Sunday, August 19, 2007

Arrested Development explains the SEC

A few quick notes up front:

1. This post is impossible without the indispensable Arrested Development fansite If you have any interest in the show at all, visit.

2. I’m using all sorts of factors in coming up with the comparisons to characters. Coaches, on-field stuff, gross stereotyping of fan bases, etc., all weighted completely arbitrarily on a case-by-case basis. Nothing here is worth getting worked up over.

3. I know it's long, but even if you aren't a fan of the show, do at least give the post a scan. Because you ought to be, and maybe something in here will be reason enough to at least Netflix Season 1. If you are a fan, either you'll really enjoy this or I've done a poor job with what should have been a solid gold idea.

On with the show.


"Let me tell you something, sweetie. We may pick on each other, get into little scrapes, call each other names and occasionally steal from each other, but that’s because we are family. You have no right. You don’t get to do that." –Lucille Bluth

If you want to know why Arrested Development’s Bluth family is, in my exceedingly humble opinion, the closest, best, most fun metaphor out of all the potential TV / movie / other sports metaphors out there for the Southeastern Conference, it’s summed up in that quote.

When it comes to other SEC teams and their supporters, SEC fans are happy to do things like not vote for a meaningless thumbs-up out of pure spite, or make a convincing case another fan base is made up of a unique variety of Neanderthal, or declare that an opponent’s fans smell like a combination of fried batter and pork snout (and none of those examples even come from Auburn-Alabama). The SEC’s coaches, the alleged ambassadors of the program, do things like preface another school’s name with an f-bomb or, basically, call another team crap at the biggest media event of the year.

The Bluths, of course, are willing to defiantly throw their siblings' letters into the sea, blow up the family’s yacht, invent a new interpretation of a chicken’s clapping ability, and bleep immigrants with a mustache milk on her mustache milk mustache all in the name of needling other Bluths … and actually, that’s just one Bluth, G.O.B.

But as Lucille points out, the Bluths are (almost) always family first, everyone else second. They view screwing over their own as their exclusive right. And so it is with the SEC, where even the coaches with the fewest long-term ties to the league become its biggest cheerleaders overnight, where (almost) every SEC fan hopes and expects the conference to finish the bowl season undefeated, even it means an archrival having something to celebrate. Georgia might hate Florida enough to hire painters who had spent time in the Groundlings and a one-armed man to teach Florida an elaborate lesson about lesson-teaching, and still make a trip to Iraq to clear Florida’s name with the Buckeye lovers feds just a few episodes later.

Of course, the phrase “hire painters who had spent time in the Groundlings and a one-armed man to teach Florida an elaborate lesson about lesson-teaching” also speaks to the other reason the Bluths and the SEC are a match made in metaphorical heaven: just as there’s only one conference crazy enough to have 92,000 people attend an inter-squad scrimmage or with fans willing to file FOIAs and wade through thousand-page documents in an effort to uncover their own division-winning coach’s peccadilloes, so there’s only one former broadcast network show with nevernudes, hand-eating seals, Ben Stiller with his beard shaved into a “W,” and the immortal line “This close, they always look like landscape” as an explanation for why the U.S. Army is about to bomb Iraq. Only the Bluths are quite as wonderfully batsh*t as the SEC; only the SEC is quite as wonderfully batsh*t as the Bluths.

But which Bluth most helpfully represents each SEC football program? Here's the Roll Call:


Once upon a time, they had everything. In George’s case, a lucrative real estate and frozen banana empire, millions of dollars, a cabin in the woods to take roller skate-wearing broads to. In Alabama’s case, national titles, the most successful coach the game had ever seen, Joe Namath taking roller skate-wearing broads to a cabin in the woods.

But eventually, time and law enforcement caught up with them. By the end of the DuBose era, ‘Bama was reduced to hiding in the football equivalent of the Aztec Tomb, waiting for punishment. (The NCAA dogs found Logan Young almost instantly.)

Since then the Tide have stewed in the NCAA’s jail, desperate to escape and reclaim their position at the head of the family. How desperate? ‘Bama hired a shirt-chasing Pac-10 passing guru to run the program; they might as well have been trying to escape house arrest via Japanese rocket-pack. I think there were probably more than a few ‘Bama fans driven nuts enough by ‘Bama’s failures to start asking their dolls if they had any solutions.

But another thing that George and the Tide have in common, unfortunately, is that any funerals held for them were probably a little premature, though Tide fans’ expectations of grabbing another SEC title this year are right up there with expecting a hot tub to successfully cook one’s boil-in-bag dinners.

Key quote: GEORGE: Hey, you’re not going to turn me in, are you? Because I had no idea there were sanctions against, uh, rogue boosters paying megabucks for overrated defensive tackles Iraq. You know, they-they sent me over there. They said, “Go build.” I-I... Do I look like a criminal mastermind to you? How do you get this ham open? I can... I can’t get this ham open.


I know, I know, Homer McHomerson sees his own team as the star of the show. But is there a more perfect analogue anywhere for Auburn’s obsession-and-denial-of-obsession over usurping ‘Bama as the state’s best football team than Michael’s obsession-and-denial-of-obsession over usurping George at the head of the Bluth Company? If Alabama had a banana stand, rest assured Auburn would burn it down to make a point, even if there always is money in said banana stand. That Michael has to scream that he’s in charge even as George stews in prison reminds yours truly more of a little of Auburn’s recognition on the national scale vs. ‘Bama’s despite the, ya know, Thumb business.

But there’s more that that. At the risk of perhaps drawing the ire of my own readership, I think Auburn’s fans take a lot of pride in not only being Auburn, but in not being the fans of other teams; that we wouldn’t boo a national-title winning coach like LSU fans, that we’re not as arrogant and mouthy as Florida fans, that unlike Miss. St. and Ole Miss fans we cheer for a team that actually wins, we don’t have that coonskin cap hillbilly-thing the Tennessee fans have going on, and most importantly we’re not those damn delusional stuck-in-the-past rednecks on the other side of the state. Plus, we got screwed by the BCS.

This is how Michael sees himself, too. Not perfect, no. But at least he’s not the screw-ups his siblings or parents are.

Key quote: MICHAEL: I’m a saint, you know. I’m a living saint and I get absolutely nothing out of it. LINDSAY: Well, you get a false feeling of superiority. MICHAEL: Yeah, that is nice, but this time, it’s not enough. Why do I always have to be the one that has to set the good example for everyone?

Of course, Michael sort of has something of a point. So do Auburn fans, if you WARDAMNEAGLE ask me.


It was never a surprise when in the series finale, Lucille was shown to be the one pulling many of the Bluth Company’s strings all along. So it is in the SEC, where while ‘Bama and Auburn and the conference’s other old-school power-running teams were beating the crap out of each other, Spurrier’s Gators were simply busy owning the conference with the ruthlessness and confidence necessary to, say, kick off a drinking contest by saying their first one “didn’t count,” finish it with their opponent slumped over unconscious, and then head back to rehab just for the hell of it.

The Gators also share with Lucille a pure and undying love of scheme. It’s no wonder Spurrier took the league by storm; when the sort of coach who was more than willing to tell Tennessee Auburn said they’re a “stay-in-bed mom” while telling Auburn Tennessee planned to get them drunk in order to shake them down—again, basically all just for the hell of it—landed in a league that still considered the wishbone cutting-edge, you could have guessed what was coming. And now, naturally, the Gators have Meyer, who I’m guessing won a lot of those already-committed recruits by sitting down in their living room and beginning “I’m a horrible head coach.

It’s also a well-known fact that Lucille and Gator fans would both enjoy sitting down to a meal of ONE HUNDRED COCKTAILS.

Key quote: BUSTER: Mom is becoming a little controlling. MICHAEL: What tipped you off? When she locked you on the balcony again? BUSTER: That was half my fault. I thought I saw a graham cracker out there. MICHAEL (to Florida Lucille): You baited the balcony? LUCILLE: Prove it.


One of the show’s most inexplicable conceits (and funniest gags) is that stone-cold knockout Lindsay is so socially inept, wealth-conscious (you know what kind of cream appeals to Lindsay? The one made with with a million bleeping diamonds!), and desperate that she ended up marrying a sexually ambiguous nevernude and can’t wrangle so much as a one-night stand once freed to date around.

Likewise since their 1998 national title Tennessee has gathered the conference’s best collection of five-star recruits and pro prospects, but the closest they’ve come to winning a title / getting laid since was putting on a hot French maid outfit for the 2001 SEC championship … and then being forced to drag LSU’s garbage to the curb. Now Tennessee’s fallen so far they’re happy to cook up any 9-4 season with a smack of ham to it. If Tennessee gets so much of a whiff that BCS bowl representatives might be around, you can bet it’ll be going without a bra and hauling out the “SLUT” shirt.

And hey, speaking of the smack of ham, just as Phillip Fulmer is a caring and generous humanitarian in addition to being a giant porker, so Lindsay may at times be a selfish ditz, but she’s also more than willing to pole dance in the name of peace. (Note: the JCCW not responsible for mental damages caused by using the terms “Phillip Fulmer” and “pole dance” in the same sentence.)

Key quote (with sound!): LINDSAY: I’m going to see if I can squeak into the SEC title game with a 5-3 record get a wrench to strip my nuts … *Long pause* … I, uh, tried to be sexy. It just … got away from me.


It’s not easy to come up with an SEC program innocent enough that it would claim to smoke marijuana like a cigarette for a family member or have to be told to take its place-keeping finger out of its math book (see above) or run a class president campaign with V.I.R.G.I.N. posters (“Voting in Righteous George Michael Is Noble”). Innocence has never been a strong point for either the Bluths or the SEC … it’s a good bet there are patsies trying to plant documents in the wrong NCAA file to get a player eligible right now.

But if there is a picture of innocence in SEC football (at least amongst those programs that take it seriously) it’s Georgia, the school where its Heisman winner could tear off a 50-yard touchdown run while scattering tacklers like bowling pins and celebrate by casually flipping the ball to the referee; where their born-again coach is occasionally depicted with a halo; where they *cough* qualify all their recruits academically. Even this summer’s spate of traffic and open-container incidents seem like so much harmless shenanigans compared to other schools’ problems, like the Dawgs are trying to prank call their father at work and end up calling him “Dad.” Those Stafford keg pics, while embarrassing, don’t mean anything more than, say, a dork showing off his best Star Wars moves on home video.

Just because Georgia isn’t one of the cool kids, though, don’t try picking them too low in the SEC East or stealing away their girlfriend to live on your yacht. You’ll get jacked.

Key quote: MAEBY: That Florida Steve sure knows how to please a lady. GEORGE MICHAEL: Good. I was hoping he would be gifted sexually. I guess it makes sense, you know, older guys expect certain things. MAEBY: They do? GEORGE MICHAEL: What a fun, sexy time for you.


One of the two easiest calls on the board. If there’s any other program in the country more likely to pull the football equivalent of breaking out of prison by being stabbed by a white surpremacist or record a potential crossover hit duet with a puppet to break down racial barriers or know the Italian for brother while chasing the illicit “Hermano” on a Segway … I mean, why even ask? There’s not. Just as G.O.B. rises above to somehow become the hands-down craziest Bluth, so Houston Nutt and the Hogs have somehow become the no-questions-asked biggest hive of insanity in the insane SEC. I genuinely believe we’re only a few weeks away from Nutt being arrested for shoplifting at a local Gap after screaming "MICE!" and stuffing a bunch of shirts down Casey Dick’s pants.

What I want to see from here is—and bear in mind, all of these could totally happen—1. Darren McFadden pimp out a Segway to cruise Fayetteville in 2. Nutt respond to a bad non-call on the road with the chicken dance 3. The entire team take the field to the strains of “The Final Countdown.” (I would gladly give up two of my toes to see any one of these things happen, by the way.)

And oh, one more thing: don’t forget that Nutt is a magician capable of creating victories out of thin air, even if said victories smell like lighter fluid. You think the desertion of a bunch of losers from some high school is going to slow down a man with a $1 million dollar salary and a contract extension through 2012? COME ON!

Key quote: G.O.B (realizing that keeping Theresa Prewett around may not have been the best idea): I’ve made a huge mistake.


The other easiest call on the board. Like Buster and his back-stabbing family, Vandy isn’t really cut out for the cut-throat world of the SEC. They’re scholars; they enjoy scholarly pursuits. (Everybody together now: Suddenly playing with yourself is a scholarly pursuit.” That was fun.) Sure, you could put Buster in charge of the family business or give Vandy a fourth-quarter lead, but it’s just going to lead to another crippling panic attack in the end.

Of course, just as it’s always fun to root for Buster to finally get the upper hand (pun very much intended, oh yes) on his siblings on the show, so Vandy is every SEC fan’s second-favorite team. It’s just so cute when the ‘Dores come back from handling some MAC team and crow about being put in something called “Hero Squad”; the seal is for marksmanship, and the gorilla for sand racing beating Temple.

However, now that Vandy actually has a coach who’s aware the blue on the map to victory isn’t, in fact, land, it is possible a few more SEC teams will find their tendons caught in Vandy’s claws.

Key quote: BUSTER: Just wanted to check in and make sure you’re aware that your ban on organized sports in this family has been violated. GEORGE: Ban on organized sports? BUSTER: You know, how you wouldn’t let me sign up for anything as a kid. GEORGE: Is that what you’ve been thinking all these years? No, no, look, you were... you were just a turd out there, you know? You couldn’t kick, and you couldn’t run, you know? You were just a turd. BUSTER: Prison has destroyed the way you talk. If that’s what it takes to impress these guys around here, then they are not your friends.


The whole blue thing would be enough, really. That and that the program has been a Tobias-quality laughingstock for the overwhelming majority of its days, expecting the likes of Tim Couch and Hal Mumme to keep them aloft as they leap off the stairwell, then murmuring “We shan’t be telling your mother the NCAA about this, shan’t we?”

But past that, consider that both Kentucky football and Tobias live in a constant state of denial. Kentucky states over and over again it’s not just a basketball school, oh no, very interested in football. Definitely not only interested in basketball. Just as Tobias is totally devoted to making his marriage work and is a 100 percent heterosexual analrapist. Forgive me, but as Dave Attell so memorably put it, “If that school’s man’s into football straight, then I’m sober.”

Also, Tobias is renowned for his Wildcat-like agility.

Key quotes, three of them because Tobias is just that funny: 1. TOBIAS: I’ve been waiting for the universe to provide a path for me and... and I think it has. LINDSAY: You’re a basketball school gay. TOBIAS: No. No. No, I’m not... I’m not gay. No. Lindsay, how many times must we have this... No.

2. LINDSAY: Well, you know, maybe I would be more attracted to you if you were in better shape. You know, if were just more like basketball muscular and masculine. Does that make me shallow? TOBIAS: No. I was going to say the same thing to you.

You know what, rather than me transcribing just one part of it, just read this entire conversation between Michael and Tobias. You’ll thank me later.


I had a harder time picking out a character for LSU than for any other team in the league. Stan Sitwell’s hair trouble reminds me of Miles Hat Monday, but he’s not really a Bluth … the Saban link and both fanbases’ quickness to anger mean that in some ways LSU is an Oscar-like doppelganger of ‘Bama/George, but LSU is way more successful than sad-sack Oscar … that they seem poised to take over the league, wear such unique, colorful uniforms, and have that cajun thing going for club sauce reminds me of Lucille II, but she’s too sympathetic a character for an Auburn fan to compare to LSU … so what to do?

I’m just going to make a little prediction here. Methinks Jimbo Fisher had an awful lot to do with LSU’s success—that while Saban and Miles have been out front hoarding the money and yelling “To the nuts!” it’s been Fisher carrying the team, a la Uncle Jack’s stooge Dragon. Uncle Jack can dream about hooking up with Lindsay without the aid of Dragon, just as LSU can dream about winning big without Fisher … but they’re not making that move without that moose.

Plus, the bring-on-USC bravado from both Miles and the LSU fans certainly has a certain similar overtone to Uncle Jack’s ill-fated weightlifting exploits. Let me just a pull a bit of transcript to illustrate what would happen if USC and LSU actually met on the football field: UNCLE JACK: Five pounds for every year of my life! … Release! (Loud cracking.) Too much! (Thud.)

Key quote: MICHAEL: You think you should be perched on the edge of the building like this? UNCLE JACK: Oh, Fisher’s Dragon’s got me. MICHAEL: Dragon’s at Florida St. in the bathroom.


If there’s any character on the show that can match Lucille for scheming and sass, it’s dropout-to-become-movie exec Maeby. You might even think of Maeby as a younger, miniature version of Lucille.

And at the behest of the SEC’s best coach for scheming and sass, South Carolina is quickly becoming a more trendy, miniature version of Spurrier’s Florida. Carolina’s records since joining the SEC have nearly all been the football version of crocodiles in spelling, meaning that just as the adults who are supposed to looking out for Maeby don’t realize she’s overseeing multi-million dollar movies from her bedroom, so I’m not sure the powers-that-be in the East (or many of their fans, in any case) realize that Carolina’s caught up to them.

Of course, as Maeby has her not-so-adult weak spots within her more adultish activities (I mean bribery, being bad at math in doing so, etc., you dirty-minded pervs), Carolina does have Blake Mitchell. We’ll see.

Key quote: MAEBY: How about I come with you? I mean, I could help you prepare. TOBIAS: Yes, well, it’s for the SEC East title a con man, which I don’t think you know anything about. And besides, don’t you have school? MAEBY: No. Um... today is “Help Your Dad Follow His Dream Day.” TOBIAS: Great. We can take the carpool lane.


OK, so the malevolence of the Orgeron doesn’t exactly jibe with the happy-go-lucky affability of Steve Holt!, though I could totally see him walking up to the podium at a booster luncheon and introducing himself as Coach O! with those same trademarked Steve Holt! raised arms.

No, what makes Ole Miss so Steve Holt!-esque is the school and program’s dedication to (or at least, the image of dedication to) enjoying themselves even in the face of perpetual futility on the football field. No, Steve Holt! isn’t going to graduate any time soon and has G.O.B for a father, but that doesn’t keep him from joining the school play or running for a fourth term as student president or reminding us all there’s no “I” in win. No, barring the appearance of some long-lost Manning bastard child, Ole Miss isn’t about to win the SEC any time soon. But they’ve still got the co-eds, the Grove, John Grisham … winning isn’t everything at Ole Miss. It’s the sort of place and sort of football program Steve Holt! would totally attend and support … if he had the grades, anyway.

Key quote: TOBIAS: And Steven Holt? Where is Steven Holt? Steve Holt!: Steve Holt! TOBIAS: Yes. Get ready for the acting challenge of your sweet young life, fair lady, for you are my Beatrice! Steve Holt!: Beatrice!


Tuscaloosa and Starkville are college cities only 81.4 miles apart in the same desolate semi-wastes of East Mississippi / West Alabama. Both employ a similar shade-of-dark-red-and-white color scheme. Mississippi St’s most famous (and arguably most successful) coach, Jackie Sherrill, played at Alabama. So the connections between these two schools run deep, and at a glance some observers (OK, Pac-10 observers flipping channels at 1 a.m. under the influence of Afternoon Deelite) might not even be able to tell them apart.

And yet just as George and Oscar are indistinguishable twin brothers (apart from Oscar’s beautiful, beautiful hair), and one brother has everything he could have possibly wanted (except for the hair) and the other has had, well, a lemon grove shot up by tanks and, so the Tide have been the country’s most successful blah blah blah while State has made do with Rocky Felker and Omarr Conner.

The one positive for Oscar and State is that with expectations that low, any victory is a big one—and just as Oscar has a peculiar level of success with Lucille, so at least the Bulldogs have had those big, big victories over Florida. What’s unfortunate is that I’m sure many at ‘Bama (GEORGE: “I just want my brother to envy my money, but he’s got that hair! Why can’t I have hair and money and him nothing?”) would prefer that they had those victories to themselves (not that I blame them).

Key quote: OSCAR: Well, you make do what you have. I have lemons, I make lemonade. MICHAEL: That’s a very positive attitude. OSCAR: But I hate the lemonade business, I hate the grind. You have to grind so many bleeping lemons.

So that’s the post. The show said repeatedly, “You do right by your family.” I loved this show (I imagine that’s obvious by this point) and yeah, I love this conference—hope I did right by them.

I’ll follow-up with a supplemental post later this week with more characters from the show (Maggie Lizer, Stan Sitwell, Rita, etc.) and more characters from college football (Jim Delaney, Dennis Erickson, etc.). I reserve the right to stick with the ideas I’ve still got in the holster, but if you’ve got any suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments.


Anonymous said...

excellent work

Roll Tide!

John G. said...

Very nice, as an Auburn fan you hit the mark.

The Auburner said...

this is beautiful.

Shan said...

This is quite possibly the greatest thing I've ever read. Stellar work.

Anonymous said...

One of the best comparisons I have ever seen!

Acton said...


War Eagle!

PeteJayhawk said...

Muy bien, senor.

Lance Harbor said...


Oscar Bulldogs

Reed said...

Bravo! Not just a superb idea, but perfectly executed. Great work.

Oops Pow Surprise said...

Outstanding work. I'm in awe.

DAve said...

Despite the obvious flaw that UGA would never in a million years be in love with South Carolina PERIOD, let alone to the point we'd join a school play or crusade to save a tree (then crusade to destroy it), I'm impressed. Well done.

Phillips said...

Wow, just wow. I had actually started to get over the fact that the show went off the air, and now I'm back to the depressed state of sadness that I thought had left me for good. Thanks a lot.

Great work.

Jason said...

Tremendous effort, sir.

Bob Loblaw will be extremely disappointed if he doesn't make the supplemental post.

Ty Keenan said...

This post is amazing. I can't wait to see who gets Gene Parmesan and Egg... I mean Ann.

Jerry Hinnen said...

Thanks very much to all of you kind gentlemen. And uh, potential anonymous ladies.

Just an FYI, the follow-up will almost certainly have to wait until the weekend. Sorry.

edd said...

Goddamn beautiful, every last word.

Can I direct you to to help get a Christmas special?

Great read, once again,

Jerry Hinnen said...

edd, I had to tell some guy at my door the other day going on about "musuclur dystrophy" this and "dying kids" that to get lost, but an AD Christmas special? THAT's a cause I can get behind.

Me said...

From your fingers to God's ears.
Arrested Development: The greatest television that has ever aired, and the SEC, the greatest college football conference that has ever existed - this may be the greatest thing that's ever appeared on the World Wide Inter-web.

Ethanator1088 said...

I posted a nomination for this to be blog post of the year. Great work.

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