By Gary Levin, USA TODAY
It's no huge mistake: The Bluths are back!
Improbably, more than six years after Fox canceled the cult-comedy favorite, Arrested Development returns with 15 new episodes exclusively on Netflix, available for streaming all at once, Sunday at 3:01 a.m ET/12:01 a.m. PT.
diehard fans can't wait, if activity on Netflix and social media is any
indication. "It's seemingly reached a fever pitch in the last couple
of weeks," says Will Arnett, who plays the family's misguided magician
son George Oscar Bluth, more familiarly known as "Gob." "Certainly the
show's never been more popular than it is now," he says, as many
younger fans discovered it online only after the show went off the air.
return has been a labor of love for creator Mitchell Hurwitz, who
presided - obsessively - over the show's first three seasons and has
tried to make a feature film ever since. This batch of 15 episodes (Fox
aired a total of 53 from 2003-2006), is designed as the precursor to a
still-hoped-for movie, but Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos
says he'd "love" to do more.
Arrested "has always been
among the most popular" TV series offered by Netflix, especially in the
U.S., U.K. and Canada, Sarandos says, and this week, "the spike in
viewing of the first three seasons has been enormous. The show is built
to be watched over and over again" and in bunches, which fits Netflix's
business model. "It's way too dense for 22 minutes a week."
Reassembling the entire cast proved difficult, partly the result of
the show's rabid following. "We've all been given such a nice career
boost or rehab from this show," says star Jason Bateman, whose Identify Thief is the latest in a string of movies. "We've all been working very busily ever since, but we were excited to come back."
that forced some creative decisions that made the new episodes an
ambitious, incredibly complicated jigsaw puzzle that's tailor-made for
binge viewing, but also a bit of a risk.
Each focuses on a single
character - most of the major players get two apiece - and several
scenes are replayed in two or more episodes from different vantage
points, revealing new information or adding a joke that wasn't apparent
before. There are gags that refer to earlier episodes and earlier
seasons, so sequential viewing is rewarded.
"No doubt it'll get a
very mixed reaction" from the show's "very demanding" fan base, Hurwitz
says. "How could it not, because it's a new thing? But if people make
it through the whole (season), it will be a very rewarding Arrested Development experience."
fourth season happily brings us back to Newport Beach, Calif., recaps
what was thought to be the series finale, when hard-drinking matriarch
Lucille (Jessica Walter) was caught by the Coast Guard after stealing
the Queen Mary, and fills in the gaps in the five years or so since.
She was put under house arrest, and the rest of her family hasn't held
up so well either, thanks partly to the collapse of the housing market.
even the one son who's supposed to hold the family together. "Time has
not been kind to Michael, who found himself a little closer to the
frayed shape his family was in when we last saw them," Bateman says.
"He always had a bit of a superiority complex, but he's kind of been
slapped into reality, and he's definitely more vulnerable, exposed and a
little ashamed. He's looking to get his dignity back, and he stumbles
on a couple ideas. But it's a little pathetic."
Of course, the rest of the clan never managed success too well, either, so "they handle failure even worse," Hurwitz says.
"Desperation is what makes these people funny," Walters says.
the intertwined storytelling also complicated the effort, and the
entire season had to be shot piecemeal and out of sequence.
Day 1 we shot something for the last episode, which created a level of
anxiety that permeated the whole thing," Hurwitz says. Most of Bateman's
scenes were shot in the first month of filming, and some characters
were digitally inserted into scenes with actors who filmed their own
parts later. Though production wrapped in February, Ben Stiller became
available only last month, for a day and a half of shooting, so the
cameras rolled again for Gob's magician nemesis Tony Wonder.
of guest stars lined up for the reunion. Kristen Wiig and Seth Rogen
play younger versions of Lucille and George Sr., while Henry Winkler
returns as inept attorney Barry Zuckerkorn (and Winkler's son Max plays
his younger self).
Ben Stiller and Christine Taylor, Isla Fisher,
John Slattery, Carl Weathers, John Krasinski, Ed Helms, Andy Richter
and Conan O'Brien make appearances, along with beloved returning
characters such as Lucille Austero (Liza Minnelli), Ann Veal (Mae
Whitman), Kitty Sanchez (Judy Greer), Stan Sitwell (Ed Begley Jr.) and
Bob Loblaw (Scott Baio). And producer/narrator Ron Howard, seen on
camera only in the third-season finale, is now a more frequent presence.
Though some fans despaired that Arrested would ever be revived, some cast members were convinced that Hurwitz, a former Golden Girls writer who followed Arrested with a few short-lived comedies, would get his wish.
hoped it would happen, but I didn't want to hope too hard because the
odds were against getting us all together," Walter says. When they did -
the entire cast reassembled for just one day, though scenes were
sprinkled into several episodes- "it took about 30 minutes for everyone
to calm down. We were really excited."
After so long, "the only
people who changed were the kids; they're all grown up," Walter says.
"It was very easy to slip right back in."
The new season: The entire 15-episode fourth season (each 29-37 minutes) will be released at Netflix.com, available to subscribers online or on Internet-enabled TVs, Sunday, May 26 at 3:01 a.m. ET/12:01 a.m. PT
The history: Show
aired 53 episodes on Fox from 2003-06, now also on Netflix and IFC; won
best-comedy Emmy in 2004 and top writing awards in 2004 and 2005.
The characters: Each is the focus of two episodes except for Lucille, Buster and Maeby, featured in one apiece.
• Stable son Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman)
• His awkward, lovestruck son George-Michael (Michael Cera)
• Scheming Bluth patriarch George Sr. and his twin brother Oscar (Jeffrey Tambor).
• His boozy, bossy wife Lucille (Jessica Walter)
• Misguided magician son George Oscar Bluth (Will Arnett)
• Meek motherboy Buster (Tony Hale)
• Imperious daughter Lindsay (Portia de Rossi)
• Her estranged, sexually confused husband Tobias Funke (David Cross)
• Their daughter Maeby (Alia Shawkat)