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Series / Arrested Development

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"Now the story of a wealthy family who lost everything — and the one son who had no choice but to keep them all together. It's Arrested Development."

Originally airing from 2003 to 2006, Arrested Development is a single-camera Sitcom, which follows the farcical exploits of a wealthy family grappling with the loss of their fortune as the family patriarch is arrested for numerous dubious dealings involving the family business. The show's tone is quick-witted and fast-paced, tempered with a voice-over documentary-style narrationnote  and coupled with Running Gags, Brick Jokes, nested flashbacks, and other complex narrative structures.

Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman) is the Only Sane Man in a family that doesn't know how to live frugally; he is trying to keep the company afloat and the family together, but his siblings live their lives on a whim. His older brother GOB (George Oscar Bluth II — pronounced "jobe", like the biblical Jobnote ) (Will Arnett) is a mostly incompetent magician who performs illusions. Michael's twin sister Lindsay (Portia de Rossi) is a fair-weather activist for whatever cause happens to catch her attention at any given moment; her husband, Tobias Fünke (David Cross), is a disgraced psychiatrist turned disgraceful actor (and appears to everybody but himself to be a thinly closeted gay man). Michael's younger brother, Byron "Buster" Bluth (Tony Hale) is a bizarre Manchild who still lives with his mother, Lucille (Jessica Walter), who is constantly drinking and critical of everything and everyone. Michael's father, George (Jeffrey Tambor), is under arrest for fraud and embezzlement, as well as under investigation for "light treason", and is enjoying his time in prison. Finally, Michael's well-behaved, but also quite awkward and confused son, George-Michael (Michael Cera), and Tobias and Lindsay's rebellious and Street Smart daughter, Maeby (Alia Shawkat), frequently find the rest of the family ignorant of the Unresolved Sexual Tension between them.

The show was brought back for a fourth season on May 26, 2013, exclusive to Netflix. It uses character-focused episodes and Anachronic Order to bring the viewers up to speed on the missing five years of the family's lives. A chronological recut of Season 4 aired on May 3, 2018. This was followed on the 27th of that month by the first half of Season 5 (which had been in Development Hell for a considerable period), which followed directly from the cliffhanger at the end of the previous season. The last half of that season, aired March 15, 2019. The series is presumed to have ended, as years have since passed without a definitive announcement; this is speculated to be due to factors including the sexual harassment accusations against Jeffrey Tambor that emerged in 2017 and the death of Jessica Walter in 2021.

Not to be confused with the '90s rap group.

Arrested Development in general provides examples of the following tropes:

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  • Aborted Arc: Many plot twists from the first three seasons are dropped, and often never mentioned again. For instance:
    • "Hand To God": Maggie falls pregnant, for real this time, after sleeping with Michael again. However, this was meant to be a one-off as Julia Louis-Dreyfus wasn't expected to return to the show
    • "Spring Breakout", which ended with Kitty coming into possession of a cooler containing George Sr.'s sperm.
    • "Exit Strategy": The real Saddam Hussein was hiding in the Model Home in Iraq after all.
    • invoked Mitch Hurwitz has stated that the "George Sr. turning into a woman" plot-line that Season 4 hinted at was discontinued in Season 5, as he felt it was too close to Jeffrey Tambor's role in Transparent. Ironically, that role was specifically written for Tambor, making it possible that that the entire show was partially inspired by his performance in Arrested Development (and thus by an arc that it ultimately caused to be dropped).
  • Absurdly Short Production Time: In-Universe, it is revealed that the infamous The Fantastic Four was an example of this. Apparently, Ron Howard was told that his company's license to Fantastic Four would expire unless he did a movie on it within 6 days, which he promptly did using the bartenders at the party this was revealed.
  • Abusive Parents: George Sr. and Lucille Bluth have treated all of their children with varying degrees of abuse, which continued (to an extent) well into their adulthood:
    • Michael and GOB were constantly played against each other (and occasionally manipulated into physically fighting each other. The fights were videotaped and sold as Boyfights) because George believed it to be a way of preparing them for conflict in life. They were also constantly undermined to keep them working for George's approval (GOB's desire to pursue a career in magic is constantly mocked, and his parents make it clear that he is The Unfavorite; Michael had a ridiculously extreme work ethic instilled in him, and George would often shoot down his ideas for the family business, regardless of what he thought of them).
    • Lindsay is often reminded of the fact that she has never really achieved anything, and Lucille constantly makes cracks about her weight and has since she was very young. Her abuse is probably the darkest when it is learned that she is adopted, and Lucille admits they didn't want her and only adopted her to spite Stan Sitwell, who had been trying to adopt her himself.
      • In season 5 we learn that Lucille's mother abused her the same way with constant (inaccurate) insults about her appearance.
    • Buster was made to have a crippling overdependence on his mother, only for her to discard him whenever she considers him to be an inconvenience or imposition; George is also highly disdainful of his lack of independence and maturity.
    • With her adult children, Lucille is shown to have no remorse about turning them against each other with false secondhand quotations and accusations to ensure that her children won't get along well enough to be allied against her.
    • George would also traumatize his children by making them associate certain unwanted behaviors with severe mutilation, in order to teach them "lessons" (such as leaving a note when they run out of milk).
    • They have also spoiled all of their children except Michael to the point that they have virtually no work ethic, which most of the siblings seem to consider a form of abuse.
    • Tobias and Lindsay neglect Maeby so much she practically ruins her own life just to get their attention.
    • Michael unwittingly neglects, manipulates, deceives, confuses, and guilt trips George Michael increasingly over the seasons, leading to them falling out in season 4.
  • Actor Allusion:
    • Several regarding the narrator, Ron Howard's career, as well as his former costars brought in for recurring roles:
      • One of Michael's love interests tells George Michael that he's ruining his happiness, punctuating it by calling him "Opie."
        Narrator: Jessie had gone too far, and she had best watch her mouth.
      • An attempt to hire Andy Griffith to appear in court dressed as Matlock met with failure when he was offered a rustic cabin on a moving truck as a dressing room and thought he was being made fun of.
        Narrator: No one was making fun of Andy Griffith. I can't emphasize that enough.
      • Maeby defines Jim Carrey by his role in How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, a Ron Howard film, despite his plethora of more notable roles.
        Maeby: I need a report by tomorrow before gym... lunch... with Jim... Carrey. It’s the Grinch guy, you’re too young.
    • Several allusions to Happy Days are also made through Henry Winkler's character of Barry Zuckerkorn:
      • Bob Loblaw, played by Scott Baio, on Barry Zuckerkorn, played by Henry Winkler:
        "This isn't the first time I've been brought on to replace Barry Zuckerkorn."
      • Zuckerkorn himself, discussing a dead shark on a pier, ends the scene by jumping over it.
      • In the first season there is a brief shot of Winkler combing his hair in the mirror after which he does iconic Fonzie open arm gesture
      • In Season 4, flashbacks of the young Zuckerkorn (played by Henry Winkler's son Max) show him with the appearance and mannerisms of Fonzie, complete with a leather jacket.
      • Also in Season 4 there's a scene with Bob Loblaw giving Barry Zuckercorn a hand up as he tries to open a gate from the inside, and Barry responds "It's too short, I can't reach the tchotchke!"
    • A "pre-cosmetic surgery" photo of Rita was one of Charlize Theron in Monster.
    • Richard Belzer has a cameo in one episode as "Professor" Munch (the character was, of course, a cop).
    • Dan Castellaneta cast as a bumbling doctor. D'oh!
    • Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays Maggie Lizer who at one point is blinded by being sprayed in the face by perfume, similar to how her most famous role, Elaine from Seinfeld, blinded an attacker by spraying him in the face with Binaca.
    • The episode in which Justine Bateman appears is called "Family Ties".
      • In "In God We Trust", Lucille Two says the line "There's places to go! People to see!" before falling down due to her vertigo and old age. This is a reference to when she starred in a production of "Forbidden Broadway". Costar Ann-Margret sings a spoof of the song "Bye Bye Birdie" called "Bye Bye Thirty", which is about aging.
    • There are actually several brilliant references to Liza Minnelli's musical and stage career in scenes involving Lucille Two.
      • In the episode "Queen for a Day", Liza's Lucille Two goes into Tobias' nightclub and hears him singing "New York, New York". She exasperatedly says, "Everybody thinks he's Frank Sinatra." This is a reference to how Liza actually recorded the song two years before Frank Sinatra.
      • Another episode has George Michael watching the TV show Oz, confusing it for the Judy Garland movie The Wizard of Oz. Garland was Minelli's mother.
      • In the season 5 finale, when they remove the "dummy" from the wall and discover it's a real body, we hear the line "the happiest corpse I've ever seen". This is a lyric from Liza's signature song in Cabaret. The corpse turns out to be Lucille 2. Someone also mistakes it for Judy Garland's body.
    • There's a Shout-Out to Michael Cera's role in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World at the end of Season 4.
    • George Michael's Season 4 plot is a parody of The Social Network, which stars Jesse Eisenberg, to whom Michael Cera is often compared and/or with whom he is confused.
    • A Season 4 flashback features Mort getting into trouble while the riff from Curb Your Enthusiasm plays, in a nod to Jeff Garlin's longtime role on that show.
    • A convoluted Actor Allusion occurs during season 4, as various characters are seen eating a weird and disgusting mixture made of Parmesan cheese and mustard. Martin Mull, who plays Gene Parmesan in the show, also played Colonel Mustard in Clue. One wonders why they didn't also include carp in the recipe.
    • In "The Ocean Walker", Buster is shown jamming to the Styx song "Mr. Roboto" in the stair car. Actor Tony Hale appeared in a Volkswagen commercial featuring that song.
    • On-show couple Sally Sitwell and Tony Wonder are played by real-life married couple Christine Taylor and Ben Stiller.
    • Will Arnett and Amy Poehler were also married at the time the latter was portraying the former's wife on the show.
    • In Season 4 George Michael is watching Sit Down, Shut Up and at one point both characters that Jason Bateman and Will Arnett voice are seen on screen.
    • In the Season 4 remix, George is seen living in the family's penthouse as a female. After shooing away a police officer, the narrator quips:
    "Although it was a pretty Transparent story."
    • In Season 5 the narrator continues with a quip that George's performance as a woman would not be winning any awards.
  • Accidental Murder: In "Off the Hook", Buster kills quite a few people through a remote-controlled drone in Afghanistan without realising that he wasn't just playing a video game.
    • It's also a possibility that this is what happened to Lucille Austero.
  • Adam Westing: Carl Weathers is going to get a stew on!
  • Aesop Amnesia: It's part of the premise. Everyone character is, after all, in a state of arrested development.
    • Michael frequently learns that he shouldn't be so overbearing toward George Michael and should let him have fun. He forgets this just as frequently. Probably deliberate since Michael is kind and well-functioning compared to his family, but is still pretty flawed.
    • Similarly, there are several occasions when it dawns on Lindsay that she should actually pay attention to her daughter. By the next episode, she's gone back to being obliviously neglectful.
  • Adults Are Useless:
    • Almost everyone in the Bluth family is a dysfunctional incompetent who either deliberately or unconsciously destroys everything good that ever happens to them. The exceptions? The teens. George Michael almost single-handedly runs the frozen banana stand that's the family's only steady source of income while Maeby bluffs her way into a studio producer job which she succeeds in until discovered (through George Michael's gaffe, so even the kids aren't perfect)
    • She gets it back when Hollywood execs go nuts over the teenage wonder, so in this case the adult cluelessness works in her favor.
      [running into members of their family while skipping work]
      Maeby: What are they doing here?
      George Michael: They're grown-ups, they're allowed to have fun whenever they want! We're kids, we're supposed to be working!
  • All There in the Stinger: The "On the Next" segments of episodes, rather than being a preview of what will happen on the next episode, they serve as stingers to show what will have happened behind the scenes by the time of the next episode. While these stingers usually are done for some throw-away gags, occasionally some important details are revealed, such as the revelation that Rita Leeds is a MRF (Mentally Retarded Female), Maggie isn't blind, and that George Sr. "may have committed light treason", before they become plot-relevant.
  • Anachronic Order: Season 4 follows this. Several events are skipped or revisited from another character's point of view, and one episode's context can be completely changed by a future episode that happened at the same time.
  • And Starring: With Jeffrey Tambor and Jessica Walter.
  • Arc Words:
    • Season 1 has "light treason."
    • Season 3 has "Mr. F."
    • Season 4 has "Love Each Other."
    • Season 5 has "Don't tell Michael."
  • Arc Symbol: Season 4 has an ostrich representing the moment a Bluth family member starts to become more self-reliant.
  • Artistic License – Cars: In season two, George is looking at a Ford Escape at a dealership and is told by a salesman that it's the replacement for the Bronco, which was dropped because of the O.J. Simpson police chase. It isn't, and it wasn't. The Bronco was discontinued because of a combination of declining sales, safety concerns regarding the removable roof note  and the increasing redundancy compared to the two-door, fixed roof Explorer coupled with the lack of a competitive product for the GM Suburban. The Bronco's replacement was the full size, four door Ford Expedition. This was done to make the pun about George Bluth's flee from justice.
  • Artistic License – Geography:
    • In-universe, everyone seems to think that Portugal is in South America.
      GOB: Portugal, down ol' South America way.
    • GOB also expresses the misinformed belief that Mexico and Colombia are the same place.
    • This, in the Pilot:
      Lindsay: You've had $80,000's worth of cartography lessons. Get us a channel to the ocean!
      Buster: Okay okay okay. Obviously this blue part here is the land...
    • The US Army mistakes Tobias's testicles for a photograph of middle eastern countryside. They even seem to have aircraft flying to a specific, imaginary location based on this evidence.
    • Wee Britain is a parody of ethnic enclaves where the lanes are swapped inside the district and they follow Greenwich Mean Time instead of Pacific Time. It goes without saying that the real ones located in the United States still have to follow US law.
  • Artistic License – Military: Absolutely everything about the military. Nobody can be enlisted by another person without their own consent. Soldiers are not free to wander out of basic training, nor are their family members permitted to wander in. There are no Army Basic Combat Training sites in California, or even in the southwest. No lawsuit has ever precluded drill sergeants from yelling at recruits. Basic training platoons do not get deployed to combat. The USO is not part of the military. No enlisted soldiers are permitted to skip basic combat training, unless they are transfers from the Marine Corps. Soldiers are not tricked into re-enlisting. Piloting drones requires almost half a year of specialised training, and in nearly every scene in which someone wears a uniform, even when they are supposed to be actual soldiers in-universe, the uniform is terribly, horribly wrong.
  • Artistic License – Ships: The Queen Mary actually is welded to the dock (which Michael pointed out), and actually had all the boilers and engine components removed before being docked. And it was oil-fueled, not coal
  • Ascended Extra: Both Ann and Lucille 2 are more prominent characters in the fourth season. Previously they were very much supporting characters, they existed mostly to stir up some drama between the main characters. In the fourth season they have a more active role in the overall story, with their feelings and their choices having a major impact on the plot.
  • Ashcan Copy: In-Universe. In the 90s, Imagine Entertainment quickly cobbled together an extremely cheap and sloppy made Fantastic Four film, after Ron Howard was told at a company Christmas party by a drunk lawyer that Imagine would lose the license if they didn't do something with it within six days. The bartender team of the Christmas party was then hired to play the lead roles, and they were hired to tend bar again at the film's wrap party six days later.
  • As You Know: Lampshaded in season 4. Tony Wonder and Sally Sitwell keeps wondering why they are constantly discussing the details of their scheme out loud since they have already talked it over enough times to know it by heart.
  • Attack of the Political Ad: When George Michael lets GOB do an ad for his school president campaign, GOB attacks George's rival, Steve Holt, on the grounds that he doesn't even know who his father is. It turns out GOB is Steve Holt's biological father.
  • Back for the Finale: Lindsay returns for the second Series Finale after being Put on a Bus.
  • Bed Trick: During season 4, Oscar plays this on Lucille, pretending to be George. Lucille isn't particularly shocked to find out the truth.
  • Birds of a Feather: GOB and Tony Wonder's relationship starts out as a revenge scheme, but end up developing feelings for each other because of how much they have in common.
  • Bittersweet Ending:
    • The fourth season ends with George-Michael finally standing up to his father, who had just lied to him about not knowing that Rebel was with him, but it's implied that the relationship is so strained that they won't reconcile. This exact implication is lampshaded and defied in Season 5, where they do end up mostly reconciling over the matter, even though their relationship still remains strained in many regards..
    • The second Series Finale has most of the family problems ending up nicely: Michael and George Michael are able to trick the Chinese into buying a failed software, making sure the family has money again, Tobias and Lindsay are together again, Maeby decides to deny the worst family traits she have, GOB still has some relationship with Tony Wonder and Michael and George Michael finally leave the family for what seems to be for good, but the very end shows that Lucille Austero really was murdered by Buster.
  • Black Comedy: Provides numerous examples of this.
  • Black Republican: Season four introduces Herbert Love, a rich smooth-talking ultra-conservative African-American politician.
  • Blah, Blah, Blah: The lawyer's commercial sounds like "You don't need doublespeak; you need Blah Blah Blah!" He's actually saying "Bob Loblaw," who becomes a recurring character and also runs the Bob Loblaw Law Blog. Newspapers also occasionally have the headline "Bow Loblaw Lobs Law Bomb!"
  • Bland-Name Product:
    • Maeby works for Tantamount Studios.
    • In season 4, Herbert Love buys Lindsay a diamond pendant from Tiffani's. (It's an in-universe knockoff brand.)
    • The show's soundtrack interestingly contains many musical examples of this, with composer David Schwarz creating Bland-Name versions of popular songs that would presumably be too expensive to license.
      • "Free at last" stands in for George Michael's "Freedom".
      • "Balls in the air" is a parody of Survivor's "Eye of The Tiger".
      • "The Yellow Boat" plays as the Narrator explicitly states that "Yellow Submarine" was too expensive to get the rights to.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Tobias actually seems to be a very competent psychiatrist; on the few occasions where he "takes off his acting pants and pulls his analrapist stocking over his head", his analysis is pretty spot-on. If only that was his actual job.
  • Book Ends: The first and last episodes feature Michael, at a boat party, coming to the realization that nothing good will ever come from supporting his family and deciding to take George Michael and ditching them, as well as the police showing up by boat to arrest a Bluth. According to the DVD Commentary, a lot of the blocking was also deliberately reused from the first episode.
    • Also, in the fourth season, chronologically listed, the earliest scene depicts George Michael punching GOB in the face after discovering he dates his girlfriend. Said season ends with George Michael punching Michael for the same reason.
  • Borrowed Catchphrase: Most of them, by the end of the series.
    • "I've made a huge mistake", GOB's catchphrase (and motto, practically), is also used by Marta (when she realises she likes Michael, not GOB), Michael (when he realises that "hermano" is Spanish for "brother" and the one Marta likes is him), George (when he regrets his affair with Kitty in Mexico), Steve Holt (when he realises he slept with Maeby, his cousin (he didn't actually sleep with her)), and Lucille (when she realises that her grand plan is about to fall apart in the finale).
    • Michael's reaction of "Her?" to his son's bland girlfriend, Ann is shared with the rest of the family.
    • After Gob fails his fire trick in front of the mentally retarded Rita, her response is an astonished "But wherever did [the lighter fluid] come from?"
    • Maeby's standard deflection of "Marry me!" was borrowed by Michael (to use on a woman he suspected to be his long-lost sister), and GOB (when Ann agrees to give GOB some space in Season 4. Unluckily, she takes it literally).
    • Oscar's " com" following his cries of "I'm Oscar!" was later borrowed by the Saddam Hussein impersonator sent to trial in his place with "I'm No-Scar! com!".
    • Steve Holt's catchphrase of "STEVE HOLT!" was apparently borrowed from his mother, "EVE HOLT!"
    • "The very fact that you call it that tells me you're not ready" in response to the phrase "Pop-pop" was used approximately once a season.
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: George has a son named Michael, and Michael has a son named George Michael.
  • Brick Joke:
    • GOB's girlfriend at the end of the third season: Ann, the third place contestant in the beauty pageant.
    • On seemingly dozens of occasions, Oscar very obviously insinuates that he is Buster's father rather than his uncle ("If only my father were here." "...Maybe he IS..."), but Buster remains completely oblivious until, offhandedly, Oscar refuses to "share his Pop Secret (brand popcorn)" with Buster. "Pop Secret? ...Is Oscar my real father!?"
    • In the first and last episodes of the first season George Sr. says:
      George Sr: I have the worst [bleep]ing attorneys.
    • In a throwaway line in the second season, Steve Holt upon discovering that GOB is his father, worries he inherited his receding hairline. In the fourth season, this is shown to be accurate.
    • In Season 4:
      Barry Zuckercorn: Take to the seas!
    • In the first episode of Season 1, George Sr says that he made Lucille the CEO because "they can't arrest a husband and wife for the same crime". When Michael tells him that this isn't an actual law, he responds with "I have the worst *Bleep*ing attorneys". In the second episode of Season 4, in a flashback, we see the source of this idea:
      Young Barry Zuckercorn: Yeah, because they don't have to be together, because you can't try a husband and wife for the same crime, right?
      Barry's father: ...Sure.
      Young George, Sr: We have the best *Bleep*ing attorneys!
    • In "Queen B.", Tobias and Marky try to warn Lindsay that the float she is aboard will explode, due to a bomb planted in her suitcase by Marky, her boyfriend, when their boat is rocked by an explosion, since the suitcase they put on the Love float was Tobias':
    Narrator: And it turns out to be kind of romantic... that Lindsay and Tobias have matching suitcases.
  • Bury Your Gays: Tony Wonder is seemingly killed when a crane pours concrete over a closet he is standing in as part of a magic act with GOB.
  • California University: A strange example of this occurs in Season 4, when the college George Michael attends is said to be UC Irvine, but the scenes were actually filmed at Occidental College. One wonders why they didn't just invent a fake university with a punny name, or mine the name "Occidental" for all of the multiple reference puns it was worth.
  • The Cameo: The main cast of Workaholics show up working for the airline Michael tries to get an in-flight magazine from.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Anytime Michael indulges himself or ever puts himself first (only a handful throughout the series) it has terrible consequences that are immediately revealed to his family who use the occasion to declare him just as bad as the rest of them (who ALWAYS indulge themselves and put themselves first).
  • Can't Get in Trouble for Nuthin': Maeby's attempts at teen rebellion tend to fail miserably. At best, they're not even noticed. At worst, her parents want to be included.
  • Cast Full of Rich People: Played with. The Bluth family is pretty well off when the series begins, but then patriarch George Sr. is arrested for various crimes and the company's finances are frozen. Much of the show involves the Bluths trying to adjust to "normal people" life while still trying to fit in with affluent society.
  • Casting Gag:
    • One episode had Tobias roleplaying with a relationship counselor played by Mr. Show co-star Bob Odenkirk.
    • A late episode has Michael believe a prostitute is in fact his sister. She's played by Justine Bateman, Jason Bateman's sister.
    • Bob Loblaw, played by Scott Baio, replaces Barry Zuckercorn, played by Henry Winkler as the Bluths' lawyer.
    • Twice, characters make reference to old TV shows that Ron Howard was on as a child, prompting comments from the narrator, Ron Howard.
    • Amy Poehler (then Will Arnett's wife) guest-starred as GOB's impulse-marriage wife with whom he has no chemistry or compatibility. This became a meta Brick Joke when Arnett appeared on Parks and Recreation as Poehler's blind date... with whom she has no compatibility.
    • George Sr. claims, when shown a photograph of him shaking hands with Saddam Hussein, that he just thought he was meeting the guy who played the Soup Nazi. Guess who shows up a full season later playing a Saddam Hussein lookalike?
    • In a flashback, a young Barry Zuckercorn is played by Max Winkler, Henry Winkler's son.
  • Catchphrase: Many, with inevitable borrowing later on.
    • GOB:
      • Insistent Terminology of "illusions".
      • Responding with "But where did the lighter fluid come from?" when he fails his fire illusions and only lighter fluid spews out from his sleeves.
      • "Come on!"
      • "I've made a huge mistake."
      • "I don't think so."
      • "What am I doing?!"
    • The Narrator has "In fact..."
    • Buster's "Hey brother..."
      • "Hey coworker..."
      • "Hey hermano..."
      • "Hey campers..."
      • "Hey possible nephew..."
      • "I'M A MONSTER!!!" Especially in Season 4.
    • Maeby's standard deflection of "Marry me!" started when somebody pointed out that she seemed a little young to be a movie executive. She realized she needed a new deflection when somebody responded "Okay!" When she needed to seem younger, it was "Babysit me!" She once said "Marry me!" to her uncle Michael... which wasn't as bad as when Michael used it.
    • Oscar:
      • His cries of "I'm Oscar... dot com!" after George Sr tricks him into getting sent to jail.
      • The Saddam Hussein lookalike at the end of "Exit Strategy" says something similar when trying to explain that he is only a Saddam Hussein lookalike, and the real Saddam Hussein had a scar on his forehead: "I'm No Scar! ... dot com!"
    • Kitty: "Say goodbye to these, Michael, because it's the last time you're going to see them!"
    • Steve Holt shouts "Steve Holt!" with his arms raised. Other members of the Holt family shout their names.
    • Each adult of the Bluth family has their own impression of how a chicken sounds and moves, with the exception of Michael and Buster. Tony Hale says that Buster has too much respect for chickens to imitate one. invoked
      Michael: Has anyone in this family ever even seen a chicken?
    • Michael:
      • "And I have no problem with that."
      • "Typical."
      • Barry is "very good."
      • "Well, that was a freebie."
      • "Don't call it that." anytime someone calls Orange County "The O.C."
      • "The fact that... tells me you're not ready."
      • "You're out of the movie!"
      • "He said some wonderful things."
    • Tony Wonder gets "Same!" and "Did somebody say... WONDER?"
    • Annyong says "Annyong," which turns out to not be Hulk Speak.
  • Central Theme: A rather depressing one being Character Development—>"Shaggy Dog" Story. It is called "Arrested Development" after all. It's ramped up in season 4 where, after a time skip, everyone at first seems to have made some significant positive strides in their life. The season is a slow-motion train wreck culminating in the batshit insane Cinco de Quatro.
    • Season 4's specific theme seems to be deconstructing the "Fawlty Towers" Plot by exploring all the effects of lying egregiously in relationships and to oneself regarding relationships.
    • Along similar lines to the "Fawlty Towers" Plot, the overarching theme of the Bluth family history seems to be to try and use deception, guile, and blackmail to gather economic, social, political, or personal power and then lose it all horrifically when history intervenes.
      • The entire plot of the series is set off when George's arrangement with the CIA and Iraq is torn apart by The War on Terror, in a parody of the unfolding Enron scandal of the time.
      • The housing project they spent the initial run of the program failing to get off the ground was finally completed between season 3 and 4 — just in time for the housing bubble to burst, sparking the 2008 financial meltdown and great recession.
      • Fakeblock, the Anti-Social Network, is already running into this during season 4, but George Michael is just taking his first steps down this path.
      • Seems set to happen again with the wall central to season 4 and the political ambitions riding on it, this time to be derailed by the 2016 presidential election, as the wall was central to Donald Trump’s campaign.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: Happens with the fourth season. While there still are comical hijinks like in the previous three seasons, there's less focus on them, and more on the characterization and drama. The season season ends with Lucille 2 disappearing, while it's implied that one of the Bluths murdered her, and with George Michael punching his father in the face, and neither of these is played for laughs.
  • Character Development: Averted. The entire point of the series is that none of the characters can mature.
  • Charity Workplace Calendar: One of Lindsay's charity efforts involved posing for a "Ladies for Literacy" calendar (read: she had a photo taken of her with nothing covering her save for a copy of Oliver Twist). It got a lot of middle-school boys interested in "books", but it had the side effect of nobody in the family wanting to look at the calendar anymore.
  • Chekhov's Gag: Very commonly throughout the show. Each episode more or less consists of a series of these, typically coming together perfectly (for us) and horribly (for the Bluths) at the end.
    • Prominently in Season 1 is George Sr admitting that he may have committed some "light treason." While originally assumed to be a one-off joke, never to be referenced again, at the end of the season we see that he did: by working with and building model homes for Saddam Hussein.
    • A big one is the fear the children have of amputees because of their father using a one-armed man to teach traumatic "lessons" to them.
    • You have to hand it to them, they really reached for every opportunity they could to foreshadow Buster's hand being severed off.
    • All the jokes about Maeby's uncertain parentage or biological relation to George Michael (starting with her Meaningful Name) pay off when it's revealed that while she is indeed the biological daughter to Lindsay and Tobias, her mother isn't the biological daughter of George Sr. and Lucille.
    • In "Best Man for the GOB" in Season 1, George Michael offers to accompany the Fünke family band on woodblock, calling himself "the human metronome" based on his punctuality, which Maeby disputes. George Michael's flawed sense of rhythm and timing come back in Season 4, as does his favor of the woodblock, as his entire story springs from trying to develop a woodblock app.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • In Season 1, the H. Maddas files.
    • Season 4 has the roofies GOB gave Michael in the first episode, and Tobias and Lindsay's matching luggage.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Implied between Michael and Tracey. In a flashback where a young Michael gets in trouble at school, one of his first worries is that "Tracey won't want to marry me."
  • Christmas Episode: "In God We Trust" and "Afternoon Delight."
  • Chroma Key: Lampshaded in Season 4. As Jeffrey Tambor plays both George Sr. and Oscar, it is necessary to use this effect if both of them are going to appear in a scene together at the same time. When George Sr. meets Oscar at a restaurant, he asks Oscar to take the seat opposite him as "it would look better."
  • Cliffhanger: Season 4 ends with almost all of its plot points unresolved with the intention of continuing them in the next season:
    • George Sr, because of a drop in testosterone and a rise in estrogen suddenly is acting like a woman.
    • The wall, which is not built, not able to be built due to George Sr not having the land, and is still being backed by Herbert Love's campaign.
    • Lindsay is going to run for Congress after Herbert Love fell into a coma.
    • Sally Sitwell's scheme with Tony Wonder.
    • GOB and Tony Wonder's relationship
    • Tobias was caught in Marky Bark's explosion.
    • Lucille had just requested a real divorce with George Sr.
    • We're still not done with Lucille's arrest just yet.
    • Lucille was going to return to rehab after Tobias called her The Invisible Girl.
    • Maeby is arrested for statutory rape of a student who she believed was an undercover cop who was of age.
    • There was also a throwaway scene where the Spanish woman George-Michael had sex with during his stay as an exchange student in Spain shows her friends George-Michael's "Star Wars Kid" video before standing up to reveal a baby bump. Is George-Michael the father? Will Michael become a grandfather?
    • George Michael and Maeby's potential relationship.
    • George Michael seems to have been targeted by Anonymous.
    • George Michael punched his father and they were at a stare down.
    • Buster is arrested for Lucile 2's murder
    • We have no idea who played The Thing in Fantastic 4: The Musical, since Tobias gave the costume to Buster, and Buster left it on the ground.
    • All of the main characters have motives, so we have no clue who's responsible for Lucille Austero's disappearance and probable murder.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Buster gets one in Season 1, GOB gets one in season 2 and Maeby gets one in Season 4.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: Michael is at the helm of a sinking ship of fools.
  • The Comically Serious: Wayne Jarvis
    • Ice
    • Larry, George Sr's surrogate in the third season.
  • Comic-Book Time: Season 4 had odd issues related to the passage of time (6 years are supposed to have passed since "Development Arrested" and the events of S4's Cinco de Cuatro) yet there are hints that Season 4 takes place in 2012. In the third episode of Season 5, "Everyone Gets Atrophy," it is stated that two months have passed since the Cinco de Cuatro festival. In the same scene, it's also stated that the year in question is 2015, which retcons S4's timeline.
  • Comic Trio: The three Bluth brothers occasionally form this dynamic, with GOB as the schemer, Buster as The Fool, and Michael as the ineffectual Straight Man.
  • Coattail-Riding Relative: Virtually the entire family coasts on George Sr.'s and Michael's business successes. Tobias, being especially pathetic, even occasionally tries to jumpstart his nonexistent show business career by exploiting GOB's equally nonexistent fame.
  • Colon Cancer: John Beard's To Catch a Predator rip-off, which has the full title of "John Beard's To Entrap a Local Predator: Orange County Edition: Super Creeps."
  • Consulting Mister Puppet: Franklin.
  • Continuity Lockout
    • Though later episodes made painstaking efforts to sum up the episode thus far when returning from act breaks, presumably to catch viewers who might have been flipping channels.
    • The Continuity Lockout is less about the plot and more about missing those sneaky little hidden jokes. For instance, if you miss the first couple episodes, you'll have no idea why the family is always driving a staircar everywhere.
  • Continuity Nod: All over the place.
  • Corrupt the Cutie: A major arc of the fourth season is George Michael's descent into typical Bluth selfishness.
  • Country Matters:
    • As a Last-Second Word Swap.
      Tobias: [to Lindsay] Great, and now you're mocking me!? You selfish cun— [sees Maeby] ...try music-loving lady!
    • Also the Stealth Pun noted below in which Michael tells GOB to get rid of the Seaward, his boat, and Lucille says she'll leave when she's ready to. Later, he gets a boat actually named the C-Word. The boat is also a multi-part pun, as it stands for this trope and "canceled", which was an impending threat for the show.
  • Cringe Comedy: All over the place.

  • Darker and Edgier: Season 4 takes a lot of the characters pretty dark places, most notably making Michael and George Michael as pathetic and unlikable as the rest of the family (not unlike like how Maeby slowly slid into this status during the original run) and already pathetic but still likable, characters like Buster and Tobias into jerkasses.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • The narrator becomes increasingly sarcastic throughout the second and third seasons.
    • Michael has his moments as well:
      Michael: Well, I'm sorry. It's just too late. I'm moving to Phoenix. I got a job. Something you apply for, and then they pay you to, uh... never mind. I don’t want to ruin the surprise.
  • Decoy Leader: George, Sr to Lucille, as revealed in the Grand Finale.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Double-Subverted. Michael appears again to be the protagonist of season 4, but then the episodes switch to character-centric episodes, and then George-Michael becomes the clear protagonist.
  • Demoted to Extra: Lindsay in the season 5 episodes where she appears, due to Portia de Rossi's retirement from acting.
  • Desires Prison Life: The first episode ends with Michael discovering that his father is starting to enjoy prison life.
    Michael: You like it here?
    George Sr: Oh, I'm having the time of my life!
  • Diet Episode: In "Let 'Em Eat Cake", the whole family is on the Atkins diet, and there's a running gag that they don't know what they're allowed to eat.
  • Dinner and a Show: Family dinners and get-togethers are almost guaranteed to descend into chaos.
  • Don't Explain the Joke:
    • GOB has a tendency to do this, such as when talking about how all of Michael's girlfriends are "dogs."
    • In Season 4, when Tony Wonder "magically" turns a bunch of men gay.
      Narrator: It was pretty easy to figure out how he did it. They started out gay.
  • Double Entendre:
    • Tobias's frequent homosexual Innocent Innuendo.
    • GOB's comment after getting a shock from seeing a picture of Jesus in a dark room.
      GOB: For a second I thought that was a real guy.
    • Maeby comments that she will feel better, "once I get a little Mexican in me."
  • Double-Meaning Title: The show is about a family with several children in different degrees of arrested development, who own a development company whose president gets arrested. Character development that ensues only after this arrest. Also, said development company struggles for three years with a deadlocked development project.
  • Downer Ending: Holy hell, season 4. Michael and George Michael's relationship is most likely beyond repair; Michael's taken a seemingly irreversible level in Jerk Ass and the Sudden Valley residents have fled; George Michael's relationship with P-Hound is over and his perpetuated lie about Fakeblock has attracted the attention of Anonymous; both Maeby and Tobias are jobless sex offenders; Buster's arrested for Lucille Austero's murder; Lucille and George are divorcing; Sally Sitwell is poised to be a Big Bad and is taking over Lucille 2's campaign; GOB has no money to pay the Mongols he hired to build the wall and is made to be the new president of the Bluth company despite a scandalous relationship with Tony Wonder. Lindsay, who seems to be the only one who's come out even slightly ahead, has completely rejected any chance at personal growth.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Lucille was once named one of the "World's Worst Drivers" by Fox.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: In-Universe example, almost anytime one of the Bluths brings up Tracey's death to Michael.
    Tobias: And secondofly, I know you're the big marriage expert around here. Oh, I'm sorry, I forgot: your wife is dead.
  • Dumbass Has a Point: In "¡Amigos!", Michael says that he's not so crazy about George Michael dating Ann, a girl Michael is not so crazy about. GOB, the resident buffoon of the series, instead asks if Michael is not so crazy about letting his son grow up, resulting in a few seconds of silence and Michael conceding to the point.
  • The Dutiful Son: A premise of the show up to martyrdom levels; Michael the Only Sane Man sacrifices his personal agenda trying to keep the Family Business afloat.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The pilot.
    • The model home, the penthouse, the Bluth boardroom, and George's prison are not the sets we see from the second episode onwards, but locations that look vastly different.
    • The Narrator spoke in a much more subdued tone of voice in the pilot, without the playful intonation that would become his trademark.
    • John Beard has a mustache.
  • El Spanish "-o": In one episode, George Bluth is mistaken for his brother while in Mexico. He tries to explain that they want his "brothero." It's even funnier that he puts the accent over the "e" (like you would if it were a real word in Spanish), so he's saying "bro-thero" instead of "brother-o."
  • Emergency Trainee Battle Deployment: In the second season, Lucille volunteers Buster for the army after being asked if she would send one of her children to war by a reporter. (At first implied to be Michael Moore, but later revealed to be a lookalike for a segment on a late-night talk show.) Buster does go through with it, but only because he assumes he'll be rejected for his various shortcomings. However, he underestimates their need for recruits and is accepted.
  • End-of-Series Awareness: Despite winning numerous awards and critical acclaim throughout the show's run, its viewership was small enough that it was always on thin ice. This was alluded to numerous times.
  • Everyone Is a Suspect: In season 4, it's shown that Lucille Austero is missing, quite possibly dead, maybe murdered. By the end of the season, almost no one has an alibi and almost everyone has a reason to want her dead, Michael is owing her 700 thousand dollars, Buster found out she manipulated him into missing Lucille's trial, Lucille was thrown in jail because of Lucille 2's testimony, she intended to release a bunch of pictures of Lindsay as a hooker for Herbert Love, she intended to fire Tobias (who would go back to prison) and get rid of DeBrie, she saw Maeby having sex with Perfecto, knowing that she was of age and he wasn't, she found out about George Sr.'s scam to build the wall and support her political enemy and GOB said he'd take care of her for his father. Subverted with George Michael, who had long forgotten who she was by that point.
  • Everyone Knew Already: Tobias' "Mrs. Featherbottom" act isn't fooling anyone. It doesn't help that it's a transparent rip-off of Mrs. Doubtfire (with a bit of Mary Poppins thrown in). The Bluths humors him because he does all the housework and chores that they don't want to do.
  • Evolving Credits:
    • The second shot of the opening credits displays a picture of the family member whose legal issues are the season's focus: George Sr. in seasons 1 to 3, Lucille in season 4 and Buster in season 5.
    • The family having fallen apart in season 4, the opening narration completely changes to highlight this fact. Season 5, in which the family comes together once more, reverts the opening narration to the original one.
      • In the original cut of season 4, depending on the character who gets his/her Day in the Limelight, the narrator introduces the show as if he/she was the main protagonist. The subtitles on each character ("his brother" "his mother") change to be from that character's perspective as well. Each character also gets an additional instrument playing over the Theme Tune, and despite the season finale not being focused on the entire family, its Theme Tune has all the additional instruments combined.
      • Not following the same concept, the season 4 remix has a yet another opening narration.
    • Due to the revelation that Lindsay has been adopted, season 4 puts quotes around the word "twin" in her label "his twin sister." That's no longer the case in season 5.
    • A very subtle one in season 5: the family picture at the beginning is slightly doctored to replace Buster's hook prosthetic with the skinless bionic hand he wears during the season's first few episodes.
    • Season 5's opening credits start labeling Lindsay as "his aunt" once the family secret is revealed.
  • Exact Words: Barry Zuckercorn winds up costing the Bluths a ton of money by being extremely literal with his words. He doesn’t distinguish between Dusty Radley Senior and Dustry Radley Jr. and sells them on a group called “The Guilty Guys” with the words “if he’s guilty, these are the guys for you.” Unbeknowenst to Michael, these lawyers are only skilled at getting guilty pleas.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin:
    • "DEAD DOVE: Do Not Eat"
      Michael: [looks inside bag] I don't know what I expected.
    • Tobias is a never-nude, which the narrator points out is exactly what it sounds like.
      Michael: I thought he just liked cut-offs.
  • Fade to White: Scenes fade out to white instead of the usual black.
  • Failure Is the Only Option:
    • The adult cast is never going to grow up and accept responsibility. Most tellingly after everything the family members go through and the lessons they learn in season 4 when the family falls apart, most of them revert to their old habits once they reunite in season 5.
    • Similarly, every season finale ends with Michael and his son fleeing the family only to somehow get drawn back into their mess. Michael accepts this fact in season 5 and gives up on his threats to leave.
  • Faked Food Contaminant: Maeby's Establishing Character Moment has her taking a fox foot (that she cut off of Lucille's fox pelt) and planting it in a frozen banana so she can scam a refund from George Michael.
  • Fake Pregnancy: Used every which way in a two-part storyline in which Michael Bluth's ex-fling Maggie Lizer not only pulls this on Michael to try and win him back, but also lies to two cops who have contracted her as a surrogate mother for their son and pawns the surrogacy off on a client so they can sue a local restaurant for causing the client's supposed "obesity." And then in The Stinger, Maggie apparently learns she's actually pregnant thanks to one last romp with Michael in the preceding episode.
  • Fake Buzz: Maeby drinks some virgin martinis and thinks she's drunk. George Michael tries to explain that "virgin" means non-alcoholic, but the venture is fruitless. Another time when Maeby and George Michael find some of GOB's fake wine (wine bottles filled with water). They drink it and think they are drunk. This leads them to get to second base.
  • Faking the Dead: George Sr. in the beginning of the second season.
  • Family Relationship Switcheroo: Michael, GOB, Lindsay, and Buster are introduced at the start of the show as the children of George and Lucille. It's eventually revealed that Buster was fathered by George's twin brother Oscar, and Lindsay is Lucille's half-sister, making them half-brother and aunt respectively to Michael and GOB.
  • Faux Documentary: The show is shot with handheld cameras, and nothing is shown outside the realm of what could be captured with a camera crew following the main characters and supplementary photography (at one point Kitty's claims that George Sr. was going to give her the company result in the series' only "footage not found" (apart from a callback at the end of the episode and a reference to the "great times" in Lindsay's and Tobias' marriage). The idea was much more explicit in the first half-season, when the "footage" briefly went static in a car accident, and a judge forced the camera to leave the courtroom.
    • The show more or less abandons the concept temporarily whenever they want to feature flashbacks of the adult characters as children. The clips are shown with a fake super 8 filter. This is probably a stylistic choice.
    • In commentary on the pilot they discuss the documentary-style they wished to mimic since it was so popular at the time. Although it wasn't held very strictly, they used digital cameras and had a rule to follow the action rather than lead it. There's at least one instance of a boom mic being used as a gag.
    • In season 5, the Genre Shift away from the faux-documentary style helps hide a pretty dark twist.
  • Fauxtivational Poster: George Michael has a poster thats says "Fun and Failure: They both start out the same way."
  • Fearful Symmetry: George and Oscar Bluth attempted to fight for Lucille once, but quickly gave up after every move made was identically countered.
  • Le Film Artistique: Les Cousins Dangereux, a French film about a forbidden relationship between cousins, which interests George Michael and Maeby
  • Final Season Casting: Despite appearing in the opening credits throughout the fifth season, Portia de Rossi as Lindsay Bluth-Fünke is almost absent from the season, to accommodate for de Rossi's retirement from acting.
  • Fist Pump: Steve Holt's Catchphrase is shouting "STEVE HOLT!" with raised arms.
  • Flanderization:
    • Tobias. His closet got way more transparent in the third season, to the point that practically every third line of his was a gay joke, and half of these were gay sex jokes.
    • The Narrator also suffered this in the third season to some degree, though this could arguably be seen as an (ultimately unsuccessful) attempt to prevent further Continuity Lockout.
    • GOB was a much more competent magician in the first season. He seems to grow out of his habit of spilling his magic secrets every time someone asks how he does it, which is probably why the Magician Alliance cuts him more slack.
    • Buster starts out very awkward, easily confused and prone to panic attacks, but not as dependent on his mother as he becomes later down the line, especially after he loses his left hand.
  • Flash Back
  • Floating Continent: Apparently a housing development idea of George Sr.'s that never got off the ground.
  • The Florence Nightingale Effect: A nurse who falls in love with Buster when he's faking a coma.
  • Foil: Thanks to Michael's helicopter parenting, George Michael is a fragile, timid boy, always questioning himself. Conversely, Maeby is precocious and self-sufficient thanks to her parents' neglect.
  • Follow the Leader: In-Universe with "Mock Trial With J. Reinhold", "Bud Court" and "John Beard's To Entrap A Local Predator: Supercreeps!"
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Buster losing his hand in a seal attack and replacing it with a claw is foreshadowed from the very beginning:
      • In the very first episode, Michael's mother complain that someone cut the foot off her fox fur.
      • Count how many times in the 1st and 2nd season we see Buster alongside artificial hands.
      • After discovering that his hand chair was given to Lupe's family, Buster says "I never thought I'd miss a hand so much"- a full six months before he does.
      • The second season premier features a newscast which briefly mentions a seal attack.
      • He also wins a stuffed seal from a claw machine. And briefly imitates the claw with his left hand
    • In the second season premier, George Michael mistakenly thinks Michael is saying Aunt Lindsay is not his real aunt when he was only talking about her nose being fake.
    • And let's not forget "The Immaculate Election", where GOB "helps" George-Michael by attacking his candidacy opponent (Steve Holt), by pointing out that Steve doesn't even know who his father is, while simultaneously reminiscing about the anti-abortion girlfriend he had didn't have in high school. Well, Steve Holt's parentage gets revealed during The Tag. Guess who....
    • In "Sword of Destiny", Buster briefly uses a semi-realistic plastic hand instead of his hook. This is more of a plot point in "Righteous Brothers", the Season 2 finale, where it causes Oscar, mistaking it for Buster's real hand, to burn himself on the corn baller and injure himself while Buster is ironing. While these two events are insignificant at the time, they lead to Buster discovering that Oscar is his real father, and a fingerprints-less Oscar being unable to prove his identity while being held in prison.
    • The fact that Rita is mentally disabled in Season 3 is almost too obvious on a second viewing.
      • "For British Eyes Only" begins with a flashback to an earlier conversation where Michael responds to his son telling him he has a stupid girl problem with: "I don't even have a girl, much less a stupid one." Later that day Michael meets Rita.
      • The same discussion prompts the Narrator, after George Michael replies "The problem's stupid, the girl's not stupid", to comment that if they had a child it would be. It is stated that the reason for Rita's disabilities is that her parents were cousins.
      • Another incidence foreshadowing the same reveal is when Rita sits on a bus stop bench that says "Wee Britain" in a way that it ends up appearing as "Wee Brain".
      • Trevor confronts Michael, asking "How would you like someone going after some stupid person in your family?"
    • Maeby is introduced as "[George Michael]'s cousin, Maeby," which could also be written as "[George Michael]'s cousin, maybe." A running plot point is George Michael desperately trying to find evidence that they aren't truly related. In the third season, there are several foreshadows revolving around Michael's mysterious sister N. Bluth which resolves to show that Lindsay is really 3 years older than Michael and adopted, therefore making Maeby biologically unrelated to the Bluths. It's then revealed, much later, she's actually Lucille's half-sister, making Maeby his first cousin once removed.
      George Michael: Aren't you my cousin?
      Maeby: Maeby(/Maybe)!
    • GOB says he "could be a father" in "Best Man for the GOB". He is.
    • Posters for the Surely Fünke fundraiser can be seen in the school in the background in "Shock and Aww", three episodes before this scam of Maeby's becomes a plot point.
    • One of Maggie Lizer's first lines is a pun on her name: "Maggie Lies-'er ass off!" Ironically, she wasn't lying by saying that- lying her ass off turns out to be her primary defining trait, as she is not only faking blindness but also fakes a pregnancy later on due to a surrogacy scam she's pulling and also lies that it's Michael's child to manipulate him.
    • Michael notices similarities between the model home and the palaces of Saddam Hussein in "Shock and Aww."
    • "Missing Kitty" shows that George Sr. has a cooler of evidence stamped with "H. MADDAS" on the side. To drive the hint home, the first shots of it sometimes show the cooler reflected in a nearby mirror...
    • In one episode, Michael and George Michael are shown retrieving the banana stand from the water, which is stated to be a common occurrence. The dredged-up stand has clearly visible graffiti on it saying "I'LL GET YOU BLUTH" that isn't addressed. The end of Season 3 reveals that Annyong and his family have held a grudge against George Sr. since his banana stand took Annyong's grandfather's idea and ruined him, and Annyong works as a mole to expose the truth behind the family's illegal activity as revenge. In hindsight, it becomes likely that the offscreen Annyong wrote the graffiti on the stand as the very first hint in the show of this plot.
    • The first mention of Tony Wonder in "Good Grief" foreshadows his and GOB's relationship in season 4. He doesn't appear in the episode except for a picture in Poof magazine - which GOB holds up, saying "I should be in this Poof!", right after obliviously (?) and repeatedly hitting on a male employee. For a Freeze-Frame Bonus, the magazine article text compares Tony Wonder to Liberace.
    • GOB foreshadows his entire plot arc for Season 4 in "Flight of the Phoenix" while trying to guess why Michael is in such a panic. Chronologically, this would have happened right after he slept with Tony Wonder.
      GOB: If you were ashamed of being in love with a man, suddenly discovered these new feelings, then I might say something like, 'Homo much?'
  • Foregone Conclusion: From the moment Michael buys into the idea of a vote to decide who leaves George Michael and P-Hound's dorm room, it is instantly obvious that Michael is going to lose that vote. What makes it funny is that Michael is completely oblivious about how unwanted he actually is despite George Michael's rather overt hints, uses several hours on (over)thinking about every possible outcome of the vote, boneheadedly insists on rules for the vote that only come back to bite him in the ass, and never considers for a second that he might actually lose.
  • French Maid Outfit: In an episode preview, Lindsay dresses as a french maid thinking that she'll get to write off her debt to Bob Loblaw with a sexual favor... but finds herself performing actual maid duties.
  • Friendly Local Chinatown: The series has an unusual ethnic enclave in "Wee Britain", which is inspired by the German-themed Old World Village in Huntington, California.
  • Fully Automatic Clip Show: There's one of Maeby saying "marry me!" in "Colony Collapse", in response to GOB accidentally proposing to Ann.
  • Fun with Acronyms:
  • Fun with Homophones: Maeby's check from Lucille in Season 4 is misinterpreted by Lindsay as being from Gangie, for a facelift. It's actually a $50,000 check for her work producing the horror film "Gangie 4: Facelift".
  • Funny Background Event: The show has several of these, many of them being auditory as opposed to the usual visual. Most are also a Rewatch Bonus, as they won't be noticed the first time around. Some of these include:
    • In the stinger of "Motherboy XXX", GOB is meeting with a judge to get his marriage annulled, and while the narrator says, "GOB can admit he never consummated their marriage," GOB can clearly be heard at the same time saying, "We never sonsummated this marriage."
    • A combination of this and Running Gag: During Tobias' Blue Man Group storyline, blue paint can be seen smeared all over the house in the background of other scenes.
    • In "Let Em Eat Cake", Tobias tells Lindsay he's going to run the shower to see if it's too loud in the kitchen. Lindsay begins to have a conversation with Michael, and in the middle of it one can hear the squeak of a pipe turning on and water rushing, which Michael notices and looks horrified at.
    • In "Fakin' It", when Michael announces that Franklin was put on the witness list, GOB runs off saying, "I gotta tell Franklin," which Michael clarifies to mean "get Franklin." As Michael continues speaking, GOB can be clearly heard in the other room saying, "Franklin, guess what?"

  • Generation Xerox: A recurring theme in Season 4:
    • Michael and George Michael, although growing further apart, do end up having a relationship with the same woman.
    • Tobias and Maeby both inadvertently end up as registered sex offenders.
    • Lindsay's appearance and mannerisms match up closely with Lucille's when she becomes the new Republican candidate for Congress. She even has a rivalry with Lucille Austero's running mate Sally Sitwell, reflecting her father's with Stan Sitwell and her mother's with Lucille Austero.
    • Sally Sitwell is revealed to have alopecia, much like her father Stan Sitwell.
    • The season ends with Buster getting arrested like Lucille was earlier in the season.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff:
    • When they were children, George Sr. instigated fights between Michael and GOB, filmed them, and released them. The tapes were very popular in Latin America. invoked
    • The same could be said about the cornballer. invoked
  • Gibberish of Love:
    • George Michael tends towards this whenever he thinks he's got even an inkling of a shot with Maeby.
    • When his father meets Rita for the first time, we see where he gets it from.
  • Girls with Moustaches: GOB sets Michael up with a mustached girl out of revenge.
  • Give a Man a Fish...: And he'll want to use your yacht, and I don't want this thing smelling like fish!
  • Glamorous Wartime Singer: Lucille Bluth in Vietnam.
  • Golden Moment: Occurs almost entirely with Michael and George Michael, his son. Lampshaded when while making snacks with his father at the end of an episode George Michael remarks that he doesn't need his dad to stay out of his life, he's the biggest part of his life. Michael states, referring to the snack they are making, "That's a little cornball, son."
  • Hereditary Twinhood: Michael and Lindsey are established as being twins when they're introduced. It's later revealed that their father has a twin brother himself. Later subverted when it's revealed that Lindsey is actually adopted.
  • His Name Really Is "Barkeep": Invoked when actor Judge Reinhold starts a reality courtroom show a la Judge Judy with himself as the judge. He then calls it Mock Trial with J. Reinhold. It eventually spawns an imitator show starring Bud Cort.
  • Hollywood Hacking: George Michael's "Fakeblock" software in season four is touted as being able to remove any information regarding someone from the internet, and is being marketed as privacy software and an "anti-social network." The reality is that if such software existed it would violate an obscene number of cyber laws, if not ALL of them. Hence it is revealed that "Fakeblock" is a simple wood block sound app, with him getting millions from investors as a result of an accidental "Fawlty Towers" Plot. When George Michael starts talking with his roommate about actually developing the idea, the response is affirming it is impossible.
  • Hope Spot:
    • The Forced Perspective model homes used to fool Japanese investors actually work perfectly... until a giant mole man and a jetpack boy crash into the set.
    • The ending of "Blockheads": Michael and George Michael finally forgive each other, and confess that they each didn't know that the other was dating Rebel Alley (which in Michael's case is a lie.) They hug, and just when we think the ongoing arc of their worsening relationship finally been solved... George Michael realises that something was weird about Michael's confession: 'How'd you know about the photo booth?' Michael, unable to respond with the truth thanks to the roofies GOB gave him the previous day, is lost for words, and George Michael lashes out and punches him in the face. Cut to credits.
    • In season five, it's revealed that Tobias's bastard son Murphy Brown used to program cable boxes and knows a lot about encrypting data. George Michael is stunned to learn Fakeblock might just be real after all... it's not. The data is just destroyed by Murphy's method.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Most lines spoken by GOB, Lindsay, and Lucille Bluth, with other members of the family getting a few here and there.
    • And, of course, Tobias's frequent claims that everybody else is a closet homosexual given the slightest provocation.
    • Done subtly with Michael: Despite his best efforts, he turns out to be just as meddling and arguably as abusive as his parents.
    • In the second season finale, the narrator explains how the Les Cousins Dangereux American remake was doing very badly due to the excessive bowdlerization, for example, the film having to state constantly that the protagonists weren't biological cousins; later in the episode when George Michael and Maeby make out, the narrator, deadpan, reminds us that George Michael and Maeby might not be biological cousins.
  • Identical Twin Mistake:
    • Happens repeatedly in "The One Where Michael Leaves" with the police mistaking Oscar for his fugitive twin brother George. Except the last time when George deliberately disguises himself as Oscar to invoke this.
    • Invoked again in "Righteous Brothers" when George gets Oscar sent to jail in his place. The following episode reveals that "You've got the wrong twin" is a very common retort to the police.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Every episode's title rides somewhere within the scope of Double-Meaning Title, Pun-Based Title or Homage:
    • "Public Relations": Michael hires a woman to handle public relations for the Bluth family, then after dating her finds their relationship becoming very public.
    • "Making a Stand": GOB makes a banana stand, then unites with Michael to make a stand against their father.
    • "Exit Strategy": The penultimate episode of the initial series' run, in which the Bluths go to war-torn Iraq (argued to be war-torn due to a lack of an exit strategy) to find the evidence that exonerates their father (giving the show an exit strategy).
    • "Justice is Blind": Maggie Lizer's dog Justice is blind and Maggie can see.
    • "Queen for a Day": For the one day that Tobias owns the bar "The Queen Mary" he has it (accidentally) renamed "Tobias is Queen Mary".
      Tobias: I guess I can have them remove the Mary.
    • "Missing Kitty": George Sr.'s secretary Kitty is missing.
    • The first two episodes of the second season ("The One Where Michael Leaves" and "The One Where They Build A House") are titled with the Idiosyncratic Episode Naming of Dueling Show Friends.
      • The following episode is called "¡Amigos!", which means “Friends” in Spanish.
    • The episode "Good Grief", centered around the Bluths' different reactions to hearing about the "death" of George Sr. This episode features homages to Peanuts including a beagle lying on the roof of a red doghouse, using music directly from the Charlie Brown specials, being titled after main character Charlie Brown's catchphrase and the Charlie Brown Depressed Walk wherein the character walks slowly with their head down with the aforementioned music, just like in the specials.
    • "Family Ties": Michael Bluth (played by Jason Bateman) investigates into whether or not a woman he just met has family ties to him as his sister. She is played by Justine Bateman, who has family ties to Jason Bateman (she's his sister), and also starred as Mallory Keaton on the TV show "Family Ties".
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: Tobias is constantly hinted at to be gay. Unbeknownst to the public during the first two seasons of the show's prime-time run, the actress playing his wife, Portia de Rossi, came out as gay in late 2005.
  • Idiot Houdini: Nearly all of the Bluths.
  • If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten!: A variant in season 4 where the military gives Buster a kitten to test if he has enough control over his new hand to avoid crushing it. The trope is played with. Buster had control over his hand and is lying about it. If he doesn't crush the kitten, he'll give himself away. So while he isn't being asked to prove he is a bad guy as in a straight example of this trope, if he does prove he is a bad guy (by killing the kitten in spite of having control over his hand) he would have passed the test.
  • Important Haircut: A lot of the storylines revolve around hair and lack thereof.
    • George Sr. has a habit of swapping identities with his twin brother Oscar by force, either by putting on a wig or shaving his brother's head.
    • He also frequently asks George Michael to "Give me your hair!"
    • Tobias has treated himself to four thousand hair plugs, which resulted in him nearly dying as the transplant was rejecting his body. He also sported a classy wig while disguised as Mister Featherbottom. Erm, misses!
  • Impossible Pickle Jar: Lindsay tries to open a jar but fails. Her husband Tobias proudly comes to her aid, but fails miserably as well—playing into his general lack of manliness displayed throughout the series.
  • Innocent Innuendo: In-show, Tobias. Almost everything he says conspires to sound gay.
  • Insistent Terminology:
    • George Sr. didn't commit treason, he committed light treason.
    • They're not tricks. They're illusions. Used to G.O.B.'s chagrin in "Family Ties", among other episodes.
      • Oddly enough, GOB eventually talks about a prostitute "turning illusions," the exact reason he gave in the pilot for why he doesn't like to say "tricks."
      • As much as he insists that they're "illusions" rather than "tricks" during actual magic shows, he tends to not have an issue with them being called "tricks" (and even does so himself) in casual conversation, implying that the whole thing is actually just a poor attempt to make himself seem more sophisticated while performing, rather than an actual preference.
      • Illuminated in Season 4: G.O.B offers up his Insistent Terminology, but when it's clear his bar tab is riding on the issue, he has no problem shouting, "Who wants to see a trick?"
  • Intercourse with You: Afternoon Delight. After figuring it out, George-Michael and dad find it too vague to mind singing it.
  • Irony: A Real Life example. A factor that greatly contributed to Arrested Development's humor and uniqueness (and eventual cult status) was the high level of Continuity between episodes and the innumerable brick jokes, callbacks, and running gags present throughout the series that rewarded longtime viewers and, in the process, helped set it apart from the myriad of other sitcoms it competed against. However, many people now believe that it was this level of continuity that at least partly accounted for Arrested Development's perpetually low ratings. Most sitcoms, due to their episodic nature, allow a viewer to jump right in and enjoy the humor without being confused by the plot. On the other hand, many first-time viewers may have abandoned Arrested Development after getting lost in the plot and/or being confused by the self-referential jokes. Since then, premium-based or streaming sitcoms have taken cue from this, appealing to a more loyal core fan base rather than a widespread general audience.
  • I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine:

  • Jerkass Has a Point: Many of the Bluths qualify for this, making rather astute observations when not being too self-absorbed. In several instances, Lindsay and Lucille both tell Tobias that he has no talent or ability as an actor. With his consistent inability to get acting work coupled with his pompousness, not many people disagree.
  • Jigsaw Puzzle Plot: Season 4 is very much this.
  • Jumping Out of a Cake: As part of a Zany Scheme pulled by GOB and George, he hires a narcoleptic stripper to do this. She does, but ends up punching Buster in the face.
  • Joins to Fit In: GOB founded the Alliance of Magicians, as he feels the magician's craft isn't taken seriously.
  • Just Take the Poster: Tobias does this when an ad for an acting job is pointed out to him. When he shows up for the audition, he's the only one there.
  • Kent Brockman News: At 15 episodes, LA newscaster John F. Beard is tied with Barry Zuckercorn (Henry Winkler) for most common recurring cast member/character.
  • Kissing Cousins: George Michael's crush and his cousin Maeby.
  • Lady Drunk: Lucille is almost never seen without a drink in her hand.
  • Lampshaded the Obscure Reference: In the episode "S.O.B.s", Tobias brings up someone named Freddie Wilson while talking, prompting the other characters to say they "don't get that reference." This doubled as an in-joke about how some people thought the show's inability to gain mainstream appeal was caused by its numerous and sometimes obscure jokes about pop culture, along with its topical references.
  • Large Ham: A veritable buffet line.
  • Last-Second Word Swap:
    • "You selfish c-ount..ry... music... loving... person."
    • "She just called to ask me to bring her a tube of vag... is... table paste. Hi, George Michael."
    • Then there's this:
      Lindsay: Look, if you say no, you're just going to drive him right to her.
      [enter George Michael]
      George Michael: Hey, Dad, can you drive me to Ann's?
      Michael: Nnnn... Y-Y-Y-Y-Yes.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler:The clips that play on the DVD menus can be quite spoileriffic for the episodes on that disc.
  • Later-Installment Weirdness:
    • Having been written and produced for Netflix, free of the constraints of having to make weekly episodes or avoid Continuity Lockout, the show got to experiment with its format:
      • Season 4 is presented in a Rashomon style, each episode focusing on a single character, and the complete story only emerging after watching the entire season.
      • The remix of season 4, as well as season 5, return to a more traditional, chronological storytelling, but are much more heavily serialized than the original three seasons.
    • Season 5 got more lax with swear words, with the word "shit" (and its derivatives) being liberally used with no bleeping.
    • Having aged, George Michael and Maeby now have their own adventures and storylines as grown-ups. While this has been partially the case for Maeby and her Hollywood career in the original show, it is new for George Michael.
  • Leitmotif:
  • Lemony Narrator: The amount of times Ron Howard breaks the fourth wall probably counts in the hundreds. In a general sense, he doesn't seem to think highly of the Bluths, and takes potshots at them whenever an occasion presents itself. He also takes considerable offense to the bad narration of Scandalmakers.
  • Leno Device: Jim Cramer is shown talking about the Bluth company on his show and in a later episode makes a live appearance. John Beard was an actual Fox local anchor and is presented as an exaggerated version of himself. Beard has been cast in several series either as a generic anchor or As Himself.
    • In a variant, Joel Hodgson and Trace Beaulieu appear in Season 4 to reprise their roles as Joel and Crow to riff on Debrie's Fantastic Four movie, to show that the movie was that bad.
  • Lethal Chef: Lindsey, who starts off with such delights as Hot Ham Water and "Cream Soda" (soda water with cream in it), before "advancing" to raw chicken served in the water it was defrosted in. Not to mention her tendency to leave the stove on and then wander off...
  • Let the Past Burn: An episode ends with Michael and his son, George Michael burning down the family banana stand while they watched as a means of putting the days where they miserably had to work there behind. George Sr. isn't pleased because he had hidden a secret stock of cash in there and the two of them failed to find it.
  • Lies to Children: Thanks to Lucille's insane lies to cover up her alcoholism, Lindsay has grown up believing that vodka goes bad if not finished the day it's opened and that wine only becomes alcohol if left to sit.
  • Live Episode: Parodied with the end of "S.O.B.s".

  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Deconstructed with Rita. She is beautiful, quirky, free-spirited and livens up Michael's boring, workaholic lifestyle. However, this turns out to be because she's mentally disabled and has the outlook and mental capacity of a very young child.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • George Oscar "GOB" Bluth = Florida Man.
    • George Michael's cousin Maeby. As in, she's his cousin - maybe. (Turns out she's not.) (Wait, yes she is, just a generation off.)
    • George Sr., while under house arrest, hires a man to wear a camera and a microphone and relay his words to the rest of the family during a consultation with a lawyer. The guy's name is Larry Middleman.
    • In the Grand Finale it is revealed that Annyong's real name is Heh-Loh.
    • Tobias in the fourth series dates a (recovering) junkie named DeBrie. Lampshaded when Tobias ends up discarding her quite literally in a pile of debris. To drive home the joke, it's actually labeled as such.
    • Rebel from the fourth season, who literally rebels against her father.
  • Metaphorgotten: GOB, on after the seal that bites off Buster's hand gets its flipper eaten by a shark.
    GOB: Poor little guy. He's probably out there somewhere, swimming around in circles, freaking out his whole family.
  • Mid Battle Teabreak: In a season 4 episode, Michael and GOB get in a fight in a padded children's play area after agreeing it is the safest place to fight. Shortly after the fight begins, they crash through the wall of the knife store next door. At this point, they stop the fight long enough to return to the play area.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: The vulture that's hanging around Sudden Valley doesn't look like any American species.
  • Money Dumb: Having been rich for their entire lives, the Bluth family is terrible with money, since they have so much to burn that they don't necessarily need to manage it. The family burns a lot of money sustaining Lindsay and Gob, two members of the family that bring in no money at all and don't even believe they need or should work for it; Lindsay being a liberal activist that spends her time jumping from one cause to another, while Gob is virtually useless in every job he takes and spends his time trying and failing to make it as a magician and spending the family money in expensive but unimpressive tricks. Even when George Sr. is arrested and they lose much of their access to money during the investigation, the family simply demands that Michael make money appear out of thin air.
    Lucille: It's one banana, Michael. What could it cost, ten dollars?
  • Muscles Are Meaningless: Lucille seems to be stronger than she looks, as she can break through a barricaded door with little difficulty.
  • My Friends... and Zoidberg: "I'm going to stay here with all these... hot men. And Ira."
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Tobias' business cards: Dr Tobias Fünke, analrapist note 
    Buster: [gasps as he reads the card]
    Tobias: It isn't pronounced like that.
    Buster: It's not the pronunciation I was worried about.
  • Nipple and Dimed: Parodied. In an episode where both Lucille and Tobias flash their breasts, both chests are censored despite Tobias appearing topless and uncensored other times.
  • No Bisexuals: Played for Laughs with Tobias and played awkwardly straight with GOB and Tony Wonder, two straight-identifying men who have sex and share some sort of confusing feelings.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • The season 4 character Herbert Love is a pretty clear imitation of former presidential candidate Herman Cain.
    • Pop singer Mark Cherry appears to be a takeoff on Justin Bieber.
  • Not Blood Related:
    • George Michael desperately looks for evidence that he and Maeby are Not Blood Related. In the Season 3 finale, it turns out that they're not... because Lindsay isn't. However, Season 5 end up walking back on this by revealing that Lindsay and Lucille are half-sisters, meaning they are related after all. They are seen sharing a kiss in the final episode.
    • The Bluth's "uncle" Jack Bullet, who they exclusively refer to throughout the episode as as "Fake Uncle Jack", likely because a major plot point of the episode is his sexual desire for Lindsay.
    • When it's revealed that Lindsay is adopted, she comes on to Michael and GOB comes on to her.
  • Not Cheating Unless You Get Caught: Most of the conniving characters have no qualms about their schemes and are only concerned by the repercussions if they get discovered. As Bob Loblaw summarizes it: "Why should you go to jail for a crime someone else... noticed?".
  • Notorious Parent: The Bluth family patriarch, George Sr., committed a host of financial crimes as the head of the Bluth Company, and also somehow blundered his way into committing treason when he built houses in Iraq during the sanctions, when American businesses were forbidden from operating in Iraq. His kids spend much of the series having to live down their family's terrible reputation. However, matriarch Lucille was actually the mastermind behind the crimes, and used George Sr. as a puppet to carry out the dirty work.
  • Once More, with Clarity: Several scenes in Season 4. Sometimes, it's even inverted, because a new question arises after something that the viewer is led to believe proves to be untrue.
    • Michael coming home after Cinco de Quatro, turns out he was turned down by Lucille 2 and did not sleep with her, who was actually offended by the suggestion that she'd be so desperate to get laid that she'd let him off with paying U$700,000.
    • George Michael can be seen talking with his roommate a lot about his Fakeblock app, only for the episode centered on him to confirm that these conversations were not at all related to a privacy/anti-piracy app. It was a woodblock simulator n the first one, and in the second, it was him trying to convince his roommate this app could be done.
    • The negotiation over film rights between Michael and George Sr. At first, it seems that it's a scene where George Sr. tries to apologize and cash in a favor from his son only to reveal he got there by a coincidence, still trying to cash in a favor, since the first person to speak to Michael was actually Oscar.
    • At a bus in India, Lindsay runs over a tourist and they all laugh about it, said tourist turns out to be Tobias and the accident ends up re-igniting his dream of being an actor.
    • The meeting of Lindsay with her shaman is seen in a new light when it's revealed that the shaman is actually Maeby in disguise trying to guilt-trip her.
    • While brief, the scene of Michael eyeing a red-head woman going into the elevator gets this when that woman turns out to be Lindsay.
    • Maeby supporting her mother to go after Love as a way to get Marky out of prison is renewed in a sense when Maeby turns out to be pimping her mother out to him and is in fact arranging meetings she received money from him for.
    • Maeby getting fired by George Michael from their Fakeblock alliance becomes this when Fakeblock turns out to be just a woodblock simulator app.
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: Seriously, this family really needs to get on the same page.
    Narrator: At no point were Michael and Maeby talking about the same person, and there were only four people in their group.
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted. Lucille Bluth's best friend/social rival is Lucille Austero, played by Liza Minnelli. When the name confusion is not being Played for Laughs, the show refers to her as Lucille Austero, or Lucille Two.
    • To a lesser degree, there's a bit of a theme with the names of most of the male Bluths. There's George Oscar Sr, Oscar, George Oscar II ("GOB"), Michael, and George Michael. The only one to escape this is Buster.
    • Tobias also has a brief relationship with a transvestite (whom he believes to be a woman) bodybuilder named Michael.
    • There is, however, only one Steve: Steve Holt!
  • One-Woman Wail: Parodied in the latest season. 'Co-oo-o-oooooo-oooooo-oo-ooo-incidence.'
  • Only Known by Their Nickname:
    • Buster and GOB's real names, Byron and George Oscar II, are only mentioned once each after the pilot. Maeby's real name Mae only appears as a subtitle in the pilot.
    • Technically, none of the Bluth siblings go by their birth names: in addition to Buster and GOB only being called by their nicknames, Lindsay has been adopted and renamed, and Michael's first name is misspelled on his birth certificate.
  • Only Sane Man: Michael Bluth is all too aware of this trope.
  • The Only Way They Will Learn: Extreme "lessons" are a theme of the series, from Maeby's Kissing Cousins scheme to the lessons the Bluth children learned at the hands of J. Walter Weatherman.
    • Although George Michael and Maeby are mostly sane as well. At least until Maeby got a movie job.
  • On the Next: subverted; they're almost always one-off jokes based on hanging plot threads of the episode they accompany. Of course, there are a few Double Subversions where the preview is actually true...
  • Open Relationship Failure: Lampshaded. In season two, Lindsay and Tobias try an open marriage to see if it can salvage their strained relationship. As it turns out, Lindsay is frustrated that her attempts to flirt with other men go nowhere, and Tobias is too busy jealously stalking Lindsay on her dates to do anything else. Both of them brag about how much they're sleeping around, though.
    Tobias: You know, Lindsay, as a therapist, I have advised a number of couples to explore an open relationship where the couple remains emotionally committed, but free to explore extra-marital encounters.
    Lindsay: Well, did it work for those people?
    Tobias: No, it never does. I mean, these people somehow delude themselves into thinking it might... but it might work for us.
  • Out of the Frying Pan: Near the end of Season 3, George is finally exonerated for his crimes, leaving the Bluth company in an actually good position for the first time in years. However, during the boat party, Annyong shows up to reveal that he had been feeding information and evidence against them to the SEC, and then Lucille steals the Queen Mary, putting them in a worse position than ever.
  • Outdated Outfit: Lupe's hand-me-down jumpers.
  • Overly-Long Gag: Season 4 is especially fond of this, as episodes are longer on Netflix than they can be on network TV:
    • In "Flight of the Phoenix", Michael trying to work out the details of the roommate voting scam.
    • In "Indian Takers", Tobias and Lindsay keep upgrading, ultimately buying a ridiculously extravagant mansion that they obviously can't afford.
    • GOB and Tony Wonder downing the contents of their drinks in real time.
    • Lucille and Buster's "smoke transfer" lasts significantly longer than it seems like it should.
    • GOB unsuccessfully trying to tell Ann he wants to break up, stuttering through a nonsensical sentence in such a manner that would give Porky Pig a run for his money.
    • GOB takes a roofie one morning to try to forget about finding out just then that he contracted syphilis. The result?
      Narrator: ...and soon GOB found himself experiencing what, on the street, is referred to as a "roofie circle," whereby a roofie is taken the day after a degrading event too late to erase the memory of the degrading event itself but not too late to erase the prior day's attempt to erase the event. Thus, with no memory of taking the roofie but the memory of the event very much alive, the victim of the roofie circle finds himself constantly trying to re-erase the memory but only succeeds in erasing the memory of the attempt to erase the memory. Days turn into weeks, weeks turn into months, and relationships grow testy. And what begins in shame almost always ends in a Mexican hospital with stage 4 syphilis.
    • In "Red Hairing" Michael and Lindsay share several lengthy hugs in order to frustratedly brief each other about how their respective schemes are playing out.

  • Parent with New Paramour: Played with throughout the series with each of Michael's new love interests. One of the obstacles in his relationships is his fear about the effect it'll have on his son, even though George Michael generally doesn't mind.
  • Parental Sexuality Squick: Comes up a lot, considering Lucille's considerable libido. GOB is so sensitive to it that when Lucille says her new lover Dusty "tickled her fancy," he assumes the worst, and wonders in horror what part of her the "fancy" is.
  • Period Piece: Season 4 fills in all the years since the show was cancelled, and has a lot of fun with the 2007 real estate crash.
  • Person as Verb: "Don't go all Michael on me."
  • Phrase Catcher: Whenever someone (usually George Michael) says something about Ann, people (mostly Michael) tend to say, "Is she really?" "Really?" "Her?" or "Who's Ann?"
  • Playing Catch with the Old Man: In the episode "Key Decisions," Gob has himself put in the same prison where George Sr. is incarcerated to perform an escape-from-prison trick. After the plan goes awry, Gob talks with his father and laments that they never played catch while he was growing up. So, George Sr. takes him to the exercise yard and plays catch with him...until he's shanked by another prisoner.
  • Pokémon Speak: "STEVE HOLT!"
  • Police Brutality:
    • A running gag in which George Sr. or Oscar (or one disguised as or mistaken for the other) gets tackled by police and a second later, one officer clubs him on the head with a nightstick. (Also, it's always the same two cops, each switching off on nightstick duty.)
    • As well as GOB getting tasered.
    • Season 4 has an unwitting Tobias appear in an episode of a To Catch a Predator ripoff hosted by John Beard. The perp gets the "why don't you have a seat over here" treatment, and is then lured outside and subjected to a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown by the crew as well as police officers assisting the show, before being arrested. This is implied to be their standard operating procedure.
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis: Of all things, the phrase "douche chill," which despite all online prevalence to the contrary, does not originate with Tobias, but over a decade earlier with The Howard Stern Show.
  • Primal Scene: In "Visiting Ours", GOB unfortunately witnesses his parents getting it on when he is detained against the window of the conjugal trailer they're in. It happens again in "Prison Break-in".
  • Prison Rape: Referenced and played for humor several times:
    • In one first season episode, George Michael is revealed to have watched an episode of Oz as a small child (having confused it for The Wizard of Oz), and is terrified of visiting his grandfather in prison as a result.
    • In the third season of Arrested Development, George Bluth complains about being under house arrest with his wife (after having spent most of the first two seasons incarcerated):
      George Bluth Sr: In prison I just had to lie there and take it. Here, I have to lie there and give it.
    • In the same episode, George Sr. gives a speech to troubled youth about life in prison, thinking that he's supposed to scare them straight (i.e. scared off drugs or gangs), but ends up describing prison rape to a group of gay youth who are expecting to be scared straight (i.e. scared into becoming heterosexuals). Needless to say, they are excited by the prospect of sweaty groping in the dark by buff men.
    • It's also made fun of when Lindsay visits her father in prison during a previous season and is confused as to why none of the prisoners seem to be attracted to her.
      George Sr: I'm paying thousands of dollars in Krugerrands.
      Lindsay: What?
      George Sr: Gold Krugerrands. Your mother snuck them in here, stuffed them in energy bar wrappers to keep me from getting strangled in the shower or worse.
      Lindsay: Stabbed?
      George Sr: In a way.
    • In season 4, the activist/terrorist Marky Bark expresses fear of being imprisoned, commenting that prison is like [a restaurant running on the barter system], except there's only one thing to swap.
    • Possibly experienced by Tobias in a spell of imprisonment in the fourth season. He ends up as a registered sex offender, and the narration indicates that this status resulted in him being savagely beaten with a spoon. He also learned from his prison experiences the problem with calling himself an analrapist, and starts to call himself a theralyst instead.
  • Punny Name:
    • Taken to Added Alliterative Appeal Tongue Twister levels; Lawyer Bob Loblaw, owner of Bob Loblaw's Law blog. He is quite the mouthful. One headline reads "Bob Loblaw Lobs Law Bomb." Season 4 gives us "Low blow, Loblaw".
    • Also Maggie Lizer as in Maggie Lizer ass off.
    • And then there's the District Attorney Lottie Dottie, or Lottie Dottie DA, in season 5.
  • Racist Grandma:
    • "Oh GOB, you could charm the black off a telegram boy!"
    • And several of Lucille's remarks towards her housekeepers and other Latino hired help. She also has said a few negative things toward Asians.
    • In season 4 George Sr. and Lucille state they don't tip black people, and are confused at others who see a problem with that.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot:invoked In-universe. Maeby's movie studio is suffering Narm with test screenings of their newest horror movie, because its monster isn't scary. Maeby finds the monster when she sees Lucille recuperating from a chemical peel at night, spawning the successful "Gangie" franchise.
  • Really Gets Around: Michael, surprisingly. GOB tries to be this.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: Tobias gets fired from his job as a security guard by trying to get rid of some mice from a clothes shop (which GOB let loose) by firing randomly at them with his revolver.
  • Re-Cut: In an unprecedented move, before the release of season 5, Netflix premiered a completely altered version of season 4. The original version of the season was told in Anachronic Order, focusing on individual characters in each episode and telling that story over the course of several years. The "Season Four Remix: Fateful Consequences" version of the season re-edits every episode from the ground up (entire scenes play differently and has new narration) and places more emphasis on sequential order. The episodes were also reduced to a more traditional 24 minute run time compared to the longer 35 minute episodes of the original, resulting in more episodes total.
  • Red Herring: The first five episodes of season 3 are this, as they suggest that Rita is a British spy, working with Mr. F, the man trying to keep his father in prison, and that her strange hats contain listening devices so that she can incriminate Michael and his father.
  • Remember the New Guy?: Franklin, GOB's puppet was apparently used sometime before the beginning of the series. However, the cast as a whole seemed to suddenly remember him all at the same time, on the episode of his debut.
  • Repeated Cue, Tardy Response: In "Exit Strategy", Michael is in a meeting with Wayne Jarvis. Wayne dramatically says, "[GOB]'s on the news right now," and turns the television on. But Gob is not on the news. They the have to wait through about twenty minutes of unrelated stories before the aforementioned news report finally comes on.
  • Retcon: A pretty major one in Season 5. Lucille's mother, who the family now calls Mimi instead of Nana, didn't die of natural causes as stated in "Missing Kitty," but rather, was pushed down the stairs by Buster as a child.
  • Rewatch Bonus:
    • A lot. You'll never catch all the subtle jokes, set-ups, and foreshadowing on a first-time viewing. Season 4 takes it up to eleven due to being shown in Anachronic Order. For example, Lindsey's spotlight episode is completely different on a second viewing once you know Tobias was just barely off-screen the whole time.
    • The Rita Leeds arc once it's revealed that she's mentally challenged, not a spy.
  • The Reveal:
    • In Season 1: George has been working with Saddam Hussein to build houses in Iraq.
    • In Season 2: GOB is Steve Holt's father.
    • In Season 3:
      • Lindsay is actually Nellie, the Bluths' adopted daughter.
      • Lucille has been behind almost all of the Bluth family's corruption from the start.
      • Annyong has been working as a mole for the SEC to take down the Bluth family out of revenge. He succeeds.
    • In Season 4:
      • The "famous person" GOB is dating is Tony Wonder.
      • Sally Sitwell is The Chessmaster behind most of the series' events.
      • Perfecto is underage, making Maeby a registered sex offender like her father.
      • Fakeblock doesn't exist, and is instead the result of a series of increasingly elaborate and dangerous lies on George Michael's part.
      • George Michael is "George Maharis," Rebel Alley's other boyfriend.
      • Lucille 2 was killed on the night of Cinco de Quatro and all of the Bluths have motives for the murder.
    • In Season 5:
      • Tobias had another family, including a grown son.
      • The Bluths have kept the beach house where Tracy died without telling Michael.
      • Lucille is responsible for George Sr's emasculation.
      • Lindsay is related to the Bluths, she's Lucille's half sister.
      • Buster is responsible for Lucille 2's death after all.
  • Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense: Most of the Bluth family, with the exception of Michael.
  • Rule of Funny
  • Running Gag: Plenty, which can be found here.
  • Running Gagged:
    • Maeby used to say "Marry me!" whenever her coworkers thought she looked too young to be working to remove suspicion. One of her coworkers takes the offer a little too seriously, and she stops afterwards.
    • GOB did not get the message, as he accidentally proposes to Ann in Season 4.

  • Secret Room: Michael discovers the model home has a secret room under the stairs in the episode "Fakin' It". It also turns out Tobias knew about it for a while and has been storing bodybuilding magazines there. Michael later realizes that the houses his father was building in Iraq should have a secret room as well since they're based on the model home. He checks and finds evidence that proves his father was innocent of treason.
  • Seduction as One-Upmanship: Gob, who is still angry at Michael for trying to pursue a relationship with his girlfriend, tries to get back at him by seducing a trans woman with whom Michael was having a friendly conversation, because Gob can't conceive of a man being polite to a woman unless he's planning to sleep with her. Naturally, Michael has no reaction to Gob seducing the trans woman.
  • Shaped Like What It Sells: The Bluth family's one consistent moneymaker is the frozen banana stand, which is shaped like a banana.
  • Share Phrase:
    • On top of the show's numerous Borrowed Catchphrases, Lucille, GOB, Michael, and Maeby all say "That was a freebie" in the third season, with about equal distribution (Maeby says it in two separate episodes, but Michael said it in the first season).
    • And of course, "I've made a huge mistake."
    • Season 4 has almost every character call someone or something a "hot mess."
  • Shout-Out:
    • As the Narrator, Ron Howard frequently makes references to his past careers on the classic TV shows The Andy Griffith Show and Happy Days.
      • (after Jessie derisively calls George Michael "Opie") "Jessie had gone too far, and she had best watch her mouth."
      • "No one was making fun of Andy Griffith. I can't emphasize that enough."
      • The Andy Griffith shoutouts really start to pile up in season 4 once Ron Howard himself becomes a recurring character.
    • Tony Wonder wanted to call his magic DVD Use Your Illusion, but it turns out some band already had the rights to that.
    • Rita's uncle holds out a jewelry box to her and when she reaches for it, he snaps it shut, causing her to laugh uncontrollably, like in Pretty Woman.
      • In Season 4, Herbert Love tries the same trick, but the box snaps shut on Lindsay's hand, hurting her.
    • There's a censored mention of Veronica Mars in "Family Ties."
    • Season 4: The story mentions a couple of horrible (fictional) movies. Clips from these movies are shown with some very familiar audience silhouettes in the foreground. Turn up the sound and you'll hear some high-quality MST3K riffs - delivered by Joel Hodgson and Trace Beaulieu!
      • In one Season 4 episode, GOB is seen with some friends at a club called "and Jeremy Piven," a reference to the opening from Entourage.
    • The infamous sitcom My Mother the Car is playing in the background of an episode appropriately titled "My Mother, the Car". Lucille gets into a car accident and claims Michael was driving.
    • The scene at the end of "Blockheads", where GOB is wiping off shaving cream from his face, mimics the final scene of Cruising. This can be seen as a commentary on the unexpected homosexual relationship between GOB and Tony Wonder, as well as a possible hint that GOB is the one who killed Lucille Austero.
    • In "Off the Hook", the way Buster, a child-like idiot savant, is fooled by the Army into thinking he's playing a flight simulator, while he's in fact controlling a remote plane and killing real people, is quite similar to what happens in Ender's Game.
    • In "Pier Pressure", the first version of the song "Big Yellow Joint" bears very strong similarities to the Arlo Guthrie song "Alice's Restaurant."
    • In season 4, whenever GOB experiences some sort of existential crisis, often relating to his future and his love life, "The Sound of Silence" plays in the background.
    • Someone involved in seasons 4 and 5 must have really liked The Office (US), as several alums of the series show up in the revival, including Ed Helms as real estate agent James Carr (a one-time character from season 2 who became more prominent in season 4), Zach Woods as a drone operator, Andy Buckley as a colonel (in the scene immediately following the one with Zach Woods, no less) and John Krasinski as a Jerry Bruckheimer Productions employee.
    • Maggie Lizer, the blind lawyer played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus introduced in Season 1, is likely a reference to Daredevil, a popular comic book about a blind lawyer (although it's eventually revealed that Maggie isn't really blind). Considering Season 4 features a whole subplot revolving around the Fantastic Four, it's likely that some of the showrunners are Marvel Comics fans.
  • Sibling Rivalry: Quite a few, including GOB and Michael, George and Oscar, and Buster and Annyong.
  • Side Effects Include...: When Tobias and Lindsay performed as a singing hippie duo hawking drugs for a pharmaceutical company years ago, a young Maeby would deliver the side effects in between songs.
  • Sitcom: An unusual case of a sitcom with an evolving continuous narrative as the life of a corrupt wealthy family is Played for Laughs through numerous mishaps, failures, and setbacks.
  • Sixth Ranger: Oscar, who first appears late in the first season.
  • Sleeping Single: Lindsay and Tobias do this.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Despite its silly/lighthearted nature, this show leans very far on the cynical side. Aside from George Michael and possibly his father Michael, all the characters are incredibly self-centered and amoral people who (as the show's title implies) experience zero character development. And even Michael, especially later in the series, has a major Jerkass streak. It's even been theorized by some fans that Michael is actually every bit as selfish and amoral as the rest of the Bluth and Funke families but better at hiding it. Season 4 proves this theory to be correct.
  • Spies In a Van: Government agents spy on George Sr. in prison by parking outside in a van decorated for the "Blendin" dog washing service. When their mole Cindi starts to lose her cover, the guys in the van pull out a stuffed dog and start washing it in case someone comes closer in suspicion. It turns out later that they also pose as the Blendin electrician service, remodeling the Bluth company offices (poorly) with new lighting and then coming back to steal what they think is evidence. In Season 3, their van is labeled as the Blendin catering service.
  • Split-Screen Phone Call: Used throughout season 5.
  • Standardized Sitcom Housing: One of the most surprising aversions, considering the family business and how self-aware the show is. The couch is off in a corner and it's possible to go from the front door to the kitchen without passing through the living room. The actual model home used in the pilot had a grand spiral staircase...leading to an unfinished attic.
  • Status Quo Is God: Played fairly straight in the original three seasons (except for the occasional hand), then heavily defied in Season 4. By the end of the season, Lucille Austero is dead/missing, Buster is going to be arrested, Tobias and Maeby are registered sex offenders, George Michael and Michael are at odds (not to mention very corrupted), George Sr. is a woman, and Lindsay has made a complete 180 in political stance and has access to a congressman's riches. But then, come season 5, and most of them have reverted to their old selves, except for Lindsay, who decides to find her biological parents and leaves.
  • Stealth Insult: Michael can't go two lines without laying one of these down on his family.
    Lucille: It's so nice not to have to worry about contraception anymore. The doctor says that I couldn't be a mother now if I tried.
    Michael: And that was without even asking me.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: In Season 4, all three Fünkes end up in India at the same time, each inspired in their own way by Eat, Pray, Love.
  • Subverted Catchphrase: From The Stinger of "Blockheads". Even the police seem surprised.
    Buster: I'm not a monster!
  • Surrounded by Idiots: Poor Michael.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Lucille's housekeeper Luz was replaced by Lupe after a single episode.
  • That Came Out Wrong: Tobias is the master of faux pas.
  • Thicker Than Water: Family ties is the most important thing for Michael. That's why he easily forgives all the mischief brought onto him by his relatives.
  • Time Skip: Season 4 opens five years after the ending of season 3.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Averted with the "Next Time on Arrested Development..." scenes, which are integral to the story and don't spoil future episodes at all... Besides the scene at the end of "Altar Egos", which completely spoils "Justice Is Blind": Maggie isn't actually blind.
  • The Treachery of Images: A certain subplot in season 5 is actually an in-universe dramatization of events that went down very differently.
  • The Unfair Sex: Averted. Lucille is an abusive mother and Lindsay neglects her daughter.
  • Verbal Backspace:
    GOB: Plus, she's religious. That one gets pregnant, it stays pregnant. Believe me, I dated a chick like that once in high school. [pauses as a sinister hook plays] No, I didn't.
  • Verbal Tic: Keep an ear out for every time the narrator begins a sentence with "And that's when..."
  • Verbal Tic Name: Parodied with "Annyong," who always repeats this name back to anyone who says it - since it's Korean for "hello". Lucille just didn't care enough to actually learn his real name: Hel-Loh.
  • Vetinari Job Security: Things immediately fall apart any time Michael leaves.
  • Warm Place, Warm Lighting: The Bluths visit Mexico fairly frequently. Both outdoor and indoor scenes are tinted orange.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Subverted in that right until the end they keep working for approval from their father (or in GOB's case for both his father's and Michael's). There is also the fact that George deliberately undermined his sons to keep them working for his approval, as he believed it built character.
  • Wham Episode:
    • "Let 'Em Eat Cake": George's "light treason" was building model homes in Iraq for Saddam Hussein, and he fakes a heart attack in order to escape from prison.
    • "Out On A Limb": Buster's hand gets eaten by a seal.
    • "Exit Strategy": George Sr. has been cleared of all charges.
    • "Development Arrested", big time: Lucille Bluth is the one who's been controlling both George and the Bluth company the whole time. Lindsay was adopted by the Bluths at age three and is the elusive "Nellie" (therefore, George Michael and Maeby aren't biological cousins). GOB's Christian girlfriend turns out to be Ann. Annyong (real name: Hel-Loh) is a mole for the SEC, and has been gathering evidence against Lucille to avenge his grandfather's stolen business. Finally, Michael and George Michael leave the family for good.
  • Wham Line: Several throughout the series:
    • "Top Banana" gives us a hilarious one in its final moments:
      George Sr: There was $250,000 lining the walls of the banana stand.
    • Also from "Top Banana":
      George Sr: How much clearer can I say... There's always MONEY... IN... THE BANANA STAND!
    • The "On the Next" tag of "Altar Egos", the episode that introduces Maggie Lizer:
      Narrator: And Tobias is sent to sneak into Maggie’s house to steal evidence, only to discover that she’s not blind.
    • "Justice Is Blind":
      Vet: Justice is fine. Although... Dressing him up like a seeing-eye dog seems a little cruel.
      Michael: Cruel?
      Vet: Well yeah, because he can't see.
      Michael: What are you talking about?
      Vet: Mr Bluth... Justice is blind.
    • "Let 'Em Eat Cake":
    Reporter: ...But the real surprise here is that these homes appear to be American-built.
    Narrator: But it was too late, as George Sr would be declared dead within the hour.
    • "Good Grief":
      George Michael: ...Pop-Pop?
      George, Sr.: Hide me!
    • "Sad Sack":
      Barry Zuckercorn: Those are balls.
    • "Out On A Limb":
      Narrator: And then a loose seal bites off Buster's hand.
    • "Righteous Brothers", just when it looks like George has finally turned himself in and done something good for the family:
      Narrator: Later, while George Sr was shaving his unconscious brother's head, he wondered whether there really was a reward, and if there was a way he could get it.
    • From the end of "Mr. F":
      Narrator: But there was one piece of intelligence that Michael didn't have.
      Agent 1: Interesting...
      Agent 2: Don't even think about it J. She's an MRF.
      Agent 1: MRF, what's that?
      Agent 2: Mentally Retarded Female.
    • "Development Arrested":
      Stan Sitwell: 5%? Lucille actually gave you less than her natural children?
    • Also from "Development Arrested":
      Lucille: Well I know it was someone in this family...
      Annyong: Or someone who used to be!
    • "Blockheads":
      George Michael: How'd you know about the photo booth?
  • Wham Shot:
    • Annyong hiding in the walls in the epilogue of "Mr. F".
    • George Michael punching his father in the epilogue of "Blockheads".
    • Lucille 2's body falling out of the wall in the epilogue of "The Fallout".
  • White Sheep:
    • Michael, George Michael and Buster are generally this in relation to the Bluth family. They are by far the most decent and the least manipulative and selfish. Contrasted to the others who are greedy and power-hungry, and generally hold very few morals. Tobias also fits into this trope, although slightly less so since his ideas of this don't necessarily comply with other people's ideas of this. Maeby too, as despite her rebellious nature, she’s mostly your everyday teenager looking to have fun and rarely stoops to the same lows her mother, grandparents, or GOB usually do (her “Surely” scam being the only real exception). Even her movie career doesn’t really qualify as her only sin there is hiding it from her parents.
    • In Season 4, this trope is deconstructed with all three of them: Michael becomes much more frustrated and selfish, abandons his family and eventually kicks almost all of them out of the movie, Buster is pushed far past his limits, and eventually punches Herbert Love in the face, and George Michael begins to show his natural Bluth traits, most notably the power of lying, and ends up digging himself deeper and deeper, and eventually punches his father in the face after he finds out that he was lying to him. Not to mention the fact that they're all implied to have motives for Lucille 2's murder. As for Tobias and Maeby, they both finish the season off as sex offenders.

Specific episodes and scenes provide examples of:

  • Accidental Marriage:
    • Maeby and George Michael have one when trying to entertain people in a senior citizens home.
    • GOB ends up marrying a woman in an escalating series of drunken dares. This is even funnier if you know that Will Arnett and Amy Poehler, who plays the woman he marries, were married in real life at the time of the episode's airing.
  • Accidental Misnaming: George Michael's girlfriend Ann, whom Michael and others variously call "Egg, "Yam," "Plant," "Plain," "Bland," and "Her?".
    • Who?
  • Actually Pretty Funny: In "The One Where They Build a House", GOB admires Michael's quip about his "business model".
    Michael: Also, I'm not sure how "Solid as a Rock" helps people forget the fact that we built houses in Iraq.
    GOB: I love that.
  • Apology Gift: Lucille Bluth reveals to Maeby that most of the items in her jewelry collection were gifts George Sr. gave her after she discovered his various affairs.
  • Awkward Father-Son Bonding Activity: Usually any episode which involves Michael trying to bond with George-Michael. Same can be applied to GOB and Steve Holt.
  • Bait-and-Switch Time Skip: In one episode, George Sr. gets put in solitary confinement in prison, leading to a dramatic montage of him struggling with the isolation. When he scratches a hashmark to mark his time, we see he's been in for two days.
  • Batman Gambit: Michael attempts several of these. A failed example includes when Michael tries to break up GOB with Marta by putting her in the magic act.
  • Becoming the Mask: In Season 4, GOB sets out to get revenge on a newly uncloseted, flirty Tony Wonder by winning his heart and then breaking it. Tony is secretly straight and just pretending to flirt, because he thinks GOB is gay as well and has a boyfriend with money. They both end up truly enjoying each other's company and developing feelings for each other - the Narrator says this is confused friendship, but after they're tricked into sex with each other GOB says the experience has confirmed he's in love. Troper bonus: literal full face masks are involved.
  • Beware the Nice Ones:
    • In one episode, Tobias (best known for homosexual innuendo), enters the same prison as George Sr. Tobias uses his therapist training and counseling skills to unintentionally convince the most powerful inmate to kill himself, and then heads a new prison gang centered around Wizard of Oz imagery, whose members were called "friends of Dorothy."
    • He was certainly the most feared analrapist in the prison.
    • In the final episode of Season 3, George Michael punches GOB out cold when he realizes that his uncle has been dating Ann behind his back.
      • Her?
    • In "Off the Hook", Buster punches Herbert Love in the face and knocks him out, and then possibly murders Lucille 2.
    • In the final episode of Season 4, George Michael punches his father for dating Rebel Alley while he still knew the discovery that George Michael was dating her as well.
  • Blatant Lies
    G.O.B.: Lindsay's been staying at the Four Seas for, like, a month—-she's probably charging the company.
    Michael: Lindsay's been in town for a month?
    G.O.B.: I don't think so.
  • Body Double: Turns out that the houses in Iraq that the Bluth company built were housing a group of Saddam doubles. Though for double spoilers one on of them may be the real Saddam and a double was killed in his place.
  • Book Ends: The finale of the original run, "Development Arrested", is filled with them.
  • Brutal Honesty:
    Michael: Did you burn down the storage unit?
    T-Bone: Oh, most definitely!
  • Buffy Speak:
    • A lot of the time, especially from Lindsay.
      Lindsay: Michael, if this is a lecture about how we're all supposed to whatever, and blah blah blah, well you can save it because we all know it by heart.
    • The narrator himself refers to Michael eating an entire "thing" of candy beans twice.
  • Celebrity Paradox/You Look Familiar: Richard Belzer appears as himself in "S.O.B.s" and then later as his Homicide/ Law and Order character John Munch in Exit Strategy.
  • Cluster Bleep-Bomb:
    • At the office:
      GOB: Please refrain from discussing or engaging in any sort of inter-office [bleep]ing, or s[bleep]ing, or finger[bleep], or [bleep]sting or [bleep]eeing or or even [bleep]. Even though so many people in this office are begging for it. And if anybody does anything with my sister Lindsay, I'll take off my pants, I'll sh[bleep]. And I'll personally [long bleep].
    • When the kids are making fun of their mother:
      Buster: [impersonating Lucille] I'm an uptight [bleep] BUSTER! [long bleep] YOU OLD HORNY SLUT!
    • Dealing with the prostitute:
      Nellie: We're gonna have some ground rules first, OK? No [bleep]ing, [bleep] [bleep]ing, or [bleep]asting. And no [bleep]ing unless you're wearing a [bleep] [bleep] or you [bleep] before you [bleep] me. And if this winds up on the web, I will [bleep] you in the [bleep].
  • Creepy Uncle: The Veals have one. GOB, Tobias and Buster all play this role for George Michael occasionally.
  • Crying After Sex: In the episode "Family Ties", G.O.B. and George Sr. both hook up (not at the same time) with the same prostitute (neither one realizes the other is seeing her) and go to bed with her multiple times (or maybe just skip straight to the crying) in the same hotel room. Both end up crouched at the foot of the bed, venting their inadequacies as she sits above them, looking bored. note 
  • Dining in the Buff: In an "On the next episode" gag, Tobias, a former never-nude, overcompensates when briefly cured. He walks down to the family breakfast naked and drinks some coffee.
  • Disappearing Box: GOB's "Aztec Tomb" makes continuous appearances.
    • In first episode during George Sr.'s retirement party, GOB hid his father in the tomb to hide him from the Securities and Exchange Commission. He hid behind the revolving door in the tomb, which kept him out of sight until the police dogs found him. This was broadcast in-universe on the FOX 6 news and GOB was subsequently kicked out of The Alliance of Magicians.
    • The tomb continued to be part of GOB's blacklisted magic career and was used in "Public Relations" for his retirement home charity show. GOB hid Earl Milford in the tomb and Earl used the chance to escape the nursing home.
    • The Aztec Tomb was stored in the model home's attic, where George successfully hid on multiple occasions, while on the lam.
  • Drugged Lipstick: On GOB's ventriloquist's dummy.
  • Exact Words: "There's always money in the banana stand."
  • Gambit Pileup: In "Making A Stand", George Sr. attempts to carry out a illegal deal with a Columbian cartel by using GOB to unwittingly launder the money and distracting Michael by playing him against GOB. In response, Michael makes a plan to convince his father that the cartel have kidnapped him after Michael caught on and called the deal off to teach him a lesson. However, after GOB tells George Sr. the full details of the plan less than a minute into its setup, George Sr. plants his go-to scare tactic amputee J. Walter Weatherman in the group to give him a means to teach them a lesson about teaching their father a lesson. After finding out that GOB ruined their scheme, Michael gets into a fight with him which spills onto the balcony, where Michael falls over the railing. Once George Sr. runs out to the balcony in shock, Michael comes up from his hiding place behind the railing to teach George Sr. the lesson about pitting GOB and him against each other that they had originally planned... at which point the police, investigating the commotion upstairs, break in and shoot Buster's hand off- his fake hand, which he had been passing off as his good hand by concealing his real hand under his hook all along, teaching them all the lesson he'd been trying to teach the entire episode about using amputees to scare people.
  • Hollywood Provincialism: Inverted in at least one instance. For a series that makes so many specific references to the Orange County area, it's surprising to hear Michael say that he's traveling on "Highway Five" instead of "the Five," as all native Southern Californians would do.
  • Homosexual Reproduction: Maggie Lizer was a surrogate mother of a gay couple. Michael initially thinks her pregnancy was because of him. Maggie foisted the surrogacy job off on her legal client instead and kept the pregnancy ruse up to manipulate Michael.
  • Historical Figures in Archival Media: In one episode, then-president Donald Trump appears on a television when Lucille watches his infamous “We need to build a wall” speech, when she comments that she came up with the idea first
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • Leaning on the Fourth Wall example:
      Tobias: Those Hollywood shows are so incredibly detailed. [gets a pot of coffee out of a cupboard containing only the pot and a Starbucks cup]
      George Michael: [gets a granola bar out of an otherwise empty cupboard]
    • The third season is full of this, and it's almost always Leaning on the Fourth Wall.
      Rita: [a Brit, pretty well played by the South African Charlize Theron] I just hate when they get Yanks to play British people; you can always tell.
  • Instantly Proven Wrong: In the episode "Fakin' It", Michael discovers a secret room in the model home filled with body-building magazines, themselves filled with muscular men. Tobias enters and has a conversation with Michael where he admits the magazines are his. He says they're from a body-building phase he'd gone through (rather than using them to ogle the men) and he hasn't touched them in years. He then opens one and we hear a talking magazine ad for a new television show.
  • Kubrick Stare: George Michael of all people has this expression in "Rom-Traum" when tailing Michael at the border crossing to Mexico, and hearing him lie about his whereabouts while George Michael is merely a few cars away from him.
  • Landline Eavesdropping: In "Marta Complex", Lucille eavesdrops on Buster's phone call with Michael, but her cover is blown when Michael hears her maid Lupe asking her a question.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall:
    • The late season 3 episode "S.O.B.s" is chock full of references to the show's failing ratings and involves the characters pleading for support and trying to seem more relatable, while simultaneously stating that they would not be able to do a Channel Hop should they ultimately be canceled, and, by the end, openly accepting the show's impending cancellation.
    • When they discuss the idea that there is a mole with a listing device in the company in "Mr. F", the cameras focuses on each cast member, ending with George Sr.'s surrogate and then finally with a wide cast shot of the conference room with a studio mic hanging overhead that gets quickly pulled away.
    • In Season 4, whenever footage from the original run is used, a watermark for "Showstealer Pro Trial Edition" is seen over it - a nod to the reduced budget on Netflix
  • Left Hanging: Nearly every single plot and subplot in season 4 is left unresolved.
  • Like Father, Like Son: In "Family Ties", G.O.B. and George Sr. individually hook up with the same prostitute, Nellie. Both end up crouched at the foot of the bed, venting their inadequacies as she sits above them, looking bored.
  • Line-of-Sight Alias: In season 4, George Michael gets the alias George Maharis when he introduces himself as George Mi—heiress (he had just been telling Maeby that the correct pronunciation was "airess", not "Harris"). As a Genius Bonus, George Maharis is a real person, and while George Michael chose the name to escape the embarrassing implications of George Michael and Boy George, that name carries very similar implications.note .
  • Meaningful Name: Sitwell repeatedly has problems with the adjustment of his eyebrows.

  • Noodle Incident: The stripper in Season 1 Episode 19 "The Best Man for the Gob" wakes up, sees Buster with apparent blood around his mouth, and according to the Narrator, assumes she has murdered him for groping her.
    Stripper: [bored] Ugh, not again.
  • Obituary Montage: In "Key Decisions", Michael Bluth attends the Desi Awards ceremony with his brother's girlfriend, Marta. He sits through a Spanish-language montage of dead people in uncomfortable silence.
  • One-Person Birthday Party: In the episode "My Mother the Car", Michael organizes a surprise birthday party for Lucille, which no one else shows up to, because Lucille is a Rich Bitch. After lecturing the rest of his family, he organizes a do-over... which no one shows up to, again.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Byron "Buster" Bluth, Mae "Maeby" Fünke, and George Oscar "GOB" Bluth.
  • Peking Duck Christmas: Not the holiday precisely, but a similar idea. The setting has two Punny Name restaurants. One is "Skip Church's," a Sunday brunch place where Christians go in lieu of church. The other is "Miss Temple's," a Chinese restaurant frequented by Jews in lieu of synagogue.
  • Plucky Office Girl: Kitty has used her position as one of these to get enough information on everyone to perfectly manipulate them all. Problem is, she's crazy, so how well this works is left up to the viewer.
  • Prison Episode: The whole first season features George Sr in prison, but "Key Decisions" also features GOB in prison, "Staff Infection"/"Missing Kitty" features Tobias in prison, and "Queen B." in Season 4 features Lucille in prison after losing her trial.
  • Product Placement:
    • Two references to Netflix appear the season broadcast by the service.
    • An episode from Season 2 has a blatant (to the point of almost parody) one for Burger King.
  • Real Fake Wedding: George Michael and his cousin/crush Maeby take part in a fake wedding at the hospital for Alzheimer's patients, only for a real priest to step in. While it's mentioned in the next episode and is legally binding, it's not mentioned again.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: The circuitous, Hyperlink Story-ish nature of season 4 is due to difficulties coordinating the actors' schedules. Tony Hale's schedule conflicts with Veep in particular were so difficult to work with that Buster's focus episode is mostly self-contained.
  • Really 17 Years Old: Maeby gets a job as a producer where she constantly has to hide the fact that she's still in high school.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Tobias gets license plates made in the name of his hopeful roles, one of which says "DR HOUSE" .
    • See Actor Allusion above. Also an obscure, and apparently arbitrary, one: in "Fakin' It", Wayne Jarvis has the line "Why do there have to be puppets like Frank?" in reference to GOB's puppet Franklin. invoked
    • George Sr. has apparently seen Astro Boy. He certainly would fit the age range when it came out.
    • George Michael is being threatened by Anonymous. Yes, that Anonymous.
    • In "In God We Trust", Barry Zuckercorn (Henry Winkler)goes to comb his hair in the mirror, then holds his comb to the side in Fonzie's famous pose from the Happy Days intro.
    • In Season 4, produced by Netflix, Tony Wonder and Sally Sitwell mention that they don't want their plan to be a House of Cards, a reference to Netflix's first original series.
  • Sitcom Archnemesis: Lucille II is this in Lucille's opinion and Stan Sitwell is this to George Sr. In both cases, the detested person is a really decent person, but is treated as a nemesis because the Bluth in question attributes their own kind of motivations to them.
  • Smart People Speak the Queen's English: Rita is a subversion. Her English accent is (according to the narrator) the reason that people don't figure out that she's mentally retarded.
  • Snowball Lie: It's hard to believe that Fakeblock started off as a simple woodblock app.
  • Spousal Privilege: Thoroughly mangled by George Sr.
  • Stealing from the Hotel: Marky Bark offers a handful of hotel soap bars at the restaurant that only accepts trade. They're rejected.
  • Stop Trick: Parodied in "Prison Break-In" with GOB's fundraising video. While playing up his magician persona to demonstrate he can make some things disappear (but not Tobias' illness and that medical treatment is needed), he vanishes a prop in his hand with a stop trick. Not only is the jump pretty jarring and noticeable, but people have appeared in the background in the second shot, disrupting the intended visual, and further uses of the trick in GOB's video are just as confusingly drastic and undermine the effect.
  • Stupid Sexy Flanders
  • Subverted Punchline: Actor Judge Reinhold appears on a Show Within a Show version of Judge Judy. The title? Mock Trial with J. Reinhold.
  • The Tag
    Narrator: On the next Arrested Development...
  • Take That!: Done in-universe, oddly enough, when the narrator spends a good bit of an episode knocking the narration of a rivaling show, Scandalmakers.
    • In the Season 2 blooper reel, you can hear David Cross tell off Fox's marketing team for its failure to market the show despite its great reviews and numerous awards and nominations. The best part is that he does it while half-dressed in his Mrs. Featherbottom costume.
  • "Take Your Child to Work Day" Plot: Exaggerated in "Not Without My Daughter" when EVERYONE in Newport Beach participates in Bring Your Daughter To Work Day, including Tobias (bringing Maeby to a private therapy session), the local police, and a prison guard. Subverted with Barry Zuckercorn, who just hired a hooker to call him "Daddy."
  • That Came Out Wrong: The show specializes in these, usually half a dozen per episode from Tobias (who doesn't realize what he's said), but often from Michael as well (who only notices it half the time).
    Michael: I screwed my own brother-in-law. (walks away)
    Maeby: Well, I'm all grown up now.
  • Theme Twin Naming:
    • George Oscar Sr. and his twin brother, Oscar George.
    • At one point Maeby pretends to be a twin sister named Surely.
  • Therapy Backfire: Lindsay and Tobias try going to couples counseling after Tobias quits his job to become an actor. A simple role-playing exercise leads to Tobias and the therapist nearly kissing and the therapist not only siding with Tobias, but also quitting his job to become an actor as well. This is something of a subversion as it's the therapist and Tobias who are portrayed as crazy.
  • Title Drop: In "Forget-Me-Now":
    Michael: Your average American male is stuck in a perpetual state of adolescence, you know, arrested development.
    Narrator: Hey! That's the name of the show!
  • Tour Guide Gag
  • Translation by Volume: Talking unnaturally loudly or slowly tends to be how the Bluths attempt to communicate with the various Spanish-speaking characters.
  • Tricked into Signing: The "Development Arrested" episode had Maeby trying to get the family to sign away their life-rights for a movie she needed to make. Lucille needed them to sign a paper promising them money if they didn't sell their shares, so Maeby just puts those papers under hers and starts offering the family money to sign.
  • Twin Switch:
    • George Sr. often tricks his twin brother Oscar into serving prison time in his place. Despite the frequency with which this happens, both Oscar and the police fall for it every time.
      Oscar: Oh, stupid Oscar, when are you going to learn that there's no such thing as free shrimp?
    • George Sr. finds himself on the receiving end when the mexican police confuse him for Oscar, wanted for drug charges. He eventually convinces them of his real identity. That's when they remember he's the cornballer.
  • T-Word Euphemism: GOB's yacht.
  • Under Strange Management: One episode has Lindsay take over the business for a day, over the course of which the business literally falls apart. Actually, it just moved downstairs when she wasn't looking.
  • Unusual Euphemism:
    • When George Michael says that he has Pop-Pop in the attic, Michael thinks he's talking about sex. Later episodes show that Michael may have been justified in assuming this, since other characters use it to mean exactly that.
    • "Fronts-piece" and "I no dust Buster any more!"
    • Michael wonders whether he missed out on some new slang development when both Lindsay and GOB use "crown" as a sexual euphemism.
    • Buster says "Linus" instead of penis.
    • Buster says "Charlie Browns" for testicles. Buster saw the Peanuts specials in a way very different from the rest of the audience, for sure.
  • The Unfavorite
    Lucille: I don't care for GOB.
  • Unsettling Gender-Reveal: Barry Zuckerkorn apparently seeks out this trope, exclusively:
    Barry: Hey, you're not one of those silly men that's dressed like a woman, are you?
    Prostitute: No, baby, I'm the real thing.
    [Barry floors it and drives away]
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Generally speaking, Michael and George Michael are the only characters on the show who are good people trying to do the right thing. The rest of the family have differing degrees of selfishness and jerkass behavior, starting with how Lucille and George manipulate the family to their own ends to how oblivious and self-absorbed Lindsay, Tobias and GOB can be. Buster and Maeby are in a middle ground, while maybe not as mean spirited, Buster is very needy to the point of being The Load and Maeby regularly wanders off in her own schemes due to being ignored. Even still Michael, for all he tries to be a good person and caring father, occasionally succumbs to hypocrisy and selfishness. This is Lampshaded in "S.O.B.s" where In-Universe the family is trying to look better for investors and is filled with meta-references to both how the characters are unlikable and how it has affected the shows ratings. In season 4, without the rest of their family to make them look better by comparison, both Michael and, to a lesser extent, George-Michael succumb to this.
  • Wallpaper Camouflage:
    • Reoccurring trope. Tobias' blue paint, from his stint as a Blue Man Group understudy, allows him to camouflage against any blue background. He also camouflages himself against a glitter background using Lindsay's diamond lotion in order to spy on her.
    • Buster's Milford Academy training allows him a high degree of skill in blending into the background of any situation.
  • We Should Get Another Tape: The Trope Namer is George Michael's eventual response to the Running Gag of his "Star Wars Kid" video in "The Ocean Walker".
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Parodied. Annyong disappears early in the second season, never to be seen again... until one On The Next gag toward the beginning of the third season reveals that he had been hiding in the walls. He reveals himself as a spy in the third season finale.
    • Played straight with Cindy the Ostrich, who isn't seen again chronologically after attacking Lucille 2.
  • What Have We Ear?: One of GOB's tricks, used in "Key Decisions" and "Colony Collapse".
  • Whole-Plot Reference: George Michael's Fakeblock sub-plot in season 4 is essentially a parody of The Social Network.
  • You Know What You Did: Despite having acknowledged how untrustworthy Lucille is, Lindsay and Michael both fall for their mother's attempts to make them believe that the other thinks badly of them.


Video Example(s):


Lucille Eavesdrops

Buster tells his brother over the landline that he's mad at their overbearing mother...who is listening in on their conversation from the kitchen phone.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / LandlineEavesdropping

Media sources: