Tim Goodman's TCA Journal No. 2: Mitch Hurwitz Talks Secret 'Arrested Development' Project

Season 5 might be coming, but have you heard about Season 4? No, the other Season 4 that the creator recut (but hasn't aired).
Netflix/FilmMagic
'Arrested Development'; Mitch Hurwitz (inset)

The Hollywood Reporter's chief TV critic Tim Goodman will be filing a series of journals from the Television Critics Association's summer press tour, looking at the bigger picture, unspinning the spin or crushing the life out of things.

As colleague Dan Fienberg noted in his piece about series creator Mitch Hurwitz constantly getting asked about Arrested Development, there's an endless fascination about one of the greatest sitcoms ever created.

Hurwitz was at the Television Critics Association's summer press tour as part of a comedy creator panel put on by Netflix, where he's co-creator (along with Pam Brady) of Lady Dynamite starring Maria Bamford. One of the great things about the press tour is the combination of running into people (creators, stars, directors, etc.) either in the halls or at the bar or in the back of the ballroom watching someone else's panel. Sometimes you get good tidbits or off-the-record remarks (that give insight) or maybe the continuation of an unfinished riff.

I went searching for Hurwitz because he remains one of my favorite people in all of television, not just because he created that shining Arrested Development gem, but because he's unfailingly nice and if one of his projects doesn't go big, let's say, he's not going to hold it against you for not liking it. He understands the business. For a guy with a brilliant mind, he's about as down to earth as possible.

As Fienberg noted, Hurwitz offered up some hope for Arrested Development fans about a potential season five: "We're very close," Hurwitz promised. "It's a thing I really am desperate to do. We've got a lot of the stories broken. We're kinda ready to go. I'm so appreciative of the fans wanting more, I hate to tease them with information that there is going to be more until we know for sure, but it's what we're trying to accomplish and if does happen, it looks like shooting would be at the start of 2017. That's what I'm hoping."

My foray to find an old friend in Hurwitz also turned up some stunning tidbits from him about season four of Arrested Development, the much-hyped 15 episodes that landed on Netflix in 2013 (its return, after being canceled seven years earlier by Fox, was one of the primary reasons the streamer was allowed to come to the TCAs for the first time ever, crammed into a low-key slot on the January 2013 tour and touting Hemlock Grove and Derek of all things, with the Arrested Development reunion-resurrection being the main draw).

On Wednesday, Hurwitz said he's actually recut the entirety of the 15-episode fourth season (episodes ran more than 30 minutes, with one as long as 42 minutes) into — wait for it — 22 episodes with a running time of 22 minutes.

Um, what?

It's true. And right now that creator's cut of season four — which even features new Ron Howard narration — is just sitting on a shelf. There's a lot of moving parts when it comes to Arrested Development, and who knows if those 22 episodes will appear on Netflix or some 20th Century Fox showcase of some sorts. How and when this private project of Hurwitz's sees the light of day is probably more business-based than any of us can figure out.

The important thing is just this: We need to see those 22 episodes.

The painstaking process of recutting the season also changed the narrative structure and allowed for other stories to emerge in different ways, Hurwitz said.

It's an interesting experiment and has essentially created an entirely new and different season four. There were also tons of unused scenes that Hurwitz could tap into. Weirdly, he just reimagined his own series, which is absolutely a thing I want to see because almost every creator wants to get a second swing at something that maybe wasn't quite as perfect as they wanted.

I'm assuming you're feeling the same way (fans on Twitter went ballistic when I tweeted out the 22-episode thing.)

Given that expectations were so high for the show after being dormant seven years before the 2013 premiere on Netflix, and the difficulties in getting the cast to work out their schedules (they never appeared all together), the result was that the fourth-season comeback was more disjointed than the original versions. Though it still got favorable reviews (a 72 aggregate on Metacritic; a 90 from me) it didn't melt the internet (apparently the new standard of success). Of course, as noted above, even if season four wasn't as acclaimed as the three previous, generating buzz for that please-make-it-happen fifth season never seems to wane. (And Hurwitz said the scheduling remains the biggest issue for ongoing Arrested Development seasons, given how famous everyone became.)

I, for one, would love for Hurwitz to be able to wrangle all the actors again and actually deliver on that enticing hope to start shooting in early 2017 (he has written much of it and continues to have new ideas for it).

But right now? Yeah, I want to see the recut 22 episodes of season four. Hurwitz, whose passionate exhaustion for detail in Arrested Development (multiple levels of jokes, from visual to physical to what was written on the page) wore him down in the past, has apparently been — perhaps, insanely — rejuvenated to give it another go before giving it yet another go.

Somebody should reward him — and viewers — for that and put it out.  

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