Season 1, Episode 1: Pilot

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Original airdate November 2, 2003
Written by Mitchell Hurwitz

Directed by Anthony Russo & Joe Russo
Production Code #1AJD79

BlueDot2 DECONSTRUCTION
BlueDot2 
HIGHLIGHTS
BlueDot2 NITPICKS/GAFFES
BlueDot2 EPISODE NOTES/TRIVIA
BlueDot2 HIDDEN DETAILS
BlueDot2 EXTENDED PILOT

“The Bluths gather aboard a boat for George Sr’s retirement party, where their lives are irrevocably changed. As Michael decides to sever ties with his family, his son George Michael reconnects with them. But everyone’s plans are halted when when George Sr. is placed under arrest, and the Bluth family realizes they may actually need each other after all.”

NOTE: Deconstructing Arrested Development openly discusses spoilers when relevant (which can include episodes that come later in the series). Readers who have not seen the series in its entirety are advised to proceed at their own discretion.

DECONSTRUCTION

A high quality pilot is a tricky feat for any tv show to pull off, and this perhaps applies even more so for ensemble comedies. It’s a genre that lives and dies on the chemistry of the cast, yet this is usually the first time they’ve worked together, and the writers haven’t yet familiarized themselves with the performers’ comedic rhythms. Few examples of great comedy pilots come to mind, and even then, they often don’t wind up resembling what a show eventually becomes. Since Arrested Development has a reputation for its running gags and callbacks, it’d be unrealistic to expect the show to be operating at full potential in its earliest episodes – and indeed, this element of the show doesn’t truly gain prominence until season 2. One could say that makes season 1 a little bit more accessible in comparison, though even in the earliest stages of its run, the show never adheres to convention – at least not without putting its own spin on it first.

Arrested Development is technically a mockumentary, coming not too long after the original British version of The Office, which popularized the genre like no other series before. But Arrested Development applies the mockumentary format in a way that’s entirely different to the contemporaries it would later acquire, avoiding talking heads and almost never acknowledging the camera. The writers probably made the right call there, as it saves them from having to address a whole bunch of logistical issues – such as why cameras would be allowed in the prison – instead opting for the use of a narrator and regular cutaways, employing anything from security camera footage to newspaper/yearbook clippings, packing in as many jokes as possible in the process. The Simpsons may have pioneered the concept of the “freeze frame gag” (a visual joke that’s on screen so briefly, it often requires pausing for one to even notice), but Arrested Development turned it into a different beast altogether. Season 1 is also considerably more subtle and grounded than the subsequent seasons, which I suppose is just part of the show’s natural evolution (the same can be said of many tv comedies, really). Its first episode, however, can proudly boast that it’s one of the few great comedy pilots – even if it’s still considerably different from the majority of Arrested Development’s run.

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Arrested Development’s pilot begins with an in medias res cold opening that introduces us to five of the nine main characters in a mere two minutes (and 15 seconds, if we’re being precise). With such a large cast to establish, the show’s breakneck pacing is present right from the first few moments, reducing everyone’s introduction to a line or two that almost fully embodies their character’s personalities. Some are quick and punchy, like Gob’s, and others are gloriously weird, like Buster’s. But even before the formal introductions begin, Lucille and Lindsay’s first interaction marks the show’s first instance of sneaking in a line that initially plays as a throwaway gag, but later has an unexpected pay-off (and, in the process, recontextualises itself as a different joke altogether). Arrested Development was dabbling in non-linear timelines long before it became commonplace for television. And while Lost arguably did more to popularise the approach, it still demonstrates just how ahead of its time Arrested Development was (at the time this deconstruction was posted, Netflix’s most recent success story was The Haunting of Hill House, which has a very similar narrative structure to Arrested Development’s fourth season). It speaks volumes about the writing of the show that, just a few minutes into its first episode, it’s already exploring the comedic potential that comes with its jumping timeline.

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It’s not long before we’re introduced to Tobias, whose first on-screen interaction with Michael may be even more off-kilter than Buster’s. David Cross and Tony Hale both throw themselves in to their peculiar roles, helping the show find the eccentricities in its comedic voice early on. Each actor already has great material to work with, but their choices of physical mannerisms and the way in which they deliver their lines elevates it all to an entirely different level. Notably, George Sr. doesn’t get an on-screen text introduction like the rest of the cast (this could be because George Sr. wasn’t initially intended to be a main character, but then again, neither was Tobias). These character introductions continue up until the 7 minute (and 22 second) mark, though the episode moves along at a brisk pace, breaking things up with frequent cutaways, helping flesh out both the show’s world and the personalities who occupy it. The bubble of privilege and ignorance the Bluths have inhabited their entire lives is evident from the start, with each cutaway conveying quite a lot in very little time.

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I’ve not really touched upon on the episode’s plot thus far, and to be honest, it won’t be a huge point of focus for these write-ups. Synopses (and straightforward reviews, for that matter) are a quick Something search away, after all. However, it’s probably worth noting that, for all I’ve written about the pilot’s use of documentary techniques, the story itself is actually very straightforward by Arrested Development standards. The Bluths are having a retirement party for George Sr, Michael believes he’ll be announced as the next president of the Bluth Company, he isn’t, Michael plans to leave, his family realize they need him, he agrees to stay on as the company president. The show’s high-concept narrative dovetailing isn’t really present here, though it’s hard to imagine an iteration of this episode that could incorporate it without doing so at the expense of the finished product.

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Instead, Arrested Development chooses to lean predominantly into its character relationships for its first episode, at least once the introductory act is over. The father-son relationship between Michael and George Michael is established very much as the heart of the show – and continues to be a strong focal point for it today – with Michael’s estrangement from the Fünkes being the other emotional crux of the pilot. One particular highlight would have to be Michael and Lindsay’s scene together on the steps, just talking brother-to-sister, where Lindsay admits to Michael that her life is in shambles. Arrested Development almost always goes for laughs over emotion, making this scene somewhat of a rarity for the show, but Jason Bateman and Portia De Rossi play it perfectly (especially the latter, whose prior scene with Michael Cera is also a highlight for similar reasons). And going back to the episode’s mid-point, the moment when George Sr. announces Lucille as the new president of the Bluth Company is also quite effective. The audience has known the Bluths for less than ten minutes here, yet this turn of events really feels like a gut punch (and it’s in no small part to the brilliant use of Love Will Keep Us Together, which proves equal parts amusing and tragic for what could’ve easily worked as an ironic soundtrack choice).

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Few pilots can be described as perfect, however, and Arrested Development’s is no exception. First, it’s worth noting that a lot of material was left on the cutting room floor (so much so that the editors put together an extended cut for the season 1 dvd which clocks in at close to half an hour – more on that version later). Network comedies have to clock in at a certain length, which means that genuinely great scenes and funny jokes often have to go to make room for more important material. But it’s still a little disheartening to learn that so much great content never made it to air, even if it’s unlikely that a funnier pilot would’ve helped the show find more success when it premiered. Some of the family dynamics also feel a little off here (regardless of how reckless they were with money, I still can’t imagine the George Sr./Lucille-led Bluth Company willingly paying for the Aztec Tomb), and the show doesn’t seem to have any character outside of the Bluth-Fünke family fleshed out at all. Additionally – and this is hardly unique to the pilot – but the show has its share of material that hasn’t aged well. Namely the gay jokes, which aren’t malicious in nature (the joke is almost always on the ever-oblivious Tobias), but can still make for some cringe-inducing moments when rewatching today.

All things considered though, Arrested Development’s pilot is a remarkable achievement. Hell, the fact that the show ever made it to air at all is a miracle in and of itself. To attempt something this stylistically unprecedented? While introducing the world to such a large group of characters and establishing a considerably ambitious premise by the standards of network television circa 2003 (hell, even today)? And delivering something as funny as this? It really is a feat to behold, and I’d go as far as to say that Arrested Development set a new benchmark with just what a comedy pilot could be. Several years would pass before Arrested Development’s influence would begin to show. Even longer before the show itself found its audience (or rather, before the show’s audience found it, with Fox’s lack of promotion being a frequent point of contention among fans during the initial run), but Arrested Development’s pilot showcases a tv series embarking on a maiden voyage with the confidence of a well-traveled vessel.

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HIGHLIGHTS

BlueDot2 LUCILLE: Look what the homosexuals have done to me!
MICHAEL: You can’t just comb that out and reset it?

BlueDot2 Gob delivers one of his most memorable quotes in his very first appearance – and, at the same time, establishes one of the show’s many running jokes by correcting Michael on his use of the word “trick”:

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BlueDot2 MICHAEL: What comes before anything? What have we always said is the most important thing?
GEORGE MICHAEL: Breakfast.
MICHAEL: Family.
GEORGE MICHAEL: Family, right. I thought you meant of the things you eat.

BlueDot2 One of the show’s more understated gags is the idea of naming a place “Sudden Valley.” It doesn’t call much attention to itself, but the more you think about the name and all it can imply, the funnier it becomes.

BlueDot2 MICHAEL: You got your check for your share of the party?
GOB: You know, I sort of thought my contribution could be a magic show.
MICHAEL: A magic show?! Oh, that’s perfect, Gob…
GOB: Thank you.
MICHAEL: …Oh, wait a minute. I just remembered something. Dad’s retiring, not turning six.

BlueDot2 LUCILLE: Look what happened to my fox. Someone cut off his little foot! Is it… is it noticeable?
MICHAEL: Well, you’ve gotta remember, you’re gonna be all splattered in red paint. That’s gonna distract the eye.

BlueDot2 The beautiful simplicity of this joke cannot be overstated:

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BlueDot2 “Tobias recently lost his medical license for administering CPR to a person who, as it turned out, was not having a heart attack…”

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BlueDot2 “Sounds like you saved enough skin to make ten new boys.”

BlueDot2 The gag that the tribal drumming comes from Buster rather than the show’s soundtrack is solid (albeit unoriginal), but Tony Hale’s delivery of “Mom says it’s too windy” really sells the whole bit.

BlueDot2 Michael’s face when George Sr. describes his successor as the “sexiest creature I have ever laid eyes on.”

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BlueDot2 “I knew it was against the law!” may very well be the funniest moment of the episode.

BlueDot2 GEORGE SR: I don’t have time for your magic tricks.
GOB: Illusions, Dad! You don’t have time for my illusions!

BlueDot2 TOBIAS: What an adventure, gang! I thought that the homosexuals were pirates, but it turns out that most of them were actors in the local theater. You’re right though, it is amazing. I’ve been waiting for the universe to provide a path for me and… and I think it has.
LINDSAY: You’re gay.
TOBIAS: No. No. No, I’m not… I’m not gay. No. Lindsay, how many times must we have this…

BlueDot2 LINDSAY: You know Michael, dad did name mom as his successor.
LUCILLE: And I’m putting Buster in charge.
GOB: He’s a good choice.
MICHAEL: Buster? The guy who thought that the blue on the map was land?
LUCILLE: He’s had business classes.
BUSTER: Wa-wa-wa-wait, 18th century agrarian business! But I guess it’s all the same principles. Let me ask you, are you at all concerned about an uprising?

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BlueDot2 On a similar note, David Cross provides one of the other funniest moments in the episode, in the form of Tobias’s community theatre audition, where he attempts to sing I’m a Bad, Bad Man from Annie Get Your Gun:

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(Cross apparently learned the entire song preparation for this scene too, and while I’d have loved to have seen more of Tobias’s rendition, it’s hard to imagine a more amusing place for the scene to end than where it does.)

BlueDot2 ENRIQUE: There are perks. We’ll set you up in Arizona in one of our finest estates.
MICHAEL: Attic or main house?

BlueDot2 MICHAEL: What exactly is this intervention for?
LUCILLE: We need you to come back and run the business.
MICHAEL: Oh, okay. Well, then, so, technically it’s not really an intervention. It’s a little bit more of an imposition, if you think about it.
LINDSAY: Oh, whatever you want to call it.
MICHAEL: I’d love to call it an imposition.

BlueDot2 A 14 year old Michael Cera improvised this fantastic bit of visual comedy where he drinks directly from his glass despite the presence of a straw (and you can see Alia Shawkat almost breaking as a result):

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BlueDot2 “George Michael, grab the coat.” It’s a very overlooked line (in fact, the dvd commentary indicates Jason Bateman said it by accident), but there’s something very amusing about the implication that Michael and George Michael only own a single coat between them.

BlueDot2 Michael giving George Sr. the courtesy of a formal resignation:

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BlueDot2 GEORGE SR: It had to be your mom. They cannot arrest a husband and wife for the same crime.
MICHAEL: Yeah? I don’t think that that’s true, dad.
GEORGE SR: Really? I’ve got the worst *beep*ing attorneys.

BlueDot2 “What are you doing? Are you trying to cry?”

BlueDot2 Gotta hand it to George Michael, that “Get Out of Jail Free card” joke is solid.

BlueDot2 “It is going to be a little crowded though, so I think you’re going to have to share a room with your cousin.”

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Whatcha tryin’ to saaayyy to me?

NITPICKS/GAFFES

BlueDot2 The narrator mentions here that Gob started The Alliance of Magicians. While it’s completely in the spirit of the show that he himself would be blackballed by his own organisation, it seems the writers forgot this particular detail over time. Gob’s foundership of the Alliance is never mentioned again, despite his numerous subsequent run-ins with them.

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BlueDot2 When Buster is banging the drum in Lucille’s apartment, the corresponding audio is out of sync.

BlueDot2 If the writers had just 4 episodes’ worth of hindsight, George Sr. almost certainly would have been talking to Kitty on the phone after the S.E.C. showed up (“Save it. Shred it!”), Instead, George Sr’s accomplice is named Deloris, and she is never mentioned again after this episode. So if you’re looking for some kind of explanation that fits with continuity, I suppose we just have to go with “it’s a code name” (and had the writers 29 episodes’ worth of hindset, you can bet that Stan Sitwell would’ve been present during the Sitwell interviews. Though perhaps he was out grazing – he is an alpaca, after all).

BlueDot2 Arrested Development was one of the earliest Fox tv productions to be presented in 16:9 widescreen. The faux news footage was shot on a real news set using their cameras, which is why the shot of John Beard in the studio is presented in a 4:3 aspect ratio with letterboxing around the sides. However, at one point in the news report, the editors insert Fox’s local news graphics (again, designed for a 4:3 aspect ratio) over the show’s 16:9 widescreen footage. This is why you suddenly see these gaps on the edge of the news overlay at the bottom of the screen during this shot:

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Essentially, that shot should’ve been letterboxed too, to retain the reality that this is still footage from the news report.

BlueDot2 Lindsay is wearing a different pair of earrings in the attic to what she’s wearing moments later on the steps with Michael.

BlueDot2 T-Bone, seen in the “On the next,” is played by a different actor in the following episode. Given how brief his appearance is here, however, it’s a considerably more minor recasting than that of Marta, which happens several episodes from now.

EPISODE NOTES/TRIVIA

BlueDot2 This episode was directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, who some may know better as the Russo Brothers – before they were a household name. While this is the only episode of the show they would helm as a pair, they would individually direct over a dozen episodes of the show between them over the course of its first two seasons. Seeing as this is the pilot, they can be credited with a lot of the aesthetic choices that would personify the show over the years; after all, if you direct the first episode of a tv series, you’re essentially establishing the “house style” to which all subsequent directors must adhere. Their large body of tv work also contains many episodes of Community and Happy Endings (including both shows’ pilots), the pilot for Mitch Hurwitz’s failed follow-up to Arrested Development, Running Wilde (which starred Will Arnett and David Cross), and the original pilot for The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret (created by and starring David Cross). These days, the pair are best known their work with Marvel, having since directed multiple Avengers and Captain America titles (some of their Marvel movies even contain Arrested Development easter eggs), though they also directed the films Welcome to Collinwood, and You, Me and Dupree.

BlueDot2 Only two side characters are introduced here: Reporters John Beard and Trisha Thoon. Beard is actually playing a fictional version of himself – he was the real-life news anchor for Fox’s LA affiliate at the time this was made (thus contributing to the show’s documentary pretense by adding a small element of realism) – while Trisha Thoon is played by The Daily Show‘s Stacey Grenrock Woods. Trisha only appears a few more times over the show’s first season (returning for a cameo in season 4), while John Beard became one of the show’s most frequent guest stars, having since appeared in 30 more episodes across all five seasons. Despite the surname, this is the only episode where John Beard is depicted with facial hair.

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(Side note: That’s the same image of George Sr. they use in the intro for almost every episode of the Fox run. Bet that guy on the right must feel weird appearing in so many episodes of a show he did such a small thing for!)

BlueDot2 Executive producer Ron Howard serves as the show’s narrator, though does not receive an on-screen credit for the role outside of season 4. Having said that, the narrator’s presence in the show here is rather minimal, at least in comparison to later seasons, where he ostensibly became the 10th main character. And if one considers him as such, I’m inclined to say the narrator’s changed more than anyone else since this episode. Initially, he’s bluntly stating the facts in a very impartial, non-judgemental manner – whereas later, he expresses more opinions on things, even making the occasional snide remark. His manner of speech is also more flat and rather expressionless here – as opposed to the more energetic delivery the narrator possesses in later seasons. Which isn’t to disparage Ron Roward’s performance – it works just fine, and actually fits the more subdued tone of the show’s earlier episodes well. The narrator’s gradual change in personality could even be viewed as the Bluths rubbing off on him as he spends more time observing them.

BlueDot2 The name “Gob” is an abbreviation for George Oscar Bluth (as evidenced by George Michael, there’s definitely a tradition within the Bluth family to carry male names across generations), but also doubles as a reference to Jeb Bush (the show would make many references to the Bush family over the Fox run). Maeby’s name is a combination of Mitch Hurwitz’s daughter’s names, Maisie and Phoebe.

BlueDot2 Many running jokes in the show originate from this episode. Michael and George Michael’s banter about what “the most important thing” is, Lucille’s winking, a stranger pronouncing Gob’s name as Gahb, “we need ice,” along with some more general examples (ie. Buster’s penchant for unsolicited back massages). Though one of my personal favorite runners – which, sadly, is mostly confined to the first season – is the silent background characters, Freedom Sign Guy, who makes his first of several silent appearances here (and shows up in garish headwear with that sign in hand every time):

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Another one of the more specific runners that originates here is Tobias’s announcement that he wants to be an actor. It gets mirrored several times (by various characters) throughout the series, complete with the same hand gestures and facial experience. The audio of David Cross’s excited inhaling sound here also gets reused every time they call back to it!

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BlueDot2 There’s a lot of world building here. First, there are some obvious fixtures of the show, such as the model home and Lucille’s penthouse (both of which were originally shot on location before replicated on a sound stage from episode two onward, which is why they look a little different here). But there are also smaller things of varying importance to the show’s universe, like the Aztec tomb, the Alliance of Magicians and Sitwell Housing, which all come back in notable capacities as the show progresses. The frozen banana stand is also a major focal point for the next episode.

BlueDot2 A few small moments from the pilot are later mirrored in the season 1 finale, Let Them Eat Cake. And the season 3 finale, Development Arrested (originally titled Harboring Resentment, up until just a days before it aired), overtly references and replicates several major scenes from the first half of this episode. The original Fox run of the show both begins and ends with a boat party.

BlueDot2 Lucille repeats the line “Look what the homosexuals have done to me” in season 4’s Borderline Personalities.

BlueDot2 In the dvd commentary, we are told that no one else in the cast had seen David Cross in character as Tobias prior to filming his first scene. Supposedly, this shot of Michael is Jason Bateman’s actual reaction to seeing David cross’s performance for the first time:

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(I can’t tell if they were being 100% truthful on the commentary due to its very jokey nature, but I want so badly to believe that this particular anecdote is real.)

BlueDot2 Jeffrey Tambor puts his hand over his mouth when saying the line “I have the worst *beep*ing attorneys.” In later episodes, the show makes a conscious effort to obscure the characters’ mouths when censoring their speech, but this particular instance was completely unintentional. Additionally, when he repeats this line in Let Them Eat Cake, they sample the same audio from the pilot.

BlueDot2 While Tracey Bluth’s name wouldn’t be confirmed until season 2, George Michael makes the first mention here of his mother having died sometime before the Pilot (about two years prior, as confirmed a few episodes later in Visiting Ours). Information about her slowly trickles out over the coming seasons, until she’s finally depicted on-screen by Maria Thayer in season 4’s It Gets Better.

BlueDot2 The “On the next” was originally conceived as a meta joke when screening the Pilot to the network executives – a (fictitious) preview as to where the show could go from here, if they chose to pick it up to series. It eventually became one of the staples of the show, with the joke being that the footage almost never actually appears in the next episode.

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On that note, there are some common misconceptions about the “On the next”s (you even hear cases where binge viewers have skipped them entirely, not realising the nature of the segment). Just to clear things up: Being a mockumentary, Arrested Development generally doesn’t do fantasy sequences, meaning that everything we see really “happens” in the show’s reality. However, when it comes to the “On the next”s, the show plays much more fast and loose with continuity.

Sometimes, the footage seen in the “On the next” is actually considered canon; as evidence of this, the show will sometimes present footage from previous episodes’ “On the next”s as flashbacks, indicating that they actually occurred in the official chronology. However, other times this is not the case, and the “On the next” genuinely will serve as a preview of an upcoming plot point. For example, in 3 episodes’ time, Key Decisions contains an “On the next” wherein Buster enters a relationship; the plot point does wind up happening in a few episodes later in My Mother, the Car, but it transpires in a completely different way.

Most of the time, the “On the next”s are throwaway jokes that don’t necessarily need to factor into continuity one way or the other, so the question of “Is this canon?” is rarely one of importance. Nonetheless, it’s generally safest to assume they aren’t canon, unless the show explicitly confirms as such later (particularly down the line; quite a few things that happen in season 4’s “On the next”s, for instance, are subsequently retconned in season 5).

BlueDot2 In an earlier version of the pilot’s script, there was a joke with George Michael expressing discomfort over his name – followed by a smash cut to the footage of singer/songwriter George Michael getting arrested – and Michael suggesting he start going by “Boy George” – followed by a smash cut to Boy George’s arrest. It appears this bit never made it to the filming stage, but years later, the joke would be reworked into the season 4 premiere, Flight of the Phoenix.

BlueDot2 Supposedly, there was some 32 hours of footage shot for this episode, which is highly unprecedented for a 21 minute show.

BlueDot2 The Pilot has a total runtime of 21 minutes and 43 seconds, and is rated TV-PG-L.

HIDDEN DETAILS

BlueDot2 The Native American tribal ceremony may not have been as “tribal” as Buster was led to believe:

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BlueDot2 Buster’s first scene sees Michael criticize him for his interest in mapping, derisively asking “Hasn’t everything already sort of been discovered though? By, like, Magellan and- and Cortés?” This interaction now has an extra layer in light of season 5, where Michael circumvents his responsibilities by attempting to map the ocean floor (in a story arc that begins in Self-Deportation and concludes in Sinking Feelings).

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BlueDot2 The fact that Maeby’s name sound likes the word “Maybe” allows the show to subtly plant some doubt over her relation to George Michael:

GEORGE MICHAEL: Hey, you’re my cousin, aren’t you?
MAEBY: Maeby.

Likewise for the narrator subsequently saying “This is George Michael’s cousin, Maeby.”

BlueDot2 When Tobias is seen at the protest, he can be heard awkwardly asking one of the men “How are you?”, the exact same way he (twice) said it to Michael in his first scene.

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BlueDot2 The shot of Michael and George Michael together on the deck when Michael tells him to say his goodbyes is recreated as one of the last shots of the season 3 finale, Development Arrested:

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BlueDot2 While the Bluths are watching the news report in the police station, Maeby can be seen in the background writing on the wall behind George Michael. Her graffiti then comes into view during Tobias’s announcement:

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BlueDot2 The show lays a few early hints about who’s really in charge of the family’s shady dealings. Namely George Sr. insisting that a husband and wife cannot be arrested for the same crime, which would seemingly imply that Lucille is also complicit in his illegal activities (not to mention him making Lucille the president). And then there’s this line: “The S.E.C. is making him out to be some kind of mastermind, which believe me, he’s not. The man could barely work our shredder.”

BlueDot2 The fact that George Michael and Maeby are playing Uno may be a sly nod to this being episode #1 (with George Michael’s mistaken proclamation of “Go fish” possibly serving as an extension of its nautical themes). During this scene, Maeby’s top also reads “Lotta Love’s.” This links directly to the season 1 finale, Let Them Eat Cake, where Michael confronts Lucille in the Penthouse, saying “There’s been a lot of lying in this family” before Lucille replies “And a lot of love.”

BlueDot2 Two of the show’s recurring motifs are introduced here. The first being severed limbs…

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… And the other being birds.

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There’s also a far more subtle application of the latter motif, in the form of Michael’s plan to move to Phoenix, Arizona. Just as the phoenix is a bird from Greek mythology which commonly represents rebirth, so too has Phoenix, Arizona come to represent Michael Bluth’s desire for a rebirth of his own. It’s the only fictitious bird used in the show’s extensive deployment of the bird motif, but rebirth is very much a fictitious concept for the Bluths.

EXTENDED PILOT

The Pilot is one of the few Arrested Development episodes to have an alternate cut (outside of the fourth season, which, as a whole, has two very different cuts). An “Extended Pilot” was made available on the season 1 dvd (first released in the U.S. on October 19, 2004, with region 2 and 4 releases following in early 2005). Contrary to popular belief, this is not the original version of the pilot presented to the network, but rather, an expanded cut assembled specifically for the dvd (though it is fair to assume that at least some of this additional footage made it into earlier cuts before the episode was trimmed for broadcast). Clocking in at 28 minutes and 34 seconds, the Extended Pilot features over 6 minutes of new footage, in addition to some alternate takes inserted in place of their original counterparts (sometimes this is just for the occasional line, other times it may be a large chunk of a scene).

The Extended Pilot moves at a slightly more leisurely pace, scenes are given more room to breathe, and there are several inconsequential-but-amusing little character moments. Most significantly, George Michael and Gob get more screentime in the Extended Pilot, and there’s a running gag with George Sr. going through a recent “cowboy phase” (a large contributing factor to why Michael believed he was next in line, since he kept calling him “pard’ner”). It is also noteworthy for being completely uncensored, despite the lines having been written and filmed with the intention of being beeped. Below is a list of changes made in the Extended Pilot:

BlueDot2 The opening line of the series – and our introduction to Michael, has some additional narration: “This is Michael Bluth. He’s a good man.” It’s a minor change on the surface, but sets a considerably different precedent for how we’re supposed to view the main character; devotees will know this is hardly an accurate statement about Michael, with later episodes making clear that he’s really not the honorable member of the family he first appears to be (it’s also a rather uncharacteristic introduction to the narrator, who is typically a more impartial third party, and rarely voices his opinions on the Bluths).

BlueDot2 Lindsay gets a longer introduction: “This is Michael’s twin sister, Lindsay, the self-proclaimed liberal member of the family.” The following cutaway at the “Stop the Hunger” fundraiser is also slightly extended, as we hear Lindsay’s conversation with another attendee: “Um, I forget their name, but I know they’re hungry… I think some are thirsty.” The Extended Pilot actually removes the narrator’s line of dialogue at the end about Michael and Lindsay not having spoken in a year (along with the accompanying visual of the family portrait).

BlueDot2 Gob’s introductory scene has two alternate lines. The first is the narrator’s introduction: “This is Michael’s oldest brother, poor Gob” (in the standard cut, the line is instead “And this is Gob, Michael’s oldest brother”). We also get a different punchline to “A trick is something a whore does for money,” with Gob instead following it up with “…Or cocaine!”

BlueDot2 Buster’s introduction has some additional footage before he starts massaging Michael, where we see him struggling with the straw in his drink (not unlike George Michael in the episode’s third act):

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His entire exchange with Michael utilizes a different cut, with some additional dialogue following the narrator’s line about Buster studying “cartography, the mapping of uncharted territories”:

BUSTER: Actually I’m studying cartography now, the mapping of uncharted territories.
MICHAEL: Sure. Hasn’t everything already sort of been discovered, though? By, like, Magellan and Cortés? NASA, y’know?

After Buster says “Those guys did a pretty good job, but there’s still, you know…”, Lucille then leans in and says “It never hurts to double check.”

BlueDot2 Michael and George Michael are shown walking down the model home stairs before sitting down for breakfast, having a longer conversation:

GEORGE MICHAEL: So you think he’s gonna announce it on the boat?
MICHAEL: Huh? Yeah, absolutely, it’s his retirement party. Plus, he’s been dropping a lot of hints.
GEORGE MICHAEL: What kind of hints?
MICHAEL: Uhh, it’s funny, it’s not a “hint” hint, but he has been calling me “pard’ner.”
GEORGE MICHAEL: Yeah, that’s… that’s like partner.
MICHAEL: …Of course, he has been going through a little bit of a cowboy phase.

Michael then says “I’ll be my own boss” before transitioning into the dialogue retained in the standard cut (“I’ll finally be able to get you what you deserve”). However, rather than ending on the line about the cereal, the scene continues with the pair then heading into the living room, getting ready for their bike ride and producing a couple of helmets from a hollowed-out fake tv (it would seem they upgraded to a real tv shortly after the Fünkes moved in):

101E-Homefill

GEORGE MICHAEL: Well, I’d rather live like this than like my aunt and uncles, whose eyes have never stung from the sweet sweat of a hard day’s work!
MICHAEL: Woah, woah, woah, woah, where are you gettin’ all that?
GEORGE MICHAEL: From you. You say it every couple of years when they come out to visit.
MICHAEL: …Well, maybe you’re right, maybe they are spoiled. But you know what, son? That is not our problem. That is their problem. We have a good thing going here, you see? You’ll find that you have much more dignity and self-respect when you learn- (a couple of prospective buyers enter through the front door) …That this house has got everything we’re looking for!
GEORGE MICHAEL: And more! Can we buy it, dad? Can we buy the house?
MICHAEL: We’re gonna try, son, but we gotta hurry, ’cause these are gonna get all snapped up… (to the couple) Oh, hello! Good morning. (to George Michael) I’ll race you to the bank!

In the Extended Pilot, Michael’s line in the penthouse later about the family finally feeling “that sweet sting of sweat” in their eyes now plays as a callback to this scene.

BlueDot2 In the original cut, the scene at the model home is followed by the narrator saying “The guys then headed down to Balboa Island, so George Michael could work at the frozen banana stand his grandfather started in 1953,” after which, we transition from a black-and-white still of the banana stand to George Michael working there in present day. His only line of dialogue is “Bananas” before we cut straight to Michael and Gob’s conversation at the docks. The Extended Pilot, however, features a different –  and significantly longer – version of this scene. It begins with some more thorough narration about the banana stand, complete with some live-action footage of its early years:

“The guys then headed down to Balboa Island. It was here, in 1953, that George Sr. started a business selling a novelty food item called the frozen banana. Like his father before him, Michael had gotten his son a job there to bolster the boy’s self-esteem.

101E-FrozenBananas

We then see George Michael in the banana stand, this time saying “Ten cents gets you nuts…” (unlike the other cut, no one is walking past him here – he isn’t trying to get the attention of anyone in particular) before he spots a familiar face. We then see the same footage from the standard cut of Gob approaching on the segway, this time with George Michael calling out his uncle’s name. After pulling up at the banana stand, Gob says “Give me a dollar… No, the twenty! This is gonna blow your mind.” George Michael obliges, and Gob performs what would have been his first illusion in the series (doubling as foreshadowing of what’s about to happen to the family):

101E-NowTheStory

GOB: (handing the Monopoly set to George Michael) You don’t have it, do you?
GEORGE MICHAEL: Yeah, I think I might.
GOB: That’s good, ’cause a lot of the pieces are missing. Oh, to play Monopoly with my family again… I’d give anything to be 8.
GEORGE MICHAEL: I’m 13.
GOB: Nah, I wasn’t crazy about 13. The acne… Self-consciousness… The erections… (George Michael looks away, visibly uncomfortable) You okay?
GEORGE MICHAEL: (exhales) Yeah, I’m okay.
GOB: (spotting Michael at the docks) Hey, there’s the man I came to see! (drives off on his segway)
GEORGE MICHAEL: Uh, uncle Gob, where’s the twenty?
GOB: (returning to the banana stand) Hey, a magician never reveals his secret. That’s what I started the whole alliance about!
(We briefly smash cut to the photo of Gob with The Alliance of Magicians with the accompanying music sting)
GEORGE MICHAEL: I don’t need the secret, I just need the twenty.
GOB: What you need to know… is that it’s magic. (leaves again)
GEORGE MICHAEL: Wow… It’s so much like stealing.

The Monopoly joke receives a very subtle callback in the episode’s third act, when George Michael encounters Lindsay. The background joke actually makes it into both cuts of the episode:

101-OfAWealthyFamily

It should also be noted that, in the standard cut of the Pilot, the abrupt cut to the Alliance photograph is instead inserted into the subsequent scene, during Michael and Gob’s conversation at the docks (after Gob says the words “magic show”).

BlueDot2 There’s a much longer cut of the aforementioned scene at the docks, which also uses a different take for the most part. The Extended Pilot does retain the narrator’s establishing line, however: “Michael, meanwhile, was meeting his brother Gob, hoping to discuss his father’s boat party” (which is now rendered technically erroneous, as the “meanwhile” implies Gob’s two interactions are happening simultaneously):

MICHAEL: Uh, it’s sort of a “pass the torch” kind of situation, so, like, if you’ve got a wireless mic…
BOAT CAPTAIN: Got it.
MICHAEL: Or a torch, now that I think about it. (chuckles to himself while the boat captain doesn’t react) It’s just a joke… (notices Gob approaching on his segway) Hey.
GOB: Michael.
GOB: Gob. (to the captain) I’m sorry. Uh, captain, this is my brother, Gob.
BOAT CAPTAIN: How are you?
GOB: Incredible! I’m having an incredible year.

101E-RightUpTop

GOB: Right up top… (the boat captain leaves)
MICHAEL: We’ll finish inside. (to Gob) Look at you, are you doing good?
GOB: Please, look! (holds his arms out)
MICHAEL: (examining Gob’s segway) Right… Great.

BlueDot2 The penthouse scene is mostly the same; there’s a longer pause before Tobias’s “I hadn’t packed for that,” and alternate takes are used for a few inconsequential lines (such as Lindsay’s “…Couldn’t find a thing” as they enter the penthouse, which sounds more exasperated in the Extended Pilot). Lindsay also has some additional dialogue as she explains why she hadn’t contacted Michael: “It’s just… I’ve been… Well, I need to decompress a little. I’ve been very busy” (if you listen out for it, the cut in the dialogue here is actually quite noticeable in the standard Pilot). Buster’s drumming is also mixed in slightly louder, and comes in much earlier during Michael’s speech.

BlueDot2 Following an alternate take of Maeby approaching the banana stand, she also receives an expanded character introduction: “This is George Michael’s cousin, Maeby. Maeby had always found unique ways to rebel.” This is then followed by a deleted cutaway (you may recognize this footage from the intro, where it plays above Alia Shawkat’s credit):

101E-Rebel

A different take is also used for George Michael’s “No, I don’t think so,” with some additional dialogue after he asks “But isn’t it against the law?”:

MAEBY: I don’t think so.
GEORGE MICHAEL: I know for certain that the yacht club would have a problem with it.

BlueDot2 When we return to the boat party at the episode’s mid-point, there is a new George Michael/Maeby interaction after the line “I like it better on him” is repeated, while the two sit on the stairs at the boat (where they would later kiss):

MAEBY: I don’t understand why you work every weekend. Aren’t you, like, my age?
GEORGE MICHAEL: Well, it’s important to be responsible. I think there aren’t enough young people out there today who have a real work ethic.
MAEBY: …What do you mean?
GEORGE MICHAEL: …I don’t know.

We also hear more of George Sr’s speech – and get some more glimpses at his “cowboy phase” – before he announces the new company president, with some new establishing narration (in the standard cut of the Pilot, the Narrator instead says “And Michael’s big moment finally came”):

NARRATOR: And George Sr. finally made his retirement speech.
GEORGE: I guess it’s time for me to, uh, mosey on. And although I won’t be saddling up and going in every day, there’s someone else who’s going to…

BlueDot2 When George Michael approaches Michael on the deck, there is some additional dialogue after he asks his father if he’s okay (again, an alternate take is used here):

Yeah… Yeah, you know what? I’m great. You and I, we’ve waited long enough. Time to move on, okay? I want you to say your good-byes. It’s the start of a whole new life for us. Alright?”

The following sequence with George Sr’s arrest is mostly the same, though a slightly different police siren sound is used, and a new split-screen shot can be seen of Michael approaching the side of the boat to get a better look at the S.E.C. just before Gob tries to put George Sr. in the Aztec Tomb.

BlueDot2 John Beard’s news report has an extended lead-in: “Southern California is the home of the high-speed freeway chase, but tonight’s flee from justice was on the sea, and slow as molasses…”

101E-HighSeas

The family gathering at the police station is mostly the same, with some additional Michael dialogue before Lindsay points out Lucille was named the new company president: “The first thing I need you guys to do is to cut up your company credit cards…” At the end of the scene, when Michael walks off, the scene lingers a little longer, allowing us to hear some of the family’s murmurs – such as Gob saying “Lindsay, he’s really mad at you,” and Tobias chiming in with “Somebody is a rude Gus. That’s all.”

BlueDot2 There’s some additional footage before the narrator says “Lindsay had no choice but to check her family out of the hotel earlier than planned.” As the narrator explains in the Extended Pilot, “In the days that followed, the Bluths’ assets were officially frozen.” This is accompanied by the following visual – a callback to the black-and-white footage from earlier (a direct continuation of where it left off, in fact):

101E-FrozenAssets

This continues to show an extended cut of the Fünkes fleeing their hotel, as they attempt to pack all their possessions away. Tobias is seen saying “Glasses. Where are my glasses?”, to which Lindsay accurately responds “On your face.” This is followed shortly by this improvised moment:

101E-NoMoreRoomInTheSuitcase

BlueDot2 An alternate take is used for Lucille’s press conference, including some shots from different camera angles (in the standard pilot, it’s a seamless shot with no cuts).

BlueDot2 The footage of Buster fainting in the board room has fewer jump cuts, coming in at about 2 seconds longer than the standard cut.

BlueDot2 In the standard cut, the scene where the family realizes they need Michael ends with Buster saying “Michael, we need Michael” through his oxygen mask. The extended cut continues with Lindsay asking “Well how do we do that now?” and Tobias saying “Perhaps… An intervention?” We then cut straight to this scene:

GOB: So what we’d like to do here is just go around the room, and have everyone talk a little about Michael. Things we don’t like about him, or how he annoys us, or maybe just something he does that rubs us the wrong way…
LUCILLE: Jump right in.
TOBIAS: There’s no right or wrong answer.
LINDSAY: I think that’s a great idea.
MICHAEL Wait, hold on, one- one second… What exactly is this intervention for?

In the standard cut, we jump into this scene at this point (albeit with an alternate take where Michael’s question is instead preceded by “I’m sorry, I’m sorry”), with the narrator simply explaining “And so, the family staged an intervention.” As the scene continues, there’s also a new exchange following the cutaway with Gob and the teen magician:

MICHAEL: Well, I thought- I thought Buster had everything under control? (to Buster) I thought you’d been going to the office?
BUSTER: Yes, and I’ve enjoyed that. It- it w-was just I was constantly being called to the phone or I was asked a question or I was resuscitated… It was really hard to get a good work flow going. (chatter among the family begins to pick up again)

There’s also a minor expansion on Michael’s line to his family: “Well, I’m sorry, it’s just- it’s too late, I’m truly sorry, uh, but I’m moving to Phoenix. I got a job.”

BlueDot2 Michael’s first visit to prison actually continues beyond George Sr’s line about having the worst attorneys.

MICHAEL: What are you saying? That you did this for me?
GEORGE SR: What have we always said comes before anything else? It’s family first. You do right by your son… Pard’ner.
GUARD: (off-screen) Bluth, time!
MICHAEL: You might wanna dial down that cowboy act while you’re in here.
GEORGE SR: Don’t think that didn’t cross my mind.

Michael’s heart-to-heart with his father is scored to “Burn it, Aunt Mommy” (the soft guitar piece that often accompanies the show’s sentimental moments, particularly in its early episodes; the track’s debut would instead have to wait until Top Banana).

BlueDot2 We see some footage of Lindsay attempting to raid the model home before she encounters George Michael:

101E-PiecesOfShortTermInvestment

The following scene in the attic is almost completely untouched, with the extended cut of the scene only running a few seconds longer (which can be mainly attributed to a slightly longer-running shot of Lindsay first walking in). Similarly, there are almost no changes to Michael’s scene with Lindsay on the staircase, aside from a marginally longer pause before Michael says “Let me ask you a question.”

BlueDot2 When George Michael cracks his “get out of jail free card” joke while the family are playing Monopoly, there’s an extended shot after Buster massages him, where Tobias says “How are you” once again, and awkwardly leans across the couch to grab George Michael’s hand (in the standard Pilot, his hand can actually be seen entering the frame before we cut away). After George Michael says “I wish you guys didn’t have to go so soon,” we also get an alternate cut where Michael says “Oh, well, on that subject…”

BlueDot2 The first “On the next” opens with a close-up of the bathroom door before zooming out to reveal George Michael sitting nearby on the bed (in the standard cut, George Michael is already in frame when we cut to this). This is then followed by an “On the next” that was cut entirely, as the narrator explains, “Many find work for the first time”:

101E-JeweleryShop

Lindsay then snatches the watch out of the woman’s hand. The following “On the next,” with Gob interviewing for Sitwell Housing, continues beyond Gob asking “Is that enough of a recommendation for you?” After this, we cut back to the interviewer, with the bird standing on his head, saying “Even a letter of recommendation, something like that…” Lastly, the sound of a buzzing alarm is added in the final “On the next,” just before T-Bone enters the frame.

BlueDot2 There is one additional name in the credits for the Extended Pilot: Channing Chase as the saleswoman (pictured above with Lindsay in the jewelry store).

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ON THE NEXT DECONSTRUCTING ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT

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Deconstructing Arrested Development is in no way affiliated with Imagine Entertainment, The Hurwitz Company, Netflix, 21st Century Fox, Disney or any subsidiaries thereof. It is a completely unofficial fan-made project.

6 thoughts on “Season 1, Episode 1: Pilot

  1. Whoa, I had NEVER connected Hale to this commercial. Hell I’d forgotten this commercial was even a thing!

    I’d never really thought about how Howard’s narration had changed from the pilot to the later episodes but now that I have rewatched its really noticeable.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah, it’s a gradual change, but it’s extremely noticeable rewatching early episodes when coming straight off more recent ones.

      Side note: They actually had Tony Hale recreate that commercial in season 3’s The Ocean Walker!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. It begins! I’m having trouble making out the tribal photo, that’s a cell phone though yeah?

    Michael Cera has such a babyface thing going on!

    Hale and Cross, I remember when I first saw this pilot I knew nothing of either performer. They make just incredible first impressions. And I do hope that is true about that photo being a legit reaction from Bateman. I’ll probably do a watch of this episode tonight/tomorrow to add more

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yep, the guy’s on the phone, trying to have a conversation over Buster’s drumming, haha.

      David Cross was actually the one cast member I was familiar with when I first saw this, on account of his guest spots in Just Shoot Me!, though I don’t think Tony Hale had really done much at all until Arrested Development. He was probably most well-known for those Volkswagen commercials at the time.

      Liked by 1 person

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