A Few Things You Didn't Know About Arrested Development
I don’t know what that is, but I do care to find out.
The most rewarding thing about being a fan of Arrested Development is that it is not possible to know everything there is to know about the show. Every time you watch it or read about it, you’re going to discover something new. There’s too much. You can’t remember all the jokes. You can’t know all the back story. And now there’s more of it coming! Huzzah! But before you trek onward into seven and a half new hours of Arrested Development this Sunday, here are a few fun facts you didn’t know about the show.
The original idea of the show was about a group of wealthy intellectuals who lived in New York City, but was scrapped after the release of The Royal Tenenbaums.
According to Hurwitz, “I had developed an idea that was fairly similar, and was kind of a rip-off of a J.D. Salinger short story–it took place in New York with this intellectual family. Then The Royal Tenenbaums came out, and I thought, ‘Well, that’s it, I can’t do that anymore.‘”
The character of Franklin Delano Bluth was inspired by a Muppet that was kicked off of Sesame Street in 1975 for embodying a negative African-American stereotype.
Franklin Delano Bluth is a puppet GOB introduced briefly to “hip up his act.” The Arrested Development Wiki describes Franklin as a “fiery-tempered, adulterous, obscenity-spewing, street-wise, stereotypical African-American puppet.” But did you know that such a foul-mouthed puppet was based off of an old Sesame Street character? His name was Roosevelt Franklin. So, who’s Roosevelt Franklin exactly?
Roosevelt Franklin was an African-American Muppet who taught on Sesame Street at his own school, coincidentally named Roosevelt Franklin Elementary School. According to Mental Floss, “Parents wrote to the Children’s Television Workshop to complain that Roosevelt was a negative stereotype of African-American children, citing his rowdy nature and the fact that his classes closely resembled after-school detention.”
George Sr. was not originally intended to be permanent character on the show.
In a 2005 interview with the A.V. Club, Mitch Hurwitz (creator) explained that he was going to try and “get Ron Howard (producer) to call in a favor… Robert De Niro or something, and get an actor for just one episode.” It turned out to be “too presumptuous,” so he instead put off casting the role until two days before shooting, when he called up Jeffrey Tambor to play the part in the Pilot as a favor.
In The New Yorker’s Bluth Family Reunion, they discussed Tambor’s contribution to the Pilot. As Jason Bateman recalls, Tambor “had the first line that we ever shot and it was an actual monologue when he was accepting the award on the boat in the Pilot” and they “got to watch Jeffrey, pretty much establish the comedic tone… that this was going to be played deadly straight, serious, there was going to be no winking.” As Hurwitz describes, “we shared a tone, and so much of comedy, I think, is tone.” After turning in such a great performance in the Pilot, Hurwitz described the network saying, “Boy, if you could get him on the show, it would go a long way toward getting this thing picked up.” After observing how unique the show was when shooting the Pilot, Tambor was all in.
Tobias was also not originally intended to be a permanent character on the show.
Tobias’s origins have a similar story. As David Cross put it in a 2010 interview with Vulture, he had just “moved to New York after being in L.A. for nine years and spending every minute of those nine years going, ‘Okay, when can I get out of here?'” Then Hurwitz called while casting the show and told him that he could be any character he wanted — to just pick one. To Hurwitz’s surprise, he picked the smaller role of Tobias. In that same Vulture interview, Cross describes his decision like so: “The idea that there was this character who was recurring was very attractive to me. And I loved the character. When I was shooting the first episode after the pilot, I remember calling my girlfriend and going, ‘I’m so sorry. I think I have to stay and do this show full-time because it’s really something special.'”
There are “call forwards” in the series that were never used.
In And Here’s The Kicker, Hurwitz describes “call forwards” as “hints of events that hadn’t yet happened” in the show — the opposite of a “call back.” If you’ve watched the show, you know what these are. And there were plenty of them; but here’s the kicker, there’s still more of them already built into the show that they never got to pay off because the show was cancelled.
At one point, when the much-rumored return of the show seemed like it was never going to happen, these unused “call forwards” were treasure for the Arrested Development fan. However, now that new episodes are actually about to be released, they’ve turned from treasure into potential spoilers. For that reason, they will not be discussed here, but you can read all about them (and more!) in this Reddit AMA with a former writer’s assistant for the show. Mind you, this AMA was conducted a two years ago when the show was, for lack of a better word, dead.
The On the next Arrested Development… feature of the show was conceived as an idea to trick the focus groups.
As Hurwitz describes it, “One of the questions they asked of the test audiences after they screened the pilot is ‘Would you see it again?’ It was a great way to get those numbers high. It was like, ‘Oh, I have to. There’s another one coming.'”
It was Carl Weather’s own idea for his character to be cheap.
Although the idea of Carl Weathers was always in the script as someone to clash with Tobias, the design of his character changed. According to Hurwitz, “We just wanted to have Carl Weathers as his trainer, like Rocky. It wasn’t the most complex joke. Carl Weathers was the one that said, ‘Well, if I do this, can we give me a real character? Can I be really cheap or something?’ Which I just lit up at, you know? It’s like, ‘Oh, absolutely! We would love it if you were cheap! We can make you incredibly cheap!'”
Lucille Austero goes to The Plumb Clinic for vertigo treatment, where she is treated by Dr. Sanderplumb.
The Plumb Clinic is never mentioned, but it is seen in the background. Dr. Sanderplumb is mentioned once, but never shown in the show. On any other show, this might be a throwaway observation, but not on Arrested. You see, “plumb” means “to make vertical an object.” And “sand it plumb” is a way of saying “make it level.” More colloquially, you might tell someone to “sand her plumb.” Dr. Sanderplumb helps people regain their balance, or in other words, helps make them level.
Ann Veal was named “Ann” to make one specific joke about her name.
Throughout the course of the show, there are numerous name-related jokes made on Egg, I mean Plant, I mean Plain, I mean Bland, I mean Yam, I mean Ann Hog, I mean Annabel because she’s shaped like a bell, I mean her? But that’s not why she was named Ann. There’s a different joke behind this name.
In “Good Grief,” George Michael knows that George Sr. is hiding in the attic and is asked to keep it a secret. When Michael detects something suspicious going on regarding George Michael and the attic, he assumes that George Michael is hiding his girlfriend up there, which prompts him to say to Lindsay, “I think George Michael is hiding Ann in the attic.” In the DVD commentary of for this episode, Hurwitz explains that this joke was the only reason they decided to name her Ann.
GOB’s index and middle fingers are still switched.
After GOB gets his index and middle fingers cut off in ‘Sword Of Destiny’, Dr. Frank Stein re-attached them in the wrong positions. Three episodes later in the season’s finale (“Righteous Brothers”), we see bandages on those same fingers, showing the Dr. Stein’s surgery remained unfixed. On the DVD commentary, they explain how Will Arnett also had to wear a prosthetic finger in that scene so it would look like his index finger was longer than his current middle finger.
Tobias recycles an unused joke written by David Cross and Bob Odenkirk.
In “Mr. F,” Tobias waits in the Blendin Catering surveillance van before heading out as the mole. His vocal warm-up, “Let Lily lick Lionel’s lusty leathers,” did not come from the episode’s script, but rather from an unproduced script written by Bob Odenkirk and David Cross. That’s all the information Cross gives on the DVD commentary, so we don’t know if it’s from Mr. Show or somewhere else. But we might get that answer soon.
After the show was cancelled, FOX liquidated many of props from the show on eBay.
Yes, if you acted quickly and were willing to pay, you could have had a piece of Bluth memorabilia, including GOB’s segue, Tobias’s diploma, or even the Aztec Tomb. More information on the sale of these props is spread throughout the web, interviews with the cast, and the DVD commentary. In fact, I recall hearing that they sold the actual puppet of Franklin. It seems Fox doesn’t care about black puppets—that’s the kind of joke he would have loved!
Before Netflix saved the show, Tim Goodman did… two or three different times.
When Arrested Development was making its original run, Tim Goodman was a television critic for The San Francisco Chronicle (he is now the Chief TV Critic for The Hollywood Reporter). And during his time at the Chronicle, he single-handedly saved Arrested Development… on multiple occasions. In 2009, after the show was cancelled, Goodman had Hurwitz on his podcast The Bastard Machine, where Hurwitz explained the situation. He said that Goodman wrote a few “unbelievably supportive, encouraging articles that happened to land on desksthe day they were going to cancel [the show]. This happened like two or three times with [him].” There’s also discussion of Goodman’s good timing and praise on the DVD commentary for “Righteous Brothers,” where Hurwitz explains the small tribute they paid Goodman within the show as a thank you.
You can listen to the full interview with Hurwitz and Goodman here (the talk about him saving the show begins at the 11:30 mark). And you can follow Tim Goodman on Twitter @BastardMachine. And while you’re at it, make sure to thank him this week. He’s prevented multiple huge mistakes.
Do you know any more fun facts about the show? Have you been re-watching the DVD commentary, too? When are we going to start a Kickstarter to fund a Tim Goodman statue?