“Have we really never done an Arrested Development Power Poll?” asked Andrew Kracklepopski last week in a Slack channel.
Incredibly, in spite of our many dives into TV shows for Power Poll goodness, we had never actually done one honoring one of the finest television shows of our lifetime. (Back in 2013, Land Grant Holy Land did a Big Ten rundown comparing teams to AD characters, and it’s still a great read.) Sure, the show debuted eighteen (!!!!!!) years ago, but when has being behind the zeitgeist ever stopped any of us? I certainly am not one to let a little thing like “cultural relevance” get in my way.
And so, without further ado, I present to you a Bluthified Big Ten. Am I making a huge mistake? Read on and find out.
(Thanks as always to WhiteSpeedReciever for the graphs!)
1. Ohio State - Bluth Frozen Banana Stand
First Place Votes: 15 High: 1 Low: 5 Change from Last Week: +0
One of the most famous lines in the entire series is George Bluth’s cryptic insistence in the second episode that “There’s always money in the banana stand. *wink*” Michael, the straight-shooting (well, comparatively) son, fails to realize that his father is not referring to the potential windfall created by hungry beachgoers’ cravings for Bluth Frozen Bananas, but instead very literally alluding to the $250,000 in cash lining the walls of said stand. Unfortunately for the Bluths, George does not share this critical distinction with Michael until the latter has burned down the stand in a blaze of defiance against his father.
Like the ill-fated frozen banana stand, Ohio State is the most reliable moneymaker in the Big Ten. Additionally, if you broke it open, there’s a decent chance you’d find evidence of shady financial dealings, just like the festively fruit-shaped stand in the show.
But perhaps the greatest parallel is in the feelings of resentment that that tauntingly large banana provokes in Michael. Like Michael, we’ve all had the urge to burn OSU to the ground, to stand there and bask in the warmth from the flames of a 1-11 Buckeye team. We’ve had tastes of how good it would feel thanks to Purdue. But at the end of the day, any destruction has proven to be temporary, and OSU keeps on rolling as the most profitable part of the
Bluth empire Big Ten.
2. Penn State - Stair Car
FPV: 1 High: 1 Low: 8 LW: +3
The opening sequence of each episode describes the Bluth family as “a wealthy family who lost everything and the one son who had no choice but to keep them all together.” Emblematic of the family’s fall from grace is that their private transportation options have dwindled from a private jet and several cars; to only the stair car that once gave access to said private jet. The stair car is used in place of a normal vehicle throughout much of the series, facilitating visual gags, a few attempted prison escapes, and the immortal advice to “watch out for hop-ons.”
Still, for all of its absurdity and propensity for becoming a punchline, the stair car gets the job done. From Spanish-language television awards shows to prison visits and a trip to Mexico, the stair car schleps the Bluths from Point A to Point B with reliability and… well, not style, exactly, and probably not with very good gas mileage. But it gets them where they need to go.
Likewise, we’ve all enjoyed having a good laugh at James Franklin and his sometimes absurd antics. Last year’s five-game skid to start the season delivered laughs across the conference, and threatened to doom Franklin’s career. But eventually, he turned it around, and after a hard-fought win against Wisconsin on Saturday, he’s got people believing in Penn State again. Watch out, Nits - you’re going to get hop-ons to this bandwagon.
3. Iowa - The Aztec Tomb
H: 2 L: 3 LW: +1
Gob (pronounced like the biblical “Job”), the feckless eldest brother of the Bluth clan, has a few problems in the course of the series. For one, his own mother doesn’t even like him, a fact that she openly admits on more than one occasion. Another big problem for Gob is that his “career” as a magician doesn’t seem to go anywhere, the result of him getting on the wrong side of The Magician’s Alliance and finding himself professionally blacklisted from even the childrens’ party circuit.
Gob, ever optimistic, believes that his big break is only one major “illusion” away—and early on, he believes that illusion to be “The Aztec Tomb.” Unfortunately, the tomb proves his undoing - by hiding his father in it to evade the SEC (no, not that one), the local news reveals the workings of the illusion, ending Gob’s professional career. To make matters worse, the Aztec Tomb cost $18,000 that the family could ill-afford. The Aztec Tomb appears in the background of many more episodes, a sad and dusty reminder of Gob’s hopes and dreams, and the Bluth family’s poor money management skills.
Iowa made a surprisingly auspicious debut in Week 1, dismantling a hapless Indiana. It could be that this is the big career maker that Iowa has been searching for — akin to Gob’s promise to make the family yacht disappear (which he does, technically, by blowing it up). With Indiana sunk, Iowa’s yearly demands to be taken seriously might be gaining a little traction this season. If it doesn’t work out though, no worries - like the Bluths, Iowa isn’t afraid of splashing out some serious cash and letting an old illusion like Kirk hang around unobtrusively in the background of the conference.
4. Michigan State - “Hey Brother!”
H: 4 L: 7 LW: +6 (wow!)
Brotherly relationships are something that get a lot of play in the Arrested Development world, given the massively dysfunctional dynamic between Gob, Michael, and Buster Bluth, as well as the elder George Bluth and his identical twin brother, Oscar. All of them are pretty terrible brothers, and we witness multiple competitions for the affections of women, instances of false imprisonment, and professional sabotage.
Buster, the youngest Bluth sibling, is hopelessly attached to his domineering mother (perhaps as the result of his eleven months in the womb, muses a thoughtful George at one point) and his coddling has given him the personality and self-sufficiency of a friendly kindergartener. His go-to greeting for Michael and Gob is a cheerful “Hey Brother!” which is typically met with scorn. Even after Lucille enrolls him in “Army” to spite Michael Moore, Buster’s essential personality remains unchanged.
Michigan State has never been described as cheerful or friendly, and for large periods, they’ve not really been seen as self-sufficient—a role that has cast them as “Little Brother” within the state of Michigan. However, with Michigan facing an uncertain future with Jim Harbaugh, and the Spartans showing signs of turning a corner under Mel Tucker, it seems as though the half days with Army (or Tucker’s coaching staff) might be creating an all-new Little Brother, one who is not so ready to be pushed around. (NSFW link)
5. Michigan - Fire Sale
H: 2 L: 10 LW: +3
In episode 2, we are introduced to Tobias’ acting aspirations, which far outmatch his actual ability. After leaving his career as a therapist to focus on the theatre, he finds his first opportunity for a big break in an audition for a local boutique’s fire sale.
He does not, to put it mildly, understand the assignment. The entirety of his absurd and overwrought audition is well worth a watch, as words don’t really do it justice. All I can say is that it’s probably the most moving rendition of “Amazing Grace” that you’ve ever heard.
While Michigan’s decisive Week One win has kept them out of fire sale territory for now, the leash on Coach Jim Harbaugh is decidedly short. What once seemed a perfect match of talent, interest, and team has proven somewhat off the hoped-for mark in recent years. One thing is for sure though — whether Harbaugh nails this year’s audition for his job, or fails it, the drama coming out of Ann Arbor is going to be significant.
6. Wisconsin - “It’s an illusion, Michael.”
H: 4 L: 14 Last Place Votes: 1 LW: -3
In a series so rich with gags, wordplay, and memorable moments, it was a difficult choice to award Wisconsin a single quote. However, it is an iconic one, and one which may perfectly describe Wisconsin, if last weekend is to be believed.
As previously discussed, Gob Bluth is a “professional” magician, who takes his work very seriously. One mark of this is his vigilant correction of any of his dismissive family members who refer to his “tricks.” Gob is quick to correct them: “It’s an illusion, Michael. A trick is something a whore does for money.” Gob is technically correct, but his amendments go largely unheeded and he is forced to issue this reminder several times throughout the series.
After last weekend’s rock fight— sorry, defensive masterclass, a rock fight is something cavemen do for entertainment— Wisconsin fans may be starting to feel a little bit concerned. Is Paul Chryst a coaching genius? Or is he someone whose conservative playcalling and nothingburger press conference answers are going to threaten the illusion of Wisconsin’s dominance in the West?
7. Maryland - The Ocean Walker
H: 4 L: 9 LW: +5
By season 3, the widower Michael has found love again - with a beautiful young woman with a posh English accent hailing from the small English enclave of “Wee Britain.” The woman’s name is Rita, and she’s played by Charlize Theron, so who can blame Michael for quickly locking this down and moving on to matrimony, even against his parents’ wishes? The rest of the family likes her—Rita even helps Maeby with her screenplay, suggesting that Maeby unite her trans-Pacific lovers by having them walk to meet each other. Maeby agrees, thinking that perhaps such an absurdity will pass for a deep and metaphorical artistic statement in Hollywood.
Anyway, there’s one fly in the ointment - all is not as it seems with Rita. Beautiful, bubbly, and rocking that posh accent, she charms Michael so thoroughly that he doesn’t recognize that her delightful naivete is actually a developmental disorder, and that she is mentally closer to a first-grader than a 28-year-old woman. As the realization dawns, courtesy of his son’s sleuthing and some incriminating footage of Rita attempting to eat fake fruit, Michael realizes he must call the wedding off—much to the disappointment of Gob, who hoped to use Rita in an illusion after she claimed she could hold her breath for 20 minutes underwater. Rita probably dodged a bullet, honestly.
In this analogy, Maryland is Charlize Theron’s character, which is easily the nicest thing I’ve ever said about Maryland. Every season, the Terps start out by charming us all - picking off a Big XII weakling (frequently Texas) and setting us to wonder if this might be the real thing. It never is though, upon closer inspection. Will this be the season that everything turns out to be real, and the Terps bring some real ocean walking magic to the Big Ten?
8. Minnesota - Star Wars Kid
H: 5 L: 12 LW: -1
Earnest, quiet George Michael frequently looks like a deer caught in the headlights of his insane family. Serious to a fault, he takes his role as “Mr. Manager” of the banana stand extremely seriously, is tortured by feelings for his cousin Maeby, and is terrified of getting in trouble.
But another George Michael lurks below the surface—one that we know of only from a fateful un-erased recording on a VHS tape (Gen Z will never understand.) Once, George Michael apparently harbored aspirations to become a Jedi, and taped himself practicing lightsaber moves that he would (presumably) unleash one day against the world.
In their debut game, the Gophers emerged with an unexpected seriousness of purpose, and gave the mighty Buckeyes more than they could handle. In the end though, the forces of good succumbed to the Death Star from Columbus—not only losing the game, but losing Mo Ibrahim to injury as well. The force, it seemed, was not with George Michael, and apparently, it wasn’t with the Gophers this time either.
9. Purdue - Seasons 4 & 5
H: 6 L: 11 LW: +2
Fans of the show will no doubt notice that all of the references thus far in the list have been from the first three seasons of the show - what I consider canon. You see, Arrested Development had a problem—namely, that it was ahead of its time. Somehow, the original show aired on Fox. If you watch the show, and observe some of the storylines and jokes (Long live “The Seaward”), you’ll probably wonder what on earth it was doing on network TV. In many ways, it’s a miracle it lasted as long as it did there, but it also struggled to find an audience in that staid television landscape. Thus, its three brilliant seasons were mourned by fans, and clamoring for additional seasons only intensified as streaming services broadened audiences and possibilities.
In a classic case of “be careful what you wish for,” Netflix gave us a Season Four in 2013, and it is... not great. Due to scheduling conflicts, the cast could not fully assemble, which resulted in episodes centered around one or two characters. For a show whose brilliance lay in part in its ensemble interactions, this was a considerable problem. It had some funny moments, but the magic was gone. Nick Carraway was right, and Gatsby was wrong - you can’t repeat the past.
I admit this isn’t a perfect analogy for Purdue, but I wanted to grieve about S4&5 somewhere, so this is the place. Like those later seasons, Purdue is also kind of meh at the moment, but boy, the potential was (is?) tantalizing.
10. Rutgers - Boyfights
FPV: 1 (ok) H: 1 L: 11 LW: +3
It doesn’t take long in the series to establish that George and Lucille were sub-optimal in the parenting department, and one example (of hundreds) that the show offers us is the VHS special collection Boyfights. Yet another income stream built of questionable ethics by George Bluth, the titular boyfights were recorded altercations between a young Gob and Michael, intentionally provoked by George. Each VHS also contained a “Baby Buster” special feature, exhibiting some pathetic aspect of his attachment issues.
In spite of the many child welfare red flags that should have been raised by these films, they are apparently a hit, particularly in the Latin American market (Luchas de Muchachos). Sometimes, all you need is a lucrative market to rationalize all kinds of mistakes, right Jim Delany?
But after years of others’ capitalizing on their bumps and bruises, Rutgers, like the Bluth brothers, are finally standing tall on their own. Will this season bring the Scarlet Knights the respect they crave, or will 2021 be another straight-to-VHS disaster in New Jersey?
11. Indiana - Hot Ham Water
H: 5 L: 13 LW: -9 (oh boy)
As you’ve probably gathered by now, most of the Bluths are net drains on society, contributing very little to the world either globally or locally. The ineptitude extends to domestic matters as well. When Michael suggests that his sister Lindsay contribute to the household by attending to a few domestic matters, he is surprised to find that she actually complies with this request. Or, attempts to comply.
Returning to the model home in which many of the Bluths surreptitiously reside, Michael finds Lindsay in a frilly apron, delightedly tending to a pot on the stove. “It’s Hot Ham Water!” she proudly informs him. Buster is brave enough to try this effort, concluding “It’s so watery. And yet, there’s a smack of ham to it!”
Indiana, similarly, seemed poised to turn a surprising new leaf this season, perhaps embarking on a novel course of competence. But it seems we may have over-estimated their new skill set. Their performance against Iowa could be described, at best, as well-intentioned but inept. In fact, it’s hard to tell if there was even a smack of pigskin to it - but whatever it was, it’s safe to say it’s doused the off-season dreams of many a Hoosier fan.
12. Illinois - Dead Dove: Do Not Eat!
H: 2 L: 14 LPV: 3 LW: -6
The history of Gob’s failures as a magician is a long one, and one which sadly includes failures in animal husbandry. In spite of his ineptitude, Gob continues to try to incorporate live doves into his illusions, and it never goes well. In one memorable scene, Michael finds a paper bag in the family’s freezer labeled “Dead Dove - Do Not EAT!” Looking in the bag, he recoils and remarks “I don’t know what I expected.”
Gob claimed that the dove had died in the middle of the act, but the pet store surveillance footage showed that instead, he had placed the dove inside his jacket, and then walked into the door handle of the shop, killing the dove instantly. Still believing himself entitled to a full refund, he put the bird on ice to grant his planned story about a performance death some degree of verisimilitude.
After some signs of life against Nebraska, a few Illinois fans dared to dream that this act might be a new one, that Bert would be the magician able to pull a fully functional Illinois football team out of his hat. Alas, after an ignominious loss to University of Texas - San Antonio (meep meep), at least one Illinois fan is muttering to himself “I don’t know what I expected.”
13. Northwestern - The Never Nudes
H: 10 L: 14 LPV: 4 LW: -4
“Is that exactly what it sounds like?” asks a perplexed Michael upon hearing of Tobias’ unusual affliction. It is, indeed, exactly what it sounds like, and Tobias is one of a small number of people who are actively unable to ever be nude—opting instead to “hide their thunder” with a tiny pair of cutoff jean shorts. In spite of the small number of people affected by Nevernudism, Tobias appears to have come to terms with his disorder, attending a yearly conference for “sufferers,” and bemoaning its lack of inclusion in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, thus keeping it from attaining the recognition and scholarly respect it deserves.
Northwestern, it turns out, also had a lot to hide in the offseason—namely, that they do not appear to be very good this year. Some would say that we should have seen this coming as clearly as one can see jorts under a Speedo, given that Northwestern is historically bad in odd-numbered years. Those people would probably be correct, and all we can say is that we’re sorry, we went through some stuff last year.
Of course, it would be low-hanging fruit (heh) to associate Tobias’ famous Never Nude Pride yell of “There are dozens of us!!!” with the paltry attendance at Northwestern’s home games. But you don’t come to OTE for the subtlety, do you?
14. Nebraska - “I’ve Made a Huge Mistake.”
H: 10 L: 14 LPV: 9 LW: +0
One of the things that made Arrested Development such a brilliant show was how faithful the writers were to its own gags, storylines, and hidden gems. Even now, when I watch the show, I often catch an in-joke or reference that I didn’t notice before. It’s a show that keeps on giving with a richness that is unusual.
Perhaps the most iconic repeated refrain within the AD universe is the lamentation “I’ve made a huge mistake.” Most often uttered by Gob (for obvious reasons), many other characters have reason to repent their actions at various points in the series—the show, after all, is about a dysfunctional family making terrible choices for themselves and those around them.
This may be a little too on-the-nose for the tastes of some, but one cannot help but look at Nebraska’s history in the time since Arrested Development first aired and realize that indeed, there is much to be repented of. A litany of mistakes and solutions that did not solve have found the Huskers in an unprecedentedly dark place for the program. Beating Fordham soundly was certainly the thing that needed to happen last week, but it doesn’t erase the sense that many Huskers have that the program has made, not one, but many huge mistakes.
Tell me what I missed in the comments! Who should have been vodka and a piece of toast? Who should have been “Spring Break, woooo!”? Let me know!
Who is the best Bluth?
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