Why Tobias Is the Best ‘Arrested Development’ Character

Arrested Development fans are busy counting down the hours until Season 4 premieres this Sunday at midnight on Netflix, and here at Flavorwire, we’re no different. So, we’re passing the time by declaring this Arrested Development Week, all leading up to a Recap-a-thon on Sunday, when our own Jason Bailey will review the whole season, episode by episode. This piece is part of a series of contributors’ essays in support of their favorite Bluth. Click here to follow our coverage.

It’s difficult to pick out a “best” character on a show like Arrested Development, which is served so well by its ensemble. A favorite, sure. But what makes a best? I’d argue that it’s the character who is most unique to the show, who moves it most swiftly towards its specific purpose — and in Arrested Development, that character is surely Tobias. There are other strong contenders for weirdest Bluth family member (namely, Buster and G.O.B), but no one is quite as singular and quite as resonant as Dr. Tobias Fünke. Not on the show, and maybe not in the whole of television.

After all, Arrested Development is a show built around its postmodernist sensibility and loose, self-referential form, and Tobias is a walking distillation of the style, painted blue and wearing cutoffs. Everything he says is a pun, a double entendre, a mash-up, a fact to which he’s nearly always completely oblivious. “I’m afraid I just blue myself,” “I suppose I’m buy-curious,” those terrifying business cards designating him an “analrapist.” And then, on top of all the punning, is Tobias’s element of anxiety-induced randomness — his penchant for somersaulting out of rooms, his extreme terror of being naked (the fact that “never-nude” is basically a household phrase doesn’t hurt my argument here).

Needless to say, this is all hilarious. But unlike some of the other family members we love to laugh at (Hi, G.O.B.), Tobias has a heart of gold underneath all that paint, which saves him from being simply a laughingstock. Unique, endlessly funny and lovable to boot? Clearly, Tobias must be the best.