Seven years in the making, and honestly not something many realistic pragmatists like us thought would ever come to pass, “Arrested Development” is returning in May on Netflix with all the 15 episodes at once, so you can binge through them all in one sitting, as is the norm for big TV digestion these days. No, it’s not quite a fourth season, or at least says Jason Bateman, but it’s the continuation of the Bluth’s story some 10 years later. Entertainment Weekly’s cover story last week has an awesome breakdown of the “Arrested Development” return and how unflappable series creator Mitch Hurwitz willed it into existence with unwavering tenacity.
Designed as a prequel to a movie that doesn’t yet exist or have a green light (more on that in a bit), “Arrested Development” premieres on Netflix, May 26th. Here’s 7 things we learned from the EW article that you can use as a primer.
1. Mitch Hurtwitz says the series aspires to be like “The Godfather Part II.” Meaning what? Expect something slightly different.
“If the first series aspired to be ‘The Godfather’ in terms of family, this thing aspires to be ‘The Godfather Part II,” Hurwitz explained. How is this different? Hurwitz says, “I’m sure a lot of people went to see [the sequel] and said, ‘What happened to the machine guns? What are we doing in Cuba? Meetings? Who cares about meetings.’ But [Part II] was more substantial, rewatchable [and] complex. I aspire to do that kind of evolution with this.” Hurwitz makes it clear he’s not trying to compare this new season to “The Godfather” or its sequel, but adds that it’s, “not exactly what the audience expects, but I think it’ll scratch the itch.”
2. So what is it exactly? Well, apparently very complex and ambitious.
In the past, “Arrested Development” was directed by folks like Paul Feig, Joe Russo (one half of the Russo brothers and the director of the next “Captain America” movie), Greg Mottola and Jay Chandrasekhar. This season will be completely co-directed by Troy Miller, also a former “Arrested Development” series helmer and director of “Mr. Show,” along with Hurwitz.
“There’s never been a half-hour comedy with the level of complexity here,” Troy Miller said. “The idea of how characters interrelate and the episodic arcs in A, B, C, D, and E story lines — it’s this crazy wormhole [Mitch has] created.” David Cross described the writer’s room as psycho killer’s apartment where he has everything mapped out on a wall. “Post-it notes and index cards all across the three walls in this big conference room. Yarn stretching from one thing to another and pinned in one place, and then a sharp angular uptick to the Lucille character and down. And then there’s a different-colored yarn that intersects and weaves in. It took [Mitch] 25 minutes to explain what I was looking at, and I still didn’t get everything. When you see that, of course it has to be a TV show. There’s no way else to do this.”
3. The show will be broken down into character episodes that overlap with other knotty and interwoven Bluth family stories.
Here’s how it will work: Each of the 15 episodes will center around one of nine family members (six episodes being two-parters). Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman) will largely be the only constant throughout each episode, to anchor it for the audience, and the entire family will only appear in one episode together — part of this was done simply because scheduling would be too busy, so Hurwitz and his writers wrote around the dilemma in advance.
There will also be a Rashōmon effect: certain events are revisited in multiple episodes from different perspectives. “When Mitch started to get his arms around how all the action could happen simultaneously and there was an ability to stop one episode, start another, and have all this crossover and braided plotting,” Jason Bateman said, “it became clear that he was going to try to accomplish something incredibly ambitious, the kind of escalation that the audience would expect from him.”
4. Michael Cera performed double duty and is also one of the writers on the series.
Perhaps because he was one of the most vocal about not returning to the show, or at least the one that expressed as much concern as David Cross about potentially ruining the show’s legacy, Hurwitz sought out Cera, took him out to dinner and wooed him. In the process he asked him to be part of the writing staff to ensure quality control. Cera called the offer to write, “intimidating [and] really moving.”
“There were, at one point, three pieces of different-colored yarn that all led to a card that had a question mark on it,” Cera laughed. “I think everyone — including Mitch and Richie [Rosenstock] and Jim [Vallely], these incredible minds that were navigating this whole thing — felt confused many times. But it helped the process, which was reassuring for me and for some of the newer writers who felt way in over their heads. It comes with the territory of doing a really ambitious story like that.”
5. There will be guests. Two new, previously unannounced ones are ‘The Office” star John Krasinski and “Expendables” star Terry Crews.
The Workaholics trio is also new. Previously announced guests include: Ben Stiller, James Lipton, Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Conan O’Brien, Andy Richter, Isla Fisher, John Slattery, Liza Minnelli, Carl Weathers, Ron Howard, Henry Winkler and Scott Baio.
6. Before there was the idea for a TV series leading into a movie, there was just a movie and it was very meta.
Of course there was more than one idea for a movie before Netflix came along and said to Hurwitz, “we’re interested in bringing this back,” but EW drops one idea that sounds pretty hilarious. “Arrested Development The Movie: The Movie.” They don’t reveal too many details, but write, “starring Jason Bateman as Michael Bluth and Greg Kinnear as Jason Bateman.” How would that work? Your guess is as good as ours, but some form of movie was hinted at way way back. You’ll remember that Maeby Fünke (Alia Shawkat) pitched Ron Howard that idea in the season finale of the cut-short Season 3. Whatever the case is, it’s a fun idea that’s been scrapped. Hurwitz seems to know what the “Arrested Development” movie will be — if it ever gets green lit — but it’s not yet written and it’s certainly not a meta-meta movie. Evidently at one point though, Hurwitz did pitch a “multiple movie scenario” to Howard’s Imagine Entertainment.
7. 10 Episodes Quickly Became 15
Netflix originally greenlight 10 episodes of “Arrested Development,” but after Hurwitz and his writers put their heads together he knew he needed more time so went back and asked for five more to make 15. With all the interconnectedness to it and reflections on events from different perspectives, will it be clear to audiences what’s going on? Hurwitz admits that several episodes were tricky and logical narrative kinks meant rewriting on set as they were shooting. It all sounds like a delicately conceived house of cards. “I just hope it makes sense,” Hurwitz said.
8. The Movie
Most of the “Arrested Development” cast realize a movie may not happen, but the show is devised so that it won’t depend on a feature-length feature either. Hurtwitz said he has “a great deal of [the movie] mapped out, but there’s no script yet.”
“If we get the movie, it’s the cherry on top of the sundae,” Tony Hale, aka Buster said. “If we don’t, it’s been a really delicious sundae.”