April 17, 2012 7:00pm PT by Lesley Goldberg , Carolyn Giardina
NAB 2012: Netflix Previews 'Arrested Development' Return, Renews 'Lilyhammer' for Second Season
After five years off the air, Netflix is bringing Arrested Development back -- but don't expect all of the Bleuths to be back at once.
During a Netflix panel Tuesday at the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas, Arrested Development creator Mitch Hurwitz revealed that the upcoming fourth season of the critically acclaimed former Fox series would be like an anthology series.
"Because everybody is on separate shows, we had this idea to do kind of an anthology series and meet the characters, where they have been, one at a time," Hurwitz told attendees. "That is evolving into the old show again, even though the concept is slightly different."
Netflix announced in November that it is resurrecting the former Fox ratings underperformer with new originals of the comedy starring Jeffrey Tambor, Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, Portia de Rossi and Michael Cera starrer set to stream online starting in the first half of next year. (Episodes are expected follow the Lilyhammer model, with the full season streaming on premiere day.)
Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos noted the passion of the show's audience has only grown, with fans petitioning, blogging and tweeting to bring the show back, confirming that after months of negotiations, the cast and creators are coming back for an original fourth season on the streaming service.
"The seeds for a Netflix reunion came from a simple party conversation with Ron Howard, that let to a meeting with Brian Grazer, which led to a meeting with Mitch Hurwitz, which led to a meeting with Gary Newman at Fox," the executive explained, with cast members Arnett, David Cross, Alia Shawkat, Tambor and Jessica Walter in attendance. "It was clear that everybody wanted to come back; we just need to figure out how to make it work with everyone's incredibly busy schedules. We decided not to follow the conventional definition of a season; we would produce exactly how many episodes were needed to tell the story."
STORY: Netflix Sets Cast for Original Murder Mystery Series 'Hemlock Grove' From Eli Roth
For his part, Hurwitz said he is excited to return to the dysfunctional Bleuth family in a different format and noted the similarities between the show's 2003 launch and rebirth with Netflix. "We were very fortunate to get on the air with a show that was very different at its time, and there is something very exciting about doing that again in this new format, especially dropping all of these episodes at the same time," he noted, acknowledging that thanks to Netflix, the show has only gained fans during its five years off the air.
"We are embracing the fact that these episodes are being 'aired,' so to speak, at the same time. And it is changing our storytelling; we had a lot of secrets that we were planting in storytelling," he said, citing the show's blind character who ultimately turned out to not actually be blind (played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus). "Hopefully by the end of the episodes you will want to go back to the start and view it through new eyes."
Other highlights from the panel included:
• Original series Lilyhammer will return for a second season, Sarandos said. The scripted drama stars The Sopranos' Steven Van Zandt as a former Mobster who enters the federal witness protection program after ratting on his boss and begins to make a new life in Lillehammer, the Norwegian town that played host to the 1994 Winter Olympics.
• Jenji Kohan (Weeds) and Liz Friedman previewed Netflix scripted comedy Orange Is the New Black, noting that the series is a "yuppie-eye view" of women's prison. "The freedom and the notion that we can deliver something to an audience in bulk and let them immerse themselves in the world … we're super excited," Kohan said.
• Sarandos noted that physical production just began on David Fincher's Washington, D.C.-set drama House of Cards. A first-look clip prepared by Fincher featured makeup tests of the cast in costume and establishing shots of the Kevin Spacey starrer. Netflix ordered two 13-episode seasons, which will debut next year.
• Meanwhile, Hemlock Grove creator Eli Roth noted he was drawn to creating a drama series for the former DVD-by-mail company because of the unique ways in which viewers can consume the series: either as hourly episodes or as a 13-hour movie. “I was tempted to do something in the television space that was horror related, but I always thought the medium wouldn't allow me to do what I think I do well and what the fans expect from me,” Roth said. "I was excited by Brian McGreevy’s novel, which I though was so meticulously well researched in the mythology of werewolves and vampires and Frankenstein and set it in this incredible Twin Peaks story, which to me was always the benchmark."
Lesley Goldberg reported from Los Angeles; Carolyn Giardina reported from Las Vegas.