Arrested Development’s Lucille Bluth appeared to be the scariest matriarch in the history of sitcoms, until Colleen Donaghy appeared on 30 Rock.
When it comes to family matriarchs, few are more horrifying than Lucille Bluth on Arrested Development. Her acerbic, hateful wit was fueled by a mix of alcohol, drugs and not knowing what actual kindness looked like. But 30 Rock had its own horrifying matriarch, someone that might have been even more bitter and hurtful than Lucille Bluth. Her name was Colleen Donaghy and she was really, really mean.
Arrested Development centered on the lives of the Bluth family. George and Lucille had gotten incredibly wealthy as home developers in California. But at the beginning of the series, George was arrested for a variety of crimes, including a little light treason. This left Lucille with her adult-ish kids, a group of mostly spoiled brats who couldn’t find a cinder block if they tripped over it. To be frank, Buster Bluth might have apologized to the cinder block and moved on.
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30 Rock was a much different series. It was set behind the scenes of a fictional sketch comedy series at NBC called TGS with Tracy Jordan. Jack Donaghy was the executive from GE sent to run NBC, and who spent an inordinate amount of his time on TGS. But his mother, Colleen Donaghy, became a recurring character who showed up usually once a season to torment her son and anyone else within earshot.
Lucille and Colleen had very similar personalities. They both loved their families deeply, but they expressed that affection in unconventional ways. Rather than being supportive or caring, they instead chose to constantly judge every member of their respective families, subjecting them to an endless barrage of sarcasm and criticism. It’s hard to say if those parenting choices were effective in any way, but it certainly made for memorable appearances on TV.
The biggest difference between the two was the fact that Lucille was a main character on Arrested Development. She appeared in virtually every episode of the series, depending to an extent on which cut of Season 4 is being watched. As such, viewers bore witness to her style of parenting throughout all five seasons of the series. She was a huge part of the show and of its the overall tone.
Colleen, on the other hand, was a recurring character. She only appeared in nine episodes out of a total of 139, though to Jack, it probably felt like she was around a lot more. While Colleen wasn’t on the series that much over the years, she certainly packed a lot into her few visits. That’s the nice way of saying that she verbally destroyed Jack a lot, not to mention making Kenneth question the very fabric of reality.
While Lucille was always funny, fans got a bit desensitized to her constantly demeaning everyone around her. It wasn’t as impactful or surprising because she was always there. Colleen only popped up a handful of times, meaning that her brutally demoralizing Jack and the TGS family was a special treat for viewers. That made her comments even more cutting because no one was prepared for them, including the person she raised.
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