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Now the story of a wealthy family who lost everything — and the one son who had no choice but to keep them all together. It's Arrested Development.
Arrested Development is a FOX Sitcom, debuting in 2003, which was hailed by critics (and Emmy voters) during its initial run as the best new comedy in years, but ended up becoming the best TV show nobody was watching.
The show — a sitcom with no Laugh Track — follows the farcical exploits of a wealthy family grappling with the loss of their fortune as the family patriarch is arrested for numerous dubious dealings involving the family business. The show's tone is dry and fast-paced, tempered with a voice-over documentary-style narration and coupled with Running Gags, nested flashbacks, and other complex narrative structures.
Michael Bluth is the Only Sane Man in a family that doesn't know how to live frugally; he is trying to keep the company afloat and the family together, but his siblings live their lives on a whim. His older brother Gob (George Oscar Bluth II — pronounced "jobe", like the biblical Job) is a mostly incompetent magician who performs illusions. Michael's twin sister Lindsay is a fair-weather activist for whatever cause happens to catch her attention at any given moment; her husband, Tobias, is a former psychiatrist turned aspiring actor (and is in denial about his obvious homosexuality). Michael's younger brother, Buster, is a bizarre Man Child who still lives with his mother, Lucille (who is constantly drinking and critical of everything and everyone). Michael's father, George, is enjoying his time in prison. Michael's son, George-Michael, and Lindsay's daughter, Maeby, frequently steal the show; the rest of the family is ignorant of the UST between them.
Arrested Development garnered critical acclaim (and Emmy awards) during its run, but it struggled with low ratings and numerous schedule changes. While it's considered Screwed by the Network by some (a common occurrence with FOX shows), the show did manage to get three seasons and fifty-three episodes under its belt before ending (rather than being cancelled). Series creator Mitch Hurwitz was offered the opportunity to move the series to Showtime, but he declined, since he felt the show had run its course.
A movie based on the series was in production for the longest time, preluded by an abbreviated fourth season — consisting of Days in the Limelight which brought the audience up to speed with the five missing years of the family's lives released on Netflix in 2013. After the fourth season was re-aired in its correct chronological order in 2018, the show was followed on by a fifth season in 2019. The fifth was considered, even if there is no official word on the matter, the last due to sexual harassment allegations made against Jeffrey Tambor (George Sr.) ending his career and the tragic death of Jessica Walters (Lucille) in 2021.
The show has a Wiki on Wikia in addition to the in-universe-styled fansite The Balboa Observer-Picayune. The wiki with the most comprehensive coverage of Arrested Development, however, is often Wikipedia itself.
Arrested Development in general provides examples of the following tropes:
- Abusive Parents: George Sr. and Lucille are emotionally abusive to all of their children. Tobias and Lindsay are extremely neglectful toward Maeby. Michael might be on the borderline given how demanding he is of George Michael.
- Adam Westing: Carl Weathers is going to get a stew on!
- Adults Are Useless: Almost everyone in the Bluth family is a dysfunctional incompetent who either deliberately or unconsciously destroys everything good that ever happens to them. The exceptions? The teens. George Michael almost single-handedly runs the frozen banana stand that's the family's only steady source of income while Maeby bluffs her way into a studio producer job which she succeeds in until discovered (through George Michael's gaffe, so even the kids aren't perfect).
- She gets it back when Hollywood execs go nuts over the teenage wonder, so in this case the adult cluelessness works in her favor.
- Aesop Amnesia: Michael frequently learns that he shouldn't be so overbearing toward George Michael and should let him have fun. He forgets this just as frequently. Probably deliberate since Michael is kind and well-functioning compared to his family, but is still pretty flawed.
- Similarly, there are several occasions when it dawns on Lindsay that she should actually pay attention to her daughter. By the next episode, she's gone back to being obliviously neglectful.
- Artistic License Geography: In-universe. Portugal, down ol' South America land.
Lindsay: You've had $80,000's worth of cartography lessons. Get us a channel to the ocean!
- Also the US Army mistakes Tobias's testicles for a photograph of middle eastern countryside. They even seem to have aircraft flying to a specific, imaginary location based on this evidence.
- Attack of the Political Ad: When George Michael lets Gob do an ad for his school president campaign, Gob pretty much attacks George's rival, Steve Holt, on the grounds that he doesn't even know who his father is. It turns out Gob is Steve Holt's biological father.
- Big Bad: Lucille, who was behind pretty much all of the Bluth Corporation's illegal activity. Foreshadowed by her "dealing with" Michael's math teacher when he was a child.
- Book Ends: The first and last episodes end with Michael and his son opting to sail to Mexico to avoid their family's troubles. In the first they go back to save them, in the last they abandon them to their own devices.
- Borrowed Catchphrase: Most of them. See the trope page.
- Brick Joke: Several, although "light treason" comes to mind.
- Dr Fünke's One Hundred Percent Natural Good Time Family Band Solution.
- The entire third season is made of these:
- The "Seaward".
- The series premiere and series finale both began with this exchange (first/last):
Michael: What comes before anything? What have we always said is the most important thing?
- GOB's girlfriend at the end of the season, the third place contestant in the beauty pageant.
- On seemingly dozens of occasions, Oscar very obviously insinuates that he is Buster's father rather than his uncle ("If only my father were here." "...Maybe he IS..."), but Buster remains completely oblivious until, offhandedly, Oscar mentions refuses to "share his Pop Secret (brand popcorn)" with Buster. "Pop Secret? ...Is Oscar my real father!?"
- In the first and last episode of the fist season George Sr. says:
George Sr.: I have the worst *bleep* attorneys.
- Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Anytime Michael indulges himself or ever puts himself first (only a handful throughout the series), it has terrible consequences that are immediately revealed to his family who use the occasion to declare him just as bad as the rest of them (who ALWAYS indulge themselves and put themselves first).
- Casting Gag: One episode had Tobias role-playing with a relationship counselor played by Mr. Show co-star Bob Odenkirk.
- Catch Phrase: Many, with inevitable borrowing later on.
- Gob's Insistent Terminology of "illusions".
- Responding with "But where did the lighter fluid come from?" when he fails his fire illusions and only lighter fluid spews out from his sleeves.
- Also "Come on!"
- "I've made a huge mistake."
- "I don't think so."
- "What am I doing?!"
- The Narrator has "In fact..."
- Buster's "Hey brother..."
- Maeby's standard deflection of "Marry me!"
- It started when somebody pointed out that she seemed a little young to be a movie executive.
- When she needed to look younger, it was "Babysit me!"
- She realized she probably needed a new one when somebody responded "Okay!"
- She once tried to use it on her uncle Michael... which wasn't as bad as when Michael used it.
- Oscar's "... dot com" succeeding his cries of "I'm Oscar!"
- Also, Saddam Hussein says this when he says that he is only a Saddam Hussein lookalike, and the real one had a scar on his forehead "I'm no scar... dot com."
- Kitty: "Say goodbye to these, Michael!"
- "Because it's the last time you're going to see them."
- Steve Holt: *arms raised* "STEVE HOLT!"
- His mother Eve Holt used to do the same thing with her own name.
- Also, each member of the Bluth family (Buster excluded) has their own impression of how a chicken sounds and moves.
Michael: "Has anyone in this family ever even seen a chicken?"
- "Is she really?" or "Really?" Michael's response to anything positive George Michael has to say about Bland... I mean Anne.
- "Who's Ann?"
- Michael saying "And I have no problem with that."
- "No touching!" and variations of it gets used a lot in the prison scenes.
- Barry is "very good."
- "Well, that was a freebie."
- Douche chill!
- "Don't call it that." anytime someone calls Orange County "The O.C."
- "The fact that... tells me you're not ready."
- "Is she really?" or "Really?" Michael's response to anything positive George Michael has to say about Bland... I mean Anne.
- Chekhov's Gag: Each episode more or less consists of a series of these, typically coming together perfectly (for us) and horribly (for the Bluths) at the end.
- A big one is the fear the children have of amputees because of their father using a one-armed man to teach traumatic "lessons" to them.
- Chekhov's Gun: The H. Maddas files.
- Christmas Episode
- Coattail-Riding Relative: Virtually the entire family coasts on George Sr.'s and Michael's business successes. Tobias, being especially pathetic, even occasionally tries to jump-start his nonexistent show-business career by exploiting Gob's equally nonexistent fame.
- Comedic Sociopathy: Michael is at the helm of a sinking ship of fools.
- The Comically Serious: Wayne Jarvis.
- Consulting Mister Puppet: Franklin.
- Continuity Lock Out:
- Though later episodes made painstaking efforts to sum up the episode thus far when returning from act breaks, presumably to catch viewers who might have been flipping channels.
- The Continuity Lock Out is less about the plot and more about missing those sneaky little hidden jokes. For instance, if you miss the first couple episodes, you'll have no idea why the family is always driving a stair-car everywhere.
- Continuity Nod: And HOW!
- Could This Happen to You?: This was parodied by John Beard, who is a real life news anchor. Despite how outlandish or irrelevant the story he's teasing, John will always throw things like "What this means for your weekend, at 11."
- Country Matters:
Tobias to Lindsay: "You selfish c-ount (sees Maebe)... ry... music... loving... person."
- Also the Stealth Pun noted below in which Michael tells Gob to get rid of the Seaward, his boat, and Lucille says she'll leave when she's ready to. Later, he gets a boat actually named the C-Word.
- The boat is also a multi-part pun, as it stands for this trope and "cancelled", which was an impending threat for the show.
- Dead Baby Comedy: Blink and you'll miss it:
George Michael: Uncle Gob, was Aunt Lindsay ever pregnant?
- Deadpan Snarker: The narrator becomes increasingly sarcastic throughout the second and third seasons.
- Decoy Leader
- Dinner and a Show: Family dinners/get-togethers are almost guaranteed to descend into chaos.
- Don't Explain the Joke: Gob has a tendency to do this, such as when talking about how all of Michael's girlfriends are "dogs".
- Double Aesop
- Double Entendre: Tobias's frequent homosexual Un Entendres.
- Double Meaning Title: The show is about a family with several children in different degrees of arrested development, who own a development company whose president gets arrested, and the character development that ensues only after this arrest.
- And their home building company struggles for three years with a deadlocked development project.
- The Dragon: The Bluth's (Fake) Uncle Jack "Bullet" has a large, strong man named "Dragon" who carries him around and throws him at his enemies.
- Dude, Not Funny: In-universe example. "And secondofly, I know you're the big marriage expert around here. Oh wait, I forgot your wife is dead."
- El Spanish-O: In one episode, George Bluth is mistaken for his brother while in Mexico. He tries to explain that they want his "brothero". It's even funnier that he puts the accent over the "e" (like you would if it were a real word in Spanish), so he's saying "bro-thero" instead of "brother-o".
- End of Series Awareness: Through out the whole run, as its viewership was small enough that it was always on thin ice.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin "Dead Dove: Do Not Eat".
Michael: (Looks inside bag) "I don't know what I was expecting."
- Tobias is a never nude which the narrator points out is exactly what it sounds like.
Michael: I thought he just liked cut-offs.
- Failure Is the Only Option: The adult cast is never going to grow up and accept responsibility.
- Similarly, every season finale ends with Michael and his son fleeing the family only to somehow get drawn back into their mess.
- Fake Buzz: Maeby drinks some virgin martinis and thinks she's drunk. George Michael tries to explain that "virgin" means non-alcoholic, but the venture is fruitless. Another time when Maebe and George Michael find some of Gob's fake wine (wine bottles filled with water). They drink it and think they are drunk. This leads them to get to second base.
- Faking the Dead: George Sr. in the beginning of the second season.
- Faux Documentary: The show is shot with handheld cameras, and nothing is shown outside the realm of what could be captured with a camera crew following the main characters and supplementary photography (at one point, Kitty's claims that George Sr. was going to give her the company result in the series' only "footage not found" (apart from a callback at the end of the episode and a reference to the "great times" in Lindsay's and Tobias' marriage). The idea was much more explicit in the first half-season, when the "footage" briefly went static in a car accident, and a judge forced the camera to leave the courtroom.
- The show more or less abandons the concept temporarily whenever they want to feature flashbacks of the adult characters as children. The clips are shown with a fake super 8 filter. This is probably a stylistic choice.
- In commentary on the pilot, they discuss the documentary style they wished to mimic since it was so popular at the time. Although it wasn't held very strictly, they used digital cameras and had a rule to follow the action rather than lead it. There's at least one instance of a boom mic being used as a gag.
- Fauxtivational Poster : George Michael has a poster that's says "Fun and Failure They both start out the same way."
- Flash Back
- Floating Continent: Apparently a housing development idea of George Sr.'s that never got off the ground.
- The Florence Nightingale Effect: A nurse who falls in love with coma patients.
- Foreshadowing: For example, count how many times in the first and second season we see Buster alongside artificial hands.
- Including his hand chair. After discovering that it was given to Lupe's family, Buster says "I never thought I'd miss a hand so much"- a full six months before he does.
- The second season premier features a newscast which briefly mentions a seal attack.
- He also wins a stuffed seal from a claw machine. And briefly imitates the claw with his left hand.
- And let's not forget the Season Two episode where Gob "helps" George-Michael by attacking his candidacy opponent (Steve Holt), by pointing out that Steve doesn't even know who his father is, while simultaneously reminiscing about the anti-abortion girlfriend he
haddidn't have in high school. Well, Steve Holt's parentage gets revealed in Season Three. Guess who...
- "For British Eyes Only" manages to doubly foreshadow a later reveal. The episode begins with a flashback to an earlier conversation where Michael responds to his son telling him he has a stupid girl problem with: "I don't even have a girl, much less a stupid one." Later in the day, Michael meets a women named Rita. Who is mentally retarded.
- Another incidence foreshadowing the same reveal is when Rita sits on a bus stop bench that says "Wee Britain" in a way that it ends up appearing as "Wee Brain".
- And also when Trevor confronts Michael, asking "How would you like someone going after some stupid person in your family?"
- Maeby is introduced as "[George Michael]'s cousin, Maeby", which could also be written as "[George Michael]'s cousin,maybe" since they weren't actually biological cousins.
- Gob says he "could be a father" in "Best Man for the Gob". He is.
- Michael noticing similarities between the model home and the palaces of Saddam Hussein in Season One.
- Repeatedly through the seasons, it is hinted that Maeby isn't George Michael's cousin, which turns out to be true, but not in the way in which it was repeatedly hinted. In the last season, there are several foreshadows revolving around Michael's mysterious sister N Bluth which resolves to be that Lindsy is really 3 years older than Michael and adopted, therefore making Maeby unrelated to the Bluths.
- French Maid: In an episode preview, Lindsay dresses as one thinking that she'll get to write off her debt to Bob Loblaw with a sexual favor... but finds herself performing actual maid duties.
- Fridge Brilliance: In-universe examples: in both episodes featuring Maggie Lizer, the blind lawyer, it made no sense that she would often make eye contact with Michael. Then, it turns out she's not really blind!
- Friendly Local Chinatown: The series has an unusual ethnic enclave in "Wee Britain", which is inspired by the German-themed Old World Village in Huntington, California.
- Fun with Acronyms:
- The Home Builders Organization.
- Mentally Retarded Female, aka MR F.
- Germans Love David Hasselhoff: In-universe example: when they were children, George Sr. instigated fights between Michael and Gob, filmed them, and released them. The tapes were very popular in Latin America.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: All. The. Time.
- Gibberish of Love: George Michael tends towards this whenever he thinks he's got even an inkling of a shot with Maeby.
- When his father meets Rita for the first time, we see where he gets it from.
- Girls with Moustaches: Gob sets Michael up with a mustached girl out of revenge.
- Give a Man a Fish: And he'll want to use your yacht, and I don't want this thing smelling like fish!
- Golden Moment: Occurs almost entirely with Michael and George Michael, his son. Lampshaded when while making snacks with his father at the end of an episode George Michael remarks that he doesn't need his dad to stay out of his life, he's the biggest part of his life. Michael states, referring to the snack they are making, "That's a little cornball, son."
- Hypocritical Humor: Most lines spoken by Gob, Lindsay, and Lucille Bluth, with other members of the family getting a few here and there.
- And, of course, Tobias's frequent claims that everybody else is a closet homosexual given the slightest provocation.
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Every episode's title rides somewhere within the scope of Double Meaning Title, Pun-Based Title or Homage:
- "Public Relations": Michael hires a woman to handle public relations for the Bluth family, then after dating her finds their relationship becoming very public.
- "Making a Stand": Gob makes a banana stand, then unites with Michael to make a stand against their father.
- "Exit Strategy": The second-to-last episode, in which the Bluths go to war-torn Iraq (argued to be war torn due to a lack of an exit strategy) to find the evidence that exonerates their father (giving the show an exit strategy).
- "Justice is Blind": Maggie Lizer's dog Justice is blind and Maggie can see.
- "Queen for a Day": For the one day that Tobias owns the bar "The Queen Mary" he as it (accidentally) renamed "Tobias is Queen Mary".
Tobias: I guess I can have them remove the Mary.
- "Missing Kitty": George Sr.'s secretary Kitty is missing.
- The first two episodes of the second season ("The One Where Michael Leaves" and "The One Where They Build a House") are titled with the Idiosyncratic Episode Naming of Dueling Show Friends.
- The following episode is called "Amigos". Geddit?
- The episode "Good Grief" centered around the Bluths' different reactions to hearing about the death of George Sr. This episode features homages to Peanuts including a beagle lying on the roof of a red doghouse, using music directly from the Charlie Brown specials, and being titled after main character Charlie Brown's catchphrase.
- Don't forget the Charlie Brown Depressed Walk wherein the character walks slowly with their head down with the aforementioned music, just like in the specials.
- "Family Ties": Michael Bluth (played by Jason Bateman) investigates into whether or not a woman he just met has family ties to him as his sister. She is played by Justine Bateman, who has family ties to Jason Bateman (she's his sister), and also starred as Mallory Keaton on the TV show Family Ties.
- Idiot Houdini: Nearly all of the Bluths.
- Important Haircut: A lot of the story lines revolve around hair and lack thereof.
- George Sr. has a habit of swapping identities with his twin brother Oscar by force, either by putting on a wig or shaving his brother's head.
- Tobias has treated himself to four thousand hair plugs, which resulted in him nearly dying as the transplant was rejecting his body. He also sported a classy wig while disguised as Mister Featherbottom. Erm, misses!
- The Bluth Company's main rival, Sitwell Enterprises, is owned by Stan Sitwell, a man who cannot grow a single hair on his body due to Alopecia.
- Other characters have had their hair mentioned as well — Steve Holt worried about inheriting a receding hairline from Gob Lindsay, whose achievements in high school had always overshadowed Michael's, won the Best Hair category.
- Incest Is Relative: It starts with George-Michael and Maeby. Then it snowballs. A lot.
- Then there's Buster and Lucille. On the episode "Motherboy XXX," Buster tells Michael, "Whenever she'd [Lucille] change clothes, she'd make me wait on the balcony until zip-up – and yet anything goes at bath-time."
- Plus there's also:
Buster: Sister's my new mother, Mother! And is it just me, or is she looking hotter, too?
- And the:
Gob: You know that Kitty is starting to sound pretty damn sexy to me. Maybe I oughta...
- In the final few episodes, there are two other examples: Michael hires a prostitute because he suspects she is his long-lost sister, and then in the finale, we learn that Lindsey tries to make a move on Michael and GOB tries to move in on her. Also Michael and Tobias do some spooning (same-sex in-laws count as incest, right?).
- The gag involving Michael's hired prostitute gets infinitely better when you realize the actress that plays her is Jason Bateman's sister, Justine Bateman.
- Another honorable mention would have to be Michael and Maeby singing "Afternoon Delight" together. Only to find out a little too late what the subtext of the song is.
- And Lindsay and George Michael doing the same thing later in the episode to get back at Michael and Maeby, not having stayed long enough to find out what the song is about. Although as of the season finale, neither of these pairings are technically incest.
- Insistent Terminology: They're not tricks. They're illusions. Used to Gob's chagrin in "Family Ties", among other episodes.
- Though oddly enough, he eventually talks about a prostitute "turning illusions," the exact reason he gave in the pilot for why he doesn't like to say "tricks".
- Intercourse with You: "Afternoon Delight". After figuring it out, George-Michael and dad find it too vague to mind singing it.
- Jumping Out of a Cake: As part of a Zany Scheme pulled by GOB.
- Kent Brockman News: At 15 episodes, LA newscaster John F. Beard is tied with Henry Winkler/Barry Zuckercorn for most common recurring cast member/character.
- Kissing Cousins: George Michael's crush and his cousin Maeby.
- Lampshaded the Obscure Reference: In the episode "S.O.B.s", Tobias brings up someone named Freddie Wilson while talking, prompting the other characters to say they "don't get that reference". This doubled as an in-joke about how some people thought the show's inability to gain mainstream appeal was caused by its numerous and sometimes obscure jokes about pop-culture and topical references.
- Last-Second Word Swap:
- "You selfish c-ount... ry... music... loving... person."
- "She just called to ask me to bring her a tube of vag... is... table paste. Hi, George Michael."
- Then there's this:
Lindsay: Look, if you say no, you're just going to drive him right to her.
- Le Film Artistique: Dangerous Cousins, a French film about a forbidden relationship between cousins, which interests George Michael and Maeby (the former has a copy hidden in his sock drawer).
- And a poster hidden behind the "Fun and Failure" poster in his room
- Leitmotif Count the number of times you hear Europe's "The Final Countdown" in relation to Gob.
- Lemony Narrator: The amount of times Ron Howard breaks the fourth wall probably counts in the hundreds.
- Leno Device: Jim Cramer is shown talking about the Bluth company on his show and in a later episode makes a live appearance. John Beard is an actual Fox local anchor and is presented as an exaggerated version of himself. Beard has been cast in several series either as a generic anchor or As Himself.
- Lies to Children: Thanks to Lucille's insane lies to cover up her alcoholism, Lindsay has grown up believing that vodka goes bad if not finished the day it's opened and that wine only becomes alcohol if left to sit.
- Literal-Minded: The doctor that the Bluths always seem to encounter every time they visit the hospital.
- Live Episode: Parodied with the end of "S.O.B.s".
- Love Dodecahedron: Combined with Incest Is Relative.
- Love Epiphany
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Subverted: she's actually a Mentally Retarded Female. Mr. F!
- Manipulative Bastard: Lucille and George Sr.
- Meaningful Name:
- George Oscar "Gob" Bluth = John Ellis "Jeb" Bush.
- George Michael's cousin Maeby. As in, his cousin, maybe (turns out she's not).
- George Sr., while under house arrest, hires a man to wear a camera and a microphone and relay his words to the rest of the family during a consultation with a lawyer. The guy's name is Larry Middleman.
- Me Love You Long Time: Marta is arguably a Latina version. She is a highly successful and attractive actress for a Spanish language TV show, yet, since she must be paired with one of the main characters on the show (who are all Caucasian, fitting the trope), the best she can do is Gob, a rather unsuccessful magician with many character flaws and few, if any, redeeming attributes who lives off his parents. Who often isn't even there for her. And just in case you thought it was because he had a certain je ne sais quoi she particularly liked, keep in mind she also fell for his brother, who is about as different as two brothers can be. About the only thing they had in common was their skin color. Probably justified in the Dysfunction Junction nature of all the main characters didn't leave her with too many alternatives.
- Metaphorgotten: Gob, on after the seal that bites off Buster's hand gets its flipper eaten by a shark.
- "Poor little guy. He's probably out there somewhere, swimming around in circles, freaking out his whole family."
- My Friends and Zoidberg: "I'm going to stay here with all these... hot men. And Ira."
- My Name Is Not Durwood: George Michael's girlfriend Ann, whom Michael variously calls "Egg", "Yam", "Plant", "Plain", "Bland", and "Her?"
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Tobias' business cards: Dr Tobias Fünke, analrapist.
Buster: (gasps as he reads the card)
- Narrator: Ron Howard.
- The Not-Secret: Tobias' "Mrs. Featherbottom" act isn't fooling anyone. It doesn't help that it's a transparent rip-off of Mrs. Doubtfire (with a bit of Mary Poppins thrown in).
- Not Blood Related: George Michael desperately looks for evidence that he and Maeby are Not Blood Related. In the end, it turns out that they're not... because Lindsay isn't.
- Also, the Bluth's "uncle" Jack Bullet, who they exclusively refer to throughout the episode as as "Fake Uncle Jack", likely because a major plot point of the episode is his sexual desire for Lindsay.
- "...and remember, he's not really their uncle."
- Also, the Bluth's "uncle" Jack Bullet, who they exclusively refer to throughout the episode as as "Fake Uncle Jack", likely because a major plot point of the episode is his sexual desire for Lindsay.
- One Steve Limit: Averted. Lucille Bluth's best friend/social rival is Lucille Austero, played by Liza Minnelli. When the name confusion is not being Played for Laughs, the show refers to her as Lucille Austero, or Lucille Two. To a lesser degree, there's a bit of a theme with the names of most of the male Bluths. There's George Sr, Oscar, George Oscar (GOB), Michael, and George Michael. The only one to escape this is Buster.
- Tobias also has a brief relationship with a Transvestite(which he believes to be female) bodybuilder named Michael.
- There is, however, only one Steve.
- STEVE HOLT!!!
- Only Sane Man: Michael Bluth is all too aware of this trope.
- The Only Way They Will Learn: Extreme "lessons" are a theme of the series, from Maeby's Kissing Cousins scheme to the lessons the Bluth children learned at the hands of J. Walter Weatherman.
- "On the Next...": Subverted; they're almost always one-off jokes based on hanging plot threads of the episode they accompany. Of course, there are a few Double Subversions where the preview is actually true...
- Outdated Outfit: Lupe's hand-me-down jumpers.
- Parental Sexuality Squick: Comes up a lot, considering Lucille's considerable libido.
- Parent with New Paramour: Played with throughout the series with each of Michael's new love interests.
- They have one of the major obstacles to Michael forming a new relationship being fear about the effect it might have on his son, even though George Michael tends to approve and be encouraging.
- Person as Verb: "Don't go all Michael on me."
- Police Brutality: A running gag in which George Sr. or Oscar (or one disguised as or mistaken for the other) gets tackled by police and one officer clubs him on the head with a nightstick.
- As well as Gob getting tazered.
- Primal Scene: In "Visiting Ours", Gob unfortunately witnesses his parents getting it on when he is detained against the window of the conjugal trailer they're in. It happens again in "Prison Break-in".
- Punny Name: Bob Loblaw, owner of Bob Loblaw's Law blog. He is quite the mouthful.
- One headline reads "Bob Loblaw Lobs Law Bomb."
- The Resolution Will Not Be Televised: The movie seems like the likely stage for resolution and results of major plot threads such as Kitty making off with a great deal of George Sr's sperm.
- Rich in Dollars, Poor In Sense
- Rule of Funny
- Running Gag: You could make another wiki listing all of them.
- Running Gagged: Maeby used to say "Marry me!" whenever her coworkers thought she looked too young to be working to remove suspicion. One of her coworkers takes the offer a little too seriously, and she stops afterwards.
- Shaped Like What It Sells: The Bluths' one consistent moneymaker is the frozen banana stand, which is shaped like a banana.
- Share Phrase: On top of the show's numerous Borrowed Catchphrases, Lucille, Gob, Michael, and Maeby all say "That was a freebie" in the third season, with about equal distribution (Maeby says it in two separate episodes, but Michael said it in the first season).
- And of course, "I've made a huge mistake."
- As the Narrator, Ron Howard frequently makes references to his past careers on the classic TV shows The Andy Griffith Show and Happy Days.
- "Jessie had gone too far, and she had best watch her mouth."
- "No one was making fun of Andy Griffith. I can't emphasize that enough."
- Tony Wonder wanted to call his magic DVD Use Your Illusion, but it turns out some band already had the rights to that.
- Rita's uncle holds out a jewelry box to her and when she reaches for it, he snaps it shut, causing her to laugh uncontrollably, like in Pretty Woman.
- As the Narrator, Ron Howard frequently makes references to his past careers on the classic TV shows The Andy Griffith Show and Happy Days.
- Sixth Ranger: Oscar, who first appears late in the first season.
- Standardized Sitcom Housing: One of the most surprising aversions, considering the family business and how self-aware the show is. The couch is off in a corner and it's possible to go from the front door to the kitchen without passing through the living room. The actual model home used in the Pilot had a grand spiral staircase... leading to an unfinished attic.
- Stealth Insult: Michael can't go two lines without laying one of these down on his family.
- Surrounded by Idiots: Poor Michael.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Lucille's housekeeper Luce was replaced by Lupe after a single episode.
- Un Entendre: Almost everything Tobias says.
- Verbal Tic Name: Parodied with "Annyong", who always repeats this name back to anyone who says it- since it's Korean for "hello". Lucille actually just didn't care enough to actually learn his real name: Hel-Lo.
- Vetinari Job Security: Things immediately fall apart any time Michael leaves.
- Visual Pun: A double-whammy in "Making A Stand":
Narrator: Michael was trying to include his brother in the business, at his father's request.
- "Well Done, Son" Guy: Subverted in that right until the end they keep working for approval from their father (or in GOB's case, for both his father's and Michael's).
- There is also the fact that George deliberately undermined his sons to keep them working for his approval, as he believed it built character.
Specific episodes and scenes provide examples of:
Michael: "Hey, c'mon, get in the car, and I'm not taking 'no' for an answer."
- Also the Bluth family accidentally kidnaps (and assaults and drugs) Rita when they go to pick her up, unaware that she has been told that Michael had no family (and that she is mentally retarded).
- Accidental Marriage: Maeby and George Michael have one when trying to entertain people in a senior citizens home.
- Also, Gob ends up marrying a woman in an escalating series of drunken dares.
- Even funnier if you know that Will Arnett and Amy Poehler, who plays the woman he marries, are married in real life.
- Bandaged Face: Lucille after plastic surgery.
- Tobias in the throes of Graft Versus Host.
- Batman Gambit: Michael attempts several of these. A failed example includes when Michael tries to break up GOB with Marta by putting her in the magic act.
- Beware the Nice Ones: In one episode, Tobias (best known for homosexual innuendo), enters the same prison as George Sr. Tobias uses his therapist training and counseling skills to unintentionally convince the most powerful inmate to kill himself, and then heads a new prison gang centered around Wizard of Oz imagery, whose members were called "friends of Dorothy".
- He was certainly the most feared anal-rapist in the prison.
- In the final episode, George Michael punches Gob out cold when he realizes that his uncle has been dating Ann behind his back.
- Bilingual Bonus: The painters reminiscing about the Baby Buster videos such as "Too Old To Breastfeed".
Painters: "Yo quiero leche de madre!"
Michael: Did you burn down the storage unit?
Lindsay: Michael, if this is a lecture about how we're all supposed to whatever, and blah blah blah, well you can save it because we all know it by heart.
- The narrator himself mentions Michael eating an entire "fifteen-dollar thing of candy beans" from a hotel mini-bar.
- By Wall That Is Holey: Played with in "The One Where They Build a House", where Buster, attempting to get injured to get out of
theArmy, runs under a falling wall (Mimicking another Buster).
- Cluster Bleep Bomb:
Gob: Please refrain from discussing or engaging in any sort of inter-office *bleep* ing, or s*bleep* ing, or finger*bleep* , or *bleep* sting or *bleep* eeing or or even *bleep* . Even though so many people in this office are begging for it. And if anybody does anything with my sister Lindsay, I'll take off my pants, I'll sh*bleep* . And I'll personally *long bleep* .
- Coincidental Broadcast: Subverted. Wayne Jarvis tells Michael that Gob is "on the news! Right now!", and turns on the TV. They then wait several minutes for the segment about him to come up.
- Played straight in a first season episode, where a reporter is doing a live report about substandard model homes, and when she taps on a window of the one she's standing in front of, Michael hears her outside.
- Cold Turkeys Are Everywhere: Parodied after a loose seal with a yellow bow tie bites off Buster's hand: he sees reminders of it everywhere, from his hand chair to his stuffed seal with a yellow bow tie to the words on his clock "ALARM OFF" minus the first two letters.
- Creepy Uncle: The Veals have one. Gob, Tobias and Buster all play this role for George Michael occasionally.
- Disappearing Box: Gob's "Aztec Tomb" in the first episode.
- Drugged Lipstick: On Gob's ventriloquist's dummy.
- Drugs Are Bad: Played with in "Pier Pressure"; Michael apparently believes this, but the treatment it gets indicates that the folks behind the camera apparently don't.
- Dude, She's Like, in a Coma: When Buster is faking his coma, his nurse crawls into bed with him. She's done it before, too.
- The lawyer trying to keep him alive does it too.
- Gambit Pileup: In "Making A Stand", George Sr. attempts to carry out a illegal deal with a Columbian cartel by using Gob to unwittingly launder the money and distracting Michael by playing him against Gob. In response, Michael makes a plan to convince his father that the cartel have kidnapped him after Michael caught on and called the deal off to teach him a lesson. However, after Gob tells George Sr. the full details of the plan less than a minute into its setup, George Sr. plants his go-to scare tactic amputee J. Walter Weatherman in the group to give him a means to teach them a lesson about teaching their father a lesson. After finding out that Gob ruined their scheme, Michael gets into a fight with him which spills onto the balcony, where Michael falls over the railing. Once George Sr. runs out to the balcony in shock, Michael comes up from his hiding place behind the railing to teach George Sr. the lesson about pitting Gob and him against each other that they had originally planned... at which point, the police, investigating the commotion upstairs, break in and shoot Buster's hand off- his fake hand, which he had been passing off as his good hand by concealing his real hand under his hook all along, teaching them all the lesson he'd been trying to teach the entire episode about using amputees to scare people.
- "Development Arrested", to a lesser extent.
- Hit Me Dammit: Buster spends an episode trying to get into a fight only to drop and curl into a ball when the time finally comes.
- Homosexual Reproduction: Maggie Lizer was a surrogate mother of a gay couple, who used a material mixed from the sperms of both of them.
- Hypocritical Humor: Leaning on the Fourth Wall example:
Tobias: Those Hollywood shows are so incredibly detailed. (gets a pot of coffee out of a cupboard containing only the pot and a Starbucks cup)
- The third season is full of this, and it's almost always Leaning on the Fourth Wall.
Rita: (A Brit, played by the South African Charlize Theron) I just hate when they get America actors to play British people.
- Jumping the Shark: Parodied in the episode "Motherboy XXX", when Barry Zuckercorn (played by Trope Codifier Henry Winkler) hops over a shark to go to a Product Placement. In-universe, at least.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall: The late Season Three episode "S.O.B.s" is chock full of references to the show's failing ratings and involves the characters pleading for support and trying to seem more relatable, while simultaneously stating that they would not be able to do a Channel Hop should they ultimately be canceled, and, by the end, openly accepting the show's impending cancellation.
- When they discuss the idea that there is a mole in the company in "Mr. F", the cameras focuses on each cast member, ending with George Sr.'s surrogate and then finally with a wide cast shot of the conference room with a studio mic hanging overhead that gets quickly pulled away.
- Literal-Minded: The doctor: We've lost him. It looks like he's dead. He's going to be all right.
- Littlest Cancer Patient: Parodied in the first season: Maeby pretends to be a terminally ill student named Surely Fünke so that the school will hold fundraisers for "her" and she can abscond with the money.
- Mistaken for Racist: "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.
- Obfuscating Disability:
- Played with: A female attorney who can actually see claims to be blind in order to get the sympathy of her jurors; the Bluths try to expose her fake disability, but fail spectacularly because (only) on the day that they decided to prove she was not blind, she actually was temporarily blind due to an accident. She regained her sight in full the following day.
- Maeby pretends to be a disabled girl called Shirley spelled Surely to get people to give money to her. Also Buster pretending to be in a coma to avoid testifying against the family.
- One Dialogue, Two Conversations: In "Afternoon Delight", Michael tells Oscar to give Lucille some "afternoon delight"--Oscar thinks he's talking about a particular strain of marijuana called "Afternoone Deelite".
Oscar: Maybe I'll put it in her brownie.
- Peking Duck Christmas: Not the holiday precisely, but a similar idea. The setting has two Punny Name restaurants. One is called Skip Churches and is a Sunday Brunch place where Christians go in lieu of church. The other is Miss Temple's, a Chinese restaurant frequented by Jews in lieu of synagogue.
- Platonic Prostitution: In "Family Ties", Nellie's customers never seem to want to have sex with her, and just need to talk about their deep-seated emotional problems: George Bluth sobs about his inability to make Oscar jealous with his money, Gob sobs about his inability to get Michael's approval, and, when she is inadvertently hired as an in-house prostitute for the whole Bluth company, she is concerned about the company's morale because the employees all just wanted to cry to her.
- Plucky Office Girl: Kitty has used her position as one of these to get enough information on everyone to perfectly manipulate them all. Problem is, she's crazy, so how well this works is left up to the viewer.
- Prison Episode: The first season has George, Sr. in prison. However, as part of an "illusion," his son Gob goes to prison for an episode to prove he can escape in 24 hours time. He escapes when an inmate shivs him and he's taken to a hospital.
- The Problem with Pen Island: Tobias is an analyst and a therapist, going by the profession analrapist.
- Product Placement:
- Lampshaded when Tobias and Carl Weathers go to Burger King. "It's a wonderful restaurant!" Narrator and show producer Ron Howard immediately adds "It sure is!"
- "Have you seen the new Mustang? You can hump that hood!"
- Racist Grandma: "Oh Gob, you could charm the black off a telegram boy!"
- Ratings Stunt: Lampshaded and abused in the fifth-to-last episode "S.O.B.s":
- Really Seventeen Years Old: Maeby gets a job as a producer where she constantly has to hide the fact that she's still in high school.
- Recognition Failure: When Lindsay is trying to meet men, she is enticed by a bearded homeless fellow described as having the rugged, unkempt appearance of a movie star. When she finds out he's just homeless, she leaves. However, it turns out that the homeless man is actually Real Life actor Thomas Jane, doing some Method Acting character research for a couple upcoming movies by posing as homeless. When Lindsay finds this out, she is enticed again. Tom Jane is confused that she doesn't know who he is, but seems pleased that she thinks he's gross.
- Red Herring: The Mr. F the CIA is using as a mole is Mr. Fünke.
- Risky Business Dance: In "Development Arrested", Ted is dressed like Tom Cruise (sunglasses, collar up, no pants) under the "Risky Business" banner. He can be heard saying "I couldn't see through the glasses and I slid into the ladder", implying he (unsuccessfully) attempted to re-create the famous "sliding in front of the stairs" scene from the movie, in front of the ladder.
- Saw a Woman In Half: One of Gob's many
tricksillusions. It is Serious Business.
- Science Is Wrong:
Gob: So, a young neighborhood tough by the name of Steve Holt's gonna be here any minute...
- Seamless Spontaneous Lie: Lucille uses a lie like this to cover up the fact that her children's Nana died, and she's been keeping the inheritance money they want for herself. By this point in their lives, the kids know not to believe her. This just makes Lindsay try even harder to find out what happened in order to get the money.
- Shout-Out: Tobias gets license plates made in the name of his hopeful roles, one of which says "DR HOUSE".
- Sitcom Arch Nemesis: Lucille II is this in Lucille's opinion and Stan Sitwell is this to George Sr. In both cases, the detested person is a really decent person, but is treated as a nemesis because the Bluth in question attributes their own kind of motivations to them.
- Smart People Speak the Queen's English: Rita is a subversion. Her English accent is (according to the narrator) the reason that people don't figure out that she's mentally retarded.
- Sock It to Them: There's mention of a sock filled with nickels in a play being put on by the warden.
- Something Only They Would Say: Michael realizes a mysterious pimp is actually Gob when the latter makes a remark about "turning
tricksillusions on the street."
- Something They Would Never Say: Michael goes to visit his father in jail. However, George Sr. tricked his twin brother Oscar into taking his place, and Oscar tries to convince Michael of this. When Michael doesn't believe him, and leaves to follow through on his plans with George Michael, Oscar tells him "I understand. Your family comes first." This is proof enough for Michael.
- Stealth Pun: The first ship is called the "Seaward" (pronounced, of course, "the C-Word"). The second ship is named "Lucille II". The third is actually called "The C-Word", because GOB is an idiot.
- Stupid Sexy Flanders
- Suspiciously Similar Song: Subverted at first in "Making a Stand", where a montage of stills is put to several different songs made for the series in an attempt to "make it funny". At one point, The Narrator mentions that it was "pretty funny to Yellow Submarine... but who could afford it?", at which point the music cuts out. Parodied later in the episode with a second montage set to a similar-sounding "Yellow Boat".
- T-Word Euphemism: Gob's yacht.
- Take That: Done in-universe, oddly enough, when the narrator spends a good bit of an episode knocking the narration of a rivaling show, Scandalmakers.
- Theme Tune Cameo: Lindsay's ringtone.
- Title Drop: Only once in the whole three seasons.
Narrator: Hey, that's the name of the show!
- In "Justice is Blind," a veterinarian reveals to Michael that...
Vet: Michael, Justice is blind.
- Tour Guide Gag
- Twincest : Lindsay tells Michael she's "always been attracted to [him]" seconds after finding out they aren't blood relatives.
- Twin Switch: George Sr. often tricks his twin brother Oscar into serving prison time in his place. Despite the frequency with which this happens, both Oscar and the police fall for it every time.
Oscar: Oh, stupid Oscar, when are you going to learn that there's no such thing as free shrimp?
- George Sr. finds himself on the receiving end when the Mexican police confuse him for Oscar, wanted for drug charges. He eventually convinces them of his real identity. That's when they remember he's the cornballer.
- Unusual Euphemism: When George Michael says that he has Pop-Pop in the attic, Michael thinks he's talking about sex. Later episodes show that Michael may have been justified in assuming this, since other characters use it to mean exactly that.
- Wallpaper Camouflage: Reoccurring trope. Tobias' blue paint, from his stint as a Blue Man Group understudy, allows him to camouflage against any blue background. He also camouflages himself against a glitter background using Lindsay's diamond lotion in order to spy on her.
- Buster's Milford Academy training allows him a high degree of skill in blending into the background of any situation.
- We Should Get Another Tape: Trope Namer is George Michael's eventual response to the running gag where any recording always runs on to footage he shot of himself re-enacting scenes from The Phantom Menace.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Parodied. Annyong disappears between the first and second seasons, never to be seen again... until one On The Next gag toward the beginning of the third season reveals that he had been hiding in the walls . He reveals himself as a spy in the final episode.
- What Have We Ear?: Another one of Gob's
tricksillusions. Probably not a good one to use on White Power BillDirty Ears Bill.
- Zip Me Up: Lucille, verbatim, to her sons.
To be sorted alphabetically into the main list above:
- Adam Westing: Carl Weathers.
- Butt Monkey: Tobias, Buster — both before and after he lost his hand, Ann.
- Flanderization: Ann Veal.
- Can a character be truly Flanderzied when viewers never got to know them in the first place?
- Also Tobias. His closet got way more transparent in the third season, to the point that practically every third line of his was a gay joke, and half of these were gay sex jokes.
- Tobias Fünke, Analrapist.
- The Narrator also suffered this in the third season to some degree, though this could arguably be seen as an (ultimately unsuccessful) attempt to prevent further Continuity Lock Out.
- Also, Gob was a much more competent magician in the first season.
- But he seems to grow out of his habit of spilling his magic secrets every time someone asks how he does it. Probably why the Magician Alliance cuts him more slack.
- Large Ham: A veritable buffet line.
- Luke Nounverber: Cindy Lightballoon.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Byron "Buster" Bluth, Mae "Maeby" Fünke, George Oscar "Gob" Bluth.
- Meaningful Name: Sitwell repeatedly has problems with the adjustment of his eyebrows.
- Real Men Wear Pink: Ice, the Scary Black Man bounty hunter hired by Gob sidelines as a caterer, which is the field he's actually most interested in.
- Right Hand Versus Left Hand: A good handful of episodes has the family business being messed up by this happening within the Bluth Company, but this trope is at it's most noticeable when the finale reveals that the CIA East put George Sr. up to building houses in Iraq and the CIA West pressed charges against George Sr. for building houses in Iraq, both without consulting each other.
- Rummage Sale Reject: Rita's style of dress veers in this direction. But it's to be expected, due to "MR F".
- Shout-Out: See Actor Allusion in the Trivia section. Also an obscure, and apparently arbitrary, one: in "Fakin' It", Wayne Jarvis has the line "Why do there have to be puppets like Frank?" in reference to Gob's puppet Franklin.
- Spousal Privilege: Thoroughly mangled by George Sr.
- That Came Out Wrong: The show specializes in these, usually half a dozen per episode from Tobias (who doesn't realize what he's said), but often from Michael as well (who only notices it half the time).
- Theme Twin Naming: Well, the twin isn't real, but at one point Maebe pretends to be a twin sister named Surely.
- Also George Oscar Sr. and his twin brother, Oscar George.
- The Unfair Sex: Averted. Lucille is an abusive mother and Lindsay neglects her daughter.
- Unsettling Gender Reveal: Shows up in more than one context:
- Invoked and subverted by Maeby, who wants Steve Holt to think Lindsay is her father, not her mother. She goes so far as to buy her mother a shirt with a label "in French":
Maeby: "It's pronounced 'Shemalé'."
- Barry Zuckerkorn apparently seeks out this trope, exclusively:
Barry: Hey, you’re not one of those silly men that’s dressed like a woman, are you?
- Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: With the exception of Michael and George Michael, everyone is a lazy, self-involved Jerkass. Michael, for all he really, really tries to be a good person and caring father, occasionally succumbs to hypocrisy and selfishness.
- Unusual Euphemism:
- "fronts-piece" and "I no dust Buster any more!"
- Michael wonders whether he missed out on some new slang development when both Lindsay and Gob use "crown" as a sexual euphemism.
- provided by producer Ron Howard
- The XXX is actually a roman numeral 30, but the double entendre does not fall on deaf ears.
- but you have to wait for it.