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The 5 Best Episodes Of 'Arrested Development' From The First 3 Seasons

by The Playlist Staff
May 23, 2013 3:13 PM
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Arrested Development Cast

"Arrested Development," as the opening credits inform us, is the story "of one wealthy family, who lost everything and the son who had no choice but to keep them all together." This synopsis, about the Bluth family and their continued struggles, makes it sound like something out of the Chuck Lorre factory of middlebrow mediocrity. But "Arrested Development," created by cracked genius Mitchell Hurwitz, would go on to become one of the most beloved (and short-lived) comedy series in the history of television, one whose fan-base was so outspoken that this weekend the series will be resurrected with a collection of episodes airing exclusively on Netflix's streaming service. The unthinkable has happened: The Bluths are back from the dead. 

In honor of this glorious return, which is far more impressive than Jesus showing up, we decided to run down the five best episodes from the first three seasons of this twisted series. Hopefully this list will please everyone – analrapists, never-nudes, kissing cousins, racially inappropriate puppets, banana stand employees, and Carl Weathers. We've included Hulu embeds of full episodes where we could -- but the rest are available on Hulu Plus or other digital outlets (but we included a couple key clips to make up for it). Onward.... 

Arrested Development SOBs
5.) "S.O.B.s" (Season 3, Episode 9)
Behold, "Arrested Development" at its angriest and most meta-textual. The episode starts off by mocking Fox's gimmicky ad campaigns for similar shows it actually bothered to support, before the family decides to create a campaign of awareness for their plight (the "Save Our Bluths" campaign – which actually had a functional website for many years). At one point Michael says, "I can't believe it's come to begging," at which point Ron Howard, as the nameless narrator, steps in to say, "Please tell your friends about this show." It was both sad and funny: Mitch Hurwitz and the rest of the cast and crew knew that they were being abandoned by their network and probably wouldn't make it past the next few episodes. It will probably go down as one of the funniest, most unapologetic cries for help in the history of the medium. The episode never becomes maudlin, instead imbued with a razor-sharp indignity and genuine outrage. They make jabs at other Fox series like "The OC" and openly reflect on what other networks would take them ("Yeah HBO is definitely not going to want us"). All the typical "Arrested Development" balls are in the air – Tobias' closeted gayness, George Michael's nervousness, and Gob's total cluelessness (he gets a job as a fake waiter, working with a fellow waiter played by Jack McBrayer) – while forwarding the mission statement of the episode, which including a number of ill-placed celebrity guests mixed with true desperation ("We've got a better shot at Nicole Kidman"). Even in its waning days, "Arrested Development" had the tenacity to give The Man the middle finger.

Arrested Development Good Grief

4.) "Good Grief" (Season 2, Episode 4)
A number of plot threads finally merge in this exemplary early-season-two episode, which brings together everything from George Michael's fractured relationship with Ann (her?) to George Sr.'s run from the law, to Gob's attempt at magic-world legitimacy, into one delightfully insane package. In the first few minutes of the episode, Ice the Bounty Hunter makes the startling announcement that George Sr. has died in Mexico -- he was murdered by a Mexican guard (confirmed by dental records, a death certificate and a "political cartoon from a leading Mexican newspaper"). This sends the family into a frenzy, with Michael unsure of what's going to happen to the company, and Gob seeing the opportunity to use his father's death as an excuse to get into magic magazine Poof by performing a trick involving the coffin. While things certainly move along at the show's typically frenzied pace, this episode does slow down for a few subtle gags, like Tobias' speech about John Wayne and feelings (including a joke about the airport) and a hilarious exchange between Buster and Gob about stripper clothes. This episode has a number of "Sad Peanuts" gags (the name of the episode is even a reference to Charlie Brown), including a canine on top of a red doghouse and a man dragging a Christmas tree behind him, while other small gags like the Mexican political cartoon featuring George Sr's failed kitchen appliance The Cornballer, the similarity between George Michael checking out the newly discovered (and alive) George Sr. and news footage of Saddam Hussein after his capture, and a really sly Anne Frank joke, are so small that they fail to register at all (or at least on initial viewing). Of course it's the end of the episode that really makes this unforgettable, as Gob tries to do a magic trick involving his supposedly dead father's grave, with his assistant Buster wearing a militaristic stripper's outfit. "I will become my dead father's body as I am lowered into his grave," Gob announces, before falling out of the coffin and being buried alive. It couldn't have ended more perfectly.

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  • Seve | June 19, 2013 11:20 PMReply

    the Martin Short episode( in season 2) as Uncle Jack is hilarious on all fronts. He kills it in every scene. That HAS to be in top 5 . Meet the Veals also hilarious - Tobias - and Michael are on top of their games

  • andrew | May 23, 2013 11:30 PMReply

    Solid list. SOBs is my personal favorite.

  • Blah | May 23, 2013 9:37 PMReply

    Wait, people didn't like the Theron episodes?! Some of the best lines and use of repeated lines EVER took place during those. The "forget me nots", "Mr.Ff", "GODZILLA!", and "That's not my trick's my illusion!" All began or were perfected there. Love that set of episodes, pretty big fan of this list.

  • MistaTMason | May 23, 2013 6:45 PMReply

    I really hate the Rita episodes. They were so out in left field and just took you away from the family in the final season. I feel like they were just stretched to get celebrity guest attention to the show. How could they leave Spring Break off the list? SPRING BREAK WHOO!

  • Cory Everett | May 23, 2013 5:11 PMReply

    You guys are out of your minds with the Season 3 episodes. Especially the whole British/Charlize arc, easily the low-point in the series. Incredibly ambitious? Sure. But that doesn't mean it works. The first 2 seasons are flawless. Season 3 felt, for the most part, more forced and less naturally funny until the last few eps which were pretty strong.

  • catt | May 23, 2013 3:42 PMReply

    "Maybe I'll put it in her brownie."

    Afternoon delight might be my all time favorite.


  • oogle monster | May 23, 2013 3:35 PMReply

    Wait- are you saying Charlize as Rita is better than Monster AND Young Adult? No way. She's fantastic as Rita is totally game but nothing and I mean NOTHING compares to Mavis Gary in Young Adult. That performance trumps any female performance in the last 5-7 years, and is a career-best for Ms. Theron.

  • rotch | May 23, 2013 3:29 PMReply

    'Pier Pressure' is number 1 in my book.

    And I don't think the whole 'Mr. F' run is all that good. The big reveal at the end feels somehow forced.

    Other than that, I agree with this list.

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