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Arrested Development (TV series)

Arrested Development is a character-driven American television sitcom about a formerly wealthy, habitually dysfunctional family. The show sometimes incorporates devices used in documentaries with its use of narration, archival photos, and historical footage. Although set in Newport Beach and Balboa Island, California, Arrested Development was primarily filmed around Culver City and Marina del Rey.

The show was created by Mitchell Hurwitz. Ron Howard is an executive producer and the uncredited narrator. It has aired on broadcast networks around the world, including Fox in the United States, The Comedy Channel (Pay TV) in Australia, Global (original run) and CBC (syndication) in Canada and BBC Two in the United Kingdom.

Since debuting on November 2, 2003, the series received six Emmy awards, one Golden Globe, critical acclaim, a cult fan base, several fan-based websites, and a spot on Time Magazine's 100 Greatest Shows of All Time. Despite the thorough approval from critics, Arrested Development never climbed in the ratings. Fox aired the final four episodes of the third season in a block as a two-hour series finale on February 10, 2006, opposite the opening ceremonies of the 2006 Winter Olympics.

In February 2008, cast members Jeffrey Tambor and Jason Bateman confirmed in interviews that a future motion picture may be in the works, and that although Hurwitz "does not yet have a script, he has a good, solid understanding of what he'd like to do for the movie." Will Arnett also confirmed on Late Night with Conan O'Brien that a movie was currently being planned.


Discussion which led to the creation of the series began in the summer of 2002. Ron Howard had the original idea to create a comedy in the style of hand-held cameras and reality television, but with an elaborate, highly-comical script resulting from repeated rewritings and rehearsals. Howard met with David Nevins, the President of Imagine Television, Katie O’Connell, a senior Vice President, and two writers, including Mitchell Hurwitz. In light of recent corporate accounting scandals, such as Enron and Adelphia, Hurwitz suggested a story about a "riches to rags" family. Howard and Imagine were immediately interested in using this idea, and signed Hurwitz on to write the show. The idea was pitched and sold in Fall 2002. Over the next few months, Hurwitz developed the characters and plot to the series. The pilot script was submitted in January 2003, and filmed in March 2003. It was submitted in late April, and added to the Fall Fox schedule in May.


The plot of Arrested Development revolves around the members of the Bluth family, who generally lead excessive lifestyles. At the center of the show is the relatively honorable Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman), who strives to do the right thing and keep his family together, despite their materialism, selfishness, and manipulative natures. His teenage son, George Michael (Michael Cera), has the same qualities of decency, but feels a constant pressure to live up to his father's expectations, and is reluctantly willing to follow his father's plans, which do not always agree with his.

Michael's father George Bluth Sr. (Jeffrey Tambor) is the patriarch of the family. At times dictatorial, George Sr. goes to considerable lengths to manipulate and control his family. His wife, and Michael's mother, Lucille (Jessica Walter), is equally manipulative, materialistic, and hypercritical of every member of her family, not to mention being a perpetual drunk. In particular, she has a tight grip on her youngest son Byron "Buster" Bluth (Tony Hale), who, as a result of his mother's dominance and sheltering, is unstable, socially inept, and prone to panic attacks.

Michael's older brother is Gob, played by Will Arnett. His name is an acronym for George Oscar Bluth II, and although pronounced Jōb, as in the Biblical figure, it is frequently mispronounced as Gŏb by various characters in the show. Gob is an unsuccessful professional magician whose business and personal schemes usually fail. He uses a Segway for transportation, and sometimes converses with others from it while stationary, as if it were a pulpit. Gob is used by his father to undermine Michael's control of the family business. Michael's twin sister Lindsay Fünke (Portia de Rossi) is flamboyant and materialistic, continually desiring to be the center of attention and attracted to various social causes, usually for a week or so. She enjoys being objectified, but also protests it. She is married to Tobias Fünke (David Cross), a discredited psychiatrist, aspiring actor, and "never-nude", whose language and behavior have heavily homosexual overtones, which he seems totally oblivious to and is the center of much tongue-in-cheek comedy throughout the series. Their attention-starved but sweet daughter Mae "Maeby" Fünke (Alia Shawkat) is the polar opposite of her cousin George Michael—skipping school, cheating on homework, and stealing money from the family's frozen banana stand business (which also happens to be managed by George Michael). The ever-rebellious teen, Maeby's chief motivation is going against her parents' wishes.

Several other characters regularly appear in minor roles. George Sr.'s identical twin brother Oscar (Jeffrey Tambor) is a lethargic ex-hippie seeking the affection of George's wife Lucille. The family's lawyer, Barry Zuckerkorn (Henry Winkler) is an incompetent sexual deviant, who often hinders the family's legal battles rather than helping them. Lucille Austero, or "Lucille 2", played by Liza Minnelli, is Lucille's "best friend and chief social rival" as well as a sometimes-love interest of Buster, and later, Gob. Carl Weathers plays a parodic version of himself as an unemployed, excessively thrifty actor. Beginning in the second season, Mae Whitman portrays Ann Veal, George Michael's sternly Christian girlfriend, who is often forgotten or disparaged by Michael. Ann had been played by Alessandra Toreson in the character's first appearance in Season 1 in the episode "Let 'Em Eat Cake".


The most difficult part for casting the series involved finding people who would be believable as a family. Alia Shawkat was the first person cast. Michael Cera, Tony Hale, and Jessica Walter were cast from video tapes and flown in to audition for Fox. Jason Bateman and Portia de Rossi both read and auditioned for the network, and were immediately chosen. The character of Gob was the most challenging to cast. When Will Arnett auditioned, he depicted the character in an interesting way, different from expectations; he was chosen immediately. The characters of Tobias and George Sr. were originally going to have minor roles, but David Cross's and Jeffrey Tambor's portrayals mixed well with the rest of the characters, and they were given more significant parts. Ron Howard, the Executive Producer, provided the narration for the initial pilot, but meshed so well with the tone of the program that the decision was made to stick with his voice. Howard also aided in the casting of "Lucille 2" - the producers told him that their dream actress for the role would be Liza Minnelli, but assumed nobody of her stature would take the part. However, Ron Howard offered to ask her himself, because they were old friends; she had in fact been his babysitter when he was a child and she was a teen.

Plot synopsis

First season

George Bluth Sr., patriarch of the Bluth family, is the founder and former CEO of the Bluth Company, which markets and builds mini-mansions, among other activities. George Sr. is arrested by the Securities and Exchange Commission for defrauding investors and gross spending of the company's money for "personal expenses". His wife Lucille becomes CEO, and immediately names as the new president her youngest son Buster, who proves ill equipped. Seeing no other options, the family turns to Michael, the middle son, and twin to the Bluths' only girl, Lindsay, giving him control of the company. To keep the family together, Michael convinces his son and sister's family to live together in a Bluth model home.

Throughout the first season, different characters struggle to change their identities. Buster works to escape from his mother's control through brotherly bonding and love interests such as Lucille Austero. George Michael nurses a forbidden crush on his cousin Maeby, while continually trying to meet his father's expectations. Lindsay's husband Tobias, a psychiatrist who has lost his medical license, searches for work as an actor, with the aid of Carl Weathers. Michael falls in love with his older brother Gob's neglected girlfriend Marta, and is torn between being with her and putting "family first". After he quarrels with Gob, Marta realizes that they do not share the same family values, and she leaves them both. To spite Buster, Lucille adopts a Korean son whom she calls 'Annyong' after she mistakes the Korean word for 'hello' as his name. Through an escalating series of dares, Gob gets married to a woman he just met, played by real life wife Amy Poehler, but cannot get an annulment because he refuses to admit that he did not consummate the marriage. Kitty, George Sr.'s former assistant, tries to blackmail the company. She is caught in the Bluth family yacht's explosion, as used in one of Gob's magic acts, but survives. After previous failed attempts, and a brief religious stint in Judaism, George Sr. finally escapes from prison by faking a heart attack. It is also revealed that George committed "light treason" by using the company to build mini-palaces for Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

Second season

Because of his father's latest lie about a heart attack, Michael decides to leave his family and company behind. Lucille appoints Gob to be the new Bluth Company president, but he proves incapable and the position reverts to Michael. George Sr.'s twin brother Oscar moves in with Lucille in an attempt to rekindle a previous love affair. After faking his death in Mexico, George Sr. returns to the family model home, where he hides in the attic. Meanwhile, Buster joins the army, but escapes serving in Iraq when his hand is bitten off by a loose seal. He bonds with his uncle Oscar, who is revealed as Buster's presumptive biological father. George Michael begins dating a deeply religious girl, Ann Veal; his father does not like her, and tries to disrupt their relationship. Michael fails to break them up, but George Michael sees a chance for his crush on Maeby to bear fruit, and the pair kiss while the living room of the model home collapses under them.

Covertly, Maeby becomes a film studio executive, and Tobias repeatedly paints himself blue in a futile attempt to join the Blue Man Group. Throughout the season, various blue paint marks can be seen around the family's house and on the back of Tobias's neck when not in full makeup. After being kicked out by Lindsay, Tobias dresses as "Mrs. Featherbottom" to be around Maeby, an explicit reference to Mrs. Doubtfire. Kitty returns to steal a sample of George Sr.'s semen to make her own Bluth baby. George Sr., in revenge for twin brother Oscar's affair with his wife, exchanges appearances with an unconscious Oscar, who is mistakenly sent to prison in the place of George Sr., who again flees.

Third season

In the third season, Michael once again begins searching for his runaway father. Gob gets an invitation to a father/son reunion outing, and believes it to be George Sr. trying to contact him. In reality, the invitation was meant to reunite Gob with Steve Holt, son of Eve Holt, a girl with whom he had slept in high school. Meanwhile, George Michael and Maeby deal with their previous kiss by avoiding each other.

George Sr., in an attempt to remain in disguise, joins the Blue Man Group. Michael discovers this, and arranges to have his father placed under house arrest. George Sr. claims that he was set up by an underground British group. Michael goes to Wee Britain, a fictional British-themed city district, to investigate, and in the process meets a new love interest Rita (Charlize Theron). Michael and the audience are led to believe that Rita is a mole for the underground British group, working for a man named "Mr. F." In the end of the episode titled "Mr. F," it is revealed that Rita is actually an MRF, or "mentally retarded female." The love-struck Michael proposes to her, and the couple run off to be wed. Michael finds out the truth about Rita. However, despite Rita's "condition," the family pushes him to go forward with the marriage because Rita is, in fact, quite wealthy and they desperately want the money. Michael is not persuaded, and gently ends the relationship just as he and Rita are about to walk down the aisle. Meanwhile, Tobias and Lindsay variously seek legal help from Bob Loblaw (Scott Baio) (pronounced, "Blah-blah-blah") concerning their troubled marriage.

Disturbed by both Lindsay's and Tobias's advances, Bob Loblaw chooses to no longer represent the Bluth family. Attorney Jan Eagleman offers to represent the family, on the condition that they participate in a mock trial in a new reality courtroom show called "Judge Reinhold" and presided over by the very same Judge Reinhold. Michael uses an illegal threat from prosecutors to have the mock case "dismissed," while Gob and Franklin briefly appear in another eponymous courtroom show presided over by Bud Cort. Meanwhile, Maeby and George Michael perform in a mock wedding which is accidentally conducted by a real priest, and the two become legally married.

The family members are afraid to testify at the mock trial and later real deposition, so Buster fakes a coma, Lindsay and Lucille fake entering rehab, and Gob flees the country to perform in a USO Tour in Iraq. All of the deceptions are uncovered by the prosecution, and in Iraq, Gob is arrested for inadvertently inciting an anti-US riot. Buster and Michael travel to Iraq to rescue Gob, and while there, uncover evidence that the mini-palaces George Sr. built in Iraq were actually ordered and paid for by the CIA for wiretapping purposes. After this discovery, the US government drops all of the charges against George Sr.

To celebrate, the Bluths throw a shareholders' party on the RMS Queen Mary. During preparation for the party, it is revealed that Lindsay was adopted, meaning that George Michael and Maeby are not blood relatives. At the party, the Bluth's other adopted child, Annyong, reappears. He reveals that he is there to avenge the Bluth family's theft of his grandfather's frozen banana idea and his subsequent deportation, an event orchestrated many years earlier by Lucille Bluth. Annyong has turned over evidence implicating Lucille in the Bluth Company's accounting scandals. Before the police arrive, Michael and George Michael flee on Gob's yacht, the C-Word, and depart to Cabo with half a million dollars in cashier's checks, finally leaving the family to fend for themselves. However, it is revealed in the epilogue that George Sr. is also on the yacht, having lured his brother Oscar into taking his place once again. Also in the epilogue, Maeby tries to sell the television rights to the story of the Bluth family to Ron Howard, who tells her that he sees it as a movie rather than a series.

In light of FOX's possible cancellation of the show, the first episode of 2006 parodied various gimmicks that other shows had used during November sweeps in 2005. Thinly-veiled allusions were made to the possibility of HBO or Showtime picking the show up in the event of its cancellation. The episode took shots at frequently cited reasons for the show's failure in the ratings, such as complex storylines that can be hard to follow, obscure references that may go over viewers' heads, and main characters who were not sympathetic or relatable.


Season Ep # First Airdate Last Airdate
Season 1 22 November 2, 2003 June 6, 2004
Season 2 18 November 7, 2004 April 17, 2005
Season 3 13 September 19, 2005 February 10, 2006

Themes and other characteristics

The show focuses on the tension that developed between the members of the Bluth family, primarily from their diminished spending power. Each show pulls from a serpentine mix of sibling rivalries, unresolved oedipal conflicts, sexual incompatibilities, personal identity crises, adolescent trauma, aging, pride, miscommunication, lying, guilt, subterfuge, determination, immigration, manipulation, mutilation, social status anxiety, incest taboo, alcoholism, and a wide variety of other themes.

Much like other dysfunctional-family comedies such as Malcolm in the Middle and The Simpsons, the family unit is depicted as necessary for the survival of the individual. Much of the comedy comes from the quirks of the characters and the patterns that developed within the family structure.

Unique presentation

Arrested Development uses several elements that are rare for American live-action sitcoms. Like a documentary, it often cuts away abruptly from scenes in order to supplement the narrative with material such as security camera footage, Bluth family photos, website screenshots, and archive films. This is a similar but not identical feature to the cutaway segments which appear in comedies such as Family Guy and Scrubs. Flashbacks are also extensively used to show the Bluth family in various stages of their lives. The show does not employ a laugh track, allowing for uninterrupted back-and-forth dialogue and permitting more time for plot development and jokes. An omniscient third-person narrator (producer Ron Howard, uncredited) ties together the multiple plot threads running through each episode, and provides tongue-in-cheek commentary. Wordplay is abundant, for humor and plot; a character may misinterpret an ambiguous phrase with embarrassing or disastrous results.

Opening credits

With few exceptions, Arrested Development begins immediately with the title credits, rather than a cold open (which is more common for modern sitcoms). Over a series of slides introducing the characters using archive photos, Ron Howard provides a narrative summary of the show's premise ("Now the story of a wealthy family who lost everything, and the one son who had no choice but to keep them all together. It's Arrested Development.") accompanied by the show's theme tune. The credits serve to immediately introduce the new viewer to many of the unique elements of the show: the documentary-style use of archive photos and footage, the upbeat soundtrack, and the presence of the narrator.

"On the next Arrested Development"

Almost every episode ends with an epilogue segment called "On the next Arrested Development," in which lingering stories are wrapped up or extended humorously. These segments portray events that do not usually appear in the subsequent episodes, but remain part of the show's canon. However, on some rare occasions (typically in the first half of a two-part episode), scenes from these portions are worked into the following episode; also, the segment occasionally shows a significant plot twist (e.g. Maggie Lizer's deception, Buster's accident, Steve Holt's discovery). The second episode of Season 3 reversed this by having "Previously on..." featuring the resolution of the cliffhanger and nearly an entire episode of plot changes within thirty seconds. The epilogue sometimes shows a several-second continuation of the previous scene, in comically direct opposition to the name of the sequence.

The first and second season finales changed the segment to "On the next season of Arrested Development…" and in the third season finale (which was also the series finale), it became "On the epilogue…".

Intertextuality and reflexivity

The show is highly intertextual and reflexive, features commonly associated with postmodernism. For example, Arrested Development often alludes to the past work of its cast and crew through the restaging of familiar scenarios, such as Fonzie's jumping the shark from Happy Days, Tony Hale's bit part in a Volkswagen commercial, and by casting former collaborators in small bit parts, including many cast members from Mr. Show as well as improv comics from Christopher Guest films. Guest stars frequently appear from other lauded television comedies such as The Daily Show, Seinfeld, Scrubs, The Office, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Upright Citizens Brigade and The Simpsons. The show's reflexiveness may be literal or subtle. In the episode "For British Eyes Only," Michael tells George Sr., who he believes is trying to convince him of a lie, "You're a regular Brad Garrett." This is in reference to the Emmy Awards that directly preceded the episode's original airing, where Garrett beat out Jeffrey Tambor (George Sr.) for "Best Supporting Actor." The series has acknowledged its competition (Desperate Housewives), commercial sponsor (Burger King), its struggle to go after an "idiot demographic," its use of dramatic moments as act breaks, and Fox's cutback of the second season to 18 episodes. The episode "S.O.B.s" made numerous references to Arrested Development's attempts to remain on air by parodying typical television ratings ploys and hinted at the attempts of other networks to purchase the series from Fox. In another example Charlize Theron's character Rita is shown prior to her plastic surgery, which is a picture of her in her Monster role. In addition, narrator Ron Howard has made several references to his experiences on The Andy Griffith Show and Happy Days.


Several of the major characters of the show are at some stage involved in a plot with incestuous themes . Frequently, this theme is linked with questions about murky family lineage. For example, George Michael's attraction to Maeby, who may or may not be his cousin. There is also the neat symmetry of Maeby's interest in Steve Holt, who likewise may or may not be her cousin. In the second season, the episode "Afternoon Delight" played on this theme when Michael and Maeby (and later George Michael and Lindsay) sing the Starland Vocal Band song of the same name, being unaware of its sexual nature. This theme is explored on one particularly notable occasion in the episode "Family Ties", through the character of Nellie Bluth, who Michael thinks for a time might be his older sister, but who herself presumes Michael is interested in her for sex. The fact that Nellie Bluth is played by Jason Bateman's real life sister Justine Bateman (who also starred in the 1980s sitcom "Family Ties") lends the plot line an additional layer of comedic complication. Yet another example of this theme is when, upon discovering her adoption, Lindsay attempts to seduce her brother Michael. Gob, out of brotherly competition, later attempts to seduce her. Another running joke throughout the series was Buster's Freudian obsession with his mother. This strangely co-dependent relationship is highlighted in the episode "Motherboy XXX", where Buster says: "whenever she'd change clothes, she'd make me wait on the balcony until zip-up – and yet anything goes at bath-time."


Arrested Development plays with divisive, controversial social and political issues. Writers have turned references to the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, the U.S. Army's recruiting crisis, inadequate supplies for US troops, the non-existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and George W. Bush's "Mission Accomplished" photo-op into jokes. In that same vein, George Sr. has appeared with Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. There are also occasional references made to the USA PATRIOT Act, namely as a catchall excuse for the prosecutors against the Bluths to act in underhanded and illegal ways. It has also poked fun at the decadence of American white collar criminals, "limousine liberals", religious protest campaigns, the Terri Schiavo debate, controversy over public display of the Ten Commandments, and the restriction of protesters to "free speech zones". Other references include "Girls with Low Self-Esteem" (a parody of Girls Gone Wild), "Boyfights" (a parody of Bumfights), Michael Moore documentaries, low-carb diets, and "Star Wars Kid".


The plot regularly features callbacks to previous episodes (e.g., Gob's recurring use of the phrases "Come on!" and "I've made a huge mistake" and a disgustedly uttered "typical" whenever Michael is gone or missing, repeated use of family members' "chicken dances" and the infomercial for George Sr.'s infamous invention The Cornballer) and will often use what creator Mitch Hurwitz has termed "call-forwards", wherein plots or events will be foreshadowed in subtle ways. For example, many references are made to the loss of limbs, foreshadowing the loss of Buster's hand in the second season. The first season episode "Pier Pressure" has several flashbacks to George Sr. hiring J. Walter Weatherman, a man with a prosthetic arm, to teach his children “lessons” by staging elaborate scenes in which the man’s arm is pulled or cut off as a result of the children's misbehavior. Before losing his hand, Buster retrieves his hand-shaped chair, which his mother had given to her maid Lupe. He then says, "I never thought I could miss a hand so much." In Season 3, they allude to Rita being mentally retarded in many subtle ways, including a scene in "Forget-Me-Now", when after having been left unconscious on a bus bench by Gob and Lindsey, a still groggy Rita is seen sitting up, partially obscuring an advertisement for "Wee Britain", the (fictional) English-themed section of Orange County, such that it now reads "Wee Brain".


Besides the short ukulele-based theme song composed by David Schwartz, which is also used as Lindsay's cell phone ringtone, a number of other songs are featured prominently in Arrested Development. Gob uses Europe's 1986 hit single "The Final Countdown" in his magic acts, attempting to increase the audience's excitement through improvised dancing and rapid-fire magic tricks. The dramatic, synthesised chords, combined with Gob's high energy and overacting are a clear parody of modern magic acts. "The Final Countdown" is also Gob's ringtone. In the second and third seasons of the show, Gob's duet with his puppet Franklin, titled "It Ain't Easy Being White", has also become a repeated joke. The duet parodies Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney's "Ebony and Ivory". "Cry Love" by John Hiatt is playing in the fourth episode while Gob is playing catch with his father (in prison) and then is stabbed, and also as Michael's feelings for Marta increase. Bryan Adams' "Everything I Do, I Do it For You" can also be heard sung by Gob on his CD he recorded for Michael.

"Free at Last", written by David Schwartz and Gabriel Mann, and performed by Mann and Maxayn Lewis, is used in conjunction with parties, protests, or other events involving gay men, transvestites, or male strippers. A recurring gay crossdresser holds a "Freedom" sign of various sizes under this music. An original song called "Big Yellow Joint", apparently written about the Bluth Banana Stand, sounds almost identical to Arlo Guthrie's "Alice's Restaurant" and is often used in scenes with aged hippie Oscar Bluth or his stash of marijuana. "Gonna Get Together", by Leroy, is used during awkward, sexually suggestive situations involving George Michael and his cousin, Maeby, or his girlfriend, Ann. The song "Ain't No Big Thing" is played when introducing the frontispiece in season-one episode "In God We Trust" to underscore the small size of the prosthetic penis to be worn by George Michael in the living portrayal of The Creation of Adam. Nikka Costa's "Everybody Got Their Something" was used for energetic segues in the pilot, before being supplanted by Schwartz and Mann's stylistically similar "I Get Up" in later episodes. Ashford and Simpson's "Solid" is used by Gob as theme music for his 'Bluth Homes: Solid as a Rock' campaign. The Starland Vocal Band song "Afternoon Delight" acted as a plot point in the second-season episode of the same name. The song "Big Yellow Joint" is also used numerous times, usually in association with the Bluth banana stand, a common drug hotspot in the seventies.

Short clips of music are also used to highlight recurring comedic themes in the series. For example, during George Sr.'s stints with religion, or other religious experiences, whether real or feigned, a duduk moans in the background. "Christmas Time Is Here," Vince Guaraldi's piano theme from A Charlie Brown Christmas, plays when a male character is depressed. Mentions of Mexico get a Spanish guitar riff, and displays of Balboa Bay Window magazine are accompanied by upbeat elevator music. The same dramatic soap opera style music can always be heard (and abruptly cut off) whenever Oscar makes a hint about being Buster's father. For Season 3's recurring motif of an alleged British conspiracy against the Bluth family, music parodying that of the James Bond spy films ('For British Eyes Only') is played at each mention of the British.


Lawsuit over title

In November 2003, the producers of the show were sued by the hip hop group Arrested Development over the use of the name.. The incident was referenced humorously in an episode of the show: In episode "The Sword of Destiny", Tony Wonder (Ben Stiller), a magician, explains that he will have to change the title of his planned home video release because "some band has got the rights to Use Your Illusion." He later releases a video of his magic act as Use Your Allusion II. In episode "Motherboy XXX", the narration refers to a band called "Motherboy", which the narration claims the show is "legally required to make a distinction" from, with respect to the "Motherboy" event happening in the episode. Additionally, in the episode "For British Eyes Only", Gob is forced to change the name of his illusion "Free Bird" due to his inability to get the rights to the name, presumably because of Lynyrd Skynyrd's song. The resulting title, "Free Chicken", draws a significant crowd for the wrong reasons.

Television ratings

The show, while critically acclaimed, did not gain a sizable audience. According to the Nielsen Ratings system, U.S. ratings in the second season averaged about six million viewers, while the third season averaged about four million viewers. To promote their re-broadcast of the animated series Family Guy, FOX announced that it would halt the production of the second season at eighteen episodes – four episodes short of the planned season. Despite rumors that this was a prelude to cancellation, the network defended its actions, claiming that the show would fare poorly during network sweeps period, and that it was simply a procedural matter. The show's writers did, however, parody this in the episode "Sword of Destiny," which aired in March 2005: in the beginning of the episode, Michael is complaining because the Bluth Company's order to design and build 22 homes has been cut down to 18 homes. Later in the episode, FOX is parodied when a website is swamped with popup ads about Family Guy.

For the third season, FOX positioned the show at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT and 7:00 p.m. CT/MT, directly opposite Monday Night Football in the Mountain and Pacific time zones, whereas MNF would not have started yet in the other two. Ratings were even worse than previous seasons. On November 9, 2005, FOX announced that the show would not be airing in November sweeps, and that they had cut the episode order for the third season from 22 to 13. FOX ended up showing the last four episodes in a two-hour timeslot — directly opposite the opening ceremonies of the 2006 Winter Olympics. As a result, the finale received only 3.3 million viewers.

Critical reception

Since its debut and throughout its run, the series has been critically acclaimed.

"Is it beating a dead horse to once again state that this underappreciated gem is the best sitcom on TV? Too bad. 'Arrested Development' is the best sitcom on TV!"
—Tim Stack, Entertainment Weekly, October 14, 2005, p.133

"If you're not watching this series on Fox, the least you can do is buy it on DVD. You'll love it, and it's such a dense show (in the best sense of the word) that it rewards repeated viewing. Like Scrubs and the British version of The Office, it's the sort of show that truly deserves to be seen uninterrupted, several episodes at a time, for maximum enjoyment. The laughs-per-minute quotient here is insanely high, making it great value as a home library purchase."
—David Bianculli, New York Daily News, October 12, 2005.

"As Hollywood agents worry about the demise of the town's lowing cash cow, the multi-camera, staged sitcom, here to save the day is Arrested Development, a farce of such blazing wit and originality, that it must surely usher in a new era in comedy."
—Alison Powell, The Guardian (UK), March 12, 2005.

"This lampoon about a wealthy American family trying to survive while its patriarch is in jail for fraud is one of the funniest shows on telly."
—Marc McEvoy, The Age (Australia), October 17, 2005.

"As oddball as Arrested is, it's also humane. A flawless cast — from Will Arnett's breathy, bombastic Gob to Jessica Walter's boozy Lucille — grounds it, aided by Ron Howard's affable narration. Of course, the center of sensibility is good son Michael (Jason Bateman) and his even better son, George Michael (Michael Cera). Bateman and Cera give the best reacts around — the former all weary exasperation, the latter adorably bunny-stunned. Together, they're the sweetest, awkwardest straight men on the smartest, most shockingly funny series on TV...which is likely canceled, despite six Emmy wins. It's a perversion not even the Bluths deserve."
—Gillian Flynn, Entertainment Weekly, Best of 2005 Issue naming Arrested Development the best TV show of 2005

Nominations and awards

For the first season, the show won five Emmy Awards in 2004, including "Outstanding Comedy Series," "Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series," "Outstanding Casting for a Comedy Series" and "Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series," both for the pilot episode written by Mitchell Hurwitz and for direction by brothers Joe and Anthony Russo. In 2005, the second season brought eleven Emmy nominations in seven categories and one win, for "Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series" for the season finale "Righteous Brothers," written by Mitchell Hurwitz and Jim Vallely. For its truncated third season, the show received four 2006 Emmy nominations, including Outstanding Comedy Series, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series (Will Arnett as Gob), Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Comedy Series for the episode "Ocean Walker," and Outstanding Comedy Writing for the episode "Development Arrested. The show also has a spot on Time Magazine's 100 Greatest Shows of All Time.

Other awards include:

  • The 2004 TV Land Award for "Future Classic," the first recognition the series received. The award presentation is included on the Season One DVD release.
  • The Television Critics Association 2004 Awards for "Outstanding Comedy" and "Outstanding New Program," and the 2005 award for "Outstanding Achievement in Comedy."
  • The 2005 Golden Globe Award for "Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series - Musical or Comedy" for Jason Bateman.
  • The 2004 Writers Guild of America Award for best teleplay in an episodic comedy, for the first season episode "Pier Pressure," written by Mitchell Hurwitz and Jim Valley.
  • In 2004, for season one, the Golden Satellite Award for "Best Television Series, Comedy or Musical," along with best performance by an actor/actress in a supporting role, comedy or musical awards for Jeffrey Tambor and Jessica Walter. In 2005, for season two, Jason Bateman and Portia de Rossi won best actor and actress in a series, comedy or musical. Jason Bateman also won the same award for the third season.
  • For her role as Maeby Fünke, Alia Shawkat won a Young Artist Award in 2005.


Despite months-long rumors of Arrested Development having been picked up by the cable television network Showtime, the San Francisco Chronicle reported on March 28, 2006 that creator Mitch Hurwitz would not be returning. As Showtime had made it clear that Hurwitz's involvement was a requirement for the continuation of the show, Arrested Development is considered by both its creators and fans as having reached its end on television. As Hurwitz explained, "I had taken it as far as I felt I could as a series. I told the story I wanted to tell, and we were getting to a point where I think a lot of the actors were ready to move on." He said that he was "more worried about letting down the fans in terms of the quality of the show dropping" than he was about disappointing fans by not giving them more episodes. In this same interview, he said, "If there's a way to continue this in a form that's not weekly episodic series television, I'd be up for it."

Broadcast history

The first season of Arrested Development premiered in the U.S. on November 2, 2003, on FOX. The time slot was repeatedly changed in attempts to increase its ratings. Three seasons, totalling 53 episodes, were produced. The final 4 episodes of season 3 of Arrested Development were shown back-to-back in a special two hour block on February 10, 2006 from 8–10pm ET/PT on FOX, opposite of the 2006 Winter Olympics opening ceremony on NBC.

The series also aired in Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia, among others. The series began airing in the UK on September 29, 2004, initially on both BBC Two and BBC Four. Mid-way through the second season, however, the show was dropped from BBC Four, while the time slot for BBC Two was repeatedly changed. The second season typically aired on BBC Two on Sunday nights at around 11:30 p.m., and the third season was broadcast in a similar timeslot. Bravo also picked up the UK repeat rights to the show, and aired them Fridays at 10 p.m. from August 25, 2006. In August 2007 BBC2 started repeating season one again, and from August 25, 2007, Bravo is also repeating season one and season two, showing 2 episodes a night every night at 3am, with season two starting on the September 5, 2007.

As of May 20, 2008, the entire series is available for purchase on iTunes and as free stream on Hulu and also MSN at It is also broadcast in high definition on the HDNet channel in the USA.

In Australia, the series premiered on November 30, 2004, on the free-to-air Seven Network at 10:30 p.m. on Tuesdays. It was later moved to the 11:00 p.m. timeslot on Monday nights on Channel 7, with the second season starting on November 28, 2005. Season 3 premiered on April 25, 2006 on Channel 7 at 12:00 a.m. with The Cabin Show. It premiered on Foxtel's Comedy Channel in August 2005.

In Canada, the show originally ran on Global in simulcast with Fox. A strip rerun currently airs at midnight local time on CBC Television.

Other international markets which have aired the show include the following, listed here with premiere dates: Argentina, March 2, 2004; Italy, April 8, 2004; Ireland, August 5, 2004; Turkey, September 6, 2004; Finland, February 2, 2005; Sweden, February 14, 2005; Iceland, August 12, 2005; South Africa on Season 1 2004 and Season 2 May 14, 2006; Netherlands, September 3, 2005; Germany, January 18, 2007 and Serbia, July 30, 2007.

DVD releases

Season Release Dates Ep # Additional Information
Region 1 Region 2 Region 4
1 October 19, 2004 March 21, 2005 February 23, 2005 22 This three disc box set includes all 22 episodes from Season 1. Bonus features include the unaired, full length pilot episode, commentary by creator Mitchell Hurwitz and other members of the cast on three episodes, deleted and extended scenes, a soundtrack by David Schwarz, and various behind-the-scenes featurettes. Disk 3 contains an easter egg with bonus outtakes of Tobias.
2 October 11, 2005 January 23, 2006 March 15, 2006 18 This three disc box set includes all 18 episodes from Season 2. Bonus features include commentary on three episodes, deleted scenes, bloopers, and the campaign videos from the episode "The Immaculate Election".
3 August 29, 2006 April 23, 2007 December 6, 2006 13 This two disc box set includes all 13 episodes from Season 3. Bonus features include commentary on three episodes, 19 deleted and extended scenes, behind the scenes featurette, and Season 3 blooper reel.

Notable guests

Recurring roles

Guest appearances

Feature film

An Arrested Development feature film is currently awaiting production, to be written by the series' creator, Mitchell Hurwitz, and will likely be directed by Ron Howard.

Rumors of a possible full-length film have circulated since the show's final episode. On February 1, 2008, Bateman confirmed that Hurwitz and TV series narrator Ron Howard have "put the wheels in motion toward a major motion picture.

Jeffrey Tambor (George Sr.) and Bateman are said to have confirmed their interest and it is reported that "everyone seems to be very much on board and excited by the prospect of an Arrested Development motion picture"

Hurwitz has not yet finished a script but is said to have a "good, solid understanding of what he'd like to do for the movie, and Universal is very much interested."

Alia Shawkat (Maeby), in numerous interviews about her newest movie Prom Wars (released May 9, 2008), fielded questions regarding the ongoing development of the Arrested Development feature film. On April 28, 2008, in an interview with New York Post reporter Jerrett Wieselman, Shawkat stated, "I think it's gonna happen. They're writing the script right now, supposedly. But, you know, Mitch talked to all the actors and they are all in; everyone wants to be a part of it."

On June 21, 2008, in an article published by The Times (UK) it was reported that "a big-screen version of Arrested Development is planned for next year." Liza Minnelli has expressed interest in reprising her role of Lucille Austero for the film.

On July 1, 2008, Jeffrey Tambor confirmed published reports that a movie is in the works: "After months of speculation, I think we have finally figured out for sure that we are indeed doing an Arrested Development movie.

However, in a National Post article from August 29, 2008, Michael Cera was quoted as saying he hasn't heard anything about an Arrested Development movie and is not interested in making one, remarking, "I don't think I would want to see a movie of the series if I was a fan, anyway." "And I don't really see a need for it if you can get the three seasons on DVD.". A few weeks later at the Toronto Film festival he elaborated, "We’re not in production and I haven’t read a script. I know Jason (Bateman) wants to, and I don’t know if Mitch (Hurwitz) wants to. But, I would only want to be a part of it if it was going to be good. Because, it's good to end on a high note, I think, and go out with a bang and leave the winning war. That’s just my instinct. I don’t think it would be worth doing unless it was going to live up to the expectation that might come with it.


External links

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