The 25 best episodes of 'Arrested Development', ranked

The 25 best episodes of 'Arrested Development', ranked

“Arrested Development” had one of the more interesting runs as a TV show. At first, it was a cultishly-adored FOX show, but it didn’t enough attention to last more than three seasons, and it barely got a third season. However, its popularity proved unexpected, and the cult only built. This led “Arrested Development” to become the first show rebooted by Netflix. That…didn’t go great. Even diehard fans weren’t wild about the Netflix years, but there were a few worthwhile episodes. This is the story of a family and the 25 best episodes about them. It’s an “Arrested Development” ranking.

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25. “Prison Break-In”

“Prison Break-In”

This is a rare opportunity to see James Lipton, famed host of “Inside the Actors’ Studio,” actually acting. He plays the warden of the prison that is hosting the Bluth Foundation dinner. Also, Lucille is working her wiles on the warden, which worries Michael, but then again Michael is kind of always worried.

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24. “Forget-Me-Now”


Yes, it’s unfortunate that “Arrested Development” cast Scott Baio in the role of the Bluth’s new attorney. However, at the time he wasn’t such a problematic figure. Also, the joke was that he was replacing the lawyer played by Henry Winkler, much in the way Chachi “replaced” The Fonz on “Happy Days.” That’s the kind of thing “Arrested Development” loved to do.

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23. “Meat the Veals”

“Meat the Veals”

Ann Veal (her?) is George Michael’s girlfriend for a spell. She comes from a religious family, and so Michael is a little worried when he meets them. Well, worried he won’t be able to get them to turn against George Michael and Ann’s pre-engagement. Then Mrs. Veal gets horny for Michael, wanting him to teach her the ways of the secular flesh.

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22. “Spring Breakout”

“Spring Breakout”

Lucille has as much of an affinity for drinking as she does for cutting remarks. As such, she doesn’t take too kindly to being put into rehab by Michael. Of course, being checked into rehab doesn’t stop Lucille from challenging Kitty to a drinking contest for the heart, and other body parts, of George Sr. Lucille wins, which sends kind of a weird message, which is exactly what “Arrested Development” wanted we’re sure.

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21. “Beef Consomme”

“Beef Consomme”

George’s legal issues and incarceration are the jumping-off points for the story of the show, so the early episodes focus on it more than later episodes do. In this episode, the family needs to show up for, and be on the same page for, George Sr.’s arraignment hearing. Of course, Michael has been sleeping with Gob’s lady Marta, and Gob is on the hunt for the mystery man who he thinks is named “Hermano,” not knowing that’s the Spanish word for “brother.”

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20. “Altar Egos”

“Altar Egos”

This episode is a story of romances gone awry. Michael has a one-night stand with Maggie Lizer, a lawyer played by the legendary Julia Louis-Dreyfus who is prosecuting George Sr. Gob marries a woman he just met (played by his then-wife Amy Poehler). Meanwhile, George Sr. tries to use the affections of an undercover FBI agent (Jane Lynch) to help him out. Wow, what a power trio of incredible comedic actresses.

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19. “Notapusy”


The storyline of Rita, the woman played by Charlize Theron who Michael falls for, ends in kind of an awkward way that might not fly these days. Nevertheless, there’s plenty of funny stuff from those episodes at the beginning of the third season as well. Michael and Steve Holt (Steve Holt!) compete in a father-son triathlon, even though they are not father and son. Then, there’s the delight of the “Inner Beauty Pageant” that Ann and Maeby (in disguise) compete in.

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18. “Missing Kitty”

“Missing Kitty”

For many, the first time they took notice of the comedic genius of Judy Greer was in “Arrested Development.” She was tremendous as Kitty Sanchez, George Sr.’s former assistant, and extramarital lover. We’re glad so many times when she told us to say goodbye to these because it will be the last time we see them it didn’t turn out to be true.

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17. “Key Decisions”

“Key Decisions”

An early episode, the fourth the show did, showed how clearly the characters were already defined. Michael, Gob, and Lindsay all act according to character in ways both laughable and frustrating. Gob getting himself put in prison to try and escape as a big magic stunt is the best storyline of the bunch, though.

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16. “Fakin’ It”

“Fakin’ It”

We mentioned three of the Bluth siblings in the last entry, so let’s get to the fourth, poor old Buster. The youngest, most-coddled member of the family goes so far as to fake a coma in order to get out of testifying. This leads to a parody of the Terry Schiavo controversy, which is both extremely dark but also now a bit dated.

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15. “Afternoon Delight”

“Afternoon Delight”

Gob was not qualified to be the President of the Bluth Company, and it showed. It mostly showed by him berating his employees, telling them how expensive his suit is, and yelling “Come on!” angrily. There’s a lot of that in this episode, but also multiple family members singing “Afternoon Delight” together in ways both funny and disconcerting.

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14. “Development Arrested”

“Development Arrested”

The final episode of the original run of “Arrested Development” was decidedly a series finale. Could the show tie it all together nearly? No, but neat was never Mitch Hurwitz’s thing. What it is, though, is funny, clever, and satisfying, earning it a spot on this episode.

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13. “Top Banana”

“Top Banana”

This is the second episode of the show, and it showed us just how funny “Arrested Development” can be. A lot of shows struggle early on, and their second episodes almost serve to just restate what we’ve learned in the pilot. “Top Banana” is a great episode of TV, and also we learned new things, such as the fact that there’s always money in the banana stand.

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12. “The Immaculate Election”

“The Immaculate Election”

School elections, and the political parody that leads to, are common in sitcoms. “Arrested Development” went to that well, but they did it quite effectively. And if that wasn’t enough, there’s also Tobias introducing us to his alter ego Mrs. Featherbottom, a terrible and inexplicable riff on Mrs. Doubtfire.

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11. “Making a Stand”

“Making a Stand”

George Sr. has made a history out of pitting Michael and Gob against each other. In "Making a Stand," which sees Gob and his son Steve Holt (Steve Holt!) starting a rival banana stand at George's behest. The boys try to teach their father a lesson, even using his lesson-teaching accomplice J. Walter Weatherman against him, but that just leads to a mess of confusion and lesson on top of lesson.

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10. “Best Man for the Gob”

“Best Man for the Gob”

George Sr. decides to throw a post-marriage bachelor party for Gob, but he’s really just trying to scare his accountant Ira Gilligan out of testifying against him. His plan is a disaster, as the bachelor party does not go as planned. Once Buster believes himself to have murdered a stripper (she was just narcoleptic) in a juice haze it was kind of hard to get things back on track, especially once Michael turns up.

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9. “The One Where Michael Leaves”

“The One Where Michael Leaves”

“Arrested Development” decided to riff on the episode-naming conventions of “Friends” to start the second season as an in-joke. They are setting the table for a lot of what happens in the second season. Tobias gets obsessed with the Blue Man Group. Gob becomes the President of the Bluth Company. Oh, and Lucille signs Buster up for the Army. All of these stories start paying off right away, including Tobias blue-ing himself.

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8. “Justice is Blind”

“Justice is Blind”

Remember Maggie Lizer? It turns out she’s blind. Because of this, George Sr. decides to have Gob sneak into her house to steal evidence. Oh, except it actually turns out that Maggie isn’t really blind, she just fakes it. How do we find this out? Naturally, because her seeing-eye dog, Justice, is actually blind. “Arrested Development” loved itself a good farce, huh?

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7. “S.O.B.s”


“Arrested Development” never minded being meta, but “S.O.B.s” is super meta. It’s about the Bluths trying to save themselves in a way that draws parallels to “Arrested Development” trying to save itself and stay on the air. They also do perhaps the only joke ever about Andy Richter’s sitcom “Quintuplets,” which is impressive in its own right.

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6. “Righteous Brothers”

“Righteous Brothers”

The second season of the show ends with a bang in “Righteous Brothers.” There is so much chaos here that it’s hard to parse it all. Plus, we can’t really talk about Franklin and the CD that Gob made of Franklin singing, for that long. The model home does sink into the ground and start to fall apart, though, leaving the family without a proper home to live in.

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5. “Mr. F”

“Mr. F”

Want to talk absurdity? Tobias thinks the CIA is agency CAA, and so when they say they want him to be a “mole,” he gets himself a mole costume. Meanwhile, Gob is trying to pass a miniaturized tiny town off as an actual real estate development just being viewed from far away by Japanese investors. Does this culminate with Tobias dressed as a mole smashing the tiny town a la a Godzilla movie? Of course, it does. This was “Arrested Development.”

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4. “Out on a Limb”

“Out on a Limb”

This was a show that loved to foreshadow jokes and events, and nothing was more foreshadowed on “Arrested Development” than Buster losing his hand by having it bit off by a seal. A seal that developed a taste for blood thanks to Gob. It exemplifies the kind of storytelling that made this show so satisfying when it was firing on all cylinders.

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3. “My Mother, the Car”

“My Mother, the Car”

Lucille was never the best mother, even when her kids were young. However, blaming a car accident you had on your son, who is dealing with memory laugh after the accident, is perhaps a new low. And yet, that’s what Lucille did to Michael. Of course, the funniest comedy comes from Lindsay’s increasingly desperate efforts to get cat-called by the other prisoners George is serving with.

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2. “Good Grief”

“Good Grief”

The multiple scenes of Bluth family members walking solemnly with their heads down to “Christmastime is Here” from “Peanuts” is iconic. It’s right up there with the chicken dances. And yet, there is so much more to say about this episode. It’s the best episode from George Sr.’s time in the attic. Also, Buster wears a stripper military outfit to George Sr.’s funeral, but he also doesn’t know his dad is dead. Oh, and he’s serving as the assistant to Gob doing a trick where he is burying himself alive to…honor his father’s legacy? Or just for attention?

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1. “Pier Pressure”

“Pier Pressure”

Do you want high-quality sharp joke-telling? “Pier Pressure” is a sterling example of that. It’s a comedy firing on all cylinders. The episode is goofy and clever in equal measures. The farce rises and rises until it hits its crescendo. “Pier Pressure” is pure genius when it comes to delivering comedy, and that’s exactly what you want from a sitcom sometimes.

Chris Morgan is a sports and pop culture writer and the author of the books The Comic Galaxy of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and The Ash Heap of History. You can follow him on Twitter @ChrisXMorgan.

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