When Arrested Development finally arrives on Netflix for season 5, will the producers find themselves saying, “I’ve made a huge mistake”? Nah! Season 4 launched on the service way back in 2013, and some fans were disappointed with the new direction the show had taken, given that each non-chronological episode focused on a different character, rather than the ensemble arrangements that they were accustomed to. Yet the series has since undergone a critical reappraisal, thanks in part to a new cut that aired on Netflix this year, which re-shuffled the episodes into a more traditional chronological order. Fresh off the back of this bombshell, the new season looks set to place the Bluths back in our affections.
The show first arrived in 2003, introducing to us the gleefully dysfunctional, formerly wealthy Bluth family, headed up by icy matriarch Lucille Bluth (Jessica Walter), while the eccentric Oscar Bluth Sr. (Jeffrey Tambor) spent the first three seasons in prison or in hiding, after a police investigation into his business practices. Meanwhile, the relatively down-to-earth Michael (Jason Bateman) attempted to bring up his son George Michael (Michael Cera) and navigate the tribulations of his bizarre family, consisting – among others – of Lindsay (Portia De Rossi), her husband Tobias (David Cross), the deluded G.O.B (Will Arnett) and the accident-prone Buster (Tony Hale). Meanwhile, faux-epic narration is provided by none other than Ron bloody Howard.
With the first half of season five arriving on Netflix next week (May 29), let’s take a look back the best-ever episodes of the show that introduced the eternal truth that there’s – altogether now – “always money in the banana stand”.
10) ‘A New Attitude’, season 4, episode 11
See? Season 4 really wasn’t so bad, was it? Tony Wonder (Ben Stiller) and G.O.B, for the kind of excellently convoluted reasons that only Arrested Development fans will understand, have found themselves pretending to fancy each other, only to find that, like, maybe they do in real life? This is essentially a show about narcissists, so it’s no surprise that our first killer episode is about narcissism².
9) ‘Mr F.’, season 3, episode 5
A model town! Tobais in a mole costume! George Michael and a jet pack! With these three narrative ingredients, there was no way this episode could fail.
8) ‘S.O.B.s’, season 3, episode 9
One thing we love about Arrested Development was the way it could take the piss out of itself. The trailer for season 5 features a shipping container that reads, “Do not let the cast of Arrested Development out under any circumstances”, a jokey reference to the fact that season 4’s idiosyncratic set-up was largely down to the extracurricular filming commitments of its cast (the producers literally couldn’t pin them all down in the same place at the same time). By season 3, there were fears the show would be cancelled by its studio, Fox (this did eventually happen, which is why the show was then saved by Netflix, starting a trend of streaming services rescuing canned fan favourites) and this episode accordingly featured a flashing banner that implored: ‘Save Our Bluths’. Well, subtlety was never Arrested Development‘s thing.
7) ‘Colony Collapse’, season 4, episode 7
Another season 4 gem. The revelation about G.O.B and Ann’s relationship was one of the bigger moments from season 3, and this episode – exploring the horrifying implications of that – made us want to cringe our guts out.
6) ‘Forget Me Now’, season 3, episode 3
George Bluth Sr. re-enters the fold, placed under house arrest, but finds that it’s not quite the respite that he might have envisioned from the family home. Stand-out gag of the episode: Tobias’ business card, which sells him as an “analyst” and “therapist’ – or, as he puts it, “analrapist”.
5) ‘Top Banana’, season 1, episode 2
Wait, is George Sr. running a business from… inside prison? This is the episode that features the immortal line about the banana stand, which, it turns out, was meant literally – there was $250,000 hidden inside its walls. And George Michael just burned it down. Eek!
4) ‘Good Grief!’, season 2, episode 4
Come on, who doesn’t love a road trip? This is made even better by the fact that, like many amazing Arrested Development episodes, it juxtaposes the dramatic with the mundane. The family sets off with the task of identifying George Sr.’s body in Mexico, only for George Michael to find him alive and well in the back garden at home. It’s the kind of deadpan reveal (pun intended) with which the show’s always found gags in unexpected places.
3) ‘Pilot’, season 1, episode 1
That’s how good this show was from the start – its pilot remains one of its best ever episodes. The Bluth family arrived fully formed, their fractured dynamic firmly in place, and the comedy’s inimitable, stop-start pace (which admittedly wavered in season 4) is already in full swing.
2) ‘Pier Pressure’, season 1, episode 10
The premise of this instalment sounds, in theory, like a classic sitcom set-up: George Michael is enlisted to buy weed to treat Lucille’s vertigo, leading his father, Michael, to dress up as a police officer, with a view to staging a fake bust that will scare his son straight forever. Of course, it doesn’t go down that way at all, and the narrative curveballs thrown into the mix exemplify the left-field approach that always made the show so unique.
1), ‘The One Where Michael Leaves’, season 2, episode 1
Michael was always the cornerstone of Arrested Development, the straight man who’s not actually quite as straight as he thinks he is (the show is punctuated with suggestions that – just maybe – he’s as deliciously self-serving as the rest of his family, albeit in a more palatable way). When he tries to move to Phoenix, Arizona, he finds himself drawn back into the snake pit because – well, he’s a Bluth, after all.