Top 10 Arrested Development Episodes


We’ve entered the final countdown that’ll culminate in perhaps my most-anticipated cultural event of the decade so far. Arrested Development, Fox’s incredible (and tragically short-lived) sitcom, is returning after a seven-year hiatus. Left for dead by a network that had no idea what to do with something so out-there and ahead of its time, Netflix has resuscitated Arrested Development for a watch-at-your-own-pace, 15-episode run that’s available to subscribers starting Sunday, May 26.

I’ll be up all night Sunday burning through these new episodes. Until then, I’ll be reliving AD‘s (don’t call it that) first three seasons in all their glory. To commemorate the occasion, I’m highlighting this incredible show’s ten best episodes.

10.) “Public Relations”

For a series so reliant on continuity, this half hour stands curiously alone. That’s far from a knock on the episode; On the contrary, its ability to leave running storylines, temporarily, in the dust means we can focus on the here and now, which, in this case, is pretty fascinating. In the episode, Michael hires a flirty PR rep to help rehabilitate the family’s image, after George-Michael is turned down from The Milford School (where children should be neither seen nor heard). She tells Lindsay to get a job, Gob to do some magic for charity, Tobias to get his medical license back, and Buster to stay out of the spotlight (“People find you odd and alienating.”)

How do they do with their assignments? Lindsay gets a job…before she’s fired after a Bluth fight breaks out in the restaurant where she works. Gob brings his infamous Aztec Tomb to a retirement home…but he makes an old man truly disappear. Tobias is on his way to Boston to become a doctor again…before he meets Carl Weathers and signs up for some acting lessons with his last $1,100. Only Buster succeeds. He even finds an outfit that makes him blend in with his mother’s wallpaper.

9.) “Fakin’ It”

The only Season 3 episode to crack this list, “Fakin’ It” might be Arrested Development‘s most insane half hour. In it, a puppet (Franklin Delano Bluth) takes the stand in a mock trial (which somehow has the same legal authority of a real trial) presided over by actor Judge Reinhold and featuring the sweet tunes of William Hung & His Hung Jury.

8.) “Shock and Aww”

Michael tries to date George-Michael’s ethics teacher (Heather Graham). Their great together, busting out every twisted flirting technique in the book. George-Michael is great, too, with his “What Would Saddam Do?” poster (foreshadowing much?). But the best part of this episode is Gob’s borderline tragic quest to get one over on Michael sexually. “I f*cked Nazbakalijan.” Yes you did, Gob. Yes you did.

7.) “Out on a Limb”/”Hand to God”

A tonal turning point in the series, as everything from here on out is really dense and waaaaay crazy. This double episode featured the return of Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Maggie Lizer, a blind-but-not-really attorney who Michael slept with eight and a half months ago (“Could have sworn it was a year”). She’s pregnant, but not really. No, she really is. But it isn’t Michael’s. Or is it?

Lindsay and Tobias are great here, sneaking around Maggie’s apartment trying to get a urine sample. George-Michael, too, is fantastic. The poor guy just wants to go on an adventure with his dad, but he ends up 1.) nearly shot and 2.) in a morgue.

Of course, these episodes are probably most notable for Buster’s big moment of the series. He gets mad at Mother Lucille and goes into the ocean, only to have his hand bitten off my a “loose seal.” The amount of plot packed into these two episodes is almost unbelievable. They’re also HILARIOUS with more great moments from Oscar, Barry Zuckercorn, and others.

6.) “Whistler’s Mother”

Like “Public Relations” from earlier on the list, this is a simpler episode that mostly stands on its own. The family has come into a bit of money, and everyone wants a piece. The best pitch comes from Gob and Tobias, who want to open up a business, a coffee shop to be exact—Gobias Industries (as in “Go buy us a cup of coffee”). But they flub the pitch. “This offer comes off the table at mightnight tonight,” Tobias tells Michael. “Maybe the worst bluff I’ve ever heard,” he replies.

5.) “Pier Pressure”

Regularly cited as the best episode of the series, this episode introduces us to J. Walter Weatherman, a one-armed man George Sr. used to employ to help teach his children lessons. “And that’s why you always leave a note,” he’d snarl at them with his prosthetic arm dangling from the car windshield after their father hit him on the way to pick up milk.

George-Michael is tasked with scoring pot for his Uncle Buster (who in turn wants to give it to Lucille Two to help her cope with her vertigo). Michael suspects something is up, so he wants Weatherman. George Sr. advises against it, so Michael uses Gob instead and stages a drug bust complete with hot cops (and a construction worker). The more things get out of hand (and boy do they), the funnier the whole thing gets.

4.) “Good Grief”

“He’s dead. Buried in Mexico,” bounty hunter/party planner Ice says, referring to George Sr. From there, the family goes a little crazy (or at least crazier than usual). Lucille wants Barry to get the will (but she doesn’t know what she’s saying). Barry thinks it’s next to the hot plate with the frayed wires (but he doesn’t know what he’s saying). Maeby thinks Ice should cater the wake so he and Lindsay and get together (but she doesn’t know what she’s saying). Gob decides he’ll be his father’s body and bury himself alive in what’s sure to be the greatest illusion ever. Michael doesn’t think Gob knows what he’s saying, but he’s Gob. He knows EXACTLY what he’s saying, which of course isn’t to say things go the way he says they will.

Buster, unaware until one key moment that he’s attending his own father’s “burial,” loses it and Gob’s big illusion falls apart. But it doesn’t matter because “Pop-Pop” was in the attic all along. This episode is bananas, and I love it—Charlie Brown music and all. (“Where the fuck are my HARD-BOILED EGGS?!?!?!”)

3.) “Bringing Up Buster”

This was the episode that really established Arrested Development as the show I love so much. “The Pilot” is great. “Top Banana” is even better. But three episodes in, I realized this show was destined for a spot on my TV comedy Mount Rushmore. Kind of crazy, but that’s how funny “Bringing Up Buster” is.

Buster is far from my favorite character, but early on, he was much more enjoyable than he’d be by the end of the series. Here, we establish all of his quirks. His dependency on his mother (He spent 11 months in the womb. There were claw marks on the walls of her uterus.) His distaste for actual work. And his horrible social skills (see the moment in which he horrifies all three of his siblings with a profanity-laden tirade about their mother).

2.) “The One Where They Build a House”

Besides including arguably my favorite joke of the series (Michael, to Gob: “Get rid of the Seaward.” Lucille: “I’ll leave when I’m good and ready.”), “The One Where They Build a House,” one of two titular odes to Friends over the course of the series, manages to find almost all of our characters involved in some of their best material.

Lindsay is desperate to make her open relationship with Tobias work, so she starts cozying up to a homeless man (who’s really an actor—Tom Jane, he of television’s “Wrench.”) Tobias, meanwhile, is in the throes of his incredible run as backup understudy for the Blue Man Group. George-Michael is trying to make his relationship with Ann work, but Michael isn’t crazy about old Egg. Buster has just been enlisted, and Gob, as president of the company, wants to make a “hard offer” on business model Starla. Not a single weak storyline in the bunch. This episode is basically perfect, but…

1.) “The Immaculate Election”

…I just love the zaniness of this half hour a little more. George-Michael wants to be class president, and Ann isn’t exactly the best campaign manager (Her strategy: “Highlight being chaste.”) Gob comes onboard and creates a video for his nephew that needs to be seen to be believed. Couple that with the horrible comments he yells at “the Indian kid” who ends up beating both George-Michael and STEVE HOLT! and you already have the makings of a fantastic episode.

But “The Immaculate Election” isn’t done yet. Tobias, having finally been thrown out of the house, dresses up as Mrs. Felidia Featherbottom, an English nanny Lindsay hires to clean up, cook, etc. Tobias wants to be closer to Maeby, but he can’t figure out if his character is more Mrs. Doubtfire or Mary Poppins. It’s a B-plot for the ages. Mrs. Featherbottom sticks around for a few more episodes, and she might just be one of the funniest ideas the showrunners have ever come up with.

Honorable mention episodes: “Not Without My Daughter,” “¡Amigos!” “Meet the Veals,” “The Cabin Show,” “Notapusy,” “S.O.B.s”

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