Get ready to blue yourself: "Arrested Development" is returning to television -- or something like it. After seven years of rumors, false starts and fan campaigns, Michael Bluth and his delightfully dysfunctional family of oddballs is back, this time on Netflix, where 15 new episodes will be available immediately for streaming starting on May 26. Jason Bateman, Portia De Rossi, Jessica Walter, David Cross, Alia Shawkat and Michael Cera recently sat down with press in Los Angeles to reveal a few secrets about the show's rebirth, in the process highlighting both what has changed in the seven years since the show went off the air, and what has stayed the same. Check out Indiewire's list of 10 things fans can look forward to, or should be aware of, in the new season of "Arrested Development" -- including not calling it a "season."
The characters on "Arrested Development" have always been immature and more than a little shallow. Don't expect growth since the last time you saw them.
"It's actually gone in the opposite direction," said Jason Bateman, whose character Michael is, if only by a matter of degrees, the most well-adjusted. "If we're ever fully rehabilitated, there will be no show, so yeah, we're deeply banged up. The seven years have not been kind to us. You see everybody's flaws." Jessica Walter, who plays the Bluth family matriarch Lucille, revealed that their problems have only gotten worse. "The desperation, I would say, is magnified, in the 15 episodes we just did." Bateman added, "Overall, the whole tone is a lot darker. It's not as homogenized as you need to make things on broadcast."
Because all 15 episodes of the new series will be available at the same time, storylines overlap and are more interchangeable than when episodes were broadcast on a weekly basis.
Bateman explained, "Netflix affords [Mitchell Hurwitz] the opportunity to have these stories go out over 15 different episodes that are so intertwined. The same scene will repeat, from different angles, in multiple episodes." David Cross, who plays aspiring actor and former "analrapist" Tobias Fünke, said that viewers will quickly begin to understand how the show works after watching the first few episodes. "If you're watching it, especially in chronological order, I think as you get to episode three, episode four, you're going to realize how you're supposed to start watching it, as opposed to just being a passive viewer." "Not to give too much away, but it's taking those moments you had as a fan of 'Arrested,' especially when you watch it on DVD, and go, 'Oh, wait, that's a reference to that thing three shows earlier.' But, quintuple that."
The episodes are numbered in a specific order, but viewers can switch them around for a different, and increasingly rewarding experience.
"Pretty shortly after you start watching, you'll realize, 'I can complete that scene, if I re-watch the second half of that last episode,'" Bateman said. "You'll start to make your own order as you're interested in certain stories, or try to figure out what the whole thing is going to be about." Cross insisted that the first two episodes, which focus largely on Michael, offer a sort of rosetta stone for those which follow. "I think it is important, just based on watching the episodes the other night, to watch episodes one and two first, because of the story," he said. "Because of the whole Cinco de Quatro [storyline], and it catches people up. But after that, go nuts."
Despite the similarity of its intricacies, it's important to not mistake the new series for the old one, even superficially.
Even Portia De Rossi, who plays Tobias' wife Lindsey, wasn't entirely sure how to characterize its return. "Are we calling this a season?" she asked his fellow castmates. "Just to manage expectations, if we call it a season, the implication is that this is going to feel like the other seasons," Bateman clarified. "It's not."
Despite their collective enthusiasm for the show's return, even the cast members themselves admit that there was real skepticism that a proper reunion would ever happen.
"I think it was a little boy who cried wolf for a while, I must admit," De Rossi confessed. "Really, until business affairs called, that's when I knew that we actually were going to [make the show]. Because it was oh, it's going to happen in this month or whatever, and here's a script or here's an idea. Until it got down to that, I was a little skeptical. Having said that, I always knew that all of us would be on board and willing to do whatever Mitch wanted us to do as part of the show." Walter said she felt confident only after they asked her to get into costume. "I always believe that when wardrobe calls," she said. "You could have the contract signed, whatever, and then all of a sudden [it doesn't happen]. But you know when they're putting out money and saying we want to buy clothes that it is."
Nevertheless, once the cast and crew came back together, they said it felt just like it had during the show's original run.
Remarkably, the Bluths actually spend relatively little time all together in the new series, but to Walter, those infrequent reunions were key moments in rekindling the old "Arrested Development" energy they used to share. "There are only two scenes in the entire 15 episodes where we're all together," Walter revealed. "But the first time we all sat down in that penthouse, which was recreated to the nails in the wall, we were so excited we hardly had the chance to calm down. Once we heard the voices and saw the faces that looked the same, except for the kids, who are now adults, that's when I knew we were really back. Incredible. It was surreal."
Still, some members of the cast admit that they're not quite as spry as they perhaps were in 2006 when the show went off the air.
"Much like the fading athlete who perhaps should have quit a year before he starts degrading, I was definitely attempting to do some fun stunts," Cross said when asked how capable he still is of pulling off Tobias' dexterous physical humor. "My mind is the mind of a fresh, virile, 19-year-old, but I'm definitely getting creakier bones. I'm not nearly as limber. Also, I'm fatter. I was doing ADR, and I was doing a scene with my shirt off, which was never a problem before. I turn around and I go, 'Oh my God.' There's definitely that middle-aged gut. I didn't even suck it in. I'm not quite as limber, but, still, for my peers in my age group, dude, I'm top-notch."