If there’s one good thing about Arrested Development, it’s everything. But if there are two good things about it, then the second good thing is all the inside jokes. Once you’ve seen the whole series, you can jump back into any episode and catch things that you missed the first or second or third or tenth time around. One of those gifts that keeps on giving is Liza Minelli, who plays Lucille Austero and also turns sixty-seven years old on this very blessed day. One of the most marvelous parts about Liza’s role on the show is that she parodies herself, which is something the show mastered over its three season run, and that I know will continue in the new episodes being released on Netflix in May. So in honor of Liza’s birthday, let’s go through ten celebrities who parody themselves on the always supremely funny Arrested Development.
1. There’s no better place to start with celebrity parodies than with Liza Minelli. She plays Lucille 2, who has a wicked case of vertigo which she refers to as ‘the dizzies’. Mitch Hurwitz wrote the role with Liza in mind, assuming that they could never get her, but since she used to babysit for Ron Howard, the show’s narrator, they were ultimately able to talk her into taking the part. Which is how we came to be able to watch her stumbling around rooms with Buster while he talks about grabbing that brownish area by its points and never letting go. Pure. Genius.
2. Andy Richter. Andy plays himself and the rest of the fictional Richter identical quintuplets — Donnie, Chareth, Rocky and Emmett, whose face is always pixelated, as he hasn’t consented to appear on television. The fact that there are five of them makes reference to the fact that Andy starred on a sitcom called Quintuplets in real life. Also Andy is desperate for roles and will show up to perform at any function ever, like the Save Our Bluths (S.O.B.s) fundraiser, where he pretends to be Emmett.
3. Amy Poehler. At the time, Amy was the real-life wife of Will Arnett, who plays G.O.B., and they got married on the show as well. She was always referred to as ‘Wife of GOB’ on the show, as no one could ever remember her name. The marriage came about as the end result of a series of escalating dares.
4. Carl Weathers. Carl, a former blaxploitation actor in real life, plays an extremely cheap, exaggerated version of himself on the show. He serves as Tobias’ acting coach, but in reality he knows more about how to get a stew going than about how to get Tobias cast. Like Andy Richter, he’ll show up for any job, as long as he gets a free meal out of it.
5. Judge Reinholt is another formerly famous actor who was cast on AD for the sight gag of his name. He stars as an unaccredited judge on Mock Trial with J. Reinhold, a court TV show with zero credibility that the Bluth Family tries to use as a real courtroom.
6. John Beard plays the news anchor who most commonly breaks Bluth Family news. He’s a news anchor in real life as well, and appears sixteen times throughout the three seasons, usually signing off with some version of ‘what that means for your weekend’. He currently anchors in Buffalo, New York.
7. James Lipton plays Stefan Gentles, a warden with an ego and a passion for screenwriting, parodying his work on Inside The Actor’s Studio. He’s enthusiastic about acting and encourages Tobias to shadow one of the inmates to research a role.
8. Thomas Jane also plays a fictionalized version of himself, with his own name. He’s a method actor living as a homeless man to research a role, who the show pokes fun at by not having any of the characters recognize him, even though he’s well known in real life.
9. Henry Winkler and Scott Baio. Henry Winkler plays Barry Zuckercorn, the lawyer for the Bluth Family who parodies his time on Happy Days by jumping over a literal shark during one episode. Later in the series, he is replaced as the family’s lawyer by Scott Baio’s character Bob Loblaw, who ‘skews younger’, a reference to his placement on Happy Days to bring in younger viewers.
10. Ron Howard. After narrating the whole series, Ron Howard finally appears in person as himself at the end to tell Maeby Funke that the story she’s pitching to him might be better as a movie. And thus we go full circle, as Ron Howard parodies himself to set us up for this movie that I still dream may actually happen one day.