New ‘Arrested Development’: What to Expect

Ellen Gray
Philadelphia Daily News (MCT)

PASADENA, Calif. — Sometimes you can go home again.

The creator and cast of “Arrested Development” were reunited Wednesday at the Television Critics Association’s winter meetings in Pasadena with the people who’d (mostly) loved them before it was cool.

Or at least before millions more people discovered the show on DVD and decided that TV critics had, after all, been right about the series, which ran for three little-watched seasons on Fox between 2003 and 2006.

In May, “Arrested” will return to TV (sort of) on Netflix, which plans to launch all 14 new episodes at once to its streaming-plan subscribers, who pay $7.99 a month for the possibility of just this kind of binge viewing.

But if you’re thinking that what’s coming is “Season 4” of the show, think again.

Better to consider it “one giant, 700-minute ‘Arrested Development,’” said actor Jason Bateman, who stars as Michael Bluth, the closest thing to normal in the Bluth family, whose members include characters played by Jeffrey Tambor, Jessica Walter, Michael Cera, Will Arnett, Portia de Rossi and Tony Hale.

Bateman and creator Mitch Hurwitz continue to see this not-Season 4, which will catch fans up with what’s happened to the Bluths since 2006, as a forerunner of the “Arrested Development” movie they still hope to make.

“You’ll see us evade questions like crazy today,” warned Hurwitz, who said that while writing, there were a couple of instances where ideas he or other writers had proved to have already been explored in fan fiction, forcing them to abandon them.

His goal in writing the show had always been to be surprising, “and that was easier when no one was watching,” he said.

Trying to reassemble a cast whose careers have moved on — Arnett, for instance, is currently starring in NBC’s “Up All Night,” and Bateman has a thriving movie career — forced Hurwitz to find a structure that would allow each episode to focus on one major character, with the rest of the cast making small appearances and all the stories intersecting.

The budget, he said, was about the same as it had been on Fox, but the individual actors have become not just more expensive, but less available.

And though there will be a recommended order for viewing, Bateman seems to be envisioning a scenario in which viewers might jump back and forth among the episodes to follow a character’s storyline from different angles.

“It’s a very different form that emerged very organically,” said Hurwitz, employing one of Hollywood’s favorite words.

As for people who binge-watch the entire season the first day and then start spewing plot points on Twitter: “There are going to be surprises that are ruined by spoilers, but that would have happened, anyway,” he said.

“It’s not how we came up watching TV,” Hurwitz said. “But you gotta follow the audience.”

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