As the story goes with many beloved television series, Arrested Development was cancelled too early. After airing only three seasons on Fox, the show was cancelled due to low ratings and poor performance metrics; however, the show’s enduring hilarity ensured a passionate fan base who never let the world forget just how funny this absurd sitcom really is. This eventually led to a fourth season of the show courtesy of Netflix, in their first of many television revival attempts. While the fourth season never reached the heights the show achieved on network television, it did give us an excuse to re-watch the series from the beginning, and it got us thinking about what the funniest episodes of Arrested Development were, and what we’d recommend to those looking to watch just one episode (although why you’d deprive yourself of watching the hilarity unfold in order is beyond us, as it really is one of the funniest shows you’ll ever see). With that in mind, we’ve rounded up the 10 greatest episodes of Arrested Development.
10. “Switch Hitter” (Season 2, Episode 7)
“Switch Hitter” is the seventh episode of the second season of Arrested Development, and we’ve chosen it to kick off this list because it contains within it the majority of things that make this show so great. It’s got Gob Bluth (Will Arnett) making a mess of an honest business endeavor with his petty shenanigans. It’s got Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman) attempting to hash out said honest business endeavor while ensuring his meddling family don’t mess it up. And it’s got a few key celebrity cameos (like Ed Begley Jr., Jeff Garlin, Mo Collins and J.K. Simmons) that add a little bit of star power and needed hilarity to round out the episode, which sees Gob playing for the opposing team when the Bluth Company challenges their rival to a company softball game. It’s a classic episode with a ton of call-backs and in-jokes which reference previous events, and it’s a great episode to kick this list off as it’s got everything you need from an Arrested Development narrative.
9. “The Ocean Walker” (Season 3, Episode 6)
No show has made use of guest stars in a manner as effective and hilarious as Arrested Development. While we saw the long list of famous individuals who made an appearance in “Switch Hitter,” there’s only one name we need to mention in regards to “The Ocean Walker,” and that’s Charlize Theron. Theron, who plays the mentally challenged bride-to-be of Michael Bluth in both this episode and several prior, is undeniably hilarious in the role, and her guest appearances mark one of the funniest we can remember on a television sitcom (right up there with Bruce Willis in Friends). “The Ocean Walker,” which sees a previously unawares Michael realizing that his fiancé is mentally challenged and not just mysterious, also sees the rest of the Bluth clan scheming to ensure Michael marries Rita (Theron) despite her disability, as she’s worth millions of dollars. An undeniably zany plot, to be sure, but that’s exactly what’s to be expected from Arrested Development.
8. “Key Decisions” (Season 1, Episode 4)
It’s a testament to the hilarity of Arrested Development that several episodes on this list came very early in the show’s run; normally, sitcoms take a while for actors to settle into their characters and for the real laughs to begin (seasons two to four are typically the golden years for most sitcoms). In the case of Arrested Development, however, the series begins strong and never lets up. “Key Decisions,” the fourth episode in season one, is proof of that. An episode with sees Gob Bluth intentionally locked in the same prison as his father only to prove that it’s possible to break out (Gob is a professional magician, albeit a mediocre one), “Key Decisions” plays heavily on the dysfunction of the Bluth clan and even goes so far as to facilitate a classic father/son moment between Gob and his father George as they share a catch in the prison yard.
7. “Missing Kitty” (Season 1, Episode 18)
Of all the hilarious and off-kilter guest appearances in Arrested Development, none are quite like Kitty Sanchez, the unpredictable and conniving secretary of George Bluth Sr. (Jeffrey Tambour). Played to perfection by Judy Greer, Kitty Sanchez is the mistress of George Sr. and the focus of the eighteenth episode of the show’s first season, “Missing Kitty,” which sees valuable evidence in the trial of George Sr. go missing after Kitty is fired by Michael. The episode, which also sees Gob Bluth attempting to make good on his promise to make the family yacht disappear (spoiler alert, he does so by blowing it up), pits Michael against Kitty after the former learns that the latter took medical leave to have breast implants, leading to her firing and various threats that she could bring down the company with the evidence she possesses (she was George Sr.’s secretary and lover, after all). One of the crazier episodes in the Bluth’s history, “Missing Kitty” features some truly iconic Arrested Development moments.
6. “In God We Trust” (Season 1, Episode 7)
The first season of Arrested Development is truly a master class in comedy, and much of the comic tension the show works so hard to build up is released in the series’ seventh episode, “In God We Trust.” The episode sees Michael Bluth attempting to replace the family’s incompetent attorney Barry Zuckercorn (as played by Henry Winkler in one of the funniest bit parts in television history) with a no-nonsense closer by the name of Wayne Jarvis, a man so serious he never smiles and he never jokes. Michael’s plans are complicated once again by his family, as his mother attempts to woo this new lawyer (much to Michael’s chagrin) and his father tries to escape from police custody after being briefly released to participate in a yearly pageant. This episode also holds the distinction of being the first in the series to introduce the “Never Nude,” a psychological condition which affects Tobias and renders him unable to ever be completely naked (he wears a pair of jean cut offs under his clothes at all times). This idiosyncrasy is one of the most beloved in the entire series.
5. “Meet the Veals” (Season 2, Episode 16)
Directed by Joe Russo (he and his brother Anthony have since become incredibly famous directors, helming the likes of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and the impending Avengers: Infinity War films), “Meet the Veals” is the sixteenth episode of the second season of Arrested Development. The episode, which sees Michael Bluth meeting the extremely religious parents of his son George Michael’s girlfriend, Ann Veal, features some distinctly hilarious moments, but none more hilarious than when Michael, who disapproves of Ann, decides to introduce the Veals to the rest of their dysfunctional family in hopes of driving her away. The Veals, played by Mae Whitman, Ione Skye and Alan Tudyk (to great hilarity), are not as easily repulsed as Michael assumed, leading to some classic Bluth shenanigans that end with everyone attending a teenage wedding in the church (the result of an early “pre-engagement”). It’s as hilarious as it sounds.
4. “The One Where Michael Leaves” (Season 2, Episode 1)
There comes a time in every man’s life when he gets so frustrated with his dysfunctional, cheating, lying and manipulating family that he needs to uproot his life and move to Phoenix, Arizona. For Michael Bluth and his son, George Michael, that moment is in “The One Where Michael Leaves,” the first episode of Arrested Development‘s second season. “The One Where Michael Leaves,” which is consistently cited as among the best of Arrested Development episodes, sees Michael’s frustration with his family boiling over in light of recent revelations about their clandestine dealings; however, as with most dysfunctional family stories, Michael realizes that now more than ever his family needs both him and his son, and moving across the country might not be the best way to help out.
3. “Top Banana” (Season 1, Episode 2)
We warned you there would be more early episodes of Arrested Development on this list, and we can say with confidence that “Top Banana,” the second episode of the show’s first season, won’t be the last early one on this list. “Top Banana” sees Michael Bluth pitted against his older brother, Gob, after the latter opens up a frozen banana stand meant to compete with the one Michael’s son already runs. The episode features some of the greatest moments in the show’s history, not the least of which sees Michael burning down the Banana Stand as a protest against his father, only to later realize that there was oodles of cash stored inside the walls (“there’s always money in the Banana Stand”). The episode, which also sees Tobias continuing to pursue his career as an actor, only to be derailed when his wife, Lindsey, steals the part, features some of the best Bluth shenanigans, something that often happens when Michael and Gob engage in petty brother competitiveness.
2. “Pier Pressure” (Season 1, Episode 10)
The tenth episode of the first season of Arrested Development, “Pier Pressure” is often cited as the episode most people use to introduce others to the show. Like many of the other episodes on this list, it contains most of the elements that make Arrested Development such a funny and lovable show, and it also works towards building up the relationship between Michael and his son, George Michael (Michael Cera). The episode, which sees the youngest Bluth brother, Buster (Tony Hale), tricking George Michael into buying marijuana for his girlfriend (who needs it for her vertigo), features a ton of misdirection courtesy of most every character, who thinks they’re running a scheme of their own (spoiler alert, George Sr. is ahead of the rest of the clan, like always).
1. “Bringing Up Buster” (Season 1, Episode 3)
We told you it’d be an early episode that topped this list, but did you listen? Actually yes, you most likely did since you’re still reading and you’ve found your way to “Bringing Up Buster,” the third episode of Arrested Development‘s first season and arguably the funniest in the show’s history. The episode, which sees the youngest Bluth brother spreading his wings and leaving the nest for the first time (much to the chagrin of his overprotective mother, Lucille, and to his brother Michael, who is tasked with taking care of him), introduces many of the in-jokes and repeat circumstances that make Arrested Development the witty, meta-humorous comedy that it is, and there’s simply no end to the laughs that make up the majority of the 22 minutes here. Its quality stuff, and it earns itself the top spot on this list because of it.