'Arrested Development' Pay Dispute Erupts Over "Recut" Episodes (Exclusive)

Arrested Development Cast - Netflix -Publicity-H 2018
Courtesy of Netflix

In another sign of the increasingly complex economics of the television business, the star-studded Arrested Development cast is not happy with the expanded and "recut" fourth season of the Netflix comedy. 

Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that actors including Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, Michael Cera and David Cross are asking for added compensation after creator Mitch Hurwitz and producer 20th Century Fox Television re-edited the 15-episode season to a full 22 with the hope of providing a new lure for fans and landing a lucrative syndication deal for the series. 

Netflix revived the former Fox favorite for a fourth season, dropping all 15 episodes in 2013 after reuniting the cast for a Rashomon-style story with each episode following one Bluth family member. The stand-alone episodes were created as a work-around to accommodate the busy schedules of its breakout cast. 

Hurwitz, in a recent post on social media, announced that he had recut season four and shuffled content from "15 individualized stories into 22 interwoven stories the length of the original series" as what he called "an experiment to find out, well … I guess 'if I could make some money,'" adding that he hoped the series would "syndicate eventually." (Hurwitz also recut the season as a "comedic experiment," he wrote.) The move, sources say, was instigated by 20th TV, with the studio hoping to score a financial windfall by selling Arrested Development in syndication globally after Netflix’s window. (Hurwitz first revealed the plan to recut the episodes for a 22-episode season back in 2016.)

Sources say Hurwitz added a few minutes of unaired content that didn't make it into Netflix's original 30-minute-plus season-four episodes. The 15 original episodes were cut down to 22-minute installments over 22 episodes that are more in line with its original Fox run and more suitable to be sold in bulk. (Netflix also is airing the new 22-minute episodes on the service.)

But while Hurwitz may be making more money with the stunt, the Arrested Development cast isn’t. According to sources, most of the cast — which also includes Jessica Walter, Jeffrey Tambor, Alia Shawkat and Tony Hale —  was paid $100,000 each for their stand-alone episodes, $50,000 for each installment where they had a little screen time, and another $25,000 for ones in which they barely appeared. 

Reps for the cast have asked for additional fees to correspond with the additional episodes but 20th TV has balked, arguing that it has the right to re-edit the existing episodes that have already aired however it chooses without paying the actors more. The cast position is that the additional episode count effectively reduces the pay-per-episode that was negotiated, especially since the studio stands poised for a financial windfall thanks to a possible syndication pact. 

Including the recut season, Arrested Development has 75 total episodes — plus its upcoming fifth season, which debuts May 29 and could consist of 17 episodes (per a 2015 interview with executive producer Brian Grazer). That would bring the series into the episode inventory traditionally required for a syndication pact. 

Representatives for 20th TV and Netflix declined comment.  

Arrested Development originally ran on Fox from 2003-06, winning an Emmy for best comedy series in 2004. Hurwitz signed a multiyear deal with Netflix in 2014.