Within its many layers of jokes, meta-jokes, cultural references and series-long gags that made "Arrested Development" the beloved and recently resuscitated show it is today, the Iraq War provided a great deal of material for the comedy.
It was a source of both major plot points and off-the-cuff references, as the show's three seasons kicked of months after the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003.
Early in the series, the Bluths learn that family patriarch George is being charged with "light treason" for building model homes for Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq. It's an accusation that chases the Bluths through the entire three seasons, as Michael uncovers more evidence that his father might have committed the crime, even as he says he was just a pawn in the ordeal.
Aside from being a source of the Bluths' legal troubles, the Iraq war and all its discontents popped up in a number of other ways through the show's three seasons. In "Whistler's Mother," Lindsay protests the Iraq War, horrified to learn her hair stylist has been called to duty and a lesser hairdresser will be touching her locks.
In "The One Where They Build a House," Arrested Development landed one of its deepest punches on the Iraq War with a potent visual reference. At the ribbon cutting ceremony for a model home the Bluths build — shoddily, with the fake "Homefill" building materials — to restore investor confidence, Gob flies in from the sky and a "Mission Accomplished" Banner unfurls over the house. The tagline for the project is "Solid as a Rock" (which sounds like "Solid as Iraq," the way Gob pronounces it) and seconds later, the house collapses.
In "Sad Sack," the prosecutor on the Bluth case tells Michael they have new evidence that his father was helping to hide weapons of mass destruction: photographs of the alleged weapon sites acquired from Bluth emails that have been dispersed among the government under the Patriot Act. The Bluth's lawyer sees that alleged photos, and realizes they are pictures of son in law Tobias's private parts that were emailed out by accident with a cell phone Gob had given him. Embarrassed, the military must call off the fighter jet it has sent to find the alleged WMDs.
The issue culminates in penultimate episode in the show's third (and until recently, final) season, "Exit Strategy," when Michael and Buster travel to Iraq to rescue Gob, who has been apprehended in an American prison. ("God knows what they're doing to them," Michael tells Buster, a slight to the Abu Ghraib controversy.)
Michael tells Gob to take them to the Iraqi model home George had sent him to Iraq to burn, only to find it to be filled with Saddam Hussein look-a-likes. The Bluths' cab driver turns out to be CIA agent using Gob as bait to lead them to the model homes thinking they would find WMDs.
They do find what appears to a bomb, but it turns out to be a fake (built with the same "Homefill" materials), and that the CIA has actually been surveilling the house. Michael uses the revelation as leverage to get the government to drop the charges against the Bluths.
The Iraq War was resolved years later, with the drawdown of U.S. forces in 2011. But one wonders, in the new season being released this weekend, what political issue will fuel "Arrested Development's" comedic flame? Will Buster develop an irrational fear of drone surveillance? Will Lucille be rude to the waiter who went on to leak Mitt Romney's '47 percent' video?
It's a shame the IRS scandal broke after production wrapped – it's not hard to imagine George inadvertently being implicated in a partisan tax scandal. What better way to explore national incompetency, fraud and controversy than through Bluth family incompetency, fraud and controversy?