Neither David Cross's nor Jeffrey Tambor's characters were ever intended to be regular characters. It wasn't until the actors tested so well that the writers ended up putting them regularly in the series.
The show is shot as a documentary, so character's swearing is bleeped out. However, the producers must find ways to obscure the mouths of the characters who are swearing so that their mouths don't have to be blurred out. This is often accomplished by cutting to a shot of another character reacting to the swearing, or by blocking the mouths with objects. Sometimes the characters resort to just covering their mouths with their hands.
Martin Short's character Uncle Jack is based loosely on real-life 90-year-old fitness guru Jack LaLanne. Speech mannerisms, style of dress, and even the dyed jet-black hair are all trademarks of LaLanne, who, unlike Short's character, was extremely mobile and agile at the time the episode aired.
In the second season, the Bluth Company housing order is cut back from 22 to 18. This is a reference to FOX cutting back the order of episodes of the second season from the usual 22 to 18.In the third season, FOX cut the third season's episode order from 22 episodes to 13 episodes.
Most of the websites mentioned throughout the series (such as www.imoscar.com, www.never-nude.com and www.barrygood.biz) did exist and could be accessed by the public while the show was on the air. Since then nearlly all the domains have expired; the ones that still work will forward you to the Fox website instead.
Recurring character Starla had always claimed she had a relationship with Quincy Jones. The actress who played Starla, Mo Collins, is a former cast member on the Fox sketch show MADtv which Quincy Jones produces.
In the Season 1 finale "Let Em Eat Cake", Alessandra Torresani played George Michael's girlfriend Ann, and her brief performance was singled out for praise by the rest of the cast on the DVD commentary for the episode. By Season 2, however, Ann was played by the very different-looking Mae Whitman. This casting change is possibly a joke, since Michael repeatedly forgets what Ann looks like, and Maeby jealously calls her "No Face".
Both Tony Hale (Buster) and Will Arnett (GOB) have appeared in episodes of two HBO series: Sex and the City and the Sopranos. Hale appeared in "The Real Me" from Sex and the City and "Second Opinion" from the Sopranos. Arnett appeared in "La Douleur Exquise!" from Sex and the City and "For All Debts Public and Private" and "No Show" from the Sopranos.
When a photo is shown of Rita (Charlize Theron) from before her plastic surgery, it is actually a film still from _Monster_(2003)_, for which Theron famously gained 30 pounds and underwent extensive special effects makeup regimens to make her look rougher and less advantaged.
The branch insignia disc on Buster's Army dress uniform indicated he was part of the Air Defense Artillery branch, meaning his specialty was probably as a Patriot Missile Battery operator or an Avenger Air Defense System crewmember.
The name of the gun crazed celebrity, Moses Taylor, is a combination of Charlton Heston's two biggest roles - Moses, and Taylor , the mission commander from Planet of the Apes. Heston was the president of the National Rifle Association for a number of years and remained an advocate of the group until his death.
A recurring joke has various characters named for adverbs. For example, the regular character played by Alia Shawkat is named "Maybe", her phony alter-ego is named "Surely", and George-Michael's ethics teacher (played by Heather Graham) is named Miss Barely.
Two often-mentioned fictional restaurants on the show are "Miss Temple's", which is said to be particularly popular on Friday nights, and "Skip Church's", where characters often go for Sunday brunch. The names of the restaurants describe the activities of their regulars, since Jews who go out to dinner on Friday night instead of attending a synagogue literally "miss temple", and Christians who eat Sunday brunch instead of going to a religious service literally "skip church".
In one episode it shows Tobias getting a license plate made for each role that he auditions for. One of the roles is the title character in House M.D., which David Cross' actually auditioned for in real life.
The real-life inspiration for the Bluth Frozen Banana Stand was a chocolate-chip cookie business that showrunner Mitch Hurwitz and his brother Michael started in 1976, when they were 13 and 15, respectively. With the help of their father, Mark, the boys rented and renovated a former taco stand on Newport Beach, California (the eventual setting for "Arrested Development") and called their business "The Chipyard." In 2013, Hurwitz told interviewer Terry Gross that the cookie business paid for his and his brother's college educations. The business continues to this day (as of 2013) with one physical location in Boston and a nationwide online/mail order component.
The character Barry Zuckerkorn (Henry Winkler), is "replaced" as the family lawyer by Bob Loblaw (Scott Baio) - a parody of how Henry Winkler was replaced by the much younger Scott Baio on Happy Days, one of Ron Howard's previous shows.
A recurring joke within the series relates to the lack of knowledge the characters have of other nations and cultures. Portugal is regularly referred to as being in South America rather than Europe for instance. This is particularly noticeable in the season 3 episodes related to 'Wee Britain'- a take on Little China and similar communities- in which virtually no non-US cultural reference is accurate. Even the narrator states that Britain has 3 Houses of Parliament as a 'fact', which would be news to the House of Commons and House of Lords.
Henry Winkler and Scott Baio, who played Fonzie and Chachi respectively on "Happy Days" recur in "Arrested Development." Not so coincidentally, the show's narrator, Ron Howard, was the star of "Happy Days."
Season 4 wasn't shot chronologically. The actors weren't available through the whole season, so most of their scenes and plots were shot following each other and then edited to fit the new structure creator Mitchell Hurwitz came up with.
When the character "Rebel Alley" (played by Isla Fisher) is introduced, the narrator (played by Ron Howard) explains that she is Ron Howard's illegitimate daughter, and like Howard's (real-life, actual) children Bryce Dallas, Jocelyn Carlyle, Paige Carlyle, and Reed Cross, she got her middle name (Alley) from her place of conception. The additional joke, which the narrator does not explain in the show, is that "Alley" is also the maiden name of Ron Howard's real-life wife Cheryl.
Michael Cera, who is Canadian, had problems with his work visa and was almost unable to complete work on the pilot episode. Cera had to go to Tijuana, Mexico in order to obtain another visa. Michael Angarano was on standby to replace Cera in case he was deported.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
The mysterious cooler containing incriminating evidence against the George Bluth Sr. featured in the episode "1-18 Missing Kitty" (among other episodes) has the name "H. Maddas" written across the side. "H. Maddas" written backwards is "Saddam H."
After Buster discovers that his biological father is not George but George's brother Oscar, he regularly calls Oscar his "uncle-father." This is a reference to Hamlet, Act II, Scene 2: "... my uncle-father and aunt-mother are deceived... I am but mad north-north-west: when the wind is southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw."
Several jokes throughout the series depend on the audience noticing that a single letter or a few letters in a sign or advertisement are blocked or obscured. For instance: before Buster loses his hand, he sits in front of an Army Recruitment poster that says "Army Officer," but Buster blocks enough of those words for the sign to read just "Arm Off." When Carl Weathers and Tobias eat at Burger King to fulfill Weathers' fictional contractual obligation (as well as the show's real product placement deal), whenever a poster advertising the "Angus Burger" sandwich is visible in any scene, the letter "g" in the word "Angus" is partially or completely obscured, leaving a decidedly less appetizing name for the sandwich. Before Michael discovers that Rita is mentally challenged, we see her in front of a "Wee Britain" sign blocking the "it"- in "Britain"--so that the sign reads "Wee Brain". GOB's Segway had the words "President" but as he rode to fake model home, the "P" falls off so it now reads "Resident".
During the fourth season, George Michael Bluth decides to change his name to distance himself from the connection to George Michael, the 1980s pop star who in 1998 was arrested for a "lewd act" in a Beverly Hills public restroom. The name he chooses instead is George Maharis, but "George Maharis" is also the name of a public figure (he had acting roles in the movie Exodus and the TV shows "Route 66" and "The Most Deadly Game") who was arrested for soliciting sex from men in public restrooms. During his second arrest, in 1974, Maharis was charged with "sex perversion" along with a man named "Perfecto Telles." This name was also used for a season four character--the high school student whom Maeby dates.