According to our calculations, there are 53 best episodes of Arrested Development. But we don’t have the room to salute them all. So, as the revered Fox comedy exits the airwaves on Feb. 10 with its final four episodes of season 3 (and possibly ever), we asked Arrested creator Mitch Hurwitz to rack his twisted brain for a top 5 list.
1 ”Pier Pressure” (Season 1) and ”Making a Stand” (Season 3) Okay, so that’s two episodes. But they’re really bookends. We waited 37 episodes before bringing back the one-armed man George Sr. employed to teach his children lessons, which evolve in these shows from the mundane (”And that’s why you always leave a note”) to the profound (”And that’s why you don’t use a one-armed person to scare people”). In ”Pier Pressure,” a lesson Michael teaches his son about marijuana use turns out to be one his father is teaching him — about the folly of teaching lessons. In ”Making a Stand,” a lesson Michael teaches his father turns out to be one his father is teaching him, which turns out to be one Michael and Gob are teaching him, which turns out to be a lesson the now-one-armed Buster is teaching them all. It was an absurd number of twists for a 21-minute episode — as much as we could reasonably expect a viewer to handle. It was certainly as much as we could handle. ”Stand” also contains a personal favorite: Gob hugs Michael and says, ”If you feel something moving down there, it’s just the bird,” referring to his concealed magician’s dove. Unfortunately, at that moment the dove walks across the counter behind them.
2 ”The Ocean Walker” (Season 3) The Rita Leeds arc was our most ambitious effort. This was the culmination of five episodes of misleads where Michael thought one thing (he’d met a preschool teacher, played by Charlize Theron, who was the perfect woman), the audience thought another (Rita was a spy), and the truth was something else (Rita was mentally challenged and attended the preschool — which is why she said of the kids, ”I like to think they teach me”). Every line required three meanings, and Charlize played them all brilliantly, while keeping the character dignified — even while jumping on a bed, excited about ”lie-down kisses.”
3 ”Good Grief” (Season 2) George Michael discovers his granddad alive in a spider hole right before what was supposed to be his wake. This episode is most notable for its melancholy homage to the Peanuts characters (the chin-on-the-chest walk of dejection, etc.). The Schulz estate was a great sport about this, particularly since we’d previously referred to the Bluth family private parts as ”the Linus,” ”the Lucy,” and of course ”the Charlie Browns.”
4 ”Motherboy XXX” (Season 2) A misguided use of Roman numerals heralds the 30th installment of a mother-son dance in which Lucille and Buster had always competed. This time, Lucille digs her talons into George Michael, and Buster regains his dignity by helping Michael rescue him. Plus, Henry Winkler (as the Bluths’ sexually omnivorous attorney) comments on our Burger King product-placement deal by jumping a shark for the second time in his career.