8. "Pier Pressure," Arrested Development (2004)
Welcome to the “100 Best Sitcom Episodes of All Time,” a countdown for 2012. Each episode will get a separate blog post, counting backward toward No. 1. A list of the programs revealed so far is here (and on Pinterest), and an introduction to the project is here.
"Pier Pressure" is the single-camera sitcom at its delirious peak, crammed with sight gags, flashbacks, and musical jokes. Single-camera shows can fall into the lazy habit of inserting cutaways to what's better left unseen, but the interruptions all work here. The Bluths as kids being terrified by a one-armed man, Buster as a drug-test guinea pig, the 1960s hit record "Big Yellow Joint"... all are even funnier than we expect them to be.
As manic as the show sometimes seems, everything is there for a reason, and what seems to be a throwaway gag will often have a bigger payoff later in an episode (as in the glimpse of Maeby's pictogram-filled report card from her school in Boston and Lindsay saying, several scenes later, "I know you got a crocodile in spelling, but..."). This is one reason I never got into Arrested Development until I watched it on DVD; the commercial breaks when it originally aired on Fox made the show seem more scattershot than it really was.