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‘Arrested Development’: The Funniest Running Jokes

20 gags that stand out from the cult-comedy’s 76 signature bits

arrested development banana stand

Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox Television

The final countdown is on: After years of demands, cult-comedy hit Arrested Development returns on May 26, when Netflix will stream all 15 episodes of the fourth season. After all this time (seven years!), we’re not exactly sure what to expect, but Tobias better be wearing jorts, and Buster better be saying “hey brother.” Those, of course, are just two of the program’s 76 signature gags, jokes which came to define Arrested Development as the show moved from fledging primetime player to DVD darling. A number of those yarns were incorporated subtly, requiring repeat viewing to catch (even the most ardent fans admit to noticing things they’ve never seen before). These 20 gags, however, are the cream of the crop – and the ones that we hope (and expect) will pop up again and again in the new season and forthcoming feature-length film.

arrested development tobias blue man group

Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox Television

Tobias’ Blue Man Group Obsession

"Are you blue?" Michael asks Tobias the first time he sees his brother-in-law donning the signature blue body paint. "Only in color, only in color," Tobias responds, explaining that he wound up at a support group for depressed dudes thinking it was a Blue Man performance. From that point on (season two, episode one), Tobias commits himself to becoming a Blue Man Group understudy; later to be rejected, then accepted, in Reno's BMG, only to be replaced by George Sr. before he even begins the gig. (This comes after he runs an ad for his own Blue Man-esque one-man show – and is promptly presented with a cease and desist from the official group.) Still, this never deters Tobias from continually staining the Model Home (and its inhabitants) with blue handprints. He just "blue himself," he couldn't help it.

arrested development foreshadowing buster hand seals

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Buster Loses His Hand

Re-watching Arrested Development will reveal something that seems almost eye-rollingly obvious in the episodes leading up to it: Buster loses his hand! After arguing with Lucille over his plan to join the Army, Buster swims in the ocean for the first time and ends up having his left hand bit off by a seal "with the taste of mammal blood." From the episode titles ("Out On a Limb," "Hand to God") to Buster losing his hand chair earlier in the season ("I never thought I'd miss a hand so much," he says when he finds it), the foreshadowing is palpable. AD writers don't let up with hand/seal/claw/monster jokes throughout the rest of the series; they come to define Buster, in fact.

arrested development carl weathers

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Carl Weathers

Action star Carl Weathers appears a few times throughout the series as a parody of himself, albeit penny-pinching and mooching. He serves as Tobias' (terrible) acting coach, and later directs an unflattering episode of Scandalmakers about the Bluths. His claim to fame among AD fanatics, however, is his diatribe about making stew: "Whoa, whoa, whoa. There's still plenty of meat on that bone. Now you take this home, throw it in a pot, add some broth, a potato. Baby, you've got a stew going!"

arrested development gob amy poehler

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GOB’s “Dare” Marriage

As narrator Ron Howard explains, "GOB met a woman one night, and after a series of escalating dares, married her." The marriage wasn't consummated, though GOB makes it a point to note that it was; in fact, GOB doesn't even remember he has a wife until she files for divorce one season later. Played by Amy Poehler (Will Arnett's real-life wife at the time), GOB's wife ends up joining the Army ("It was during her time in the service that her penchant for daring found a natural outlet"). The best part of this gag is the ridiculous freeze-frame of the marriage (pictured at left), which is shown every time Poehler is mentioned.

arrested development dr. fishman

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The Literal Doctor

Dr. Fishman (or as Lucille calls him, Dr. Wordsmith) always makes patients' conditions sound much, much worse than they are. He ends up treating most of the Bluths throughout the second season, starting with George Sr.'s heart attack. When he gives the Bluths a disturbing update on George's condition, he says, "We lost him. He just, uh, got away from us"; what he meant was that George escaped. When Buster loses his left hand: "He's all right." The list goes on.

arrested development rita

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Mr. F

Michael is convinced Mr. F is the name of a spy working against the Bluths, but M R F actually stands for "mentally retarded female," i.e. what Michael's new girlfriend Rita (played by Charlize Theron) is, unbeknownst to him. This gag was, admittedly, made quite memorable by its Bond-esque theme music, which cooed "Mr. F" (a play on Dr. No). Mr. F was first believed to be Rita, then Tobias (Mr. Funke?), who was, unbeknownst to even himself, working as a mole for the FBI. Michael, too, is in the dark; no longer thinking Rita is a spy, he asks her to marry him. He doesn't learn what she really is until shortly before their wedding.

arrested development franklin delano bluth

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Franklin Delano Bluth

GOB introduces his foul-mouthed puppet Franklin, an offensive African-American stereotype, during season two, at which point George Michaels worries that he'll call out his "cracker ass." In the long run, no one is spared from Franklin's offenses – especially not minorities. While GOB believes that Franklin's jokes and songs, like "It Ain't Easy Being White" (a parody of Kermit's "Bein' Green"), will "break down racial barriers," they're actually getting GOB "mercilessly beaten outside of a club in Torrance." Michael actually ends up stoking the Franklin fire when he unknowingly funds GOB's duets album with Franklin, titled Franklin Comes Alive. Fitting title, considering the AD characters all treat Franklin as if he's an actual person. Franklin has a jumping the shark moment in season three when it turns out that he's Nellie's pimp, not to mention a bailiff on TV's Bud Cort.

arrested development boyfights

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‘Boyfights’ Videos

George Sr.'s manipulation knows no bounds, as seen by his 1970s home video series featuring his children. Popular in Mexico (just like the Cornballer), the Boyfights videos show GOB and Michael fighting, after being pitted against one another by their father. The videos shed light on the brothers' relationship as adults, but the real comedy gold here lies within the "Baby Buster" shorts. In Boyfights 2, for example, the Baby Buster short was called "Too Old To Breastfeed"; the series subtly nods to this in the season three episode "Making a Stand," in which house painters recognize Buster and tease him by taunting "Yo quiero leche! Yo quiero leche de madre!" ("I want milk!" "I want mother's milk!")

arrested development bluth stair car

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The Stair Car

Due to Bluths' financial and legal trouble, they're forced to sell their company jet. The Bluth-branded stair car accompanying the jet, however, remained in the family, and due to aforementioned money problems, Michael is forced to use the vehicle as an everyday car. It proves to be more trouble than it's worth; not only does the stair car aid in prison escapes and knock down banners, there are the hop-ons – "you're gonna get some hop-ons."

arrested development star wars kid george michael

Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox Television

George Michael as ‘Star Wars’ Kid

AD immortalized the Star Wars Kid viral video by recasting George Michael as the embarrassing clip's star. The video, which features a 13-year-old George Michael re-enacting a light saber battle with a small broom in his hand, was taped over footage from a party thrown by the Bluths for Saddam Hussein. It's accidentally shown at family gatherings, to George Michael's entire high school, and to the FBI. Buster even makes his own ode to the clip, incorporating Star Wars and his favorite movie, Chicago. As GOB points out, it's "the lamest thing ever put on tape." As George Michael points out, the Bluths really should invest in a new tape – "they're not that expensive."

arrested development bluth banners

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The Bluth Family’s Banners

The Bluths have a thing for displaying silly banners at their events, but their cheapness forces them to reuse them. "You're Killing Me, Buster" (Army signup party) becomes "Welcome Home, Buster" (hospital release party), then becomes "You're Kidding Me, Buster" (Army award party). The nonsensical "Happy Trails Pard'ner" banner is used multiple times (including at George's funeral), as is the "Mission Accomplished" banner at various company events. The grammatically incorrect banners are a particular highlight, from "Family Love Michael" (when they drugged Rita) to "Michael Love Marry" (for his wedding). As GOB notes, "Take a look at banner, Michael!"

arrested development j. walter weatherman

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J. Walter Weatherman

The reason the Bluth kids are obsessive about leaving notes? J. Walter Weatherman, the one-armed man and former Bluth company employee. George Sr. utilized Weatherman as a scare tactic (er, teaching device) when his kids were growing up, as we see through one particular flashback in which George hits Weatherman with a car and his arm pops off. Fake blood spews while Weatherman mutters, "And that's why you always leave a note." As adults, the Bluths are both scared and do the scaring with Weatherman, going so far as to double-crossing George with him in the season three episode "Making a Stand." After Buster loses his hand, he uses Weatherman to teach his family the ultimate lesson: "And that's why you don't use a one-armed person to scare someone."

arrested development john beard

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John Beard

John Beard, the former real-life anchorman for the Los Angeles Fox affiliate, is used as the local Orange County news anchor throughout AD. Fox 6 is constantly covering the Bluth family antics in a salacious way, but it's Beard that makes this gag stand out. It's all about his serious, booming broadcaster voice saying ridiculous lines and puns ("A delicious whodunit, after this," "It's called a cup-a-keno, and wait 'til you see what it costs!"). When Beard ends up at a restaurant where Michael and Kitty are fighting, he mutters to himself, "Don't be a part of the story, don't be a part of the story" as he exits.

arrested development ann her?

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“Her?”

George Michael's first girlfriend, Ann Veal, is not exactly the Bluths' favorite (well, except for GOB). They find her to be bland in both the looks and personality department ("plain as the Ann on Egg's face," as Michael says), and they can't even remember her name, which leads them to call her Egg, Annabel (because she's shaped like a bell, according to Michael), Ann Hog, Yam and Bland. In reality, Ann is neither an unattractive nor an objectionable girl, which makes Michael's protestation of her throughout seasons two and three all the more amusing. Nothing gets to the point more clearly than Michael's constant question in regards Ann: "Her?"

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