Featuring one of the finest ensemble casts, Arrested Development is among the modern greats in sitcom history. Sadly, the show was axed often only three seasons owing to low ratings. Since then, it has garnered a passionate fan base, achieving the status of a cult comedy. This eventually led Netflix to reboot the show almost 7 years later. The fourth season never came close to replicating the success of the previous seasons for a multitude reasons. The biggest one being that the cast had gotten so popular by now that the makers had a hard time scheduling in all the dates.
So, as a die-hard fan of the show, I refuse to acknowledge the existence of the reboot. But, this did give me an excuse to re-watch the series from the beginning and got me thinking about the best episodes of the show and which of those I’d recommend for people to understand what the show was all about. Keeping that in mind, I’ve put together a list of the 11 best episodes. So, here we go:
11) The Ocean Walker (Season 3, Episode 6)
Arrested Development features some of the best guest stars playing extremely zany characters to hilarious effect. One of the most memorable on that list is Rita Leeds, Michael Bluth’s mentally deranged girlfriend, played by a remarkably earnest Charlize Theron. In this episode, Michael comes to the startling realization that his bride-to-be is mentally challenged and not seductively mysterious as he’d thought. Meanwhile, the Bluths aware that Rita is worth millions of dollars, try to push Michael to get married to her. It’s a wild plot that only keeps the laughs coming.
10) Missing Kitty (Season 1, Episode 18)
This episode features yet another guest appearance that I absolutely loved. Judy Greer plays Kitty, George Bluth’s conniving secretary, and extramarital lover. Missing Kitty centers around incriminating evidence against George Sr that goes missing after Kitty is fired by Michael. The B plot follows Gob Bluth, the goofy manchild of the family attempting to make the family yacht disappear.
Michael later learns that Kitty had taken medical leave to get breast implants. He fires her and she threatens to bring down the entire business along with her. We’re just glad that Kitty only keeps coming back every time she says goodbye to the Bluth family.
9) Meet the Veals (Season 2, Episode 16)
Meet the Veals follows Michael Bluth meeting the deeply religious parents of his son’s girlfriend, Ann Veal. He’s always disapproved of the relationship, hilariously using a different name to refer to her every time. Michael hits the panic button and decides to introduce the Veals to his dysfunctional family in hopes of driving them away. But, it turns out the Veals aren’t going to be swayed as easily as he thought. This leads to a series of incidents, eventually escalating to a pre-engagement and a teenage wedding in the church. Watch out for the excellent performances of Mae Whitman, Ione Skye, and Alan Tudyk as the Veals.
8) Spring Breakout (Season 2, Episode 17)
One of Jessica Walter’s most memorable roles came in the form of Lucille Bluth on Arrested Development . Given the terrible news surrounding her death, it would be remiss of us not to mention some of her finest moments on the show. This moment for me is when she misreads an alcohol warning for an alcohol suggestion. Michael concerned about his mother’s drinking problem tricks her into rehab. But, this obviously doesn’t stop Lucille from trying. She gets into a drinking challenge with Kitty and wins easily, despite drinking extra between rounds. This episode also features Zach Braff as the producer of a provocative video series titled Girls With Low Self-Esteem.
7. The One Where Michael Leaves (Season 2, Episode 1)
Michael is sold to us the straight one in a family full of misfits. He’s the glue that holds the Bluth clan together. But, this episode teases that he might not be as straight as he seems. We see him move out to Phoenix, Arizona only to find himself keep getting drawn back to the model house. He finds it hard to digest that the rest of the family is doing fine without him. This episode also gave us the unforgettable visual of Tobias paint himself blue for an audition as the understudy of the infamous Blue Man group.
6. Justice is Blind (Season 1, Episode 17)
Another fan-favorite guest star on the show was Julia Louis-Dreyfus who plays Maggie Lizer, a supposedly blind attorney and on-off girlfriend of Michael. George Sr decides to send Gob to sneak into Maggie’s house and steal evidence against him. Turns out she isn’t blind after all but is only faking it to create sympathy among jury members. It’s actually her dog, who’s appropriately named Justice that’s blind.
Maggie makes an appearance again in Season 2, this time visibly pregnant. Michael thinks the baby is his which leads to moments of utter confusion leading to yet another home invasion. Tobias and Lindsay break into her house to determine if she really is pregnant. Is she faking it just like her blindness?
5. In God We Trust (Season 1, Episode 7)
This episode sees Michael trying to replace the family’s incompetent lawyer, Barry Zuckerkorn with a strict no-nonsense lawyer by the name of Wayne Jarvis. Jarvis is so serious that he refuses to smile and never jokes. Michael’s plans are complicated like always by his family. Lucille attempts to flirt with the man. His father, George Sr attempts to run away from police custody in a muscle suit after being allowed to participate in the Living Classics pageant. We’re also introduced to the term Never Nude, a psychological affliction that Tobias suffers from rendering him unable to ever be completely nude.
4. Top Banana (Season 1, Episode 2)
This episode follows Gob and Steve Holt (Steve Holt!, you’re saying it loud, aren’t you) open up a rival frozen banana stand just opposite Michael’s. This leads to a series of dramatic events as competition heats eventually ending with Gob burning down the family banana stand. He only realizes that there were bags of cash hidden inside the walls. There’s always money in the banana stand!
It also sets up the running gag of Gob stuffing a dove inside his suit for an illusion only for the sad bird to breathe its last. There’s also very clever foreshadowing. If you notice closely, Lindsay orders Bananas Foster, a flaming dessert indicating the fate of the banana stand.
3. Pier Pressure (Season 1, Episode 10)
This is the episode we’d recommend to people who’re wondering if the show is for them. It contains most elements of what makes Arrested Development such a funny show. Amazing guest characters, misdirection, and lots of confusion — it’s got it all. Buster realizing that medical marijuana may help his girlfriend’s vertigo tricks George Michael to get it from Gob. Meanwhile, Lindsay decides to send Maeby to her mother’s place as punishment for her bad grades. But, the two hit it off and oddly start bonding. On the other hand, Michael who thought that his son is on drugs decides to teach him a lesson using a familiar face from the past. All of this leads to a shocking finale as we come to the stunning realization that George Sr is always a step ahead.
2. Bringing up Buster (Season 1, Episode 3)
How can we conclude this list without mentioning a single Buster episode? Buster’s the socially awkward Bluth who’s prone to panic attacks and has never had a real job in his life. Having been coddled too much as a kid by Lucille, he’s grown too attached to his mother. This episode follows Buster as he leaves his nest in hopes of spreading his wings. He learns to stand up for himself, telling his mother that he would like the front seat in the car as a small but significant act of defiance.
As with all episodes, there are tons of callbacks to previous episodes and subtle hints of what’s yet to come. The cornballer incident gets addressed and we get references to Oscar being Buster’s real dad. [Related: 26 Best TV Shows On Netflix India Right Now]
1. Key Decisions (Season 1, Episode 4)
While other shows take their own sweet time for the actors to settle into their roles, Arrested Development starts off strong with well-written characters. One of the best episodes of the show comes as early as the fourth episode of the very first season.
In Key Decisions, we see Gob intentionally locking himself in the same prison as his disgraced father. He intends to break out of the high-security establishment and prove to his Dad once and for all that he is a real magician. Meanwhile, Michael is stuck taking Gob’s girlfriend to an awards show. Buster, the youngest son of George Sr ends up flirting with his Mom’s rival unknowingly.
This episode uses the inherent dysfunction of the Bluth family to great comedic effect. But, it also strikes an emotional cord as Gob and George Sr share an emotional moment, playing catch in the prison yard together.
What makes Arrested Development such a lovable show is that it successfully creates a sub-culture filled with a number of references. As a viewer, it feels like your attention is being rewarded every time you spot a reference or a hidden joke. This is also why it’s extremely hard picking the best episodes and drafting a list. We’d recommend every single episode because the show never dips in its quality over the three seasons (let’s not talk about the reboot). Keeping this in mind, we’ve picked up episodes that primarily revolve around a single character or give you a sense of what to expect. Let us know if we missed out on something in the comments.
Where to watch Arrested Development in India: Hotstar
Outside India: Netflix (U.S., U.K., Canada, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Italy, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Spain, Nordic and Latin American regions)