Neither David Cross's nor Jeffrey Tambor's characters were ever intended to be regular characters. It was not until the actors tested so well that the writers ended up putting them regularly in the series.
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 thirty pounds and underwent extensive special effects makeup regimens to make her look rougher and less advantaged.
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. (2004), which David Cross actually auditioned for in real life.
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.
In "Arrested Development: Let 'Em Eat Cake (2004)," 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."
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.
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 years old, 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 2014) with one physical location in Boston and a nationwide online/mail order component.
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 do not 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.
Jason Bateman's sister, Justine Bateman, guest-starred on one episode in the third season, titled Family Ties (1982), a reference to Justine's popular 1980s sitcom, as well as to her relation to Arrested Development (2003) star Jason Bateman. Jason Bateman had long lobbied producer Mitchell Hurwitz to cast Justine Bateman in a guest role on the show, but Jason Bateman had originally wanted her to come on to play his character's love interest.
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, nearly all the domains have expired; the ones that still work will forward users to the FOX website instead.
In Season 3, the Bluths' new lawyer, Bob Loblaw (played by Scott Baio), is brought in to replace their usual lawyer, Barry Zuckercorn (played by Henry Winkler). Loblaw proudly states this is not the first time he has been called on to replace Zuckercorn, a nod to the TV series Happy Days (1974-1984), where Baio was added to the cast in the role of Chachi to supplement Winkler's teen idol status as Fonzie. Winkler was getting older at the time, and the producers of Happy Days (1974-1984) wanted a younger cool character on the show. The narrator, Ron Howard, also starred in Happy Days (1974-1984) alongside Winkler and Baio.
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.
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-U.S. cultural reference is accurate. Even the narrator states that Britain has three Houses of Parliament as a "fact," which would be news to the House of Commons and House of Lords.
Season 4 was not shot chronologically. The actors were not 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 (voiced by Ron Howard) explains that she is Ron Howard's illegitimate daughter, and like Howard's (real-life, actual) children, Bryce Dallas Howard, 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 Howard.
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 (1968). Heston was the President of the National Rifle Association for a number of years and remained an advocate of the group until his death.
In the Season 3 episode "Prison Break-In," there are several references to the show Prison Break (2005), including a scene where Gob draws a scaffold of the prison on his body, which is a reference to Michael Scofield's tattoos.
The cast was going to do a movie to follow up the story after FOX canceled the season. However, it was delayed several times. Eventually, the producers and actors noted that the gap between the show and the movie was so long that catching the audience up on the main character's antics between Season 3 and the movie would eat up a significant amount of the proposed movie's run time. Thus they opted to film a fourth season to fulfill this purpose.
A recurring joke has various characters named for adverbs. For example, the regular character played by Alia Shawkat is named "Maeby," her phony alter-ego is named "Shirley," and George-Michael's ethics teacher (played by Heather Graham) is named Miss "Baerly."
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 (1995), which Quincy Jones produces. Mo Collins also later played a recurring character on the TV show Parks and Recreation (2009-2015), which starred Quincy Jones's daughter Rashida Jones as Ann Perkins.
During the season finale of the third season, a party is being held on the RMS Queen Mary. Lucille later tries to use the ship to escape from the SEC. In reality, the ship was converted into a hotel during the late 60's, in which all the machinery and three of the four propellers were removed. The city of Long Beach (where the liner is located) now considers it a building. It is also mentioned by one of the characters that the ship was welded to the pier so it can't move.
The alias George-Michael uses for his FaceBlock start-up, "George Maharis," is also the name of a celebrity actor/singer who appeared on The Judy Garland Show (1963-1964). Judy Garland was Liza Minnelli's (Lucille 2) mother.
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.
Several jokes on the show involve the characters repeating a phrase and giving it a different meaning the second time. In "The One Where Michael Leaves," Michael has a line at the beginning, "I don't know why you're not taking this I'm out of here seriously, but I am out of here, seriously." There is another similar style of gag where the narrator will quote a character saying something while the character is saying that line. In the "On the Next Episode" portion of "Motherboy XXX," Gob is explaining to the judge that "...we [he and his wife] never consummated our marriage," as the narrator discusses Gob telling the judge that "...he never consummated their marriage."
The events of season four culminate with a number of incidents at the Cinco de Quatro celebration, which takes place the day before Cinco de Mayo. Cinco de Mayo means "5th of May", however Cinco de Quatro translates to "5th of 4th" - instead of replacing the word for 5th, they replaced the word for May.
The Bluth's lawyer, Bob Loblaw, may have been borrowed from a stage musical from 1981, by Winnipeg (Canada) musician Peter Jordan. The production was called Enoch Horne and the character's name was always pronounced as "Baw Blah Blah."
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
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 reads "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 the fake model home, the "P" falls off, so it now reads "Resident."
The mysterious cooler containing incriminating evidence against George Bluth, Sr. featured in the episode "Arrested Development: Missing Kitty (2004)" (among other episodes) has the name "H. Maddas" written across the side. "H. Maddas" written backwards is "Saddam H."
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 Exodus (1960) and the TV shows Route 66 (1960) and The Most Deadly Game (1970)) 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 4 character, the high school student whom Maeby dates.
In the episode where Buster loses his hand, Henry Winkler is seen jumping over the shark that bit the seal that bit Buster's hand off. This is a joke from the show Happy Days (1974-1984), when Winkler's character, Fonzie, jumps the shark pool.
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 Shakespeare's "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."