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Arrested Development

TV review by
Marjorie Kase, Common Sense Media
Arrested Development TV Poster Image
Brilliant, innovative comedy for mature viewers.
Popular with kidsParents recommend

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 16 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 46 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

There's an underlying current about the importance of family, but most of those family members are just as likely to demean or manipulate one another as they are to help or support one another. Selfishness, greed, obliviousness, and shame are some of the main motivators here ... all played for laughs, of course.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Michael is presented as the Bluths' moral center, but even he can be dismissive of or hard on his family members in certain circumstances. Probably the most empathetic, likeable character is his son, George Michael. The other Bluths are by turns greedy, selfish, rude, criminal, oblivious, ignorant, or all of the above. They're not intended to be viewed as role models. Jokes are made at the expense of minority groups.


Some comic pratfalls/slapstick (for instance, one character sports a hook after he loses his hand in a freak accident involving a seal).


Plenty of innuendo, discussion of sexual activity, and subtly explicit jokes. Kissing and groping. Characters shown partially clad in bed (sex implied but not shown). One minor character repeatedly pulls up her shirt to reveal her chest, but it's blurred out.


Casual use of words like "damn," "hell," and "bitch," plus a fair number of bleeped words.


Some intentional references to brands/products (including HBO and Showtime).

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One character is an alcoholic who also takes prescription drugs recreationally. Other characters drink/get drunk occasionally. Some characters smoke -- particularly Lucille.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that despite its comedic brilliance and excellent cast, Arrested Development isn't age appropriate for younger kids. The show features mature issues like lying, stealing, cheating, adultery, implied sex/nudity, drinking, pill-popping, driving under the influence, prison breaks, kissing cousins, embezzling, illegitimate children, and all-around crooked behavior. And there are lots of jokes at the expense of gay men, Christians, people of color, and the disabled. Strong swear words are bleeped, though "damn," "hell," and the like are not; expect plenty of drinking and smoking as well.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bymooseman January 1, 2009

Best comedy to ever grace network television with it's presence

This show is rife sarcasm, irony, wit, and character quarks. There are many references to sex and drugs, most of which will fly over most kids heads. This show... Continue reading
Written byAnonymous June 14, 2015
Kid, 12 years old April 13, 2011


Teen, 16 years old Written bycross_breed September 8, 2010
I absolutely love this show! I'm borrowing the first season from my buddy right now. I'm about half way through and I'm positively ad... Continue reading

What's the story?

In ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, when George Bluth (Jeffrey Tambor) is sent to jail for embezzling millions from the family's real estate venture capital firm, levelheaded son Michael (Jason Bateman) takes control of the company and the family. He does his best to placate his perpetually drunk mother, Lucille (Jessica Walter), and his needy siblings: Buster (Tony Hale), Gob (pronounced like "Job" in the bible and played by Will Arnett), and twin sister Lindsay (Portia de Rossi). The rest of the family requires less of his attention but are as equally screwed up. His teenage son, George Michael (Michael Cera), is in love with Lindsay's daughter, Maebe (Alia Shawkat). And Maebe's sexually confused father, Tobias Fünke (David Cross), is a "never nude" who even sports cut-offs in the shower. Guest stars include Henry Winkler as the family's inept attorney and Liza Minelli as Lucille's vertigo-stricken neighbor/arch nemesis Lucille Austero, who has an Oedipal-like affair with Buster.

Is it any good?

This series was rightfully the most critically acclaimed show on television during its original run on Fox, from 2003-2006 (the show was revived for a fourth season by Netflix in 2013 after attracting a large, devoted fan following over the years). The plotlines are incredibly bizarre, unique, and hilarious. The acting is superb, and the direction allows for subtlety that isn't possible in a standard three-camera sitcom.

All of that said, this show is definitely NOT for kids. Much of the humor is so quick and subtle that it's most likely to go over their head, but aside from George Michael, the lack of goodwill in any of the show's characters (as well as all of the mature story elements) makes Arrested Development best reserved for adults and mature teens.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why you think so many sitcoms have adult themes and material. Why do you think it's difficult to find a family-friendly show as creative and funny as Arrested Development is? How does cable play a role in this trend?

  • Are the Bluths intended to be admirable or relatable characters? Does that impact how much you enjoy the show? What about the complicated storylines?

  • Is there a take-away message? How would you characterize it?

  • Why do you think Arrested Development has become such a beloved "cult" hit? What gives a show or movie that kind of appeal?

TV details

Themes & Topics

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