Last week at an outdoor L.A. mall called The Grove, I saw people of all ages stand in a line over 200 yards for a frozen banana and a photo op for a show that was unceremoniously canceled 7 years ago with its final four episodes being dumped in one night opposite the Olympics. Never underestimate overwhelming cult appreciation in the digital age!
Sadly, I was one of those fools supporting our country when I could have been watching one of the funniest shows in the history of funniest shows: Arrested Development. But since then, I have seen the entire series four times, and gain new insights and jokes with each viewing. It’s like The Wire for comedy.
Amongst the myriad of elements that make the show hysterical one that I would like to highlight is their ability to cast incredible and sometimes-ironic guest stars and cameos. So because Arrested Development is back May 26th on Netflix, here is my Top Ten Countdown of the Best Guest Stars/Cameos/Please bring them back wish list!
A couple of ground rules: First, they have to be at least nominally famous. So no Kitty (Judy Greer), sorry, hopefully it’s not the last time you see these. Second, there is a single-digit episode cap to be considered for the list. So no rest stops for the weary Barry Zuckerkorn (Henry Winkler, 15 episodes) and no bids for Lucille Austero (Liza Minelli, 10 episodes). Third, if they weren’t famous when the shows aired but have elevated themselves to nominal status then they qualify, à la Moses Taylor (Rob Corddry) a.k.a Manhunter has now done enough as has Country Club Waiter and Lucille punching bag Jack McBrayer (30 Rock).
And now the list:
10. James Lipton as Warden Stefan Gentles – David Cross (Tobias Fünke), in his 1999 ‘The Pride is Back’ stand-up special spent a good five minutes railing on the ‘Inside the Actor’s Studio’ host calling him ‘the most pompous, arrogant, failure in history’ amongst other things. Maybe casting Lipton is just Tobias hoping the two can make out, I mean come out, I mean make up and out. Forget it.
9. Martin Mull as Gene Parmesan, Private Detective – Lucille (Jessica Walter) was inimical to the success of this cameo by totally selling him with her shrill and unexpectedly and childishly surprising ‘AAAAAHHHHHH GENE!!!!’ whenever he’d pop up.
8. Justine Bateman as Nellie – Like Martin Mull, she was only in one episode (titled ‘Family Ties,’ ironically enough). Michael (Jason Bateman) meets her thinking that she is his long-lost sister when in fact she turns illusions, er, tricks for money. But no @&[email protected]#&$ing, #$%blasting, or f#%ting, and no $#@%ing unless you’re wearing a &%#&$*. Her rules.
7. Martin Short (and Dragon) as Uncle Jack – He’s not really their uncle, but the rich lecherous nonagenarian paraplegic and former radio star Nazi hunter Bullet and his giant half-deaf nurse Dragon who carries Uncle Jack everywhere was an old business partner of George Sr. (Jeffrey Tambor) who Michael needs money from. When I asked my friend Bryan on who should be on the list, he texted a simple ‘Shoot Me!’ Sold.
6. Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Maggie Lizer – The blind but not actually blind baseball bat-wielding lawyer was initially a love interest for Michael, then he found out she was blind, then he found out she was going to be prosecuting her Father, which was less of a surprise than when he found out her seeing eye dog was blind. Michael eventually figured it out.
5. Super Dave Osbourne (Bob Einstein) as Larry The Surrogate – When George Sr. is put under house arrest he hires Larry, who is fully equipped with a camera on his head and a hat that says ‘Surrogate’ so that George may keep up with matters. Like Ron Burgundy, Larry says EVERYTHING, be it inappropriate, non sequitur or criminally incriminating.
4. Scott Baio as Bob Loblaw – This one fits into the wish list category, hoping that Bob Loblaw’s law blog blots my lobtop once again. I’m a sucker for clever play on words and usually take them about a step further than they should go. ‘You don’t need double talk, you need Bob Loblaw.’
3. Charlize Theron as Rita – I could create a separate top ten for Michael’s social miscues like his inability to spot the aforementioned fake blind Maggie Lizer and a mistaken maid kidnapping. But when he falls bum over melon for MRF Rita the audience has been led to believe that Rita is part of a British syndicate out to get his Father. Michael thinks her quirky childish ways are part of her British charm. Later on we find out that MRF means ‘mentally retarded female,’ and because Michael is a p***y (the nice British meaning, but we censor it anyway) he does the honorable thing.
2. Carl Weathers as Himself – Though he may be the worst acting coach in history, Carl Weathers gives us indispensible advice on how to properly take advantage of craft services and how little meat and bone you actually need to get your stew going baby.
1. Franklin Delano Bluth aka Frank the Pimp aka Mr. F as Himself – Come on! That’s right people, don’t Judge Reinhold me. Although some perhaps thought that whitey or African American-y wasn’t ready for Gob’s puppet alter ego, they forget that it’s not easy being brown, either.
Honorable mentions go to Gob’s nameless wife (Amy Poehler), Thomas Jane who just wanted his kids back, Tony ‘don’t say’ Wonder (Ben Stiller), and the alopecia-stricken Stan Sitwell (Ed Begley, Jr.).
If you haven’t watched Arrested Development yet, first I am impressed you made it through this in-joke inundation and second you are obviously missing out. No worries, the entire series is available on Netflix streaming, and for those who have been properly christened into the Bluth family I hope you enjoy the new season on May 26th!