertainment. But what about that family experience we all grew up with on our TGIF line-ups? You know, the sugar coated one that was so syrupy sweet that it’s sure to provide a tooth ache along with a case of the eye rolls. Arrested Development was the modern day answer to this family formula and was brilliant at turning it completely on its head. Based on the Enron scandal, and loosely inspired by J.D. Salinger’s characters in the Glass family it had everything it needed to make audiences laugh and feel better about their own highly dysfunctional families. Running for three celebrated, yet highly precarious seasons, and one lukewarmly-received Netflix revival its addictively hilarious plot and clever dialogue keeps audiences in belly laughs. Here are 15 things you never knew about Arrested Development.
15. ‘Arrested Development’ Is What Happens When You Remove Half Your Brain
Arrested Development is comedy gold. Cracked Magazine described why the show became such a cult favourite. “Arrested Development is like Buffy the Vampire Slayer for comedy nerds. Or Angel. Or Firefly. Pretty much anything Joss Whedon related.” Arrested Development first ran in 2003 and finished its television run in 2006, rebooting eventually on Netflix. The series’ creators weren’t the only big fans of the name. The late 1980s Hip Hop group, Arrested Development, sued Fox Network over the name claiming copyright infringement. The band won the case and walked away with $10,000 in damages. In one of many odes to the show’s title, one of the binders that showcases Buster Bluth’s extracurricular activities reads “Hemispherectomy Surgery”. This is a surgery that removes half of the brain resulting in side effects such as loss of extremities like the hands or feet and, drum roll please, “arrested development”. The show was nominated for 22 Emmy Awards during its lifespan, winning five.
14. Gob & Jeeks
It would seem wrong to picture anyone else playing the Bluth family besides the band of plucky misfits we’ve all grown to love, but there were other people set to play some of the most iconic members of the show. This is very much the case for eldest brother and overly dramatic magician, Gob Bluth. The character Gob (pronounced ‘Jobe’) is based on one of creator Hurwitz’s real relatives who goes by his initials GEK (and pronounces it ‘Jeek’). The original frontrunner for the role of Gob was Rainn Wilson. When Will Arnett was selected instead of Rainn, Wilson picked himself up and went right on over to Dunder Mifflin where he played Dwight Schrute in the hit show The Office. For those who are looking for something fun to watch for the next time they watch the series, pay attention to this: whenever Gob has a conversation with another character when he’s riding his vehicle of choice, his Segway, he will always segue all conversation into whatever topic he wants to talk about.
13. Possibly The Weirdest Family On TV
There are some notable family traditions amongst the Bluths. One is a regularly recurring line, “I’ve made a huge mistake.” While this line is usually a trademark of Gob, it is also said by George, Michael, Tobias, Lucille, and even Marta. Another family trend is banners, which get reused inappropriately, and many of which are grammatically incorrect like, “Michael Love Marry” and “Family Love Michael”, or when Gob says, “Take look at banner, Michael!” Another tradition is calling Michael a chicken, only the Bluths don’t ever say the word ‘chicken’, they all act out a chicken in their own unique and ridiculous way, forcing Michael to quip, “Has anyone in this family ever even seen a chicken?” In season four, viewers who pay attention may notice that George Michael is watching a cartoon starring his TV uncle and dad (Will Arnett and Jason Bateman).
12. A Different Brand Of Tobias
David Cross was originally awarded the role of Buster, but turned it down in favour of portraying Tobias, even though the character, along with George Bluth, was never intended to be a show regular. It turns out, the two actors worked so well with the rest of the cast, and were so popular with audiences, they became permanent members of the Bluth family.
Interestingly, Tobias may not have looked quite the same if it weren’t for Cross fighting the network. At the time, Fox had a rule for male sitcom characters that included no hats, mustaches, or fluffy shirts. Thankfully Cross stood his ground and we were all blessed with the majestic mess that we know as Tobias. Additionally, Ron Howard never intended on being the show’s narrator, it happened completely by accident. While working to finalize the pilot episode with the rest of the cast and crew Howard stood in for the role of narrator that they had yet to cast. This role stuck with Howard simply because it just worked.
11. Never-Nudes Really Exist!
Tobias Funke suffers from a condition which he refers to as a “Never Nude”. In the show this means even when he’s showering he’s sporting a pair of scantily clad jorts (jean shorts). This real life condition (jean shorts usually not included) is called gymnophobia and comes from the Greek word gumnos, which means naked. People suffering from gymnophobia get anxious about nudity, even though they realize this fear is irrational. Gymnophobia is generally classified as an anxiety disorder and is most common among children going through puberty. A nice Easter Egg for fans can be found in season four’s episode A New Start, where Tobias dresses as a “Rock Monster” who looks shockingly like the comic book character The Thing. This monster is also a Never-Nude of sorts, with his only item of clothing being a pair of jean shorts.
10. Forgettable Actors, Memorable Characters
Most die-hard Arrested Development fans know that the highly forgettable Ann, George Michael’s girlfriend, was played by two different actors. In the last episode of season one, viewers meet the original Ann, who is so forgettable she is often called “Egg” or “Her” more often than her real name. For these few minutes in the episode, Ann Veal is played by actress Alexandra Torresanni. In season two, Mae Whitman was purposely brought in to replace the original Ann as a part of the joke. Most people didn’t even notice. This is a great testament to the character that cousin Maeby likes to call “No Face”. What many people don’t know is that there were three different Marta Estrellas; a character who was a love interest for both brothers Michael and Gob. Marta was portrayed by Patricia Velasquez, Leonor Varela, and another actress who wasn’t even credited for the role.
9. Definitely, Maeby, Surely
The first character cast for the pilot was Alia Shawkat, as Maeby Funke. While Canadian Michael Cera was in the pilot episode of the show, there was a back-up George Michael in the wings, just in case Cera’s work visa wasn’t approved in time. In the pilot episode, George Michael has his first kiss. This isn’t just a first kiss for a fictional character. It also marks Shawkat’s first kiss, both onscreen and in real life. Shawkat and Whitman (Ann Veal) had worked together in a time before Arrested Development. The two were former colleagues having previously starred together in a family oriented show called State of Grace. The show was a period piece about two girls (one a middle class Jewish girl and the other an upper-class Catholic girl) growing up alongside each other in the 1960s.
8. Foreshadowing Is The Show’s Forte
This show was brilliantly planned out to a fastidious tee. This preplanning of plotlines, finely woven dialogue, and clues can be seen many times throughout the series, particularly for those re-watching. One of the most prominent usages of foreshadowing is when the audience is given numerous clues predicting that Buster would lose his hand to a seal and have it replaced with a hook. In season one, Gob marries a seal trainer (played by Amy Poehler). In season two Buster is reunited with his long lost hand-shaped chair and says, “Wow, I never thought I’d miss a hand so much.” When Buster skips out on the army to play a game of Claw he wins a stuffed animal seal, which the show narrator mentions “Buster had gotten hooked playing”. When Buster sits on a bench in his army fatigues near the beach he is positioned in such a way that the ad he’s in front of says “arm off” to his left. Finally, in the episode where Buster loses his hand, George Bluth says, “What if I never get a chance to reach out and touch that hand of his again?” They practically hit us over the hand with the clues, and we haven’t even mentioned all of them!
7. Fox’s Relationship With The Show Wasn’t As Bad As You Think
As a network, Fox has somewhat of a reputation for creating and then casting aside quality shows (Clone High, Undeclared, Freaks and Geeks, and Firefly to name a few). Despite eventually being cancelled on Fox after three seasons, the network provided some prime opportunities for them to gain more viewers. They once slotted the show timed directly after the ever-popular American Idol, and then in season two after long time TV titan The Simpsons. Since then the show has gained momentum and popularity because of DVD copies of the series and streaming, since it’s been off the air. Just the same, people have a tendency to blame the network for the show’s downfall. Perhaps this is because of the tongue-in-cheek dialogue the writers provided in response to threats of the show being cancelled on numerous occasions. In the beginning of season 2 Michael references how the Bluth’s model home contract has been downsized, specifically from 22 to 18 homes. This is a pointed reference to the reduction in episodes of season two.
6. Double Entendres
Tobias wasn’t the only master of double entendres on the show; the writers loved these gags. They are used frequently throughout the show to amuse cunning linguist fans. A continuous quip on the show involves surveillance trucks monitoring the Bluth family trying not to be noticed or “blend in” to the background. All of these trucks use fake company names affiliated with “Blendin”. Surveillance is completed from inside trucks posing as Blendin Mobile Pet Grooming, Blendin Electric Company, Blendin Catering, and Blendin Moving and Storage. In the episode entitled, The One Where They Build a House, Michael warns Gob that he’ll need to dispose of his boat, which is named The Seaword. Matriarch Lucille believes he’s referring to her and calling his mother “the c-word”. She retorts quickly, “I’ll leave when I’m good and ready.” In season three Gob purchases another boat, which he names “The C-word”, naturally.
5. Famous Guest Stars Galore
When they couldn’t find the right person to portray Lucille Two, Lucille Bluth’s frenemy and Buster’s ongoing love interest, Ron Howard decided to ask his childhood babysitter Liza Minelli to take on the role. She turned out to be a perfect fit. When Carl Weathers was asked to play himself and Tobias’ acting coach, he agreed, but with one caveat, he didn’t want the roll to be anything but Rocky jokes. In fact, it was Weathers himself who suggested he act as Tobias’ mentor in any way possible to save some cash, and this is where, “baby you’ve got a stew going!” came from. When Henry Winkler joined the cast, writers found many ways to pay tribute to the Fonz. In one episode, they even literally had him jump over a shark that was laying on the ground. Other celebrities who really wanted to appear as guests on the show included: Ricky Gervais, Sacha Baron Cohen, and Christopher Walken. Unfortunately, the show was cancelled before opportunities to use them were written. There’s always time in season five, though!
4. Nods To Actors’ Past Projects
The character Lucille Bluth is based on Mitchell Hurowitz’s mother in law, who is also named Lucille, and was seemingly harmless with a passive aggressive wit. When actor Jessica Walters (who played Lucille Bluth) got a hold of the lines she gave them her own spin with an aggressively sharp delivery. The show kept things in the family when they cast Justin Bateman’s sister, Justine Bateman, for an episode to play Nellie, a hooker that Michael Bluth believed might be his real sister. The show decided to turn up the tension in the episode by hinting that the real-life siblings would get busy with each other on screen. When Scott Baio portrays the Bluth’s new lawyer, Bob Loblaw, replacing Henry Winkler as Barry Zuckercorn, there is a tribute to the past relationship between the two actors. Bob Loblaw very proudly announces that this is not the first time he has replaced Zuckercorn. This is a wink to Baio portraying Chachi on Happy Days to appeal to younger audiences once Winkler got a little older.
3. The Making Of A Documentary, Sort Of
The show was shot in documentary style, a sitcom style popularized thanks in part to reality TV. During an interview for the Season 1 DVD box set, star Jason Bateman described Arrested Development as, “The Royal Tenenbaums shot like Cops.” As a part of the doc format when a character swears it gets bleeped out. Producers worked hard to find ways to make sure they didn’t have to blur out the potty-mouthed characters’ faces when they cussed. They usually did this by shooting the reaction of another character who was not swearing, or by blocking the offender’s mouth with other inanimate objects. Sometimes characters would even cover their mouths with their hands. Determined to help keep the doc feel alive, most of the websites mentioned throughout the series (including never-nude.com) existed and were accessible while the series was airing. Since that time, most of these domain names have expired.
2. Meaningful Sets And Locations
There were some notable changes between the airing of the pilot and the regular series. The model house and Lucille’s house were both completely different, but after the pilot they remained consistent. The show often mentions two fictional restaurants: 1) Miss Temple’s, which is very popular on Friday nights, paying a nod to Jewish folks who go out to dinner on Fridays instead of Temple and 2) Skip Church’s, which is supposed to be a happening Sunday brunch location where Christians can go to dine each week and skip out on a church service. For those who never noticed the scenes Howard reveals “from the next episode” never actually occur within the plotlines of the show, even though they make sense as a part of the continuum of the story. The reboot of the Arrested Development series was originally supposed to be a movie, however so much time passed between season three and the movie because of delays it just made more sense to make another season instead.
1. The Real Reason For Cancellation
Yes, Fox ultimately cancelled the show because of poor ratings, but there was more to it than that. One of the reasons the show never signed a new deal with another network was because the creator, Mitch Hurwitz, was pretty “done” with the series and wasn’t keen on staying on to produce more episodes. In 2013, it was released on Netflix as a continuation of the show, with many hit-or-miss episodes. It was given a second chance, and this will continue with the 2017 production. Netflix, in an attempt to get into the Arrested Development spirit, rates all other shows with stars, but Arrested Development gets rated using bananas. As Michael Bluth once brilliantly said, “I was going to say that what has happened to us is a great injustice, that we were never really given a fair chance. But that’s not the truth. We’ve been given plenty of chances. And maybe the Bluths just aren’t worth saving. Maybe we’re not that likeable?”