reality show about terrible people, but a scripted sitcom about terrible people. And because it aired before audiences knew how to appreciate it. The following four episodes illustrate how this show was ahead of its time, which is both its strength and the cause of its ultimate demise.
"Pilot" (Season One, Episode One). In the opening of the pilot episode, narrator (played by Ron Howard) introduces Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman), and the rest of his dysfunctional family. This episode highlights the series' strongest attributes: the writing and the cast. The show has so many characters, each with their own hilarious problems, that anything but a tightly-knit plotline and superb writing couldn't keep up with charismatic actors like Jeffrey Tambor, Will Arnett, and Portia de Rossi, to name a few. The actors work together in scenes like they've been doing it for years. For example, when Michael goes to visit his mother (Jessica Walter), she laments because somebody has cut the foot off her fox skin accessory. "Is it noticeable?" she asks. "Well," Michael says, "you gotta remember, you're going to be all splattered in red paint. That's gonna distract the eye."
"My Mother, The Car" (Season One, Episode Eight). This episode is representative of the show's use of creative tricks in designing a program with reprehensible characters. The main character are all sympathetic and likable. Unlike shows like "It's Always Sunny" where all the characters are selfish people, what makes "Arrested Development" stand out is that Michael Bluth, the good guy, balances out the self-centered motives of his family members. A large part of the show depends on the irony of the fact that Michael feels guilty about situations created by his family members, who often get Michael in the situations in the first place.
"Pier Pressure" (Season One, Episode Ten). The classic of all classic "Arrested Development" scenes, this episode features flashbacks of George Sr. "teaching his kids a lesson." George Sr. would call a one-armed man, Jay Walter Weatherman, to stage elaborate horrifying scenes to teach his kids about things like leaving a note when they're out of milk. Think fake arms ripping off, fake blood, four terrified children screaming. Spoiler alert: at the end of the episode, while Michael is trying to teach his own son a lesson, the one-armed man reappears in a horrifying twist. George Sr. did this to teach Michael his final lesson about not teaching his children lessons.
Season Three, all episodes. Most impressive about "Arrested Development" is the way it goes out. As the show learned of its impending doom, they added these concerns into the plot as an inside joke with the people watching. At the start of season three, the family hires a new lawyer, Bob Loblaw (Scott Baio), because he "skews younger." Say Bob Loblaw's name out loud, and you'll get a sense of why this is one of the show's funniest moments. When the narrator introduces the audience to "Bob Loblaw's law blog" you can't help but laugh. Later in the season, the Bluths make reference to receiving help from the Home Builders Organization, or HBO. The final episode, rife with soap opera-like plotlines, is a callback to the show's pilot. The show's creators are proud of their work and appreciative of their small but dedicated fan-base, thus the self-referential nature of the third season.