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53 ‘Arrested Development’ Jokes You Probably Missed

Update: Want more hidden jokes? Check out our new 53 More Arrested Development Jokes You Probably Missed for twice as many jokes, references and callbacks that you might have not caught on your first dozen viewings!

After six years of teasing us with talk of an Arrested Development reunion, Mitch Hurwitz and Company are finally filming the new season and the movie. While the process took so long that even the cast, at times, developed an “I’ll believe it when I see it” attitude towards the project, filming of the new season of AD is finally underway and there are photos to prove it.

With any luck, the new series will be arriving on Netflix in spring of 2013, but now‘s the time to dust off those old Arrested Development DVDs to rewatch the show start-to-finish because the new season will be overflowing with in-jokes and callbacks, and it’ll benefit you to have the first three seasons fresh in your head. With that in mind, we bring you a collection of obscure jokes, references, and hidden bits of foreshadowing sprinkled throughout Arrested Development’s three-season run. The show’s so dense and riddled with intricate gags that I’m sure there are millions I missed here, so feel free to share them in the comments! And feel free to yell at me in the comments section for missing your favorite hidden jokes too! Remember: this is the Internet, and manners go out the window.

1. Tobias is an albino black man: The Arrested Development writers were known for using a lot of foreshadowing (think of all the references to Buster losing his arm to a seal, none of which will be included here because they’re well-documented elsewhere). One such plot development that the writers started to foreshadow but never followed through on was about Tobias being revealed to be a black man with a rare skin condition. Arrested Development star Alia Shawkiat spilled the beans in an interview, saying:

“[The writers have] gone on little tangents where you think they’re going to start a storyline and they’ll pull it back. I remember they were going to do one about Tobias actually being a rare black person, where he would have this rare disease and was actually black. It’s these hysterical, crazy ideas that they could have continued on.”

Fox cutting the second and third seasons short might have had something to do with this plotline being dropped, but there are references to Tobias being a black man sprinkled throughout the show. Here are a few:

Tobias: I am surprised that she’s going after somebody so similar to my own type.
(in reference to Lindsay flirting with Ice the Bounty Hunter, from the episode “Good Grief”)

Lindsay: People hear the name Tobias, they think ‘big black guy.’
Tobias: Well, obviously, I’m not a big guy. I’m not a Carl Weathers, par example. (from the episode “Afternoon Delight”)
Lucille: Michael. I was almost attacked last night in my own home. I walk in and there’s a colored man in my kitchen.
Michael: “Colored?” What color was he exactly?
Lucille: Blue. (from the episode “Afternoon Delight”)


Lindsay (to Maeby): I don’t know where that hair of yours came from. (in reference to how Maeby’s frizzy hair hurt her chances in child beauty pageants, from the episode “Notapusy”)

And then, there’s the cover of Tobias’s book, The Man Inside Me:

2.      Check out this subtle gag from the pilot, spotted by 9gag, involving GOB repeatedly conning George-Michael into trading money for Monopoly games:

3.      Lucille’s housekeeper Lupe is always wearing the Bluths’ old holiday clothing that is two holidays behind. In “In God We Trust,” she wears a “BOO!” sweatshirt during a Christmas party. In “Marta Complex,” she wears a “Gobble Gobble” sweatshirt on Valentine’s Day. In “The Cabin Show,” there’s a flashback to 1994 in which she’s wearing a Bush/Quayle sweatshirt.

4. In “Public Relations,” George-Michael is at the banana stand talking about how he “managed to send a bum away without hurting his feelings.” Then, there’s a shot of a homeless man with a “Bluths Bananas” balloon (with the Bananagrabber on it).

Later on in the episode, there’s a shot of a newspaper and a tiny headline at the bottom reads “Bum Gets Balloon”:

5.      Cloud Mir Vodka, the brand that Lindsay is hired to promote in “Public Relations” resurfaces throughout the show in various ways. The various Cloud Mir appearances are catalogued here on the Arrested Development fansite The O.P.

6.      The gag about Maeby’s alter ego Surely’s name being a play on her own name is a pretty obvious one, but another of George-Michael’s love interests, his ethics teacher Miss Barely (Heather Graham), also has a name that plays off of Maeby’s.

7.      There’s a running joke throughout the show involving surveillance teams that use the conspicuous name “Blendin” on the vans for their fake businesses. In “Shock and Aww,” it’s “Blendin Mobile Pet Grooming.” In “Staff Infection,” it’s “Blendin Electric Company.” In “The One Where They Build a House,” it’s “Blendin Moving and Storage.” In “Mr. F.,” it’s “Blendin Catering.”

8.      In “Staff Infection,” Tobias leaves Lindsay this note “from the desk of Dr. Tobias Fünke” but crosses out “the desk of Dr.”

9.      Michael refers to his employees as sheep in the episode “Staff Infection.” Later on, when he means to send them to lunch, they accidentally board a bus that Lupe reserved for her family, which is labeled “Church of the Good Shepherd.” One of the employees who is always in the back of the group is wearing a black shirt (black sheep). Also in that same episode, when George-Michael finds the folder of his old school projects in Michael’s office, there’s an art project of a sheep made of cottonballs on top.

The Church of the Good Shepherd resurfaces in Season 2 as the church where Anne and George-Michael try to get married.

10.  In “Whistler’s Mother,” the very first episode that features Oscar, Oscar’s first line is “Heeeey nephew” as he enters and begins giving Michael a backrub.

11.  Also in “Whistler’s Mother,” Tobias is seen reading a book called Acting: Like a Man when Lindsay is dancing for him.

12.  In “Let ‘Em Eat Cake,” a whiteboard at the hospital says the head nurse is named “Ratchet,” a reference to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

13. There’s a shot of an page for Tobias’s book The Man Inside Me in “Let ‘Em Eat Cake.” There are several other books and videos listed from other episodes. There’s also an LGBT diet book that Barry Zuckerkorn seemed to have written under the name B.J. Zuckerkorn.

14.  The titles of the first three episodes of Season Two are references to the show Friends (a little-known NBC sitcom that had a cult following in the 90s/00s). Every episode of Friends was titled “The One Where…” with the episode’s plot making up the rest of the name. The first two Season Two AD episodes were “The One Where Michael Leaves” and “The One Where They Build a House.” The third, a Mexico-set episode, was called “Amigos,” which is Spanish for “friends.”

15.  In “The One Where They Bought a House,” George Sr.’s yarmulke tan line is visible when he’s arrested in Mexico.

16.  In “Good Grief,” there’s a shot of the yellow pages, with the character Ice’s ads for his bounty hunter business and party planner business. There’s also an ad for Gene Parmesan off to the side.

17.  In “Afternoon Delight” when the banana stand is pulled out of the sea after being vandalized by teenagers, the graffiti is tough to read but it seems to say, “I’ll get u Bluths – Hello.” This is a full season before it’s revealed that Annyong’s real name is “Hel-loh” and that he is determined to get revenge on the Bluths.

18.  Also “Afternoon Delight,” there’s a moment where GOB is in the middle of talking, saying, “-king 63 hundred dollar suit. Come on!” Later in the episode, there’s a flashback to the first part of GOB’s sentence, in which he says, “No, Al. I want to spill booze all over my fu…” GOB’s expletive got through uncensored, it was just split in half.

19.  In “Afternoon Delight,” this image of a turtle appears on the packaging of Oscar’s marijuana, possibly foreshadowing the death of Buster’s turtle from eating Oscar’s marijuana one season later in “Prison Break-In.”

20.  In “Burning Love,” the car dealership Stan Sitwell test drives a car from is called “Depeche Motors,” a reference to that band Depeche Mode.

21.  Also in “Burning Love,” Rob Corddry’s character Moses Taylor’s gun organization is called H.O.O.G. (Hands Off Our Guns), which recalls the name of Lindsay’s anti-circumcision group from season one, H.O.O.P. (Hands Off Our Penises).

22.  When the Fox news anchor is doing a story about a charity auction where elderly women are bid for in “Burning Love,” the title “Antiques Sold at Auction” appears on screen

23.  This photo, from “Out on a Limb,” is a projection of what Michael and Sally Sitwell’s hypothetical child would have looked like. The text beneath indicates it’s from Lindsay’s failed business, “Mommy What Will I Look Like?”

24.  Dan Castellaneta, probably best known for voicing Homer Simpson on another Fox sitcom about a dysfunctional family, played Dr. Stein in the Arrested Development episode “Sword of Destiny.” Castellaneta got to repeat his famous Simpsons catchphrase with the line, “The operation went pretty smoothly. But once I got in there, the appendix wasn’t so inflamed. D’oh!”

25.  Also in “Sword of Destiny,” Dan Castellaneta’s character Dr. Stein’s first name is revealed to be Frank at the end, a reference to Frankenstein. He also switches GOB’s fingers.

26.   In “Meet the Veals,” a drug dog sniffs Buster’s hook and tackles him. This is because Oscar smoked pot out of Buster’s hook earlier in the episode.

27.  In “Meet the Veals,” when Maeby is reading a movie script titled “Operation: Hot Mother,” the same name of Buster’s plan in “Motherboy XXX.” The script also mentions that it’s “based on a true story.”

28.  In “Spring Breakdown,” GOB’s poster reads “Mr. Magician,” a callback to George-Michael’s “Mr. Manager” bit from Season 1.

29. This yearbook page from “The Cabin Show” is littered with throwaway jokes, but one of them warrants further explanation. Right next to Eve Holt is a student named “Marilyn Kleist”:

Nickname: “Crafty”
Hopes to One Day: “Serve millions.”
Quote: “Who’s hungry?”

Craft service (or Crafty) is the name of the department on movie and TV sets that provides the cast and crew with food and beverages. Marilyn Kleist is the name of a real-life craft service worker, who has worked on Mad Men and The Shield. It’s not listed on her IMDb page, but I’m guessing she was the craft service person for Arrested Development too.

30.  This letter from the Sons and Dads Reunion Project (S.A.D.) that GOB receives in “The Cabin Show” isn’t as packed with jokes as a typical Arrested Development text, but there’s one really good one in here: The Reunion Project’s headquarters are at “the corner of Hyde and No.Hope.”

31.  In “The Cabin Show,” Kitty has a blue handprint on her head from George Sr. and it makes her bangs stand up a la There’s Something About Mary.

32.  In “For British Eyes Only,” Michael tells George Sr. “That’s a wonderful performance, Dad. You’re a regular Brad Garrett.” This is a reference to Garrett beating Jeffrey Tambor to an “Outstanding Supporting Actor” Emmy the previous season.

33.  During the same scene from “For British Eyes Only,” Michael is confronting George Sr. about his meeting with Saddam Hussein and George Sr. says, “I thought that was the guy who played the Soup Nazi… I told him how much I liked his work.” This photo is displayed, in which Saddam’s apron says “You’ll take it the way I make it,” a pretty Soup Nazi-ish phrase. (The photo’s also dated 1998, which is the year of the Soup Nazi’s last appearance on the Seinfeld finale, but that could just be a coincidence). Later in the season, in “Exit Strategy,” Larry Thomas, who played the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld, plays a Saddam Hussein lookalike.

34.  In “For British Eyes Only,” the TV footage of Michael getting hit by the puppet in Little Britain is from the WeeBBC.

35.  In “Forget-Me-Now,” Bob Loblaw (played by Scott Baio) gives the Bluths this speech which is a big ol’ Happy Days reference: “Look, this is not the first time I’ve been brought in to replace Barry Zuckerkorn. I think I can do for you everything he did. Plus, I skew younger. With juries and so forth.”

36.  In this scene from “Notapusy,” George-Michael’s shirt exactly matches the color of the candy beans he is eating.

37.  In “The Ocean Walker,” Buster is dancing to Styx’s “Mr. Roboto” while sitting in the staircar and he accidentally sinks his hook into the dashboard. This sequence is an homage to a Volkswagen commercial a young Tony Hale did in 1999 (in which his character didn’t have a hook for a hand).

38.  In “Prison Break-In,” George Sr. calls GOB “Einstein” via the surrogate, who is played by actor Bob Einstein.

39.  In “Making a Stand,” the narrator (Ron Howard) refers to Maeby as “Hollywood’s third youngest movie executive” which is pretty absurd because her character is 15 at the time.

40.  Also in “Making a Stand,” several titles of “Baby Buster” shorts are advertised on the covers of the Boyfights videos. One is titled: “Baby Buster: Too Old to Breastfeed.” Later in the episode, some painters recognize Buster from the videos at Lucille’s apartment and they shout “Yo quiero leche! Leche de madre!” at him, which translates to “I want milk! My mother’s milk!”

41.  The end credits of “S.O.B.s” (in which Andy Richter plays a set of quintuplets):

42.  In “Fakin’ It,” Michael discovers a secret room in the model house which contains a bunch of family pictures and documents but also Tobias’s bodybuilding magazines. Maeby refers to it as her dad’s “exercise room” and George-Michael comments that he always knocks first before entering. In “Exit Strategy,” Michael discovers a secret room in the house’s counterpart in Iraq, which contains a nuclear warhead. So, basically, the Iraq equivalent of the Bluths’ secret room has a nuclear warhead in it, whereas the Bluths’ secret room is Tobias gay porn masturbation chamber.

43.  In “Family Ties,” a picture of Arnold Schwarzenegger, then the Governor of California, appears on George Michael and Maeby’s marriage certificate.

44.  In “Exit Strategy,” there’s a reference to Buster renting “the only rickshaw in Baghdad.” Gary Cole’s CIA Agent character in the same episode is named Richard Shaw, a play on the word “rickshaw.”

45.  Also in “Exit Strategy,” Tobias comments on how detailed Hollywood shows are, only to open a cupboard immediately after to reveal there’s nothing but a Starbucks coffee cup in there. After that, George-Michael opens a different cupboard and pulls out a granola bar, which is the only thing in that cupboard.

46.  In “Development Arrested,” a newspaper article appears onscreen about Rita landing a job as a movie executive. If you look closely, you’ll see a smaller headline beneath it that reads “TV DVD Sales Enjoy All Time High.” So, the show’s final episode featured a reference to how well DVD sales are doing for the show, which you can only notice if you pause the scene on DVD.

47.  Maybe not the most subtle gag, but one that I love to death:

48.  This may only be something that Southern Californians noticed, but John Beard, the Fox news anchor who appears throughout Arrested Development, is an actual newsman who anchored the Fox evening news for the Los Angeles affiliate, KTTV, from 1993 to 2007. KTTV was also Orange County’s Fox affiliate, meaning Beard was the real newsman for the place where Arrested Development was set, as well. When Arrested Development was airing at 9:30 on Sunday nights during its first season, the evening news would immediately follow the show, so it would be pretty common to see John Beard do a scene on Arrested Development and then see him anchor the nightly news right after.

49.  One of the coolest running jokes in Arrested Development is how the writers hid the actors in other roles throughout the show. For example, in the Season Two episode “Amigos,” Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, and Tony Hale all appear in a clip of a Mexican silent film from 1927:

Here they are in a shot from the set of that same episode:

50.  Here’s Tony Hale playing a soldier in a 1940s British war movie, as seen in the episode “Notapusy”:

Bronwen Masters, who plays the nurse in the scene, resurfaces on Arrested Development several episodes later in “Exit Strategy,” where she plays Buster’s nurse and they recreate the same conversation, almost verbatim, that these two movie characters have in the war film.

51.  In another similar instance, this quick shot of an English/Spanish dictionary from “Beef Consommé” features pictures that resemble Tobias, GOB, Michael, and Linsday:

(The last word, “hielo,” is Spanish for “ice,” which is the name of the character who comes in the following season. Probably just a coincidence, but maybe not.)

52.  This shot of the band Motherboy (from the episode “Motherboy XXX”) seems to feature at least a couple of cameos from the show’s male cast.

53.  This shot of a Village People-esque group from “SOBS,” not so much. But it’s possible that one or two of these guys are AD cast members. You decide!

Want more hidden jokes? Check out our new 53 More Arrested Development Jokes You Probably Missed for twice as many jokes, references and callbacks that you might have not caught on your first dozen viewings!

Still not enough AD for you? Get excited for Season 4 by checking out our obsessive guide: Arrested Development’s New Season: Everything You Need to Know.

Bradford Evans is a writer living in Los Angeles.

Want more hilarious things? Check out the trailer to The Exquisite Corpse Project, then buy the whole damned movie for only $5!

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