Arrested Development – Season 1 – Episode 1 – “Pilot” – 100 Best TV Shows

First up on my list of the 100 Best TV Shows is Arrested Development.

Arrested Development: “Pilot” Recap (Spoilers):

The episode begins with a voiceover, done by Ron Howard, introducing Michael Bluth, played by Jason Bateman. Michael is the son of George Bluth, played by Jeffrey Tambor and Lucille Bluth, played by Jessica Walter.


Lucille is upset, because of a group of gay protesters located in the water near their yacht. Michael’s twin sister Lindsay, played by Portia de Rossi, is upset, because one of the protestors is wearing a blouse that looks just like one she has in her closet. Lucille notes that the blouse looks better on the protestor. Lindsay is married to Tobias Fünke, played by David Cross. Michael hasn’t spoken to his sister in over a year.

Michael also has a brother named George Oscar Bluth II, called G.O.B., a magician, played by Will Arnett. G.O.B. recently joined The Alliance of Magicians, who are a group with the main goal of enforcing the prohibition on magicians revealing the secrets to how their tricks illusions are performed.

busterByron, called Buster, played by Tony Hale, is Michael’s youngest sibling. Buster suffers from crippling panic attacks and has spent his life and his family’s money, bouncing from one hobby to another, studying everything from native american tribal ceremonies to cartography. The opening monologue concludes by saying that Michael is happy because he has decided never to speak to his family again.

The episode then flashes back to that morning. Michael is telling his son, George Michael, that all of the sacrifices they have made for the family are about to pay off, since his father is going to make him a partner in the company at the boat party later that night. Michael and George Michael have been living in the attic of one of the model houses that belong to his father’s company.

banana-standGeorge Michael reports to work at his grandfather’s frozen banana stand, near the beach. Michael attempts to collect G.O.B.’s share of the money for his father’s retirement party. However, G.O.B. says his contribution will be a magic show featuring an $18,000 illusion he purchased, called the Aztec Tomb. G.O.B. suggests Michael just charge the party to the company, but Michael protests that the party is not a business expense. G.O.B. tells Michael that his sister Lindsay has been staying at the Four Seasons and charging it to the company for a month.

Michael goes to confront his mother about using the company funds to pay for personal expenses and she tells him she had to fund the Aztec Tomb, because G.O.B said it was a career maker. Lucille tries to distract Michael from his complaints about her spending the company’s money, by bringing up the big announcement his father plans to make at the party.

hoopTobias shows up. He recently lost his medical license for performing CPR on a man who was not having a heart attack and is now looking for work. Michael jokingly suggests that maybe Tobias will be inspired by the boat party to start a career as a pirate. Lindsay arrives and tells Michael about her successful fundraiser for her anti-circumcision charity H.O.O.P. She brags that they raised $40k, but Tobias lets it slip that most of that money was from the Bluth Company and Michael is not pleased. Michael tells them that tomorrow, there’s going to be a new boss in town and they will no longer be able to dip into the company coffers whenever they feel like it.

George Michael’s cousin, Mae called “Maeby,” stops by the banana stand claiming that she found a foot (which she snipped from her grandmother’s fox fur) in a frozen banana. The two talk about how they  hardly ever see each other because of their parents and then Maeby decides they should try to get back at them by pretending that they don’t know they are cousins and making out at the boat party.

protestTobias, who now thinks the boat party is pirate themed. Picks out some clothing from his wife’s wardrobe for the party and heads into the lobby of the hotel. He spots some men he thinks are also dressed as pirates and gets in their van, not realizing he is actually on his way to a protest against the yacht club.

Meanwhile, at the boat party, Michael gets an unpleasant surprise when his father names his wife Lucille the new CEO of the Bluth company, instead of him. Micheal tells George Michael that it’s time for them to move on and George Michael tells his cousin Maeby that he guesses they’ll be seeing even less of them now. Maeby grabs George Michael and kisses him, but their parents don’t even notice and soon everyone’s attention is focused elsewhere.

aztec-tombThe police arrive and George tells the family  it’s the securities and exchange commission. Lucille and Lindsay attempt to plot an escape route with the aid of Buster’s cartography skills. George calls an employee and orders her to empty the accounts and start shredding documents. G.O.B. tries to hide his father from the police in the Aztec Tomb.

However, none of their plans work out. George is arrested for defrauding investors and using company funds for personal expenses. G.O.B. ends up in trouble with The Alliance of Magicians, due to a reporter revealing the secrets of the Aztec Tomb illusion on the local news, as part of the story about his father’s arrest. Tobias is arrested, along with the other protestors. He tells his family that thanks to the time he spent with the gay pirates, who are actually mostly actors in the local theater, he has decided he wants to be an actor.

lindsayMichael tells the family that they will be keeping George in prison until matters with the company are sorted out and that they have put a halt on the company’s expense account. Lucille decides to put Buster in charge of the company. Frustrated by his family’s seeming to only be concerned about their own selfish interests, Michael declares that he is through with them. He chides Lindsay, saying he expected this kind of behaviour from the rest of them, but she should know better.

Lindsay and her family sneak out of the hotel without paying and Tobias begins seeking work as an actor. Lucille attempts to deal with the press surrounding her husband’s arrest. Michael gets a job with a rival housing company. Buster struggles with his new responsibilities as the head of the Bluth Company. Lucille decides that they need Michael and they stage an intervention to attempt to prevent him from leaving for his new job.

The family pleads with Michael to return and run the company. G.O.B. reveals that he can no longer work as a magician, because he is getting blackballed by The Alliance. Michael turns them down, but Lindsay guilts him into at least saying goodbye to their father before he leaves for Arizona.

prisonMichael goes to see his father in prison and tells him, “I quit.” His father responds, “probably a good career move.” Michael questions why his father didn’t put him in charge and George tells him that the SEC has been after him for years and he feared that if he put Michael in charge, he’d end up an accomplice. George conspiratorially tells Michael that it had to be Lucille he put in charge, because they can’t arrest a husband and wife for the same crime. When Michael tells his father that, that isn’t true, George laments that he has the worst bleeping attorney.

Lindsay decides to swipe anything of value from the model home, but is discovered by George Michael, who is packing up his belongings. She pretends she stopped by to say goodbye to him. Michael overhears his son telling Lindsay that it’s been nice having them around, since it’s been lonely since his mom died and he wishes they could stay here.

Michael and LindsayMichael asks Lindsay where she’s been all this time and why she never called him. She tells him that her life is a mess and now she has the Jewish Defense League on her case, thanks to H.O.O.P. When Michael points out that, that’s why he was against H.O.O.P. to begin with, she accuses him of being judgemental and says he’s disappointed in her. Michael admits that he is disappointed, but points out that his own life isn’t so great. He tells her that he wants his son to be happy and that maybe they should try to be in each other’s lives. Lindsay agrees.

Michael decides that he should stay and help his family. Lindsay, Tobias and Maeby will be moving into the model home with Michael and George Michael, until they can get back on their feet, which makes George Michael happy. However, he appears a bit apprehensive about sharing a room with his cousin Maeby.

Arrested Development: “Pilot” Commentary (Spoilers):

I watched a few episodes of Arrested Development during its original run on FOX, but wasn’t really a regular viewer. I thought the show was kind of funny, but I have a longstanding dislike of Jason Bateman that dates back to his days on Valerie’s Family. I’m not entirely sure why I don’t like him, but I don’t. I think it’s his face. I’m also not a big fan of Will Arnett, who just seems kind of generally smarmy and unfunny in most of his work.

However, one of my best friends is a huge fan of Arrested Development, claiming it is the best show in the history of television, and she would often play the DVDs when we were all hanging out at her house. Eventually, the series began to grow on me.

Many fans of the show like to think that the reason it never caught on with mainstream audiences is that the humor is just “too smart” for the general public. I, however, think it just takes a certain sort of sense of humor to appreciate the show and some people have it and some don’t.

A good chunk of the pilot is taken up with introducing us to the Bluth family. The Bluth’s are presented as a dysfunctional clan of spoiled rich kids, who now have to learn to live life without access to the company funds they have used to fund their extravagant lifestyles. Michael is something of the Black Sheep of the family, who also seems to see himself as “above” all their selfishness and non-sense.

The heart of the show, however, is not in learning lessons about life, though there is a bit of that, but rather in the quirky and sarcastic humor brought on by the Bluth’s interactions with each other and the world around them.

My favorite moments of the pilot at the little moments like when Lucille tells Lindsay she likes Lindsay’s blouse better on the gay pirate, who neither of them realize is actually Tobias, than on Lindsay or when George responds to Michael’s resignation from the company with, “probably a good career move.” The in your face gags are often funny, but it’s the little one-liners that really make the show for me.





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