20 Brilliant Jokes Hidden in Arrested Development

Saeed Adyani, Netflix
Saeed Adyani, Netflix

When Arrested Development first began its television run on November 2, 2003, it had a hard time finding regular viewers because the series' comedy was so layered. It wasn’t until the show was released on DVD, and then streaming, that audiences began to notice—and search for—its many brilliant hidden punchlines. To celebrate Arrested Development's 15th anniversary, here are 20 hilarious jokes you might have missed the first time around.

1. GOB'S MONOPOLY ILLUSION // SEASON 1, EPISODE 1

Gob performs an illusion for George Michael where he turns a $20 bill into a Monopoly board game. Gob asks him if he has the board game and George Michael responds, “I think I might.” Later we see George Michael rummaging in the attic in front of a stack of Monopoly board games.

2. BUM GETS BALLOON // SEASON 1, EPISODE 11

Screen grab via Netflix

George Michael explains how he “managed” to send a homeless man away from the banana stand without hurting his feelings. Later, a homeless man is shown with a Bluth’s Bananas balloon with the “Mr. Bananagrabber” logo on it.

Further into the episode, a newspaper headline reads “Bum Gets Balloon.”

3. ICE THE BOUNTY HUNTER // SEASON 2, EPISODE 4

Screen grab via Netflix

Gob hires a bounty hunter named Ice to follow Michael. There are two shots of Ice’s ad in the phone book. One for his bounty hunter job with the caption, “Put Your Problems On Ice,” and another for his party-planning job with the caption, “You Can’t Have A Party Without ICE.”

There’s also a Gene Parmesan ad in the Bounty Hunter section of the phone book.

4. AFTERNOON DELIGHT TURTLE // SEASON 2, EPISODE 6 & SEASON 3, EPISODE 7

Screen grab via Netflix

The image of a slow-moving turtle on Uncle Oscar’s marijuana package foreshadows the death of Buster’s turtle, named Mother, the following season.

5. BOB LOBLAW, ATTORNEY AT LAW // SEASON 3, EPISODE 3

Bob Loblaw, the Bluth family’s new lawyer in season three, was played by actor Scott Baio. He makes a 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.”

Barry Zuckerkorn was played by Henry Winkler, who of course played Fonzie on Happy Days, and was somewhat replaced with Fonzie’s cousin Chachi Arcola, who was of course played by Scott Baio.

6. JUMPING THE SHARK // SEASON 2, EPISODE 13

In yet another Happy Days reference, Barry Zuckerkorn meets with Gob, Buster, and Michael at a pier. They thought they found Buster’s hand inside of a shark, but it was a false alarm. Barry leaves to go to Burger King and jumps over the dead shark on the pier. It's a sly  nod to the time Fonzie once jumped over a shark cage while on water skis, thus coining the phrase “jumping the shark” in reference to the quality of a TV show going downhill.

7. HOLD ON SURELY FÜNKE POSTER // SEASON 1, EPISODE 14

Screen grab via Netflix

Three episode before Maeby Fünke’s fictional counterpart, Surely, was introduced in season one, a poster featuring Surely Fünke can be seen in the background at George Michael and Maeby’s high school.

8. BLENDIN // SEASON 1, EPISODE 14; SEASON 1, EPISODE 15; SEASON 2, EPISODE 2; SEASON 3, EPISODE 5


There’s a running joke where all the secret surveillance teams use the word “Blendin” in their fake company’s name. In “Shock and Awe,” it’s Blendin Mobile Pet Grooming. In the episode “Staff Infection,” it’s Blendin Electric Company, in “The One Where They Build a House,” the moving company is called Blendin Moving and Storage and in “Mr. F,” the catering company is Blendin Catering.

9. SNOOPY // SEASON 2, EPISODE 4

The writers introduced the “Christmas Time Is Here” theme from A Charlie Brown Christmas in the episode in the season two episode "Good Grief!" When George Michael is walking home from the banana stand after getting dumped by Anne, you can see a giant red doghouse with a sleeping beagle on top of it in the background.

10. ARM OFF AND WEE BRAIN BUS STOP BENCHES // SEASON 2, EPISODE 3 & SEASON 3, EPISODE 3

Screen grab via Netflix

Arrested Development is keen on visual foreshadowing and sight gags, as evidenced by the episode where Buster is sitting on a bus stop bench with an ad for Army Officers. The way he’s sitting on the bench obscures most of the ad’s lettering, so it reads “Arm Off” instead. This foreshadows Buster’s missing hand a few episodes later.

Similarly, after being drugged, Michael Bluth’s love interest in season three, Rita Leeds (Charlize Theron), is left on a bus stop bench with an ad for Wee Britain in Newport Beach. Again, the way she’s sitting on the bench hides most of the ad and now reads “Wee Brain,” referring to the fact that—unbeknownst to Michael—Rita is mentally challenged.

11. ANNYONG'S REVENGE // SEASON 2, EPISODE 6

Screen grab via Netflix

A full season before it’s revealed that the Bluth's adopted son Annyong wants revenge on the family for what they did to his grandfather, the banana stand was vandalized with the words “I’ll get u Bluths –Hello.” In the third season finale, it was also revealed that Annyong’s real name was Hel-loh. Annyong is the Korean word for “Hello.”

12. MR. ROBOTO // SEASON 3, EPISODE 6

Buster’s hook gets caught in the dashboard of the stair car because he was doing the robot to Styx’s “Mr. Roboto.” In 1999, Tony Hale, who plays Buster, appeared in a Volkswagen commercial where he also rocked out to "Mr. Roboto."

13. ANNYONG GOES TO MILFORD // SEASON 2, EPISODE 6

Screen grab via Netflix

After adopting Annyong to make Buster jealous, Lucille sends her new son to the prestigious Milford School, where its founder Earl Milford believed “Children should be neither seen nor heard.” After this episode, Annyong is rarely either seen nor heard from on the TV series.

14. H. MADDAZ // SEASON 1, EPISODE 16

Screen grab via Netflix

George Bluth Sr. (Jeffrey Tambor) was accused of building mini-mansions in Iraq. The proof of his treason can be found on the family’s yacht. While George and his secretary Kitty (Judy Greer) are in bed together, one of the red coolers full of evidence is labeled “H. MADDAZ.” Its reflection in the mirror next to the bed, reads “SADDAM H.” for Saddam Hussein.

15. OPERATION: HOT MOTHER // SEASON 2, EPISODE 16

Screen grab via Netflix

As a movie studio executive Maeby Fünke is seen reading a script titled “Operation: Hot Mother.” In episode 13, “Motherboy XXX,” Michael and Buster’s plan to get George Michael away from Lucille and out of the annual Motherboy contest is called “Operation: Hot Mother.” On the script Maeby is reading, the subtitle reads “Inspired by a True Story.”

16. MEXICAN SILENT FILM // SEASON 2, EPISODE 4

Screen grab via Netflix

One of the best recurring jokes is Gob’s chicken dance. In the episode “Amigos!,” a fictional Mexican silent film features someone doing Gob’s chicken dance and getting shot for it. Will Arnett, Jason Bateman, and Tony Hale are featured in the silent film.

This is part of a bigger joke involving hiding the Arrested Development cast in cameo roles throughout the series.

17. BRITISH SOLDIER // SEASON 3, EPISODE 4

Screen grab via Netflix

Another example of hiding the cast is a brief clip in the fictional war movie A Thoroughly Polite Dustup. Tony Hale plays the British soldier who says goodbye to his nurse before going off to war.

Later in season three, Hale’s Buster and his nurse have almost the same exchange in episode 12, “Exit Strategy.”

18. SPANISH/ENGLISH DICTIONARY // SEASON 1, EPISODE 13

Screen grab via Netflix

Gob doesn’t know the meaning of the Spanish word hermano, which means brother. The page where Hermano would appear in a Spanish/English dictionary features an image of Michael and Gob with mustaches.

On the same page, above Hermano is the Spanish word hermafrodita, which means hermaphrodite, with an image of Tobias (David Cross) wearing cutoff shorts.

Below hermano is the Spanish word hermosa for "beautiful," with a picture of Lindsay next to it. Underneath hermosa is the word hielo, which is Spanish for ice and refers to the bounty hunter/party planner Ice we meet in season two.

19. WORKERS LOVE NELLIE // SEASON 3, EPISODE 11

Screen grab via Netflix

Recurring banner jokes are scattered throughout the series. In Season 3, episode 4, “Forget-Me-Now,” the Bluths make Michael a banner that reads “Family Love Michael.”

In episode 11 “Family Ties,” Michael mistakes his father’s regular prostitute for an office efficiency manager. To welcome her into the office, the workers make a banner that reads “Workers Love Nellie.”

The episode also features a reference to the actress who plays Nellie, Justine Bateman (Jason's sister), who was on the TV series Family Ties.

20. TV DVD SALES HEADLINE // SEASON 3, EPISODE 13

Screen grab via Netflix

In the season three finale, there’s a Variety headline that boasts of Rita’s newfound success as a Hollywood movie executive. Underneath that headline is a smaller one that reads “TV DVD Sales Enjoy All Time High.” This is a reference to Arrested Development itself, which was enjoying high DVD sales—despite its recent cancellation—when this episode aired in 2006.

This article originally appeared in 2013.

Friday’s Best Amazon Deals Include Digital Projectors, Ugly Christmas Sweaters, and Speakers

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As a recurring feature, our team combs the web and shares some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. Here’s what caught our eye today, December 4. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers, including Amazon, and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

10 Surprising Facts About Wham!’s 'Last Christmas'

Michael Putland/Getty Images
Michael Putland/Getty Images

Over the course of his illustrious career, George Michael gave the world many gifts. One that keeps on giving is “Last Christmas,” the 1984 holiday classic by Wham!, Michael's pop duo with Andrew Ridgeley. “Last Christmas” is such a uniquely beloved song that it inspired a 2019 film of the same name. That’s just one interesting part of the “Last Christmas” story. Read on for 10 fascinating facts about this seasonal synth-pop favorite.

1. George Michael wrote "Last Christmas" in his childhood bedroom.

“Last Christmas” was born one day in 1984 when George Michael and Wham! bandmate Andrew Ridgeley were visiting Michael’s parents. While they were sitting around watching TV, Michael suddenly dashed upstairs to his childhood bedroom and composed the modern Xmas classic in about an hour. “George had performed musical alchemy, distilling the essence of Christmas into music,” Ridgeley said. “Adding a lyric which told the tale of betrayed love was a masterstroke and, as he did so often, he touched hearts."

2. “Last Christmas” isn’t really a Christmas song.

There’s nothing in “Last Christmas” about Santa, reindeer, trees, snow, or anything we typically associate with the holiday. Rather, the song is about a failed romance that just happens to have begun on December 25, when Michael gave someone his heart, and ended on December 26, when this ungrateful person “gave it away.”

3. George Michael wrote and produced the song—but that’s not all.

Dave Hogan/Getty Images

By the time Wham! recorded “Last Christmas” in August (yes, August) 1984, Michael had taken full control of the group. In addition to writing and producing the song, Michael insisted on playing the Roland Juno-60 synth in the studio. “George wasn’t a musician,” engineer Chris Porter said. “It was a laborious process, because he was literally playing the keyboards with two or three fingers.” Michael even jangled those sweet sleigh bells himself.

4. “Last Christmas” didn’t reach #1 on the UK charts.

As the movie Love Actually reminds us, scoring a Christmas #1 in the UK is a really big deal. Unfortunately, “Last Christmas” didn’t give Wham! that honor. It stalled at #2, and to this day it has the distinction of being the highest-selling UK single of all time to not reach #1.

5. George Michael sang on the song that kept “Last Christmas” at #2.

“Last Christmas” was bested on the UK charts by Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” an all-star charity single benefiting Ethiopian famine relief. Michael sang on “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” and was so committed to the cause that he donated his profits from “Last Christmas” to helping the African nation.

6. George Michael was sued for plagiarism over “Last Christmas.”

In the mid-1980s, the publishing company Dick James Music sued George Michael on behalf of the writers of “Can’t Smile Without You,” a schmaltzy love song recorded by The Carpenters and Barry Manilow, among others. According to Chris Porter, the recording engineer on “Last Christmas,” the suit was dismissed after a musicologist presented 60-plus songs that have a similar chord progression and melody.

7. "Last Christmas" has been covered by a lot of other artists.

Michael Putland/Getty Images

Jimmy Eat World, Hilary Duff, Good Charlotte, Ariana Grande, Carly Rae Jepsen, Gwen Stefani, and Taylor Swift are just a few of the artists who’ve covered “Last Christmas” over the years. The strangest rendition may be the 2006 dance version by the Swedish CGI character Crazy Frog, which reached #16 on the UK charts.

8. Some people make a concerted effort to avoid hearing “Last Christmas.”

While millions of people delight in hearing “Last Christmas” every year, an internet game called Whamageddon encourages players to avoid the song from December 1 to 24. The rules are simple: Once you hear the original Wham! version of “Last Christmas” (remixes and covers don’t count), you’re out. You then admit defeat on social media with the hashtag #Whamageddon and wait for your friends to suffer the same fate. Note: The rules prohibit you from “deliberately sending your friends to Whamhalla.”

9. “Last Christmas” finally charted in America following George Michael’s death in 2016.

Back in 1984, “Last Christmas” wasn’t released as a commercial single in the United States, and therefore it wasn’t eligible for the Billboard Hot 100 chart. However, Billboard changed its rules in 1998, and in the wake of George Michael’s unexpected death on Christmas Day 2016, the song finally made its Hot 100 debut. In December 2018, it reentered the charts and peaked at #25.

10. George Michael was involved in 2019's Last Christmas movie.

November 2019 saw the release of Paul Feig's Last Christmas, a romantic comedy inspired by the song starring Game of Thrones's Emilia Clarke. Producer David Livingstone came up with the idea while George Michael was still alive, and when he pitched the pop star on the project, he was given the greenlight—with one condition: Michael stipulated that actress and author Emma Thompson write the movie. Thompson co-authored the story and the screenplay, and she even wound up playing a supporting role.