The 8 Ball 05.28.13: The Top 8 Arrested Development Episodes
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 05.28.2013
From "Afternoon Delight" and "Top Banana" to "Pier Pressure," "Motherboy XXX" and more, 411's Jeremy Thomas counts down the top 8 Arrested Development episodes of all time!
Welcome, one and all, to the 8 Ball in the Movie Zone! I'm your host Jeremy Thomas and as always, we will be tackling a topic and providing you the top eight selections of that particular category. Keep in mind that this list is meant to be my personal opinion and not a definitive list. You're free to disagree; you can even say my list is wrong, but stating that an opinion is "wrong" is just silly. With that in mind, let's get right in to it!
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Top 8 Arrested Development Episodes
As you likely know (or at least should know, if you like TV comedy), one of the funniest comedies in TV history made its triumphant return on Sunday. Seven years after its cancellation by FOX, fifteen new episodes of Arrested Development became available on Netflix for a fourth season. The show, which earned huge amounts of love from its (unfortunately few) viewers and a host of critical acclaim and awards, ran for three seasons from 2003 to 2006 before the network cut its third season short due to low ratings. It was admittedly not an "easy" comedy like most of your standard sitcoms but it largely pioneered many aspects of TV that would later be picked up by other great comedies including. With the fourth "season" of the show having made its debut, I thought this would be a good time to look at the best episodes in the show's run.
Caveat: The only caveat I have here is that I have not seen the new fourth season yet. I have re-watched the show in order to refresh my memory (and for this column) so didn't have time to get to the fourth season; therefore this only consists of episodes from the show's FOX run. On the plus side, there are no spoilers in here for the fourth season.
Just Missing The Cut
• "Storming the Castle"
• "Sword of Destiny"
• "Shock and Aww"
#8: "Motherboy XXX"
Kicking off our list is one of the most quintessential episodes of the series. For my money Arrested Development really found its creative apex during the second season and "Motherboy XXX" is a great example of that. The show plays off the incredibly and hilariously unhealthy dynamic between Lucille and Buster, taking the Oedipal aspects of their relationship to new heights through the mother/son dance "Motherboy." Making it the thirtieth made for a fantastic visual gag with the title, and when Lucille decides to take George Michael over Buster for a better chance at winning--George Michael has two hands, after all--you know good things are coming. Meanwhile you have Tobias reconnecting with his old acting coach Carl Weathers, who gets him a job for a TV show in a dramatic reenactment of the Bluth family's situation, and G.O.B. consummate his marriage to his wife while attempting to divorce her. Casting Will Arnett's real-life wife in Amy Poehler was an inspired choice and the show's willingness to take its sponsorship deal with Burger King and make such overt, over-the-top references to it makes for a lot of fun meta humor and pointed jabs at FOX, who pushed the product placement deal on them in the first place. Tossing in the sight gag of Henry Winkler jumping over a dead shark on the way to the ol' BK just sealed that point home and added another notch on the show's belt of greatness. This one has just about everything you could want in a half-hour episode of comedy.
Speaking of incredibly pointed jabs at FOX, "S.O.B.s" continues that trend of skewering the show's network, not to mention the show itself, in the guise of an over the top "Save Our Show" campaign, itself buried in the guise of the family trying to save itself financially and legally as a family. Writers Richard Day & Jim Vallely packed this one with just about every self-deprecating joke you could imagine. For example, it makes reference to the stunt casting of high-profile guest stars, particularly that of Charlize Theron, in the suggestion to bring Nicole Kidman in because an Oscar star would be big business. The episode was written, produced and aired shortly after the show's episode count for the season was chopped down to thirteen and the end was pretty clearly on the horizon. On one hand you could criticize the show for peddling so shamelessly for a save from being cancelled, but the episode so brilliantly mocks itself for even suggesting such a reprieve that you have to appreciate their brilliance. It's the kind of episode that proves how ahead of its time Arrested Development really was; other comedies could only dream of doing an episode this perfectly-pitched in terms of meta references and self-mocking.
#6: "Mr. F"
Among some fans, Season Three gets kind of a bad rap. There are those who felt that, among other things, Charlize Theron's extended role as Rita was a detriment to the series. I actually tend to think that this was just one of those examples where the show's writing team could take just about any situation forced upon them and turn it into comedic brilliance. The show has always proved that it has no problem being a bit patient with a joke, and the "Mr. F" storyline is a great example of that. Watching this show a second time is almost required, because when you view it with the knowledge that Rita is an "MR F" (Mentally Retarded Female) there are so many references there that read entirely differently with that knowledge. Meanwhile the other plot has a truly sublime moment as G.O.B. actually pulls off the feat of making a mole-filled development property seem legit by way of a model train set, only to have Tobias and George Michael destroy it in a Kaiju-style Jet Pack Man/Giant Mole fight. How all the various plots and character quirks woven and intersected to lead into such a brilliant moment almost defies comprehension, but there you have it.
#5: "Pier Pressure"
If you weren't hooked on Arrested Development by midway through the first season, "Pier Pressure" was almost guaranteed to do it. The episode's plotline is pretty simple when you think about it; Michael thinks George Michael is on drugs and attempts to scare him straight via a fake drug bust that goes wrong. This is the kind of episode synopsis that wouldn't be out of place on many other shows, but few of them could tackle the whole thing as fantastically as Development does. "Pier Pressure" set new heights for the show in both Bluth dysfunction and absurdist hilarity, with George Sr. having used a one-armed former employee to mentally torture his children into trivial learning lessons and Michael setting out to do a similar thing with far better intentions, only to have it turn out much worse. And that's to take nothing away from the B-plot in which Maeby is forced by Lindsay to spend the day with Lucille as a punishment for poor grades. As I said, if you somehow avoided being hooked in by the first nine episodes, this one made become a fan a near-certainty.
#4: "Afternoon Delight"
Arrested Development has a lot of fans, but the Parents Television Council isn't one of them. The watchdog group rather famously hated the show, in no small part for the amount of incest allusions the show made. "Afternoon Delight" must have had steam shooting out of their ears because few episodes went as over-the-top as this one on that front. It starts off with a great throwaway joke about the banana stand being subject to a yearly tradition of being vandalized and just builds the laughs from there. By the time we get to a Christmas party so awkward that it probably sent The Office's writers into convulsions, it really is hard to hold back. George and Maeby singing "Afternoon Delight" together is one of my favorite moments on the show, particularly that dawning look on Michael's face when he realizes how terrible of a song it is to sing with your niece. And then they have the temerity to repeat the same joke with Lindsay and George Michael to equally funny results, combined with poor G.O.B. being crane-lifted pantslessly out of the wreckage of the banana stand in his banana suit. The memorable quotes here come in rapid-fire succession, such as Oscar's "Maybe I'll put it in her brownie" or Lucille's promise to "blow him, then poke him" in using her instruments at hand in case of break in. And on that front, you can't forget Tobias continuing the running joke of "I got blown." Amazing stuff.
#3: "Meet the Veals"
I was never as enamored with the Ann storyline as other people seemed to be, but considering how it all led into this episode it paid off handsomely in the end. The casting of Alan Tudyk and Ione Skye as Ann's religious parents was a coup for the show and their performances were just classic example of how much the guest stars on Development brought their A-game. As usual Michael has good intentions, but whenever he is willing to compromise his values to carry out those intentions they always go awry. Here, he tries to preemptively cancel out George Michael and Ann's pre-engagement by introducing Mr. and Mrs. Veal to his wacky family, which turns into the classic comedy of errors. Highlights include Mrs. Veal's epic attempt to seduce Michael by begging "Take me! Take me to your secular world" while G.O.B. uses the infamous Franklin as an ether-dispensing rag, giving the offensive puppet the powers to kiss people into roofie-hood. That is one of my full-on favorite site gags in the show's history. And then you have Tobias nearly stealing the show away from all the mayhem with his best "Mrs. Featherbottom" episode, trying to pull a Mary Poppins without success and asking who would "like a banger in the mouth." Come on, I don't see how you can find that whole storyline anything less than uproarious.
#2: "Top Banana"
How many shows are this good on just their second episode? Most shows, especially half-hour comedies, require some time to establish characters and for the writers to figure out their boundaries before they hit their creative peak. Not so with Arrested Development, which fires on all cylinders from the get-go. In "Top Banana" you can see how well thought-out this show was; the characters are already thoroughly established and there is even foreshadowing to episodes to come. Look at the scene with Tobias in the shower, where we see that he's wearing his cutoffs in anticipation of his never-nude status that wouldn't be revealed until four episodes later. Meanwhile you have a stellar plotline involving the banana stand and Michael inadvertently pushing his incestuously-minded son and niece together in a confined space selling phallic food, which is burned down (along with an unknown quarter of a million dollars) by Michael and George Michael in order to make money off the insurance, which falls flat after G.O.B. failed to send the one letter he was supposed to mail out. This is why you don't forget that there's money in the banana stand, people. It's almost unfair for a show to be this good virtually right out of the gate.
#1: "Good Grief!"
Comedy really doesn't get more perfect than this. "Good Grief!," the fourth episode of the show's second season, comprises some of the show's best moments on so many levels. The plot is classic Development, with the family learning that George Sr. has been reportedly murdered inside of a Mexican prison. The decision is made to hold a wake but not tell Buster, leaving him clueless as to why he is helping G.O.B. with a coffin-themed illusion for his dad's (or not-dad's) birthday party. When Michael finds out that George Sr. is alive though, he must carry through with the whole thing while dad listens and watches from the attic. That's a great foundation to build a half-hour of comedy around and Jeff Melman directs John Levenstein's script to perfection. You have the hilarious eulogies for wit (or lack thereof), combined with the gut-busting visuals of G.O.B.'s magic trick gone incredibly wrong when Buster freaks out upon realizing it's a wake and George Sr. being found in a spider hole just like his old business partner Saddam Hussein was. And then of course there's the brilliant Peanuts references, most overtly shown in the guys doing Charlie Brown's "sad walk" at different times in the show as seen below:
Throw in Maeby trying desperately to set her mom up with Ice so she can get emancipated, complete with a re-emergence of the "Slut" shirt at George Sr.'s wake, and you have one of the funniest episodes of television that I've ever seen.
Note: Now that I am caught up to current, I have gone back to watch the episodes that have become available in the US since I started watching and thus were previously unavailable to me (thus why I have episodes remaining despite being caught up).
Current Series/Season:Season Thirteen (1975) Episodes Watched: 621 Last Serial Completed:The Android Invasion - The Doctor and Sarah find themselves in the English village of Devesham near a Space Defence Station. The village seems deserted, the telephones don't work, calendars are stuck on the same date and white-suited figures are wandering about aimlessly. Who are the Kraals and what are their plans for Earth? Surviving Episodes Remaining: 20
And that will do it for us this week! Join me next week for another edition of the 8-Ball! Until then, have a good week and don't forget to read the many other great columns, news articles and more here at 411mania.com! JT out.