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Seven Highlights From 'Arrested Development' Creator Mitchell Hurwitz's NYTVF Keynote Address: 'We got to look more ingenious than we were'

Photo of Alison Willmore By Alison Willmore | Indiewire October 22, 2013 at 3:56PM

"Arrested Development" series creator Mitchell Hurwitz delivered the keynote address at the 2013 New York Television Festival, talking process, the series and, yes, whether they're still planning a movie.
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Jeffrey Tambor and Jason Bateman in 'Arrested Development'
Sam Urdank/Netflix Jeffrey Tambor and Jason Bateman in 'Arrested Development'

Hurwitz was initially resistant to the idea of binge-viewing. Before it was decided that all the episodes of "Arrested Development" would be made available at once, as has become the tradition for Netflix originals, Hurwitz wasn't completely into the idea -- "But don't you want them looking forward to it each week?" he claimed to have asked the company, who told him that all at once was how people were watching "Arrested Development" on the site. It did change his approach to the fourth season in terms of storytelling, something he felt "I did not prepare the audience for" -- "what it had become was a novel" in which he didn't use the same approach he had on traditional television, of packing everything into the first episode. There are some drawbacks to binge-viewing, he mused, noting that when he first started watching "Mad Men" it was on the air, and the week in between installments left him time to contemplate. "Once you started watching them back to back, you're watching plot -- you lose some of that." On the upside, he noted that its thanks to these new ways of watching that we're seeing more "shows that fundamentally change, when television was about fundamentally staying the same."

"Once you started watching them back to back, you're watching plot."

Mark Zuckerberg hasn't been in touch about Fakeblock. Asked about one of the season four storylines in which George Michael (Michael Cera) launches/is forced to launch a startup company centered on privacy software, Hurwitz noted that the "Social Network" influence was a sign of the times. Over the years that the series was in limbo, "the story kept changing depending on what was in the popular culture." At one point, inspired by the Angelina Jolie movie "The Changeling" and the fact that Michael Cera wasn't available, Hurwitz noted they wanted to to make a film with Jonah Hill in the role of George Michael, with Michael (Jason Bateman) saying, Jolie-style, "He's not my son!" and Gob (Arnett) claiming otherwise.

Hurwitz isn't sure how to create characters. Instead, he says "really, character is what someone does more than who they are. I can be sarcastic or I can be fearful -- it doesn't really matter until something happens. What we're really wired for as a special is story." For "Arrested Development," he explained, "I did try to start with some givens" -- like there being a family, and maybe they suffered somehow, they lost their money, and he built it out from there. He noted that while it might sound pompous, he likes to use a paradigm that he's spoken about in interviews before -- that all characters are really either a matriarch, patriarch, craftsman or clown. In the case of "Arrested Development," that would be Lindsay (Portia De Rossi), Michael (Jason Bateman), the academic Buster (Tony Hale) and the magician Gob, a "family equipped to do nothing."

'Arrested Development'
Netflix 'Arrested Development'

The "call forwards" the series made its own were a reaction to the constraints of television. Having come up through traditional sitcoms like "The Golden Girls," Hurwitz explained that in "Arrested Development," "certain things stylistically were an outgrowth of my own frustrations" after "so many years of seeing the reset" at the end of each episode. He wanted the universe in which the show existed to not reset -- when you break something one week, it's still broken the next. Hence the blue handprints or the Saddam Hussein photo, the foreshadowing of events that wouldn't become meaningful until episodes later, a particularly risky move when, at the time, "the show wasn't even on DVD" or in reruns and the call forwards to something that hadn't yet happened were "something that an audience couldn't get until they rewatch it."

But some of the things are just serendipitous, Hurwitz admitted, not all planned. "The more stuff you throw in there, the more of a chance you have of making connections -- we got to look more ingenious than we were." That said, he promised, "I just came up with a thing that's going to look like that's why they do the chicken dance -- we're going to look like geniuses."

This article is related to: Television, TV Features, New York Television Festival, Mitchell Hurwitz, Arrested Development, Netflix, Running Wilde






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