One of the things that really sets Arrested Development apart from just about every show ever made are the characters. Even though I’m not a fan of every character (Rita and Uncle Jack for example), every character in Arrested Development has something different about them that makes them really interesting — there’s no character that’s just “a normal guy” except for arguably Michael. Even some of the most minor characters are great.
After watching every episode at least 5 times each (with some episodes like Afternoon Delight and Let ’em Eat Cake probably over 15 times), I’m pretty sure this is as final as my AD list is going to get.
Lindsay is no longer on my list since I’m including supporting characters this time…the three supporting characters here are a lot more deserving than Lindsay in my mind. On to the list…
11. Lucille Bluth – In a sitcom, having a character that is really unlikable is usually a really bad thing – but here, it works. You can tell that she’s been spoiled for more or less her whole life, she’s racist, is an alcoholic, and insults all of her children constantly. Yet whenever she interacts with her kids or grandkids, it’s usually hilarious.
10. Franklin Delano Bluth – Franklin is the only character on this list to not be an actual living thing. However, he main reason Franklin (who was an exaggerated black stereotype puppet) was so great was because everyone else treated him like a real person — they would talk to him, hit him, and react to him as if it was actually the puppet saying these things and not Gob.
9. Michael Bluth – The only “normal” character on the show. He says exactly what the audience is thinking whenever something ridiculous happens (which is multiple times an episode). Even though he’s not as over-the-top as some other characters, he still has many great lines every episode. Without Michael, the show wouldn’t be anywhere nearly as good as it is. It would be It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. It’s Always Sunny is good, but (thanks in large part to Michael) Arrested Development is miles ahead of it.
8. Larry Mittleman (the Surrogate) – If you ask me, the surrogate is the funniest character on the show. Every single time he said something, it was laugh-out-loud funny. The only reason I’m not ranking him higher is because he was only in a handful of episodes. His complete deadpan delivery for everything no matter how emotional it was supposed to be is hilarious. I have no idea how he kept a straight face whenever he delivered his lines.
7. Barry Zuckerkorn – Of the many incompetent characters on the show, Barry Zuckerkorn probably sucks at his job more than anyone else. Lucille and George Sr. are completely oblivious to this though, and they think that Barry is “very good” at being their lawyer. Much like the Surrogate, Barry usually says something hilarious every single time he is on screen.
6. George Michael Bluth – Keep in mind that this was before Michael Cera was in five movies a year playing the exact same “awkward teen” character he plays here. This was before he got stale. But still, even if you’re fed up with Michael Cera in *insert movie* he’s still really good as George-Michael Bluth (which is by far his best role so far).
5. Buster Bluth – Even wimpier of a character than Michael Cera’s character; I’m not sure there’s ever been something where that has happened before. Buster is the ultimate momma’s boy, but there are signs throughout the series that he’s really starting to get fed up with it.
4. George Bluth, Sr. – The more you watch the show, the more you notice that you’re laughing at almost everything George Senior says. George Sr is the former President of the Bluth Company, but at the same time he is completely corrupt and incompetent; he varies from totally in control and telling his kids their ideas are stupid (which they usually are) to utterly clueless. Jeffrey Tambor plays this part perfectly.
3. Maeby Funke – You really don’t realize how good Alia Shawkat is at playing the rebellious teenage daughter until you start comparing Maeby to rebellious teenage daughters in other sitcoms. Most of the time, they’re one dimensional and 99% of the time they don’t add anything to the show (Haley in Modern Family makes me want to change the channel). Thanks to great writing and great acting, neither of those are a problem here. Maeby probably has more common sense than anyone else in the family and her sarcastic lines that other characters ignore are some of the best in the series. You can tell that she’s basically thinking “WTF?” whenever she’s talking to just about anyone else.
2. Tobias Funke – Whenever you see someone quote AD on the internet (which happens a lot more than non-fans realize), chances are that they’re quoting something Tobias said. He used to be a doctor, but now he wants to be an actor — this leads to a lot of speculation as to whether he’s gay or not. The things he says don’t really help his case for “straight”, either. Now, there have been characters on other sitcoms that some people think are secretly gay (basically just about every other sitcom ever) but what makes Tobias different is how completely oblivious he is to everything around him.
1. GOB – Ask just about any AD fan who their favorite character is, and there’s a 99% chance they’ll say Gob or Tobias. I can’t think of anyone else on the planet playing Gob except for Will Arnett. Gob is the failure of the family and part-time magician; he thinks he’s the best thing out there, but he’s not.The reason I put him over Tobias this time is because it’s thanks to Gob that the chicken dance exists as well as some of the most memorable lines in the series (“Yeah, like the guy in the $4000 suit is going to hold the elevator for the guy who doesn’t make that in 3 months? Come on!”)
Gob & Franklin sing a duet. For some reason, Franklin gets his own microphone.
Tobias wants to connect more with his daughter, so he acts like a cross between Mary Poppins and Mrs. Doubtfire. He expects to fly in off the balcony, but kinda fails. Everything in this scene is perfect — Tobias’ “Ohhhhh” to “We shan’t be telling your mother this shan’t we?” to Maeby’s complete lack of a reaction.
Tobias is upset that a gym teacher is directing the school play and not him. That just makes me want to puke all over your head, sir!