The Greatest Arrested Development Ad-Lib, According To The Creator

For my money, which was all acquired through legal means not tied to selling model houses to Iraqis, Arrested Development is in the top-tier of TV comedies and cemented its place up there from the very beginning. A lot of the laughs come from esteemed actor Jeffrey Tambor, who played the expertly shady patriarch George Bluth, and show creator Mitch Hurwitz puts one of Tambor’s ad-libs in the pilot episode as the best of the show’s run. That’s definitely something to chicken-dance about.

Tambor is the subject of an excellent article over at GQ that highlights the more genius points of his career, and when the subject shifted to the Fox-turned-Netflix comedy, Hurwitz brings up the excellent improvisation that gave the episode one of its best lines. As the cops were arriving at the boat party, Hurwitz gave Tambor a phone and told him to pretend to tell his Bluth Company secretary to get rid of damning documents. And then this:

He did two brilliant things. First, as he said, ‘Shred it. Shred it. Save it. Shred it,’ into the phone, he seemed to hear her on the other end. Like you could just tell she was going through a litany of things. Second, after he says all this—‘Shred, save, shred, shred’—he pauses and says to the secretary, ‘Why are you crying?’ It was the most inspired ad-lib. He just invented that this character we've never met would be crying. I can't even explain the serious mind behind that.

“Why are you crying?” is such a perfect line that it seems like it should have been written by someone who thought about it for an hour or more. (There’s some kind of math to go along with that assumption, but the equation is in the cooler of evidence.) It’s well-known that the role of George Sr. was supposed to be one of a limited capacity, but Tambor’s stellar performance convinced Hurwitz to further develop the character. (A similar thing happened with David Cross’ Tobias.) And after four seasons of watching the sometimes-jailed, sometimes-free eldest Bluth fight to keep his marriage and family life thriving, the idea of having less Tambor feels like a bigger crime than treason.

Thankfully, we’ll be getting to see a double dose of Tambor’s boundless comedic work in 2016. At the currently ongoing TCA summer event, Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos assured everyone that Season 5 of Arrested Development is definitely in motion, with negotiations underway for all involved. (Scheduling will be the biggest conflict where that’s concerned.) And we’ll also get to see the actor return to his Emmy-nominated role on the Emmy-nominated Amazon series Transparent when Season 3 hits. For now, we’re just waiting patiently for Season 2 to hit the streaming service.

At 71 years old, Tambor is proving that age can have very little to do with how successful one’s career can be. And we can’t wait to see and hear where his improvising will go next.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.