How the Enron scandal was responsible for the best TV show of all time (My love letter to Arrested Development)

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by Howie Decker @HowardTheDeck

in Television

Summer 2002- Ron Howard (actor, director, producer extraordinaire) had an idea for an original scripted comedy that felt somewhat like a reality show but followed an intricate comical script. He got together with a handful of television executives and vice president types, and together they met with a few writers.

He proposed a story about a dysfunctional family who had lost it all due to a similar set of circumstances.

One of the writers, Mitchell Hurwitz, was inspired by the corporate accounting scandals that were dominating the evening news, Enron being the most prominent. He proposed a story about a dysfunctional family who had lost it all due to a similar set of circumstances. Howard and the execs were sold, and Hurwitz was hired to write what would become the greatest television show ever made. In 2003, the world was treated to Arrested Development.

To quote Ron Howard’s voiceover during the show’s lightning fast opening credits: “Now the story of a wealthy family who lost everything, and the one son who had no choice but to keep them all together. It’s Arrested Development.” The one son Howard refers to is Michael Bluth, played by Jason Bateman, in the role that elevated him from child star to legitimate male lead actor.

I consider any upcoming feature film he stars in as “must see”

Since Bateman’s turn on Arrested Development, I consider any upcoming feature film he stars in as “must see”, as he has consistently stolen his majority of scenes in the last 4 years. Hancock, Couples Retreat, Juno, Extract, The Switch, to name a few. Horrible Bosses will be no different. One of the Upper Deck’s initial endeavours (my first blog that has gave birth to the idea for this site) has been the Sitcom Character Fantasy Draft. The depth of rich characters on Arrested Development made it impossible to choose just one that stood out over the others as the most valuable player. GOB Bluth (Will Arnett) was the first Bluth selected in our draft, for those curious.

Hurwitz was a genius in that he would use the first half of the show to set up jokes that reveal themselves in the second half, making them even funnier; a tactic he most likely honed as a writer for The Golden Girls and The Ellen Show. What separated AD from most other 30 minute continuous format comedies was the interconnected web of jokes based on past occurrences that casual viewers may or may not have caught the first time around. Hurwitz wasn’t just setting up second half jokes in the first half of episodes, he was setting up season 3 jokes in season 1. I had the pleasure of introducing the Bluth family to my wife via season 1-3 DVD box set, and the entire run of the show was funnier the second time around for me.

My wife and I had but one rule when we sat down to watch an episode of AD on DVD. No texting, no checking email, no leaving the room even for a second.

No snack or text was worth the risk.

Engaging in any of these acts was a guaranteed missed joke or hilarious flashback photo, compounded by missing out on background information or a pop culture reference that was building toward a future payoff. An inexcusable mistake. No snack or text was worth the risk.

Even the most seasoned viewer took a few episodes to realize that the weekly “Next time, on Arrested Development…” teaser trailer at the end of each show had nothing whatsoever to do with the following episode. To fully appreciate AD’s genius, the entire series must be watched in chronological order, and over a relatively short period of time. Tuning in to just one of the reruns (currently airing regularly on IFC) as a newcomer does not lend itself to a proper enjoyment of the show. It was for this reason, not Fox’s lack of marketing or an undesirable time slot, that Arrested Development was ultimately cancelled. In its 3 year run, AD won 6 Emmys, one Golden Globe, and almost unanimous critical praise. The problem was that the show became one huge inside joke, without enough people in on the ground floor.


Over the past few years, various entertainment news outlets have reported rumors of an Arrested Development movie in the works. There is even an IMDB site dedicated to such a film, but I consider it no more than speculation until a shooting schedule is released. Needless to say, I’d be elated to see this come to fruition. I know FOX could never bring the show back from the grave like it did Family Guy, but surely some responsible network executive has at some point uttered the phrase “I’ve made a huge mistake.”


{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

philipchiappini June 24, 2011 at 6:04 pm

This almost made me cry. I love Arrested Development. It is easily the best sitcom I have ever watched. Sometimes I wish I could watch it again, for the first time.

I too, have become a Jason Bateman fan for life because of this show. I make it a point to see everything he is in.


HowardtheDeck June 24, 2011 at 9:36 pm

Thanks! Me too about Bateman, looking forward to The Changeup and Horrible Bosses. Thanks for reading!


oscar June 24, 2011 at 6:26 pm

Great article and I agree with your points. But I have one thing I like to say. How could you? Asking people todare you chose their favorite character … how dare you sir.


HowardtheDeck June 24, 2011 at 9:35 pm

It’s like choosing between your children! Thanks for reading!


Michelle June 24, 2011 at 8:36 pm

My favorite was hands down…Buster…..if I had to choose, that is.
Otherwise it’s impossible. Every single character was fantastic, even the guest characters that lasted only one episode. Now whenever I see the actors on other shows, I forever remember them as their characters from AD and can never unsee it. For example, Mae Whitman will forever be “Ann” and therefore watching Parenthood is very difficult…..

Long live AD – the best tv show ever created!


HowardtheDeck June 24, 2011 at 8:51 pm

Agree 100%. Bob Loblaw was one of my favorites, with his Bob Loblaw’s Law Blog. Charlize Theron was great, Julia Louise Dreyfus, Ben Stiller as Tony Wonder, too many to name!!


HowardtheDeck June 25, 2011 at 4:26 pm

Ahh Ann. Her?


bluthquotes June 24, 2011 at 9:23 pm

I wanted to leave you with this before I RT’d your link but I wasn’t near a real computer:

Some interesting parallels. There’s always money in the cookie store.


HowardtheDeck June 24, 2011 at 9:34 pm

That is amazing! Thank you. Clearly the inspiration for the Frozen Banana Stand on the pier. I can’t thank you enough for the RT. I’ve had more blog traffic today than all of June combined. Just started blogging about 2 or 3 weeks ago. I truly appreciate it, thank you.


Steve Askins June 25, 2011 at 3:26 am

I agree with a previous comment: I wish I could watch it again for the first time. This show was perfection itself. It is perfection. I find it gut wrenching to hear “America’s number one sitcom: Two And A Half Men…” coming from my television, knowing that shows as great as AD got the axe. There will never be another Bluth family. Well done sir.

Favorite quotes:
“Heeeyyy brother.”
“I don’t care for Gob…”
“(Anything about a $3000 suit followed by a shouted) COME ON!!!”

I shouldn’t have even started down that path…..I’d be up all night.

Every word was golden.


HowardtheDeck June 25, 2011 at 8:05 am

All great quotes! The banner that said “Family Love Michael” was one of my favorites. And the video of George Michael’s broomstick lightsaber moment in the garage. Thanks for reading!


beezdog June 25, 2011 at 3:53 am

Great stuff, definitely my favourite ever programme.

Next poll should be which series (season) is best. FWIW I would say 2.


HowardtheDeck June 25, 2011 at 8:02 am

Great idea for a poll. Stay tuned! Thanks for reading.


WashingTina June 28, 2011 at 9:04 am

This made me smile. So hard to pick a favorite character, though I think it might be Buster. “Heeeeey Uncle Father Oscar…”


HowardtheDeck June 28, 2011 at 10:41 am

Buster is the key character in my favorite scene in the entire run of the show. It’s a flashback that Michael is having, and he recalls a young Buster, who is angry at their maid, throwing what he thought was Rosa’s favorite toy at what he thought was her car (cut to a young Buster throwing a dust-buster at the side of a city bus). I had to rewind that scene a handful of times to make sure I got it all, and Ron Howard’s voiceover is what makes it so good.


Jeff June 28, 2011 at 3:44 pm

Great blog…
I came across Arrested Development by accident on Hulu and was instantly hooked. All the characters are great and made me laugh hard, but Tobias’ more so. I seriously had to be careful not to eat during this show.
Once I get the DVDs I will watch from beginning to end and refresh my memory of this show’s comical genius.
Again, hands down the BEST series ever made, looking at the shows from the pilot to final episode.


HowardtheDeck June 28, 2011 at 3:49 pm

Thanks Jeff. You make a great point, that it was a great series from pilot to finale. A lot of shows change and evolve to chase ratings but this one stayed true to itself and its fans the whole way. I miss it. Thanks for reading, I look forward to checking out your blog as well.


Lauren June 30, 2011 at 10:33 am

BEST JOKE IN TELEVISION HISTORY! Michael: Gob, get the Seaward out of here. Lucille: I’ll leave when I’m good and ready.

Thank you for giving me a reason to laugh out loud at work 🙂


HowardtheDeck June 30, 2011 at 11:00 am

The way they played on words was amazing. When Buster’s hand was bitten off by a “Loose seal”. So good!


Corey Chapman (@chapmanrunner) September 13, 2012 at 2:13 pm

I may be very late to the party, but am glad I finally listened to your advice and watched the show.

You make a great point in the blog about watching it in a short period of time. When they did a call back to a previous joke, I laughed harder than if I had to remember something from a year or so before.

Brilliant stuff.

Cant wait for Season 4 and the movie.


Howie Decker September 14, 2012 at 10:10 am

Nice! Hey, thanks for coming back after all this time and commenting on this one. Can I take this to signify that you are done watching all 3 seasons?


Fogs October 9, 2012 at 4:59 pm

Not surprised to see Gob kicking ass in the poll, at all.



Nice post Howie, cant wait for it to come back!!!!


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