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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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Moderator John Sellers (senior editor of New York Magazine) and Mitchell Hurwitz at the 2013 NYTVF
Lauren Caulk/NYTVF Moderator John Sellers (senior editor of New York Magazine) and Mitchell Hurwitz at the 2013 NYTVF

Let's get this out of the way first -- here's the latest on the "Arrested Development" movie. According to series creator Mitchell Hurwitz, who delivered the creative keynote address to kick off the 2013 New York Television Festival last night, the plan is now to do the movie at Netflix, then bring the show back for another round. This plan, Hurwitz noted, "has been approved by no one" and he didn't "want to be presumptuous," it's just what he'd like to do. He sees the approach as a more likely way to get the very busy cast back together for four months rather than the longer production time required for another season -- as he explained, the deals required for the latter could take around two years, and most of the cast members have first position deals elsewhere.

Hurwitz has had plenty of opportunity to talk about this still theoretical feature over the storied lifetime of "Arrested Development," as the cult favorite comedy series went from three seasons on Fox to a second life on Netflix this year after years off the air. But what's notable, listening to Hurwitz speak about the show and his approach to television, is how thoughtful and passionate he remains about the medium that obviously has offered him some serious ups and downs. Here are seven highlights from the candid, entertaining talk, which was moderated by New York Magazine editor John Sellers.

Mitch Hurwitz, NYTVF founder Terence Grey, John Sellers
Lauren Caulk/NYTVF Mitch Hurwitz, NYTVF founder Terence Grey, John Sellers

Hurwitz still struggles with self-consciousness about his work. "Life is choice and choice is loss," he noted, and that can be paralyzing, even after his years of working in the industry. It's "very easy when you're a creative person to just wait for the right thing," and a challenge for him has been to just dive in and to realized that "some perfect version of 'Arrested Development' probably doesn't exist."

Hurwitz said that this plagued him even back in the episodes following the pilot, which was well received, and when the show returned courtesy of Netflix there was an added pressure in resurrecting a series that had gone out, critically at least, at the top of its game. "Like anyone that dies young, no one goes back and says, 'Do you know who wasn't a very good actor? James Dean.'" "I just constantly had to say, 'Oh, fuck it, what do I care?'"

Constraints can be good for you. "The more constraints I have, the more opportunity I have to fix those constraints," Hurwitz pointed out, and while season four of the series, on Netflix, came with greater freedoms in terms of length, content and form, it had its own challenges. Netflix "created this great creative opportunity," he continued, but "built into it was that we didn't have all the actors at the same time." The situation was "not preferable" to having all the actors together, but it freed him up to try out new approaches to structure. "Originally it was just going to be an anthology of truly separate stories," but slowly the idea of crossovers, of callbacks and call forwards emerged to created the complicated whole that was season four.

'Running Wilde'
Fox 'Running Wilde'

But they can also be problematic. One of the most interesting stories Hurwitz shared was about "Running Wilde," the short-lived 2010-2011 sitcom he created for Fox, reuniting with "Arrested Development" actor Will Arnett. "It had gotten to the point in broadcast television" where, Hurwitz explained, "they've sort of fetishized how difficult I was. Why did you cancel the show? 'Well, Mitch is crazy.'" "I had a very clear vision for 'Arrested,'" Hurwitz said, but "afterward I was really open to taking notes."

On "Running Wilde," Hurwitz continued, "for whatever reason I decided the lesson I was going to teach [Arnett] is 'take the note.'" This lead to their doing nine drafts and being told by Fox chairman Kevin Reilly "this doesn't work for me, I want another premise." ("You betcha, we'll do another premise," they would respond.) Hurwitz claimed he actually got a note that suggested if he thought of something that he hadn't seen before, that felt fresh, "just don't do it," with Reilly telling him "I want to make this show a hit." Obviously, the result was not. "Somewhere in there you have to find a way to be open -- to not be defensive," Hurwitz concluded, but that doesn't mean not standing by your vision.

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







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