20 Hidden Jokes in Arrested Development
The short-lived TV comedy Arrested Development will return May 26 with 15 new episodes on Netflix. One of the reasons why Arrested Development had such staying power was its multitude of sight gags, hidden and recurring jokes, and clever wordplay. Sadly, it was also the series’ undoing.
While Arrested Development was on the air in the early 2000s, it had a hard time finding regular viewers because the series' comedy was so layered. It wasn’t until the series was available on DVD that audiences could then search for all of its brilliant punch lines. Here are 20 hidden jokes in Arrested Development that you might have missed.
1. Gob’s Monopoly Illusion: Season 1, Episode 1 – “Pilot”
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 – “Public Relations”
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 – “Good Grief”
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 – “Afternoon Delight”; Season 3, Episode 7 – “Prison Break-In”
The image of a slow-moving turtle on Uncle Oscar’s marijuana package foreshadows the death of Buster’s new turtle named Mother the following season.
5. Bob Loblaw Attorney At Law: Season 3, Episode 3 – “Forget-Me-Now”
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 played by Scott Baio.
6. Jumping The Shark: Season 2, Episode 13 – “Motherboy XXX”
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.
This is another Happy Days reference: 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 – “Shock and Awe”
Before Maeby Fünke’s fictional counterpart was introduced three episodes later in episode 17, “Alter Egos,” Surely Fünke can be seen on a poster in the background at George Michael and Maeby’s high school.
8. Blendin: Season 1, Episode 14 – “Shock and Awe”; Season 1, Episode 15 – “Staff Infection”; Season 2, Episode 2 – “The One Where They Build a House”; Season 3, Episode 5 – “Mr. F”
Courtesy of Heavy
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,” and in “The One Where They Build a House,” the moving company is called “Blendin Moving and Storage.” Finally, in “Mr. F,” the catering company is “Blendin Catering.”
9. Snoopy: Season 2, Episode 4 – “Good Grief”
The writers introduced the “Christmas Time Is Here” theme from A Charlie Brown Christmas in the episode. 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 – “Amigos!”; Season 3, Episode 3 – “Forget-Me-Now”
Arrested Development is keen on visual foreshadowing and sight gags. 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 Leed, 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,” pointing to Rita’s handicap.
11. Annyong’s Revenge: Season 2, Episode 6 – “Afternoon Delight”
A full season before it’s revealed that Annyong wants revenge on the Bluth family for what they did to his grandfather, the banana stand was vandalized with the words “I’ll get u Bluths –Hello.” In its series finale, it was also revealed that Annyong’s real name was Hel-loh. Annyong is the Korean word for “Hello.”
12. Buster Is Mr. Roboto: Season 3, Episode 6 – “The Ocean Walker”
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 did the exact same thing.
13. Annyong Goes To The Milford School: Season 2, Episode 6 – “Afternoon Delight”
After adopting Annyong to make Buster jealous, Lucille sends Annyong to the prestigious Milford School, where its founder Earl Milford believed “Children should be neither seen nor heard.” After this episode, Annyong is hardly ever seen nor heard from on the TV series.
14. H. MADDAZ: Season 1, Episode 16 – “Missing Kitty”
George Bluth Sr. was accused of building mini-mansions in Iraq. The proof of his treason can be found on the family’s yacht. While George and Kitty 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 – “Meet The Veals”
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 – “Amigos!”
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 – “Notapusy”
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 the warfront.
Later in season three, Tony Hale’s Buster and his nurse have almost the same exchange in episode 12, “Exit Strategy.”
18. Spanish/English Dictionary: Season 1, Episode 13 – “Beef Consommé”
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 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 in season two.
19. Workers Love Nellie: Season 3, Episode 11 – “Family Ties”
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 – “Development Arrested”
In the series finale, there’s a Variety headline that boasts 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 refers to Arrested Development itself, which was enjoying high DVD sales—despite its recent cancellation—when this episode aired in 2006.