After a 7-year Hiatus, Arrested Develpment is Back

When Arrested Development was originally cancelled, fans everywhere let out a collective "C'mon!" But after years of waiting, the Bluths are back

Credit: Netflix

Taste the happy! Arrested Development is back thanks to Netflix

Cancelled seven years ago, cult-hit comedy Arrested Development makes its triumphant return — but not on traditional TV

In the television universe, certain things are filed under wishful thinking. A Friends reunion. That much-anticipated 24 movie. A green light for more Entourage debauchery. But for the past seven years, one show has been sitting at the pinnacle of impossible TV series revivals: Arrested Development.

The critically acclaimed Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning but low-rated cult comedy about the formerly wealthy and highly dysfunctional Bluth family ran for three seasons on Fox before being cancelled in 2006.

But ever since the Bluths quite literally sailed off into the sunset, its cast has been plagued with the same inquiry: Will there be more Arrested Development? When? And each time the actors, producers and even peripheral guest stars have given fans a nugget of hope: A script is in the works. A deal is near. Everyone would return in a heartbeat.

Netflix Gives New Life to Arrested Development

Much as in those other utopian TV situations, rumours of a movie or another season persisted for years, fuelled by creator Mitchell Hurwitz sharing his desire to tell more Bluth family misadventures. There just wasn’t a viable financier. It wasn’t until media-streaming giant Netflix became a creator of original content, producing critically acclaimed series like House of Cards and Lilyhammer, that the Bluths suddenly stood a real chance of reuniting.

“Netflix fought very hard to have the show and it’s largely because they have this relationship with audiences and they knew there was a market for it — they didn’t have to guess,” says exec producer Ron Howard, who also narrates the show. “The fans stayed with the show and more or less have demanded that there be more episodes, and it’s one of the most rare instances where people listened to them.”

Rare is an understatement. Even Hurwitz cops to having given fans somewhat false hope for years.

“Listen, it really didn’t seem as impossible to me until we got into it and I realized how impossible it was,” he says. “I think I just always held out hope that this would work out, and it was a very naïve hope. So yeah, we shouldn’t be here. I accept that premise.”

GOB Arrested Development

It’s not an illusion – after years of rumours and false starts, Arrested Development returns (Image: Netflix)

The cast was equally dubious up until the very last minute. “I must admit that until business affairs called I was a little skeptical,” says Portia de Rossi, who was eager to jump back into Lindsay Bluth-Fünke’s overpriced and never animal-friendly shoes. “But having said that, I always knew that all of us would be on board, and all of us would be willing to do whatever Mitch wanted us to do as part of the show.”

De Rossi noticed that the buzz of the show had been building over the years, not diminishing.

“It was one of those things where I thought, ‘We haven’t been on air for six months, it’ll die down, and disappear and fade away.’ And then the voice got louder and louder, instead of the other way around,” she says. “I thought we were always going to make more [episodes] or a movie at some point, but the fact that people actually wanted us to, was a surprise.”

Jessica Walter, who portrays scheming matriarch Lucille Bluth (last seen making a run from the police on the Queen Mary), knew the project was finally a go when wardrobe called her for fittings. “You could have contracts signed, but you know they’re putting down money when they’re going to go out and buy clothes,” she points out.

The New Arrested Development

And here we are at last. On Sunday, May 26, 15 new episodes of the wacky mockumentary sitcom will be released simultaneously on Netflix, giving various perspectives of the events that have transpired in each family member’s life for the past 10 years.

“It is a very different form that emerged really organically,” says Hurwitz, comparing the release of the entire season to that of a musician releasing an album. “The only way we could get everybody together for what we’ll call loosely an anthology was to dedicate each episode to a different character’s point of view and that became a really fun, interesting, engaging creative challenge, because we started finding out that the stories would intersect.”

Though all episodes will be available at once, Hurwitz and the cast say there are benefits to watching them in order.

“I think as you get to episode three, episode four, you’re going to realize how you were supposed to start watching it — as opposed to just being a passive viewer — and I think that’s going to be really, really exciting for people,” says David Cross, whose character Tobias Fünke still struggles as much with his sexuality as he does with his acting career.

“It’s taking those moments you’ve had as a fan of Arrested and going, ‘Oh, wait a minute. That’s a reference to three shows earlier.’ It’s going to be a bit of an epiphany. You’re going to start realizing there’s a structure to this that you weren’t aware of.”

At least part of this structure can be credited to co-star Michael Cera. Only 15 years old when he took on the role of straightlaced George Michael, who carries a torch for his cousin Maeby (Alia Shawkat), Cera received a consulting-producer credit this season after joining the writers’ room and helping create the complex narratives.

“There was one five-page scene that we did where different sections of this scene would be appearing in different episodes,” he says. “So actually you’d have to deliver a line that made sense in multiple different contexts and in a way that works for all three of those and then you see an episode with different information and it means something totally different. That was really confusing.”

The Bluths are Back

Arrested Development

The new season of Arrested Development will dedicate an episode to each member of the Bluth family (Image: Netflix)

Then again, the Bluths have always been somewhat bewildered and the nearly a decade that has passed has not been kind to them. “It’s called Arrested Development — we don’t really grow that much,” says de Rossi with a laugh. Adds co-star Jason Bateman, “Things have actually gone the opposite direction.”

His character of Michael Bluth remains the straight man and moral centre of the show, but he’s no closer to keeping the family’s affairs together than he was before. Meanwhile, George Michael still harbours feelings for Maeby, though now that they aren’t technically related, new possibilities could open up.

In addition, G.O.B (Will Arnett) is using his own kind of “magic” to erase unpleasant memories, Tobias may or may not still be covering himself in blue body paint, and George Sr. (Jeffrey Tambor), who was last seen heading off to Cabo, makes a reappearance.

For the cast, it all felt like old times. “It was surreal,” says Walter. “Nine years later — except for the two kiddies who grew — we all were the same. The same voices came out. The set was recreated, the penthouse, down to the nails in the wall.”

“It just felt like one of those moments where you kind of question whether time actually exists,” notes de Rossi, “because it felt we were coming back to work a few months after we ended. To hear everybody in character again, in the first rehearsal of the scene, it just like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s it. That’s what we do.’ ”

When asked what they missed about their characters, most of the actors simply admit to missing each other. “I didn’t miss that much about my character because I don’t like to work that hard, so I made the character really close to me,” jokes Bateman. “I never really left him. The clothes were different, mine versus the set.”

“Tobias is a fun and pretty goofy, sadly deluded guy, and it’s a fun character to do, for sure,” says Cross. “But even less about that, it was just about, ‘Oh my God. I get to hang out with all these guys again.’ We had so much fun.”

De Rossi says she loved jumping back into Lindsay, who at the end of season three discovered she was adopted from the family’s arch nemesis Stan Sitwell (Ed Begley, Jr.) — and is three years older than she’d thought.

“I loved Lindsay,” she says. “I loved playing her because she was so earnest even though she was vapid and self-centred. She actually thought that she was a good person and was doing good things, so I liked that disconnect for a character. It’s always fun to play the innocent, no matter what you’re doing. If you feel like you’re doing the right thing, you can get away with a lot comedically, so I definitely missed not having a conscience.”

New Life for Arrested

Arrested Development

Huzzah! All 15 episodes of Arrested Development will be available on May 26th (Image: Netflix)

What felt like an early Christmas gift to the cast and crew also feels like a victory for fans who for once will see their unwavering dedication rewarded. But despite the interruption of Arrested Development the first time around, Bateman says he harbours no hard feelings toward Fox for cancelling the show.

“I don’t think any of us felt any sort of bitterness or huge frustration that the show had gone away,” he says. “We felt pretty grateful that we got that far. There was blood in the water after the first 13 episodes. Netflix gave us all a chance to have a reunion party and hang out with one another and do Mitch’s work. So it’s all been gravy for us from the start.”

“I don’t take the same meds as Jason,” interjects Cross. “I was a little pissed that it was cancelled, kind of unceremoniously. I don’t know if vindication is the word I’d use, but it’s certainly satisfying to know that all of us, as well as all the fans, were right. It should have continued.”

From here on, the plan is for this instalment of Arrested Development to be followed up by two more. It almost makes the final moments of the show’s last network episode prophetic. “The final scene of the final episode is Ron Howard saying, ‘No, I don’t think anyone would ever watch a show about your family, but maybe a movie,’ ” recalls Bateman.

“This is certainly a satisfying conclusion if, for some unfortunate reason, the movie does not happen. But these instalments are all meant to work within one another, sort of a hybrid package of Arrested Development.”

So don’t say goodbye just yet — something tells us it’s not the last we’ve seen of the Bluth family.

Originally published in TVW. For daily programming updates and on-screen Entertainment news, subscribe to the free TVW e-newsletters, or purchase a subscription to the weekly magazine.