20 Brilliant Jokes Hidden in Arrested Development
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.