Take 5: ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT’s Top 5 Episodes
July 21, 2010 by Ben Phelps
“Take 5” gives Team GMMR (and YOU) a chance to look back to yesteryear and share 5 memorable episodes from some of our favorite shows of the past. A walk down memory lane and back in time to revisit some of the best of the best of TV.
Today, our newest contributor, Ben Phelps, shares his five favorite episodes of the hit cult show and soon to be full length featured film (which of course I’ll believe when I see), ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT.
ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT Take 5 by Ben Phelps
Before last fall, during which we were given “Modern Family,” “Community,” and the astronomical improvement in “Parks and Recreation,” TV writers and viewers were lamenting the death of television comedy. After all, “Seinfeld” and “Friends” had ended years earlier and “The Office” and “30 Rock” were the only successful comedies to have launched in recent memory. Additionally, “Arrested Development,” one of TV’s best comedies – and series in general – of all time, had come and gone with no more than a cult following.
The latter beloved comedy was canceled all too soon in 2006, but besides its unceremonious four-episode finale marathon opposite the Winter Olympics, Fox at least gave it a fair shot. In the end, we were left with three seasons and 53 episodes of “the story of a wealthy family who lost everything, and the one son who had no choice but to keep them all together.” And really, with no bad episodes in the entire run, that’s not too shabby, even if it does make a Top 5 list incredibly difficult and subjective.
Nevertheless, I made one, and I’m sure everyone will have different opinions on my picks. But with that, here are my five favorite episodes of “Arrested Development.”
5. Good Grief (2.04)
Like any great “Arrested” episode, “Good Grief” gives us a number of running jokes and references that you have to watch a few times to really appreciate. George Michael is still the only one to see Egg’s – er, Ann’s – appeal (or to even remember her name), George Sr. is drawn being dipped into a Cornballer in the Mexican newspaper reporting his death, and Oscar once again drops a hint that he is Buster’s real father (but of course it goes right over his head). The beauty of these jokes here, though, is that they are coming out of a story in which the whole Bluth family is interacting, not only with each other but also with supporting characters like Ann, Barry, and bounty hunter/party planner ICE. This cast was one of the best comedy ensembles ever, and episodes like this – even though they were ostensibly gathered to mourn George Sr.’s death – showed just how funny and in sync they could be.
This episode also features the first appearance of Gob’s magician rival Tony Wonder (though only through photograph), as well as the first time George Sr. says he was a patsy in the Iraq housing contracts, a claim that becomes much more prevalent later in the second, and into the third, season. So a hilarious episode that calls back to previous events, moves along the current arcs, and lays groundwork for future plots? Yep, that deserves a spot.
4. Motherboy XXX (2.13)
Michael tells his son early in the episode, “family first,” and one of the many great things this show did was abide by that saying and keep putting different Bluth family members together on screen. In “Motherboy XXX,” we see several combinations that don’t normally get a lot of airtime, mainly George Michael & Lucille and George Sr. & Tobias, and of course both nail it. And then there’s Buster and Lucille who, although a common pairing, perfectly sell the ridiculousness of the Motherboy contest and their determination to win, all of which serves as just a further reminder that there was not a weak link in this cast.
Just the idea of a holding a “Motherboy” convention – wherein overbearing mothers forcibly bring their unwilling sons to dance together in matching costumes – pushes this episode into the upper ranks of the series, but combine that with the family’s fear of Buster’s hook, some over-the-top Burger King product placement, and another guest appearance by Amy Poehler (Will Arnett’s real-life wife) as Wife of Gob, and you’ve got top five material.
3. Pier Pressure (1.10)
In the earliest episode of the series out of my picks, we get a good look at the different Bluth family parenting styles: Michael puts too much pressure on George Michael, Lindsay doesn’t put enough on Maeby, Lucille is too critical, and George Sr. loves teaching elaborate lessons. It’s through flashbacks to those lessons that we meet J. Walter Weatherman for the first time, as he and his one arm teach the young Bluth children, “and that’s why you always leave a note” and “that’s why you don’t yell.” While those lessons are funny enough in and of themselves, the recurring joke really pays off with Weatherman’s appearance at a fake drug bust at the pier – George Sr.’s way of teaching Michael not to teach lessons to his own son.
Along with the signature family antics, “Pier Pressure” also gave us a look at the banana stand’s historic role on the boardwalk, Gob’s friends and former co-workers the “hot cops,” and Buster’s relationship with Lucille 2 and her vertigo-induced nausea – sorry, their nausea. Unlike George Michael’s disappointing A– on his test, this was a true A episode.
2. Forget-Me-Now (3.03)
Although I didn’t find season three overall to be quite as strong as the previous two (yet still undoubtedly great), “Forget-Me-Now” was a solid entry in Charlize Theron’s arc as wee-brained Brit Rita Leeds and it also gave us one of the show’s all-time classic gags: Tobias’ claim to fame as both an analyst and a therapist – “the world’s first analrapist.”
By the third season, after two miraculous renewals, the producers must have known their remaining time on the air was limited, but that didn’t keep them from introducing new story elements and characters – here, George Sr.’s deadpan surrogate – or from being even more dedicated to recurring jokes and references (since they couldn’t really drop any further in the ratings). Steve Holt joins in the family tradition of making a “big mistake,” Franklin reappears for a rendition of “It Ain’t Easy Being White,” and, as if there were still any lingering doubt as to Tobias’ sexuality, we get him grabbing and slapping Michael’s butt and dressing up as Lucille while ironically telling Buster to “grow a pair.” Every character is so well written and the jokes are so rapid and smart, it’s not hard to see why the series garnered the acclaim it did (at least by those few who saw it).
1. Meet the Veals (2.16)
When Ann was introduced, she was little more than George Michael’s nondescript Christian girlfriend and the butt of many jokes about her plainness (“Her?”). As the show went on, that role certainly didn’t change, but Ann did evolve into a character who pushed George Michael to start questioning his family and who caused Michael to show a less pleasant side of his personality. Bringing Michael down a notch through his interactions with the Veals ultimately allows us to see that while he may be a better person than the rest of his family, he did not escape their influence completely — and it also provides some classic zingers:
Pastor Veal: Are you a church-going man?
Michael: I am… sometime. I mean, I don’t go religiously.
Mrs. Veal: Next you’re gonna say how Ann and I could be sisters.
Michael: No, I’d never say that.
For an episode where Michael’s goal is to show Ann’s family how horrible his own is, “Meet the Veals” comes off surprisingly sweet. Every Bluth ends up fighting for one another, and even though much of the violence happens inside a church, they finish the episode knowing that their (secular) family is what matters most. And that’s not even mentioning the appearances by Mrs. Featherbottom and her offers of “bangers in the mouth,” and Franklin, Gob’s @*&$!#-talking puppet. Wow, I miss this show.
So there are my picks for the Top 5 episodes of “Arrested Development.” And, really, no one watched this show? COME ON!
Please tell me we have a few ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT fans out there? Your favorite episodes?
Check out some of our other Take 5’s…
- Take 5: THE WEST WING’s Top 5 Episodes
- Take 5: SEINFELD’s Top 5 Episodes
- Take 5: VERONICA MARS Top 5 Episodes
- Take 5: SPORTS NIGHT Top 5 Episodes
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