Although several characters are in the comedy Arrested Development, the protagonist is Michael Bluth. He’s the main character surrounded by an off-the-wall dysfunctional family and the only one that seems to have a grip on reality. Since Michael is the only sensible one in the script and changes over time, and the others are bizarre and don’t change, I believe him to be the protagonist over the rest.
Michael wants to be a partner in his father’s developing company and thinks he is going to be appointed, which is the inciting incident on page 6. This is where the story arc of Michael’s character begins, and at this point he is tolerant of his family’s oddities. He has all of these plans on how to run the company while his father is retired. Michael learns of his family’s spending of company money on things unrelated to the company, and assuming he will be made partner, he begins making announcements that the spending has to stop.
However, when his father announces at the retirement party that his mother, Lucille, is going to be the partner, Michael’s dreams quickly vanish. He knows that his mother could never run the company, as she is too involved in herself and spending money on needless things. Michael decides he is done with the family and begins thinking about his next move.
When the father, George, is arrested for defrauding investors, the family is in a panic. No one else knows how to run a company, much less figure out how to deal with its financial trouble. When Lucille announces that her other son, Buster, will take charge instead, Michael announces that he is done with the family’s selfishness, because he knows that Buster (who has panic attacks and no focus) could never handle the company on his own either. Michael is hurt and feels unloved, so he decides to leave the state and interviews for a job in Arizona.
Buster eventually has another panic attack when he is confronted with actual knowledge of and running the company, and the family decides that they need Michael. He tells them no, but then when he visits his father in jail, his father convinces him that he really does love Michael and did not want to involve him in the legal issues – which is why he didn’t make him a partner. Michael believes him and begins to have a change of heart. He also notices his son’s sadness about having to leave and quickly realizes that he should stay in California with his family, because family is number one.
On page 7, the theme of the script is revealed when Michael announces that the model home is a fake, including its contents. When prospective buyers come to the home to take a look at it, Michael and his son quickly pretend they are also shopping and announce how much they love the home. This happens again in a later scene with Lindsay and George-Michael. The home is symbolic of everything else in the family that is fake – George’s investments and cowboy persona, Lucille’s equal love for her children, Gob’s magic “illusions”, Lindsay’s love for Tobias, Tobias’s (closeted) homosexuality, Buster’s knowledge of everything, and George-Michael and Maeby’s odd incestuous kiss to try to fool their family. It seems that everything is fake except the protagonist.