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Here's Why There Was Almost An Arrested Development And O.C. Cross-Over

Shows that utilize complex, fourth-wall-breaking references — often referred to as being "meta" — aren't too hard to find these days. Dan Harmon's Rick and Morty blew the doors wide open on that, introducing a massive audience to the same sort of intertextual humor that Harmon had mastered on his previous show, Community. Most recently, WandaVision took things even further, with each subsequent episode using tropes, set designs, and camera techniques from different sitcom eras, as the Scarlet Witch and Vision tried to understand their new reality.

While audiences are much more aware of meta-humor these days, in the early 2000s, not many shows were willing to challenge their viewers by potentially breaking the fourth wall. One show that did skirt the edge of this boundary was Arrested Development, the celebrated sitcom featuring an ensemble cast that included Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, and Michael Cera.

Arrested Development often made references to its cast, network, and even its struggle to avoid cancellation. In one memorable episode before the show's first official cancellation, Michael (Jason Bateman) and George Sr. (Jeffrey Tambor) openly referenced HBO and Showtime, rumored to be in talks to take over the show if Fox canceled it. Earlier in the episode, the show's narrator (Ron Howard) had deadpanned a plea to the audience to "Please tell your friends about this show."

One of the results of Arrested Development's willingness to reference its competitors almost resulted in an unlikely connection with one of the most successful shows at the time, The O.C. – and believe it or not, there was almost an Arrested Development and The O.C. crossover.

A running Arrested Development joke referencing 'The O.C.' almost led to a crossover

In 2005, when Arrested Development launched its third season, the writing was on the wall for the Bluth family. The show had been on the ropes throughout its first two seasons, and while critics couldn't say enough good things about Arrested Development, the ratings remained lackluster. The O.C., meanwhile, was at the height of its popularity. The show had been on the rise for its first and second seasons, and the second season, in particular, is remembered for the shocking season finale in which Marissa (Mischa Barton) shot Trey (Logan Marshall-Green) during a sequence that was immortalized in the SNL short "Dear Sister."

So when both Arrested Development and The O.C. returned in late 2005 to begin their new seasons on Fox, Arrested Development couldn't help but poke some fun at its more popular network sibling. In the third season's second episode, Arrested Development started using a running joke in which a character would refer to Orange County as "the OC," only to have Michael quickly respond with "Don't call it that." The gag popped up a few times throughout the season, which ended up being Arrested Development's last on Fox.

While the joke was pretty easy to miss, Arrested Development creator Mitch Hurwitz had plans to expand it with appearances from The O.C.'s cast. In an interview with Uproxx, The O.C. creator Josh Schwartz said, "We debuted in the same season on FOX, and Mitch Hurwitz asked if our actors could come on his show to play themselves as the stars of "The O.C." I was worried that was one layer of meta too many, so I said no." 

Thus, unfortunately for fans of early-2000s TV, The O.C. and Arrested Development crossover never happened.