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Washing away collective skepticism and redundant questions for one shining moment during the Television Critics Association winter press tour Wednesday, Netflix assembled most of the cast of Arrested Development onstage — almost six years after the cult comedy went off the air.
The Fox series, canceled in 2006, gets a second life on the streaming service in May. And to promote its return, creator and EP Mitch Hurwitz — joined by stars Jeffrey Tambor, Will Arnett, Jessica Walter, Jason Bateman, Alia Shawkat, Michael Cera and Portia de Rossi — helped dispel confusion about the format to a rapt crowd of reporters.
“Our family had drifted apart,” Hurwitz said of the busy alums’ diaspora. “The only way we could get together was to dedicate each episode to a different character’s point of view. That became really fun because we’d find that some of the stories intersect. It’s kind of an evolution of the storytelling that was necessary.”
The story means that fans might not get to see the different members of the Bluth family all together at once — but they will see parallel stories weave into each character’s episode.
“It’s one giant Arrested Development,” explained Hurwitz. “When we were all talking about it, we wanted to find a way to jump from one story to another, in a sort of ‘choose your own adventure.’ “
Added Bateman: “It is not ‘season four’; we should probably make that clear. Everybody sort of intermingles through each person’s individual episode, but it is a ‘Lindsay’ episode or a ‘Gob’ episode that we guest star in.”
Spoilers were, of course, off limits — but de Rossi did offer up one vague example of what they’re going for.
“We had a great scene where I interpreted by mother’s tone as sarcasm,” she says of her episode. “But [we later see] she intended something entirely different.”
Hurwitz lightly reprimanded the actress for saying anything at all. He was smiling, but he also seemed quite serious.
“One of the challenges of the show was to always be surprising,” he said. “That was easy to do when no one was watching. We’re really guarding the material to surprise the audience.”
With filming wrapped and the simultaneous launch of all 14 episodes set for May, Hurwitz noted that they were just getting into postproduction — and said editing could prove tricky. He said the idea is to have the episodes be similar to the cable comedy model, with run times approaching a full 30 minutes.
The entire Arrested Development team emphasized their desire to do a follow-up movie, with Hurwitz talking about its importance to the overall story.
“This is the first act of what we would like to complete in a movie,” he said. “These are episodes that set that up. One does not work without the other.”
But the creator and the entire cast, at one point or another, made points to express their surprise and gratitude at the happy, long-delayed reunion — even if nothing else ever comes of it.
“I think I just always kind of held out hope that this would work, and it was a naive hope,” Hurwitz said. “We shouldn’t be here.”
They left the crowd with a clip he said likely would end up on the cutting-room floor: Lucille (Walter) mama-birding cigarette smoke into Buster’s (the absent Tony Hale), for no fewer than 10 puffs, so he could run to exhale her smoke outside of the familiar living room.
Most of the room rewarded the clip with a rare showing of applause.
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