Scene of discord
Scene of discord
Courtesy of the Queen Mary

Arrested Development's Orange County

You have to give it up to the writers (or researchers) on the original run of Arrested Development (A.D.). They went beyond the hot spots normally associated with Orange County—Disneyland, the Balboa Ferry, the shadow cast by Dana Rohrabacher's belly—and dug deep to not only fictionalize real places for name's sake, but even playing with the actual back stories of the properties as well.

What follows are just some of the A.D. places and their real OC counterparts—and we're not even going to mention the traditions plugged into the premiere episode of the new season. Just remember this: Cuatro de Mayo . . .


BALBOA COUNTRY CLUB (A.D. OC): Where family matriarch Lucille Bluth shows off to Newport Beach society, usually by forcing one of her children to join her in an embarrassing mother-son/-daughter production. Youngest natural-born son Buster mostly gets the gigs, but grandson George Michael Bluth and Lucille's adopted son, "Annyong," have been roped in. BALBOA BAY CLUB (Real OC): Harbor-facing units here can be purchased, rented or booked for short terms. The on-site bar, restaurant and pools are frequent gathering places for the unwinding wealthy, while banquet facilities host everything from GOP fund-raisers to society functions at which dates with local notables are auctioned off, another recurring A.D. event.

BALBOA TOWERS (A.D. OC): Where you'll find the upscale, waterfront, penthouse-apartment home of Lucille, who has it decorated that gaudy way your grandmother would if she burned through dirty money. Buster usually lives there with her. NEWPORT TOWERS (Real OC): One of the oldest high-rise condo buildings in town, off PCH. It's next to the late iconic Italian restaurant Villa Nova, which used to attract many from the Lucille Bluth demographic.

BLUTH CO. (A.D. OC): The offices of the real-estate company founded in the 1950s by family patriarch George Bluth Sr. had been on the top floor of an expensive office building in Newport Beach. But a worker bee named Ted, whose office is down the hall from that of de facto president Michael Bluth, later made an executive decision unbeknownst to the Bluths to move to a lower floor, where the lease is lower. THE IRVINE CO. (Real OC): The largest private landowner in Orange County is headquartered in twin multistory buildings in the company's Newport Center, facing Fashion Island. Other, unaffiliated companies also lease offices in these buildings from TIC (as it likes to call itself).

BLUTH CO. MODEL HOME (A.D. OC): Standing alone on a graded hill, the lone home of the cash-poor Bluth Co.'s Sudden Valley development is where Michael Bluth and his son, George Michael, mostly live; Michael's once-presumed-twin sister Lindsay Fünke usually lives with her husband, Tobias Fünke, and their daughter, Maeby; Michael's brother George Oscar "GOB" Bluth at times lives; and George Bluth Sr. often hides in the attic so as to not be caught by the Securities and Exchange Commission. MODEL HOMES (Real OC): They are, of course, everywhere new development sprouts, usually in batches of three or four to reflect different floorplans. I can't recall a lone one in this nearly built-out county, but there used to be a two-story house all by itself in North Fontana, where legend had it a subdivision builder had a squabble with the city, stopped his project after one house was built on his big piece of property and just left it there off Sierra Avenue out of spite. Pacific Century Homes, which built homes in California, Arizona and Texas before going belly-up, did build three model homes in Litchfield, Arizona, never sold a single house, then abandoned the project. The Temecula-based company was swallowed up in 2002 by Miami-based Lennar, developer of homes proposed to ring the Great Park of Irvine.

BLUTH'S ORIGINAL FROZEN BANANA (A.D. OC): The Bluth Co. empire started with a frozen-banana stand erected on the Oceanside Wharf boardwalk of Balboa Island in 1953. The wooden box burned down and was rebuilt several times—including once with $250,000 inside that George Sr. had hidden from the feds, which explained his oft-repeated refrain, "There's always money in the banana stand." The place became a point of contention the last time we saw the Bluths, as Annyong reappeared to exact revenge for the theft of the original banana-stand idea from his grandfather by implicating Lucille, who'd had him deported, in Bluth Co. accounting shenanigans. SUGAR 'N SPICE AND DAD'S DONUTS (Real OC): First, it must be noted that you don't bring out-of-town relatives to Balboa Island for frozen bananas. They're gross, phallic and break your teeth. No, you dazzle the 'billies with Balboa Bars, those delightful, freshly dipped-in-chocolate ice-cream bars rolled over chopped peanuts, almonds or sprinkles. You find frozen bananas and Balboa Bars on Balboa Island at Sugar 'n Spice, which is owned and run by white people and has been a local institution since 1945, or nearby Dad's Donuts, which has been around since 1960 and is owned and run by a Vietnamese family. Both have big bananas on their signs, just like Bluth's Original Frozen Banana stand. And—as Weekly Mexican in chief Gustavo Arellano found out when he wrote in print in 2004 that Dad's Balboa Bars taste better than Sugar 'n Spice's—the people who own Sugar 'n Spice resented Arrested Development and Dad's.

FOUR SEAS HOTEL (A.D. OC): The upscale Newport Beach hotel pops up periodically, including when Lindsay moved in. FOUR SEASONS HOTEL (Real OC): For years, this was the Newport Beach hotel, located in Newport Center. Then the lease expired and the Irvine Co.'s own Island Hotel took over the space. Nowadays, the place to stay is TIC's Pelican Hill resort in Newport Coast.

GEORGE MICHAEL AND MAEBY'S HIGH SCHOOL (A.D. OC): According to an Indian (as in India) teen who eventually becomes student body president, the school is located in Corona del Mar, which means it's . . . CORONA DEL MAR HIGH SCHOOL (Real OC): As a general rule, the East Bluff campus draws the children of upscale Newport Beach's upper-crustiest, while cross-town rival Newport Harbor High School gets lower classes of rich kids because district boundaries include those unwashed, eastside Costa Mesa hooligans. Of course, this tradition has been thrown out of whack by the arrival years ago of private Sage Hill School in Newport Coast.

RMS QUEEN MARY (A.D. OC): We were first introduced to the Bluths aboard a yacht, on which George Sr. handed the reins of the Bluth Co. not to Michael, as expected, but to Lucille. We last saw the family all together aboard the Queen Mary, as Lucille is left to take the rap for company misdeeds, as Michael, George Michael and, unbeknownst to them, George Sr. (having again swapped identities with his twin brother Oscar) escape to Cabo on GOB's yacht C-Word with half a million bucks in cashier's checks. RMS QUEEN MARY (Real OC): Not in Orange County, but in Long Beach Harbor is the permanently docked tourist attraction, which has a bar, hotel rooms and regular events hosted by a gray-bearded fellow in a captain's suit. You could see him in a future episode ripping off fake whiskers to reveal he's George Sr.

SANTA ANA (A.D. OC): In one episode, Buster locks himself inside a car trunk in an effort to get sneaked into Mexico. When he gets out, he's actually in Santa Ana—but Buster mistakes Orange County's seat for Mexico. Hilarity ensues. SANTA ANA (Real OC): Do we really need to explain this one?

ORANGE COUNTY PRISON (A.D. OC): Built by the Bluth Co. in 1983, George Bluth Sr. winds up inside on fraud and light treason counts. He converts to Judaism behind the same bars that go on to hold his twin brother, Oscar; GOB; and Tobias. "No touching" is strictly enforced. ORANGE COUNTY JAIL (Real OC): The SEC, a federal agency, fictionally prosecutes Bluth, but the actual OC jail system has a "Beds for Feds" program to hold federal inmates, usually for immigration offenses. The Men's Central Jail is severely overcrowded; the food sucks; and, given the crimes of guards and inmates, it's so dangerous you'll seek spiritual fulfillment.

SKIP CHURCH'S BISTRO (A.D. OC): This marina-side eatery is famous for "Skip's Scramble," a breakfast dish made with everything on the menu. DICK CHURCH'S RESTAURANT (Real OC): Not on the water, but up Newport Boulevard in Costa Mesa, this working-stiff's joint is known for glutinous portions of everything from omelets to chicken-fried steak. There's no "Dick's Scramble," but there is the "Lumberjack Breakfast," which has two eggs, two sausages, two strips of bacon, half a hubcap-sized ham slice, two pancakes and hash browns.

SOUTH COAST BOUTIQUE (A.D. OC): Lindsay can't resist a "fire sale" at the upscale retailer. SOUTH COAST PLAZA (Real OC): Millions of Lindsays can't resist any kind of sale at the upscale retail-and-restaurant hub whose overlords can't abide being located in middle-class Costa Mesa, so it calls its quadrant "South Coast Metro" and who, no shit, once gave me crap for calling South Coast Plaza a "shopping mall" in a story instead of a "shopping experience."

WEE BRITAIN (A.D. OC): The quaint village of shops, residences and occupants brims with Jolly Ol' England charm. But when the cobblestone streets meet their Southern California counterparts, confusion and traffic accidents ensue, as drivers who'd been forced to stay on the right side in Wee Britain must suddenly switch to the left side. Yanks who've tried to navigate traffic circles in England surely sympathize. OLD WORLD VILLAGE (Real OC): The quaint village of shops, residences and occupants brims Jolly Ol' Western Europe charm. But confusion and accidents ensue when drivers who've indulged in too much oom-pah-pah at Oktoberfest head home.


All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories


All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >