‘Arrested Development’: 20 Running Jokes We Hope Keep Running

Watching Arrested Development is like playing a video game. The more you dedicate yourself to the intricacies, the more you’ll be rewarded. Mitch Hurwitz’s beloved comedy series regularly rewards its devoted fans with self-directed references that build upon one another as the episodes progress. In short, the more you watch, the more funny the show’s jokes become.

Surely, the forthcoming season of AD (which began filming yesterday) is bound to revisit some of the original run’s most memorable running gags, from oft repeated one-liners to more intricate plot callbacks. As the new episodes enter production (as proven by star Jason Bateman’s Twitter account, revealing photos of the team returning to the set), we can’t help but think back on some of our favorite recurring bits through our first three years with the Bluth family. Here’s a list of some of our staff’s favorite Arrested Development running jokes that we presume, and hope, will find their place in the show’s return.

“I’ve Made a Huge Mistake.”

GOB first utters his catchphrase during Arrested Development‘s fourth episode… twice. First, upon realizing that he might have gotten himself into a trickier situation than he imagined after getting himself locked up in jail. Second, immediately after committing himself romantically to his then-girlfriend (though not for long), Marta.

GOB in Jail

The Enchanting Mrs. Featherbottom

In an effort to reconnect with his moderately estranged daughter Maeby, Tobias Fünke developed the Mrs. Doubtfire inspired plagiarized alter ego Phylidia Featherbottom in the second season episode “The Immaculate Election.” The character’s crowning moment came when she plummeted from the second story of the Bluth family home into the living room coffee table, in an effort to bequeath the power of whimsy unto an uninterested Maeby.

Life Lessons from J. Walter Weatherman

As revealed in a flashback in the Season 1 episode “Pier Pressure,” George Sr. made a habit of enforcing borderline abusive life lessons unto his young children via the help of friend and amputee J. Walter Weatherman. Over the course of the series’ run, JWW helped to teach the Bluth family about leaving notes, not yelling while one’s father is driving, and, interestingly, not using people with missing limbs to teach other people lessons.

J. Walter Weatherman

Sad Charlie Brown Music

Technically, the Charlie Brown musical motif only appeared in one episode — Season 2’s “Good Grief” — but made its way into four different scenes, illustrating the sorrows experienced by George Michael, his grandfather George Sr., GOB, and (upon discovering that someone had eaten his hard-boiled eggs) Tobias.

Tobias’ Colorful Diction

This isn’t so much a running gag as it is a defining characteristic of one of Arrested Development‘s fan favorite characters. Tobias has a bit of a habit for slipping some pretty shocking innuendo into everyday speech… without even knowing it. It’s a big part of why he is so beloved by AD fans. And speaking of colorful


From the moment she enters their lives in “Let ’em Eat Cake,” the members of the Bluth family, Michael especially, make no effort to hide their… unimpressed attitude toward young George Michael’s first girlfriend, Ann. Or Bland… Plant. Egg. Annhog. Here’s hoping that she makes a thrilling comeback in the new season (perhaps as GOB’s girlfriend now?), and is no less receptive to the family’s insulting stack of nicknames.

The Literal Doctor

“Let ’em Eat Cake” introduces another much detested character into the lives of the Bluth family… but this one for much better reason: Dr. Fishman, mocked as “Dr. Wordsmith” by Lucille and known to fans primarily as “the Literal Doctor.” How did he get this moniker? Perhaps by affirming that Buster would be “all right” after losing his left hand, or by declaring, “It looks like we lost him,” after an apparently heart attack-stricken George Sr. sneaked away from his hospital room.

Literal Doctor

“Come On!”

Yeah, the guy in the $4000 suit is going to explain this joke to you. Come on!

The Many Faces of Gene Parmesan

Private detective Gene Parmesan is another element of Arrested Development that only appeared in one episode, but that seems like it spanned the series due to how big an impact it made on fans. Throughout the second season “Amigos,” Lucille is shocked (and elated) over and over by the “master of disguise,” Gene Parmesan, who is enough of a class act to not even count the money when you pay him for his time.

A HAND-Ful of Buster

After Buster loses his hand in the second season episode “Out on a Limb,” Arrested Development takes no caution poking fun at the youngest Bluth sibling’s (well, half-sibling/cousin) handicap. Whether he’s exasperatedly screaming, “I’m a monster!” or unintentionally puncturing someone… or something… with his hook, Buster’s hand jokes are an AD staple.

Introducing Franklin Delano Bluth

The most accomplished member of the Bluth family by far is Franklin: a recording artist and entrepreneur… and a puppet, who GOB first introduced to AD fans in the Season 2 ep “Meat the Veals.” Via Franklin, GOB taught the world a lot about living in racial harmony… and about pimping out a prostitute who may or may not be your biological sister.

MR. F!

Although we might not see Charlize Theron return to her role as Michael’s “secretly” mentally challenged girlfriend Rita in the new episodes, we can still hope that the family can find its way back to Wee Britain: the California neighborhood that introduced fans to the wild machinations of a yesteryear’s James Bond in episodes like “For British Eyes Only,” “Notap***y,” and, best of all … “MR. F.”

Mr. F

The Fable of Chareth Cutestory: Maritime Lawyer

In an effort to impress a cute prosecutor at a bar in the episode “Altar Egos,” Michael decided to make up an identity for himself: Chareth Cutestory. This role also helped Michael live out a longtime dream of actually being a lawyer… a dream that he had ever since taking a role in a school production of The Trial of Captain Hook. The song’ll stick in your head like glue.

He Just Likes Cutoffs

No, Tobias. Those do not effectively hide your thunder.


Steve Holt!

Steve Holt!

I’ll Meet You Down at the Big Yellow Joint

While George Sr.’s twin brother Oscar and son GOB appear to have their share of familiarity with cannabis, neither the family patriarch nor his straight-laced grandson George Michael seem to have much savvy in the realm of narcotics, both affirming awkwardly, “I’m going to smoke the marijuana like a cigarette.” Will another comical mismanagement of streetwise lingo work its way into the future of Arrested Development episodes as it did in Season 1’s “Pier Pressure” and Season 2’s “Sad Sack”? Are we in for a revival of the boardwalk’s hit number “Big Yellow Joint”? Just keep Buster’s turtle Mother out of the Afternoon Delight box…

Like a Cigarette

”I Just Want My Kids Back.”

Even though Lindsay Fünke might have no idea who Thomas Jane is, most other people do. He’s the star of such blockbusters as the hit family film Homeless Dad, as we saw in the episode “Out on a Limb.” It’s a touching story. He just wants his kids back.

The Family’s Grammar Issues

For an affluent, well-to-do clan, the Bluth family doesn’t seem to have a great deal of formal education. Especially when it comes to putting together a sentence do they tend to fail, such as seen (most notably) in the Season 3 episode “Forget-Me-Now.” Look at banner, reader!

Look at Banner

“No Touching!”

Not too many things seem to bother the guards at George Sr.’s prison. People sneak out of jail, sneak into jail, get stabbed, push each other off balconies, form alliances, teach courses on misguided versions of major religions… but as fans learned in the second episode of the series, “Top Banana,” there is one rule that is always enforced: “NO TOUCHING!”

No touching

And of course… The Chicken Dance

After making its first triumphant appearance in the Season 1 episode “Staff Infection,” GOB’s nothing-like-a-chicken chicken dance (used primarily to torment Buster over his cowardice) has become arguably the most beloved element in the entire series. The rest of the family eventually got in on the act: Lindsay, Lucille, and George Sr. each contributed equally brow-raising depictions of the barnyard fowl. Enjoy the clip below, and watch out for Arrested Development‘s fourth season!

[Photo Credits: Fox]