“Now the story of a wealthy family who lost everything, and the one son who had no choice but to keep them all together.”
This is how the original intro to Arrested Development ran, way back in 2003. But by 2013, when the show was picked up for a long-awaited fourth season by Netflix, the intro had changed to “Now the story of what happened when the one man who was holding his family together, finally let go.”
With the fifth season being released on Netflix this month, you could be forgiven for having thus far missed the first four. Maybe you weren’t even born when the show first aired. But all the seasons – including two different edits of season four – are now available on Netflix, so going forward you really have no excuse for not watching them. I promise you that it’s worth your time. You’ll get a lot more out of the show – including a whole host of running gags – if you start watching at the beginning.
But for those of you who choose to ignore my advice, and are planning to jump straight into season five – this Who’s Who is for you. And I hope you’re proud of yourself – making me write this just because you can’t commit to a TV show. Don’t you think I have anything better to do?
Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman)
The ‘one son’ of the intro. All around him his family lie, cheat, steal, manipulate, or just ignore his advice, and his life has become a balancing act of trying to keep them out of trouble or trying to dig them out of the trouble that they have got themselves into, usually at the expense of his own wants and needs. He is widowed, with a son, George Michael, whom he has tried to raise to be honest and good, as he is. Or, at least, he used to be honest and good. By season four he has given up on his selfish family, and has embarked on his own selfish pursuits. He’s currently dating the same girl that his son is seeing. How do you think that’s going to turn out?
Lindsay Bluth Fünke (Portia de Rossi)
Michael’s ‘twin’ sister. I’m not going to explain the air quotes around ‘twin’. I’m not Ron Howard. Lindsay is spoilt, lazy, and vain. She likes to think she’s an activist, but really she does more harm than good. She is married to…
Tobias Fünke (David Cross)
A psychiatrist who is desperate to become an actor. The running gag is that he is gay but in denial, and it’s true that he is possibly the least self-aware character on the show (and there are a lot of nominations for that award). Lindsay and Tobias have a daughter…
Maeby Fünke (Alia Shawkat)
Totally neglected by her parents, even her many attempts at rebellious activities go unnoticed. She once got a job as a movie producer, before being fired when her cousin accidentally revealed to her bosses that she was only 17. And speaking of cousins, that brings us to…
George-Michael Bluth (Michael Cera)
Son of Michael Bluth. He is totally in love with his cousin. No – he is. But it’s ok, because they’re not actually related. Oh – am I confusing you? Then you should go to Netflix and watch the damn show from the beginning. Anyway. George-Michael – who hates his name – really isn’t as smart as his father thinks he is, but he does his best, despite being incredibly nervous all the time. And then there’s…
GOB – George Oscar Bluth (Will Arnett)
He’s Michael’s brother and a magician, but really fucking terrible on both counts. He’s probably the least loyal member of the Bluth family, and quite possibly the most vile character on the show, and not just because he has a habit of accidentally killing doves.
Buster Bluth – actual name Byron, (Tony Hale)
The younger brother of Gob, Michael, and Lindsay. He is, to be blunt, absolutely bloody useless. He takes being a mummy’s boy to the extreme, and has a somewhat disturbing relationship with his mother…
Lucille Bluth (Jessica Walter)
Lucille is the real head of the Bluth family, the power behind the throne, and quite possibly the worst mother in history. She is cruel and cutting, and likes alcohol more than she likes any of her children. Maeby once based a series of horror movies on her. Lucille is married to…
George Bluth Sr. (Jeffrey Tambor)
…who likes to think that he’s head of the Bluth family. He does big business and gets into big trouble. And he thinks nothing of dragging his family down with him. Much like you’re doing to me, by making me write this, because you’re too lazy to watch a few episodes of a TV show. George has a twin brother…
Oscar Bluth (also Jeffrey Tambor – what a surprise!)
Oscar is an old hippy, and is frequently manipulated, tricked, and drugged by George into taking his place when George doesn’t want to be somewhere. Like inside prison, or his wife.
So that’s the Bluth family wrapped up. But there is also an abundance of recurring characters that you might need to know about. There’s Lucille Austero, also known as Lucille2 (Liza Minnelli). She is Lucille Bluth’s rival and frenemy, but actually she’s really pretty nice and so obviously all of the Bluth’s take advantage of her.
There’s Steve Holt (Justin Grant Wade)–(sorry – STEVE HOLT!)–who is Gob’s illegitimate and lately discovered son. There’s Barry Zuckerkorn (Henry Winkler), the Bluths’ awful attorney. There’s Annyong (Justin Lee), adopted by the Bluth family but secretly out to get revenge on them. And there’s Rebel Alley (Isla Fisher) who is dating both Michael and George-Michael. Oh, and there’s the religious ex-girlfriend of both George-Michael and Gob (Mae Whitman), but I can’t actually remember her name…
The whole thing is narrated by Ron Howard, who also plays himself (but obviously not really himself). He does this job wonderfully. Narrator: “He doesn’t”.
So there you go. I hope this saved you some effort. Next time you could just look it up on Wikipedia. Or – I don’t know – just WATCH THE GODDAMN SHOW FROM THE BEGINNING!
Arrested Development Season 5 begins on Netflix on May 29th.