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5 Shows like Arrested Development: I’ve Made a Huge Mistake

Ciara Ruane itcherIt’s hard to pick a good number of shows like ‘Arrested Development’, hence why I quoted Gob’s catchphrase in the title. Quirky, clever scripts in ‘Pushing Daisies’ and ‘Green Wing’ do similar things with verbal pyrotechnics and interesting serialised comedy, as well as having their own unique (and quotable) feel. There’s always money in the Banana stand!
~ Ciara Ruane

Family First (after Breakfast)

TV shows like ‘Arrested Development’ become cult hits, usually with disappointing ratings and devoted fans. They have a unique aesthetic and tone, they’re clever and involving and they don’t talk down to their audience. Here are some series similar to ‘Arrested Development’ to satisfy your taste for clever cult comedy.


Shows Similar to ‘Arrested Development’…

‘Seinfeld’ (Sony, 1989-1998)

A classic sitcom by Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld. The original comedy of errors, with stand up NYC comic Jerry and his neurotic bunch of friends. It allowed a lot of other clever comedies to happen and gave the genre its stars like Julia Louise Dreyfuss and Jason Alexander.

It’s the ultimate in embarrassment and misunderstanding-based humour, with all the characters so tightly wound they can’t help but furiously dig themselves into a hole. You can’t help but understand their position as you wish they would just shut their trap. It’s bookended with stand up routines and features smart, situational comedy writing that helped boost the genre.

Similarity Match: 85%
No doubt an influencing force on ‘Arrested Development’, just as smart although not as much of an emphasis on wordplay and intricate plots.

‘Bob’s Burgers’ (Fox, 2011 – )

This animated cult family cartoon stands out from the Seth McFarlane crowd with it’s wit and off the wall sensibilities. The show follows the exploits of the unfortunately surnamed Belcher family who run a pun-loving burger restaurant. Things can only get feta burger anyone?

The show is a goldmine if, like me, you love a well crafted pun. Bob Belcher’s attempts to keep it all together with his hare brained wife and extremely mischievous children, plus a lovesick teenager who has become an icon for all ex-awkward lovesick teenagers which definitely doesn’t include me. The humours is refreshingly smart and unlike shows I will not name feels no need to rely on offensive and outrageous premises for humour. Alriiiiight!

Similarity Match: 80%
It’s animated and a bit more wacky, but it follows an unusual family and has enough wit to match the Bluths.

‘Pushing Daisies’ (ABC, 2007-2009)

This unjustly cancelled Bryan Fuller project is a comedy-romance-crime procedural following a pie maker who can bring the dead back to life. And his girlfriend is a reanimated corpse he can never ever touch or she dies again. Forever. Are you following this? Well, you should be, ‘cos it’s an offbeat gem of a show.

It’s a visual treat and unapologetically weird in the best way. It also manages to deal with death and murder as a central theme while being the most shiny happy show I’ve ever seen (while also avoiding being in your face and annoying). Take that, gritty crime shows! The dialogue is clever and intricate and the romance is swoony, and it has plenty of murder mystery plots to keep you interested.

Similarity Match: 75%
There’s less of an emphasis on pure comedy but there’s plenty of other stuff going on, including death, love and bees.


If You Like ‘Arrested Development’, You Will Like…

I’m segwaying across the pond for the next few suggestions. As a totally unbiased Brit, I can say Britain is the home of clever comedy series, so take a look at these.

‘Green Wing’ (Channel 4, 2004-2007)

This hospital sitcom is rude, crude and surreal. It’s a comedy drama that couldn’t have less to do with medicine, surgery scenes are usually a backdrop for ludicrous masculine posturing and hospital corridors are for playing ping pong and riding camels. It’s a lot darker and more abrasive but every bit as smart, quotable and funny.

If you want your humour with a bit of spit in it along with a big heart, you should check out ‘Green Wing’. It has an off the wall tone and features a serialised dramatic plot, with characters crossing path and competing with each other in harebrained schemes and pointless one-upmanship. The highlight is Sue White, the completely batty HR manager who brings live African wildlife into her office and lusts after the curly haired surgeon.

It’s darker and dirtier but it’s every bit as well written, albeit in a highly surreal, totally enjoyable way.

‘The Office’ (BBC, 2001-2003)

The UK original office politics mockumentary that launched the careers of Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant and Martin Freeman. Featuring brilliantly observed, supremely irritating characters like Gareth Keenan and the iconic David Brent, it’s uncomfortably familiar viewing for anyone who has worked in an Office.

Again it’s darker, with characters undermining each other to pass the time and struggling with political correctness and monotonous work. It’s deeply clever, capitalising on the mockumentary format, and it spawned one of the few successful US remakes of a UK comedy. It also features a company on the brink of collapse with a inept man trying to keep it altogether, although despite Brent’s insistence, they’re not a family. And no one is in jail or hiding in the attic.

It has a different format and a more down to earth humour but it also makes the most of its writing and is a quotable cult favourite with a silly dance.


And That’s Why You Always Leave a Note

The beauty of TV series like ‘Arrested Development’ is their individual styles, and what makes them special is that they are one of a kind. I’ve chosen a few shows I think are equally smart and well written, with their own personal pizazz and cult appeal.

Do you want to add any smart, funny shows to the list or share your favourite ‘Arrested Development’ quote?

Tell us in the comments.

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