Nearly every line Jessica Walter said as Lucille Bluth in Arrested Development sticks in your memory. Because the show itself has been so endlessly rewatched and analyzed, sure, but also because of her legendary delivery. Walter, who died yesterday at 80, could uncover, underline, or otherwise elaborate on the laugh in pretty much any dialogue she was given as the commanding, conniving, and yet often oblivious matriarch of the Bluth family. Lucille was always drinking and scheming, and reiterating that she loved all her children equally, (well, with the exception of Gob.) Any roundup would be incomplete, but in memory of her work on the show, it’s only right to reflect on 13 of the moments she sold so well they became the stuff of Orange County WASP queen legend.
“Good for Her.”
The platonic ideal of a Lucille-ism comes in a flashback. She’s off her post-partum medication, watching a news report about a young mother letting her car slide into a lake, while a young Buster drums next to her, and of course, she’s carefully unwrapping a cupcake. The cupcake, the crossed legs, the slight lean to one side – an indelible representation of casually endorsing something terrible.
“It’s one banana, Michael, what could it cost, 10 dollars?”
Lucille lashes out at Michael for making his brother pay for a banana, while assuming that one frozen banana costs you a cool 10 bucks. Walter sells the line with a slight shrug, her hands perched around a teacup, her mouth curled down just a bit, as if in disdain toward the very fact that she has to consider everyday finances. No wonder it’s so useful at capturing the perspective of America’s politicians.
“I don’t care for Gob.”
Lucille insists that she loves all her children equally. She also makes it very clear that she does not appreciate Gob. The line comes in a cutaway, but Walter conveys the idea that Lucille may have just said it out of the blue, while mulling over her thoughts with a martini in hand, ignoring her other son Buster right nearby.
“Get me a vodka rocks… and a piece of toast.”
It’s the way Walter doesn’t even seem to pause to think in between Michael’s insistence that “Mom, it’s breakfast” that really sells it. What could be a more natural breakfast? Shouldn’t we all wake up to vodka and toast?
“Here’s some money, go see a Star War.”
Lucille’s adoption of a young boy she names Annyong because she misunderstands that he’s saying “hello” in Korean is one of those Arrested Development plotlines that hasn’t really aged that well. But Lucille’s half-hearted attempts to do motherly things for him remain a golden recurring bit. Watch how Walter primly undoes her purse and drags out the As of star and war.
“If that’s a veiled criticism about me, I won’t hear it and I won’t respond to it.”
Lucillle prefers to make everything about her, including Michael’s complaint about how too many people are self-involved. Also, the way Walter puts all the emphasis on “veiled,” while sorta shaking her head, just gorgeous.
“I don’t understand the question and I won’t respond to it.”
Again, sometimes the funniest way Lucille can engage with a situation – in this case, the simple question of whether she wants a plate or a platter – is by absolutely refusing to recognize the reality of any of it.
“She thinks I’m too critical, that’s another fault of hers.”
Lucille always offered up an endless stream of criticism toward her daughter, but what makes the line so funny is how little venom Walter puts into it. She’s tossing away a devastating thing, which makes it all the more cruel.
“I’ll leave when I’m good and ready. ”
Here Lucille gets a punchline that depends on one of Arrested Development’s many recurring gags — in this case, Gob’s boat The Seaward. As Lucille enters the scene, Michael insists that Gob “get rid of the Seaward,” prompting her cool reply, and extended hard stare. Sound it out if you don’t get it immediately.
’At least he’s in prison, not an urn.”
Among her many petty feuds, Lucille was always preoccupied with her ever-escalating rivalry with Liza Minnelli’s Lucille Austero, a.k.a. Lucille Two. Here, the two face off with an increasingly grim back and forth, ending with Lucille Bluth going for the jugular.
“Look what the homosexuals have done to me!”
The height of delusional victimhood, and one of Lucille’s first lines in the series. What a way to enter a show.
“Really, did… nothing cancel?”
It’s all in the way that Walter delays the word “nothing” – drawing it out like the idea has just come to her mind and yet not so long that it becomes hammy. Precise devastation.
“Ahh, Gene Parmesan!!”
For all her cruelty, Lucille had an endearing goofy side, which Walter brought out in her childish love of private eye Gene Parmesan’s many disguises. After each gleeful reaction, often with Walter flapping her hands in delight, how can you not love her?