Arrested Development is an American television sitcom created by Mitchell Hurwitz for the Fox Broadcasting Company. The show centers on the Bluth family, a formerly wealthy, habitually dysfunctional family, and is presented in a continuous format, incorporating hand-held camera work, narration, archival photos, and historical footage. Ron Howard is an executive producer and the uncredited narrator. Although set in Newport Beach, California, Arrested Development was primarily filmed around Culver City and Marina del Rey. Three seasons of the show were produced and aired between 2003 and 2006. In late 2011, it was announced that Netflix would exclusively license new episodes for release on its streaming video service. All ten episodes will be released on the same day, and are planned for an early 2013 debut.
Since debuting on November 2, 2003, the series has earned widespread critical acclaim, including six Emmy awards and one Golden Globe, and it has attracted a cult following, including several fan-based websites. In 2007 it was listed as one of Time magazine’s “100 Best TV Shows of All-TIME.” In 2008, the show was placed #16 on Entertainment Weekly‘s “New TV Classics” list. In 2011, IGN named Arrested Development as the funniest show of all time.
Despite the approval from critics, Arrested Development never climbed in the ratings. Fox aired the final four episodes of the third season in a block as a two-hour series finale on February 10, 2006, opposite the opening ceremonies of the 2006 Winter Olympics (which was being broadcast on NBC). Rumors of a feature film adaptation have persisted since the final episodes aired: As recently as 2009 a script was under development, with the main cast purported to reprise their roles.
George Bluth Sr., patriarch of the Bluth family, is the founder and former CEO of the Bluth Company, which markets and builds mini-mansions, among other activities. His son Michael serves as manager of the company, and, after being passed over for a promotion, decides to leave both the company and his family. Just as he makes this decision, however, George Sr. is arrested by the Securities and Exchange Commission for defrauding investors and gross spending of the company’s money for “personal expenses.” His wife Lucille becomes CEO, and immediately names as the new president her extremely sheltered youngest son Buster, who proves ill-equipped, as his only experience with business is a class he took concerning 18th century agrarian business. Furious at being passed over again, Michael secures another job with a rival company and plans on leaving his family behind for good. Realizing that they need Michael, the family asks him to come back and run the company, which Michael scoffs at until he sees how much the family means to his teenaged son George Michael. To keep the family together, Michael asks his self-centered twin sister Lindsay, her husband Tobias and their daughter Maeby to live together in the Bluth model home with him and George Michael.
Throughout the first season, different characters struggle to change their identities. Buster works to escape from his mother’s control through brotherly bonding and love interests such as Lucille Austero, Lucille Bluth’s neighbor and chief social rival. George Michael nurses a forbidden crush on his cousin Maeby, while continually trying to meet his father’s expectations. Lindsay’s husband Tobias, a psychiatrist who lost his medical license, searches for work as an actor, with the aid of Carl Weathers. Michael falls in love with his screw-up older brother Gob’s neglected girlfriend Marta, and is torn between being with her and putting “family first.” After seeing Michael physically fight with Gob, Marta realizes that they do not share the same family values and she leaves them both. To spite Buster, Lucille adopts a Korean son whom she calls “Annyong” after she mistakes the Korean word for “hello” as his name. Through an escalating series of dares, Gob gets married to a woman he just met, played by real-life wife Amy Poehler, but cannot get an annulment because he refuses to admit that he did not consummate the marriage. Kitty, George Sr.’s former assistant and mistress, tries to blackmail the company. She is caught in the Bluth family yacht’s explosion, as used in one of Gob’s magic acts, but survives with a cooler full of damning evidence labeled “H Maddas”. After previous failed attempts, and a brief religious stint in Judaism, George Sr. finally escapes from prison by faking a heart attack. It is also revealed that George committed “light treason” by using the company to build mini-palaces for Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
Because of his father’s latest prison break deception (a faked heart attack), Michael decides to leave his family and move to Phoenix, Arizona with George Michael, but discovers that due to the Bluth Company being under investigation he cannot leave the state. Lucille appoints Gob the new Bluth Company president, but since Gob proves utterly incompetent, the position’s real duties revert to Michael. During the rest of the season Gob serves as figurehead president; Michael is still under scrutiny for George Sr.’s illegal activity.
George Sr. is not, in fact, gone. After faking his death in Mexico by paying off the cops, George Sr. returns to the family model home, where George Michael discovers him and hides him in the attic. To protect his son from legal implications, Michael hides George Sr. in Gob’s Aztec Tomb, orchestrates a diversion, and tells the family that George Sr. has escaped once more. Throughout the rest of the season, Michael sneaks George Sr. provisions and George Sr. keeps tabs on the Bluth family through the ventilation system. George Sr. also faces onslaught from the outside world; the press begins looking for him in Iraq, fumigators surround the house while he’s still in the attic, and Kitty returns to steal a sample of his semen to make her own Bluth baby.
Buster meanwhile joins the army, but escapes serving in Iraq when his hand is bitten off by a loose seal (a play on “Lucille”) Gob mistakenly gave a taste for mammal flesh. Buster is refitted with a sharp hook, which he is known to brandish dangerously near his relatives’ faces. During Buster’s long psychological recovery, he bonds with George Sr.’s stoner twin brother Oscar, who moves in with Lucille in an attempt to rekindle a past love affair. Uncle Oscar slowly reveals himself as Buster’s presumptive biological father. Eventually, George Sr. takes revenge on the adulterous Oscar and Lucille by kidnapping Oscar, knocking him unconscious, exchanging appearances with him, and sending him to prison in his place.
Lindsay and Tobias continue their disastrous open relationship. Lindsay tries (but fails) to secure a lover, while Tobias paints himself blue each night in a futile attempt to join the Blue Man Group. When Lindsay kicks him out of the house, Tobias disguises himself as a singing British nanny named “Mrs. Featherbottom” (an idea he gets from the film Mrs. Doubtfire) so he can watch over his daughter Maeby. The family sees right through this incompetent disguise, but they humor Tobias—in the guise of Mrs. Featherbottom he also does their chores.
George Michael begins dating a deeply religious girl, Ann Veal, who encourages him to smash pop music CDs and to run for student body president against perennial favorite Steve Holt. Michael dislikes her and tries to disrupt the kids’ relationship, most notably by breaking up Ann and George Michael’s pre-engagement. Meanwhile, Maeby cons her way into an after school job as a film studio executive. When Maeby’s studio remakes “Les Cousins Dangereux,” George Michael abandons Ann to pursue his crush on Maeby. George Michael and Maeby kiss while the living room of the model home collapses under them.
Michael again searches for his runaway father, George Sr. Gob receives an invitation to a father/son reunion outing, and believes it to be George Sr. trying to contact him. In reality, the invitation was meant to reunite Gob with Steve Holt, son of Eve Holt, a girl Gob slept with in high school. Meanwhile, George Michael and Maeby deal with their previous kiss by avoiding each other. Gob is excited to find out that he managed to get his puppet, Franklin, officially “in the system,” meaning Franklin may be called for jury duty someday or be called to testify at a trial.
In an attempt to remain in disguise, George Sr. joins the Blue Man Group. Michael discovers this and arranges to have his father placed under house arrest. George Sr. claims that he was set up by an underground British group. Michael goes to Wee Britain, a fictional British-themed city district, to investigate, and in the process meets a new love interest, Rita Leeds (Charlize Theron). Michael and the audience are led to believe that Rita is a mole for the underground British group, working for a man named “Mr. F.” However, love-struck Michael proposes to her, and the couple run off to wed. Finally, it is revealed that Rita is actually an “MRF,” or “mentally retarded female.” Despite Rita’s “condition,” the family pushes him to go forward with the marriage because Rita is wealthy and they want her money. Michael is not persuaded and gently ends the relationship just as he and Rita are about to walk down the aisle. Meanwhile, Tobias and Lindsay seek legal help from Bob Loblaw (Scott Baio) concerning their troubled marriage.
With the family’s retainer used up because of Lindsay’s and Tobias’s advances, Bob Loblaw chooses to no longer represent the Bluth family. Attorney Jan Eagleman offers to represent the family, on the condition that they participate in a mock trial in a new reality courtroom show called “Mock Trial with J. Reinhold.” Musical accompaniment for the show’s theme song and perceived jokes from testifying witnesses is provided by “William Hung And His Hung Jury.” Michael uses an illegal threat from prosecutor Wayne Jarvis to have the mock case “dismissed.” Gob and Franklin briefly appear in another courtroom show presided over by Bud Cort. Meanwhile, Maeby and George Michael perform a mock wedding for Alzheimer’s patient which is accidentally conducted by a real priest; the two become legally married.
The family members are afraid to testify at the mock trial and at the real deposition; Buster fakes a coma, Lindsay and Lucille fake entering rehab, and Gob flees the country to perform in a USO Tour in Iraq. The deceptions are all uncovered by the prosecution, and in Iraq Gob is arrested for inadvertently inciting an anti-US riot. Buster and Michael travel to Iraq to rescue Gob, and while there, uncover evidence that the mini-palaces George Sr. built in Iraq were actually ordered and paid for by the CIA for wiretapping purposes. After this discovery, the US government drops all of the charges against George Sr. In the general confusion, everyone except George Michael forgets Maeby’s sixteenth birthday.
To celebrate their victory in Iraq, the Bluths throw a shareholders’ party on the RMS Queen Mary. During preparation for the party, it is revealed that Lindsay was adopted, meaning that George Michael and Maeby are not blood relatives. At the party, the Bluth’s other adopted child, Annyong, reappears. He reveals that he is there to avenge the Bluth family’s theft of his grandfather’s frozen banana idea and the cause of his subsequent deportation, an event orchestrated many years earlier by Lucille Bluth. Annyong has turned over evidence implicating Lucille in the Bluth Company’s accounting scandals. Before the police arrive, Michael and George Michael flee on Gob’s yacht, the C-Word, and depart to Cabo with half a million dollars in cashier’s checks, finally leaving the family to fend for themselves. However, it is revealed in the epilogue that George Sr. is also on the yacht, having lured his brother Oscar into taking his place once again. Also in the epilogue, Maeby tries to sell the television rights to the story of the Bluth family to Ron Howard, who tells her that he sees it as a movie rather than a series.
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