10 times Jessica Walter stole the show on Arrested Development

Let’s pour a stiff vodka martini and toast the late-great actor’s top moments in that story of a wealthy family who lost everything.

by | March 26, 2021 | Comments

Lucille Bluth

(Photo by Gavin Bond/Fox, TM and Copyright © 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved, Courtesy: Everett Collection)

Fans of Arrested Development are reeling from the loss of Jessica Walter, who passed away at 80 on March 24. Her turn on that show, as vindictive, booze-soaked matriarch Lucille Bluth, was a marvel, a master-class in comic timing that showed off the actor’s uncanny ability to fire back cutting lines that dripped with vitriol. Lucille wasn’t just a character. She was a mood. And we can’t count the number of times someone – at work or a party or a family get-together – has dropped one of her delicious zingers to break the ice.

Walter’s storied career dated back to the early ’60s and was wide-ranging, boasting plum roles in everything from the classic Clint Eastwood thriller Play Misty for Me to the animated spy spoof Archer. “Even my ‘leading ladies’ – you know, in air quotes – were characters,” she told ELLE in 2019. “They were not Miss Vanilla Ice Cream. They weren’t holding the horse while John Wayne galloped into the sunset.”

Lucille Bluth, her character that arguably most struck a chord with viewers, was certainly no different. And it’s to Walter’s immense credit that she was able to stand out in one of the best-cast comedies ever – if not downright own certain scenes. Here are a few times where she did just that.

Klimpy’s Burn

Just look at how Walter arches her eyebrows and closes her laminated menu after delivering “I don’t understand the question and I won’t respond to it,” one of the show’s most quotable one-liners. It practically screams: How dare you? Don’t you know who I am? 

The Cost Of One Banana 

Here’s another scene that shows just how out-of-touch Lucille is. “I mean it’s one banana, Michael. What could it cost? Ten dollars?” Lucille asks. When her son Michael (Jason Bateman) calls her out on her ignorance, Walters gives a curt “I don’t have time for this” while dismissively shaking her head in a way that wonderfully emphasizes her character’s entitlement.

Gene Parmesan

One of the show’s best running gags – and there are a bunch – is Lucille’s private detective Gene Parmesan (Martin Mull) surprising his employer by showing up in shoddy costumes. Walter’s squealing in body-shaking, unadulterated glee at these reveals are absolutely delightful – and account for some of the few moments when Lucille’s pleasure doesn’t come at someone else’s expense.

Air quotes

Walter displays some ace physical-comedy chops here, air-quoting twice, vodka martini in hand spilling on the floor each time, totally incensed and unfazed.

“Take it back!”

Lucille interacting with servers – or anyone with a job, really – is always comic gold. But we’re partial to how Walter indignantly lashes out at one with this shrilly-delivered doozy: “If I wanted something your thumb touched, I’d eat the inside of your ear!”

The Wink

Another running gag – there’s an excellent arc where Lucille mistakes a side-effect warning on her prescription as an invitation to get sloshed – sees Walter’s character doubling down on her attempt to be charming with Michael and coming off as absolutely ridiculous.

Dismissing Arizona

“Well I’d rather be dead in California than alive in Arizona,” Lucille shoots back at Michael upon hearing the news he’s moving to the Grand Canyon State. Marvel at the way Walter nods her head with conviction, eyes wide open.

Her “Chicken”

A bunch of Bluths concocted awesomely absurd chicken imitations, usually to mock Michael for being a wimp, but Lucille’s version (making a flying motion with her arms and repeating “coodle-doodle-do”) might be our favorite.

“Look what the homosexuals have done to me.”

Lucille’s introduction in the pilot episode tells you just about everything you need to know about her character. Bonus points for how Walter emphasizes “dramatic” in her dig that “everything they do is so dramatic and flamboyant, it just makes me want to…set myself on fire.”

“Did ‘nothing’ cancel?”

Arrested Development

(Photo by Carin Baer / TM and Copyright © 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved / Courtesy Everett Collection)

Lucille’s put downs of her daughter Lindsay (Portia de Rossi) are constantly amusing throughout the show’s run. But this scorcher of a line, delivered after Lindsay says she has the afternoon free, hilariously shows just how armed and ready Lucille is with a hurtful comeback.

On an Apple device? Follow Rotten Tomatoes on Apple News.

Tag Cloud

historical drama tv talk Mary Tyler Moore Food Network Alien E3 halloween tv Shondaland saw Fantasy archives medical drama Spring TV DGA 2016 The CW science fiction joker concert Pride Month children's TV 93rd Oscars Oscars PaleyFest Photos Christmas TV Land Rocketman Britbox OneApp politics docudrama live event Red Carpet sports PlayStation Hulu Music Election Set visit singing competition telelvision First Look game of thrones game show Television Academy Peacock TLC vampires independent ViacomCBS versus Sneak Peek Schedule Family Tarantino Super Bowl green book Tubi batman ghosts 99% HBO Max australia women scary 24 frames APB Apple TV Plus DC Comics SDCC Nominations 2021 pirates of the caribbean adventure comedies gangster travel serial killer series ITV werewolf Marvel mutant international kong films stoner based on movie Starz 007 Black History Month NYCC Emmy Nominations Horror GoT Rock Year in Review Countdown royal family Women's History Month biography Kids & Family Cosplay crossover USA Song of Ice and Fire 71st Emmy Awards japan TNT Lifetime Animation hollywood 21st Century Fox transformers comic blockbusters foreign Pet Sematary Heroines Comic Book strong female leads History LGBTQ dark laika comiccon Travel Channel composers Holidays cancelled TV shows TCA CBS All Access National Geographic DirecTV Rom-Com First Reviews crime thriller art house 2020 critics french 2019 obituary Musicals Premiere Dates Cannes feel good rt labs TV renewals blaxploitation popular Opinion Comic-Con@Home 2021 Syfy suspense Mary Poppins Returns Mindy Kaling canceled TV shows Broadway Amazon Prime anthology See It Skip It sag awards Warner Bros. VH1 BBC Holiday Shudder mob Grammys football Film Festival cinemax Certified Fresh twilight sequel chucky hist spider-verse king arthur child's play franchise Brie Larson genre Western crime San Diego Comic-Con Freeform TruTV Arrowverse ESPN OWN Marvel Studios Crackle Box Office Walt Disney Pictures toronto slasher The Arrangement king kong supernatural young adult 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards adaptation spinoff Spike CNN CMT 72 Emmy Awards Television Critics Association movie Vudu sequels crime drama ABC new zealand Musical spider-man Film facebook ratings talk show VOD Pirates unscripted Dark Horse Comics Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Character Guide television Adult Swim Black Mirror Lifetime Christmas movies BAFTA 20th Century Fox BBC One Reality El Rey Sci-Fi MSNBC doctor who Classic Film Creative Arts Emmys comic books trailers christmas movies aliens kaiju name the review psychological thriller Mudbound what to watch 2018 elevated horror rotten movies we love free movies Drama dogs rom-coms The Walking Dead TCM E! nbcuniversal cancelled Comedy Central marvel cinematic universe The Purge Teen boxoffice justice league 90s a nightmare on elm street toy story Awards cartoon book cancelled television Video Games Calendar diversity posters directors deadpool Watching Series dramedy X-Men Binge Guide basketball social media Star Trek harry potter Hear Us Out VICE 2015 fresh reviews RT History Hallmark TCA Winter 2020 nfl Amazon Superheroes WarnerMedia revenge quibi Bravo discovery LGBT biopic dreamworks Spectrum Originals 4/20 GLAAD police drama video Logo MCU marvel comics Mystery Rocky FX on Hulu 1990s cars indie Thanksgiving mission: impossible Winners movies IMDb TV robots Trophy Talk Sony Pictures USA Network hispanic heritage month die hard FX Masterpiece target finale vs. Ovation Paramount Network streaming olympics FXX boxing 73rd Emmy Awards documentaries new star wars movies Amazon Studios YouTube Premium action-comedy Stephen King lord of the rings hidden camera Nickelodeon Columbia Pictures Extras award winner Acorn TV zombie Polls and Games Marathons Cartoon Network blockbuster Comedy SundanceTV golden globes latino Turner Classic Movies halloween indiana jones CW Seed thriller Best and Worst Tumblr IFC TBS canceled Captain marvel FOX anime Chernobyl renewed TV shows Neflix Apple sopranos Interview prank Pop New York Comic Con rotten satire Tomatazos The Witch Trailer Quiz Reality Competition new york sitcom Ellie Kemper Disney+ Disney Plus true crime IFC Films space comic book movie period drama YouTube Red Epix all-time superman Funimation Esquire Exclusive Video TV movies miniseries natural history live action Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Valentine's Day slashers Biopics video on demand GIFs mcc black comedy cooking Nat Geo criterion nature Wes Anderson Sundance TV Pixar comic book movies Paramount WGN BET Awards universal monsters asian-american Amazon Prime Video Hallmark Christmas movies Emmys cults Disney streaming service dexter debate news Writers Guild of America Showtime technology psycho black zombies spain Netflix Christmas movies Fox News stop motion Toys spanish breaking bad Discovery Channel Comics on TV Martial Arts HBO Fall TV RT21 YA adenture Pop TV HBO Go Apple TV+ DC streaming service razzies kids PBS MTV rt archives docuseries cancelled TV series monster movies Infographic witnail Country Avengers Trivia animated Star Wars Disney Endgame BET Paramount Plus Marvel Television CBS TV One screenings worst American Society of Cinematographers superhero Universal scene in color screen actors guild teaser critic resources wonder woman japanese dragons war AMC The Walt Disney Company jurassic park godzilla zero dark thirty remakes south america fast and furious Tokyo Olympics YouTube Lucasfilm classics ABC Family italian BBC America NBC A24 best casting richard e. Grant The Academy emmy awards Pacific Islander Disney Plus romance worst movies parents DC Universe book adaptation golden globe awards spy thriller legend Summer Academy Awards cops AMC Plus comics TCA 2017 jamie lee curtis Sundance SXSW 2017 james bond know your critic NBA high school theme song scary movies Elton John Image Comics Lionsgate Sundance Now dceu Instagram Live Crunchyroll Podcast Action Legendary Universal Pictures romantic comedy documentary binge Anna Paquin hispanic ID dc Superheroe Netflix cats Ghostbusters heist movie Awards Tour festivals aapi rt labs critics edition streaming movies TCA Awards 45 Turner venice ABC Signature stand-up comedy disaster TV scorecard mockumentary Disney Channel Fox Searchlight political drama reboot spanish language President A&E Mary poppins festival Baby Yoda Winter TV TIFF