It wasn’t an easy task narrowing them down to a top ten, so we compiled the list scientifically. We watched every episode back again and gauged the amount of belly laughs that occurred during the viewing of each. You can’t argue with science! Well, you can, and if you think we’ve got our science wrong then let us know in the comments section.
10. The Immaculate Election (Season 2 Episode 14)
SYNOPSIS: George Michael, encouraged by his father and Ann, decides to run for student body president at school. Michael, realising his approach of running a clean campaign won’t work, employs the talents of Gob to smear George Michael’s opponent, Steve Holt. Meanwhile, Tobias, in an effort to get close to his family, dresses up in disguise as ‘Mrs. Featherbottom’ – a send-up of Mrs. Doubtfire.
WHY THIS EPISODE IS GREAT: The Immaculate Election introduces us to the aforementioned Mrs. Featherbottom, and it’s one of the best Tobias ploys from the show because it illustrates how incredibly aloof and pathetic (but you know, in an endearing way) he truly is. There’s also lots of foreshadowing to the revelation that Gob is Steve Holt’s father, and that in turn makes this episode even funnier. Gob’s smear video is hilarious, and as always, anytime we get to see George Michael’s “Star Wars Kid” footage, you’ve got comedic gold.
BEST LINE: “Steve Holt is a bastard.”
RECURRING GAGS: Star Wars kid, Mrs. Featherbottom, Michael’s inability to remember Ann.
9. Top Banana (Season 1 Episode 2)
SYNOPSIS: Michael visits George Sr. in prison in an attempt to obtain information that could get the company’s assets unfrozen. In a show of rebellion, Michael makes George Michael the manager of the banana stand. Elsewhere, Tobias auditions for his first commercial, only to lose the opportunity to his wife Lindsay.
WHY THIS EPISODE IS GREAT: Sadly there’s a lack of Buster, but everybody else is given something great to do. There’s Tobias’ over-the-top audition, Lindsay’s indifference to her husband’s dreams, Michael and George Sr.’s antagonistic relationship, Gob’s inability to throw an envelope into the ocean, George Michael’s anxiety, Maeby’s slight stupidity, and Lucille’s greed. We also meet T-Bone, whose character brings about the best line in the episode. We also get George Michael’s “Mr. Manager” line, Gob’s animated “Banana Grabber” character, and learn what George Sr. means by “There’s always money in the banana stand”.
BEST LINE: It’s a tie between “Definitely the work of a flamer,” and “Oh my god! We’re having a fire… sale!”
RECURRING GAGS: Gob’s lighter fluid trick, “No Touching!”, Our first view of Tobias’ “Never-Nude” affliction.
8. Altar Egos (Season 1 Episode 17)
SYNOPSIS: When George Snr. is offered a plea deal, Michael hides out at a local bar to read it. While there, he bumps into a beautiful woman, Maggie Lizer, and makes up an alias called “Chareth Cutestory” (a maritime lawyer) to satisfy Gob’s suggestion that he have a one night stand. It isn’t until the following morning that Michael realises Maggie is blind, and that she’s leading the prosecution’s case against his father. Meanwhile, Gob wakes up to discover he is married.
WHY THIS EPISODE IS GREAT: Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Maggie Lizer is one of the great recurring guests on the show. Her character provides a wealth of wonderful side jokes that are the stuff Arrested Development is made of. You also get Amy Poehler as Gob’s wife, and their divorce proceedings are absolutely hilarious (especially since they were married at the time in real life). Lastly, we get a fun cameo from the great Jane Lynch as Cindi Lightballoon, an FBI agent who falls in love with George Sr. This episode is the first of a two-parter that concludes with ‘Justice Is Blind’. For maximum enjoyment you should watch both back-to-back.
BEST LINE: “I could kiss you on the nuts.”
RECURRING GAGS: Michael’s Captain Hook flashback, George Sr.’s ‘Caged Wisdom’ series, The Cornballer, Seals (Amy Poehler’s character is a seal dealer, and a seal would later take Buster’s hand)
7. Switch Hitter (Season 2 Episode 7)
SYNOPSIS: Stan Sitwell from Sitwell Housing, a direct competitor of the Bluth Company, offers Gob a position at his company to ensure a win in their annual softball game. Michael learns of this development and coerces Gob to throw the game in favor of a Bluth Company win. Elsewhere, Maeby and Tobias visit the movie studio where Tobias is auditioning for “Confidence Man #2” and talking up his name around the water cooler. Maeby is mistaken for a movie studio executive and uses the opportunity to have an assistant write up her school report on the novel “The Old Man and the Sea”.
WHY THIS EPISODE IS GREAT: This is a very Gob-centric episode, which is ALWAYS a good thing. We also get treated to another appearance of the great Ed Begley Jr. as Stan Sitwell with his alopecia-induced antics. It’s always fun to see George Snr. play Michael and Gob against each other (a la BoyFights), and as a result we get some great Gob one-liners. This episode is very memorable simply for the montage of water-cooler talk from Tobias which results in him pulling the water tank out of its dispenser and falling to the floor.
BEST LINE: “Michael, I’m your big brother, I’ll never be impressed with you.”
RECURRING GAGS: Chicken Dance, “COME ON!”, Dr. Funke’s 100% Good-Time Natural Family Band Solution
6. The One Where They Build A House (Season 2 Episode 2)
SYNOPSIS: Michael convinces Gob, the newly-minted president of the Bluth Company, that building a new model home complete with a ribbon-cutting ceremony will bring good press. Elsewhere, Lindsay encounters a man who she initially finds interesting, until finding out he is homeless. Later she discovers he is actually Thomas Jane, an actor preparing for a role.
WHY THIS EPISODE IS GREAT: Obviously the inclusion of Thomas Jane in anything is fantastic. In this case you have Thomas Jane, playing himself, and mocking the way actor’s prepare for roles. (Bonus points for his constantly muttering the phrase: “I just want my kids back.”) The scenes that Oscar and Buster share – which include their not-so-subtle inferences that Oscar is in fact Buster’s father – are simply great. To top it all off, we get an entire episode of Tobias in disguise, blending into things while watching Lindsay from afar.
BEST LINE: “I’ll leave when I’m good and ready.”
RECURRING GAGS: The Cornballer, Dramatic music over Oscar’s clues to his being Buster’s real father, “I’ve made a huge mistake”, George Sr. (sometimes Oscar) being beaten by police when apprehended.
5. Pier Pressure (Season 1 Episode 10)
SYNOPSIS: When George Michael receives an A- grade, Michael expresses disappointment which in turn causes George Michael to study intensely. Feeling bad, Michael tells George Michael to take a break, where he runs into Buster at the banana stand. Buster asks George Michael to retrieve some marijuana for his girlfriend, Lucille Austero, because she is suffering nausea from vertigo. George Michael seeks Gob for his assistance in acquiring the marijuana, which results in Gob and Michael plotting a scheme to teach George Michael about the dangers of drug use.
WHY THIS EPISODE IS GREAT: Any episode that features the famed J. Walter Weatherman (the one-armed man who teaches lessons) is an episode worth watching, and there are only two of them so the chance doesn’t come around all that often. The end of the episode features a blend of different lesson plots that involve the Hot Cops, the aforementioned J. Walter Weatherman, fake cops, and fake drug dealers. It’s utter chaos, and it’s hilarious. Also, Buster thinking that George Michael is the go-to guy to score some marijuana is amazing. This whole episode is rich with big laughs and top dialogue – a perfect showcase of the brilliance of Arrested Development.
BEST LINE: “Alright kid… let’s deal some drugs”
RECURRING GAGS: J. Walter Weatherman, “Big Yellow Joint”, Hot Cops.
4. Forget-Me-Now (Season 3 Episode 3)
SYNOPSIS: Michael’s new British girlfriend, Rita, wants to meet the Bluth family, much to Michael’s dismay. In an act of appreciation, the family discards the intended party for Buster’s accomplishment of winning a medal in the Army, by instead throwing a party for Michael. They load up in the cabin car intending to pick up Rita from her school and surprise Michael back at Balboa Towers. This decision leads to disastrous results.
WHY THIS EPISODE IS GREAT: Where do I begin? With this episode, we continue the arc of Rita Leeds played brilliantly by the great Charlize Theron. We are also treated again to George Sr.’s surrogate played by Bob Einstein. Also who doesn’t love the “Family Love Michael” banner? I still crack up every time I see it.
BEST LINE: “Look at Banner, Michael.”
RECURRING GAGS: Franklin, The Mary Poppins attraction in “Wee Britain”, “I’ve made a huge mistake”
3. Afternoon Delight (Season 2 Episode 6)
SYNOPSIS: It’s Christmas time for the Bluths, which also means it’s time for the Bluth Company Christmas party. Gob, now president of the Bluth Company, delivers an explicit speech to the employees warning them that there will be consequences if anybody hits on his sister, despite the fact that Lindsay intends to find a new man at the party. Meanwhile, Michael bonds with Maeby after George Michael decides to attend the party thrown by the parents of his girlfriend, Ann.
WHY THIS EPISODE IS GREAT: There are quite a few reasons why I love this episode – chief among them is Gob’s constant reiteration of the value of his suit. It starts at one amount and as the episode progresses, gets higher and higher. His speech to the employees is fantastic, even though we don’t hear what he’s saying (a prolonged “bleep” substitutes the language, which leaves you to imagine the obscenities Gob is spewing). Michael and Maeby’s very inappropriate – however unintended – rendition of the song “Afternoon Delight” is the stuff that comedy is made of.
BEST LINE: “No, Al. I want to spill booze all over my freaking $6300 suit, COME ON!”
RECURRING GAGS: Big Yellow Joint, Ann referred to as “Egg”, Hook reference with Buster (who wins a stuffed seal).
2. The Ocean Walker (Season 3 Episode 6)
SYNOPSIS: Michael hastily decides to marry his British girlfriend Rita Leeds, against the wishes of his family. An epiphany courtesy of George Michael leads Michael to realize Rita’s bracelet (MR F) is actually a medical bracelet meaning “Mentally Retarded Female”. When Lucille finds out Rita comes from money, she tries to pressure Michael to marry Rita anyway.
WHY THIS EPISODE IS GREAT: “The Ocean Walker” is the last episode of season 3 to feature Charlize Theron as Rita Leeds, capping a wonderful character arc which fans of the show really responded to. The scene where George Michael points out Rita’s “limitations” is hilarious, and Jason Bateman’s face when he realizes its true is a testament to his not inconsiderable comedic talent.
BEST LINE: “Larry, go to a mirror. You’re fired.”
RECURRING GAGS: “Her?”, another banner with awful grammar (Michael Love Marry), Star Wars Kid.
1. Motherboy XXX (Season 2 Episode 13)
SYNOPSIS: After Buster loses his hand to an escaped seal, Lucille looks for a replacement “boy” for the 30th Motherboy contest. She enlists George Michael as Buster’s replacement, and upon learning of this, Michael and Buster hatch a plan to save George Michael from participating.
WHY THIS EPISODE IS GREAT: I still find it difficult to not laugh hysterically at this episode no matter how many times I’ve seen it. Buster is such a fantastic character, and he gets to play a hero in this episode. The way Buster tracks Lucille’s next move is hilarious, almost like a dedicated detective hunting down his criminal nemesis. The jokes at the expense of the contest being called Motherboy XXX are easy, but riotously entertaining.
BEST LINE: “We need a name. Maybe, ‘Operation: Hot Mother’.”
RECURRING GAGS: The Aztec Tomb, Carl Weathers, “I’M A MONSTER!”, “Caged Wisdom”