Early Sunday morning, Netflix will release 15 new episodes of the cult, long-canceled sitcom “Arrested Development.” The intricately written tale of the hapless Bluth clan is known for its multi-layered jokes and witty dialogue. I’ll certainly be spending much of the day Sunday binge-watching the new episodes, and in anticipation, I decided to pair up an “Arrested Development” quote from its initial three seasons with a number of prominent figures in South Dakota politics.
(Note that in the humor here I’ve done my best to tease all sides and all individuals equally, and that in many cases the target is not the individual’s actual personality but their public image. I’ve also avoided using some of the saucier lines from the show.)
The below contains some spoilers for the initial run of Arrested Development. But if you haven’t seen that, A) what are you waiting for? and B) you probably won’t get much of the humor.
Mike Rounds: “There’s always money in the banana stand.”
Rounds had some high-profile fundraising difficulties the first three months of the year. This caught people by surprise because they had assumed Rounds’ connections from his time as governor and support from national Republicans would make him a fundraising behemoth — sort of like how family patriarch George Bluth assumed the $250,000 hidden inside the family banana stand would always be there as a backstop. So long, at least, as Rounds’ banana stand doesn’t go up in the flames of a vicious primary battle.
The DSCC: “…and that’s why you always leave a note.”
The Bluth children learned the importance of good communication from their father, who used an employee’s prosthetic arm to create exaggerated consequences for their failure to leave notes. Similarly, the national Democrats suffered a communication breakdown in the past month when they focused so much on keeping Brendan Johnson out of the race that they forgot to leave a “don’t run” note to Rick Weiland or Tom Daschle.
Gordon Howie: “He’s going to be all right.”
When the Bluths suffered various injuries, they frequently got assigned the Doctor Wordsmith, an over-literal physician whose diagnoses were inevitably misinterpreted. After Tobias Funke was hit by a car, the family was told he “looks like he’s dead.” He wasn’t dead — he just looked like it. Similarly, they were told Buster Bluth would “be all right” after a run-in with a loose seal — by which he meant Buster had lost his left hand and would be all right from then on. “All right” is a good way to describe Howie, who ran for governor as a “tea party conservative” and has continually criticized right-of-center politicians like Dennis Daugaard and Mike Rounds as raging liberals.
Tim Johnson: “You can always tell a Milford man.”
The prestigious Milford Academy is a private school where children are taught to be neither seen nor heard. South Dakota’s senior senator is hardly invisible, but even his supporters describe him as a “workhorse, not a show horse” who focused on less prominent aspects of his job like constituent service. Compared to flashier politicians like John Thune, Johnson might very well be a Milford man.
Kristi Noem: “I’ve made a huge mistake.”
The hardest part of all of this was deciding which of South Dakota’s various fallible politicians got “huge mistake,” perhaps the most quotable of all “Arrested Development’s” catchphrases. Eldest son Gob Bluth would often utter this admission of folly and regret after realization set in, and his relatives soon joined in. Noem’s “huge mistake”? You can take your pick, but I’m going with her decision to run for House leadership in her first term, which exposed her to political attacks but didn’t seem to bring any tangible benefits. Noem recognized this alleged “mistake” by passing on a leadership role for her second term.
Rick Weiland: “Her?”
George-Michael Bluth’s girlfriend Ann didn’t have the most dynamic personality, and his father Michael and various family members seemed perpetually surprised by Ann’s existence. “Her?” was a common refrain whenever Ann — or “Bland” or “Egg” — was referred to. That’s similar to the initial reaction when Rick Weiland entered the Senate race after months of speculation about Brendan Johnson and Stephanie Herseth Sandlin.
Leslee Unruh: “No touching!”
Who else for the guards’ refrain at George Bluth’s prison than South Dakota’s most vocal proponent of abstinence-only sexual education?
Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: “Co-ca-co-ca-co!” Or, “a-coodle-doodle-do!” Or, “coo-coo-ca-cha!” Or, “cha-chee-cha-chee-cha!”
The Bluth family frequently accuses Michael Bluth of being chicken — and accompanies the slur with their extremely loose interpretations of what a chicken looks and sounds like. “Has anyone in this family ever SEEN a chicken?” Michael asks. Meanwhile, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin probably had a lot of reasons why she passed on a U.S. Senate run, but lacking the proverbial “fire in the belly” for a tough primary followed by a tougher general election might have been in the list.
Dennis Daugaard: “I was once voted the worst audience participant Cirque du Soleil ever had.”
Attorney Wayne Jarvis is a very serious man, whether he’s defending the Bluths or prosecuting them. (He’s allowed; it’s in the Patriot Act.) Similarly, Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s dry, restrained Scandinavian demeanor is common-enough knowledge even the governor makes jokes about it. (Plus I couldn’t find any suitably funny and appropriate quotes from the many situations where Michael Bluth urges his family members to cut back on their spending to fit with Daugaard’s famous budget cuts.)
Brendan Johnson: “I don’t understand that question and I won’t respond to it.”
Lucille Bluth doesn’t mince words when she doesn’t feel like answering a question. The same goes for U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson, who’s certainly friendlier than the Bluth matriarch but just as taciturn when asked in public about politics. To a large degree he’s constrained by his job, but as a political junkie I’ll quote (bonus!) Gob with a hearty “Come on!”
Daniel Willard: “I’m doing the time of my life!”
Daniel Willard isn’t in prison like George Bluth after he’s accused of securities fraud, embezzlement and light treason, but Willard is in legal difficulties after being fingered for masterminding last year’s political robocalls. But Willard, like George after he starts making friends behind bars, doesn’t seem too perturbed by his brush with the law. He seems confident his actions were constitutionally protected and seems interested in taking his case to higher courts. (If you disagree with Willard here, you can substitute another quote: “I’ve got the worst (bleeping) attorneys.”)
Ryan Casey: “There are dozens of us — dozens!”
That insistent plea was spoken by Tobias Funke about the community of “never-nudes”, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. You can also get senses of that same insistence listening to people like Casey talk about the strength of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party in South Dakota. These liberal activists are vocal, but polling didn’t show a lot of discontent with centrist Democrat Stephanie Herseth Sandlin among South Dakota Dems.
Stace Nelson: “There’s so many poorly chosen words in that sentence.”
Michael Bluth made that comment after one of the many unintentionally homoerotic comments by Tobias Funke (most of whose direct quotes were too risque for me to use on this general-audience blog), who seemed oblivious to how other people responded to his malapropisms. The outspoken Stace Nelson doesn’t have much in common with Tobias, but they do share the lack of filter in their communication style. Nelson doesn’t uncork sexual double-entendres, but his fiery floor speeches sometimes leave fellow Republicans fuming over his strong, blunt language.
Mike Huether: “Steve Holt!”
Sioux Falls’ energetic mayor has a flair for public relations — a flair that sometimes rubs people the wrong way when they perceive (fairly or not) the mayor taking too much credit for things like a new Walmart. Meanwhile, “Arrested Development” jock Steve Holt never missed the chance to celebrate himself by lifting his fists in the air and chanting a vigorous “Steve Holt!”
John Thune: “Well, that was a freebie.”
What else for the Republican senator who geared up for a high-profile reelection battle only to have Democrats decline to nominate even a token opponent. Thune was unopposed in his first reelection bid, and Michael Bluth would certainly appreciate how unexpectedly easy that was.
There’s plenty more good quotes I didn’t use (even discarding the risque stuff). I couldn’t think of any applications for things like “You’re gonna get some hop-ons,” “You don’t fire crazy. You never fire crazy” and “You don’t need double-talk, you need Bob Loblaw.” Fellow “Arrested Development” fans, join in in the comments if you want.