After an excruciating seven-year wait, Arrested Development is finally coming back, with the 15-episode Season 4 debuting Sunday, May 26 at 12:01 AM PST on Netflix. Series creator Mitchell Hurwitz joined series stars Jeffrey Tambor (George Bluth Sr.) and Jessica Walter (Lucille Bluth) on a conference call to discuss the new episodes.
Mitchell Hurwitz first spoke about landing on a 15-episode season, after it was initially slated for just 10 episodes.
"I would say Netflix has been very generous and they, I believe, and this is a little out of my camp, but I believe that they had a contract in place that allowed them to ask for more episodes, up to a certain number, I think. But, I'm not exactly sure of the details of that. I know from our perspective, they were interested in more content. And, the one thing that was in the contract is they didn't want the shows to be too short. So, yes, I just found that out. Because the first couple of episodes are really labored to make under 30 minutes, and then finally I had a talk with (Netflix chief content officer) Ted Sarandos and he said no, we never said under 30 minutes. Oh, thank God, that just saved me weeks. And you'll see, like Jessica's show is 35 minutes. I wanted to be somewhat responsible and keep everyone's attention with them. I will say that, early on, I had been worried, what if there's not enough material, and so I worked and worked and worked, working out these stories. The average script for these kinds of things is about 26 pages. And, I think I'd gotten to Page 50 and I hadn't gotten to the halfway point of one of the shows. So, I was in a bit of a panic, and I did call Ted Sarandos, and he said, well, we'll take more. Oh, well that's another big time saver for me. So, I mean, it was and it wasn't. I mean, when you have to make more episodes, you have to make more episodes. But, it really was dictated by the story. We had set out this whole story we wanted to tell, and sort of my initial idea was, well, we have nine characters, we'll do nine episodes, but there were all sorts of things in the story that just transcended one episode. I'm really glad they gave us this flexibility, because we would suddenly find out, okay, well there's a piece of Jessica's show that we can put into the Buster episode. And that actually helps the Buster episode and it takes some of the burden of, you know, pipe, you know setting things up, out of Jessica's show, so it gives us more funny in that show. There were just a lot of things that I had the freedom to do, to keep those episodes entertaining and interesting while sneaking our macro story in there."
Jeffrey Tambor spoke about how the fans are the real reason why the show is back for another season.
"I hear from young viewers who come up, young and old and in between, how happy they are that we are coming out with this, for want of a better word, engine. Our viewers, who are quite ardent and are the reason we're back, really, really love what we've done here, and the fit seems to be perfect. But, so far, the fans are appreciating the way we're sending it, as well as the content."
Mitchell Hurwitz also spoke about the kind of flexibility Netflix allows for viewers, who are able to jump back and forth between episodes as they see fit.
"We knew, we had an audience that would be interested in the details. So, I think in many ways, we have things in the show that the technology isn't quite there to handle, as we did with the first show. The first show, we had all sorts of things you could only get if you were able to pause. And, we weren't necessarily even on DVD yet, and DVRs hadn't had that kind of penetration. This is kind of an extension of that. What if, you know, the very nature of it was, we had these shows that were going to catch and audience up on what happened with this family. And, the next logical step out of that was, well then, all these things are happening at the same time. Everybody is enduring 2009 together, during the economic collapse. And that, led to this idea of concurrence of events, and so, in a way, I think we're still a year away from the audience being able to skip from one moment to another effortlessly. What Netflix does allow is a chance to jump around, pretty easily. I mean, you can go back to the menu and jump to another episode. And, I just like the idea that what was different about this, was that the audience owned the material. They weren't being told, you know, when they would get each particular bit of information. It informs the telling of the stories, knowing that."
Jeffrey Tambor also spoke about how fans have taken "ownership" of the show.
"I also think the fans really appreciate that, when they can replay it, and see that little blue mark on the wall or there's an oscar.com. That means that somebody cares about them. I think one of the things that I'm sensing is that they get us. They receive how we throw it out to them, and they really like that. So, in a way, they have taken, sort of, and duly deserved an ownership of this."
While the Netflix model is certainly revolutionary, in terms of how fans can watch the show, Mitchell Hurwitz revealed he wants to take it one step further.
"I think the next step is, particularly in comedy that you can have a communication with your audience. Because that's really what comedy is, I think, you know. It's about getting a laugh. It's a social activity. I like the idea of even, again Jim Vallely, my long time producing partner, has been saying, 'Why don't we make the drives available. After this comes out, we should just make all the drives, of all of the content available online and let people cut their own versions of it.' At one point, I even thought, let's do a Google chat in the writer's room, and we were torn on something we thought, is this good, is this funny to have GOB do this or does this kill the character. I really thought, why don't we just go ahead and ask the people we're trying to please, anyway. Let's just open it up to the fans and ask them. So, to me, like the more interaction with an audience, I mean controlled interaction with an audience, because we know what anonymous commenters are like."
Jessica Walter revealed that she was slightly nervous about coming back to Arrested Development.
"I was nervous about doing it again, because the fans were so, you know, thrilled with the first three seasons. The first time I read a couple of the scripts in advance, I was blown away. I felt confident that I can say to people, now, you're going to love it. It's better than ever. I really, really, truly feel that way. And especially having been, you know, now, up to this point, read all of the scripts. The writing is incredible."
Jessica Walter also theorized that fans will go into withdrawal when they finish the season, something she experienced with the Netflix drama series House of Cards.
"People should be prepared for withdrawal, when it's over. I could always base it on my one experience with this, which was House of Cards, which I loved. I thought well, let me just see what they have to offer, because I didn't have Netflix and I only got it because of Arrested Development. I said let's see what they have to offer. It was sort of one episode, and then the next night, two, then three and then I couldn't stop. And, I had literally, when it was Episode 13 and it was over, I had withdrawal. Where's my House of Cards? I know people are going to feel that way about Arrested."
Jessica Walter also teased a scene where Kristen Wiig plays a younger version of Lucille, which we reported on back in February.
"You know something? If I may say. I don't know Kristen Wiig. You know, nobody, I have no idea who was up for it or who wanted to do it, and when I saw the episode, she really nailed it. I was so flattered that Kristen Wiig was playing me out in the field, and she had - she really - she must have studied some of the tapes from the old days, because she - I thought she was wonderful."
"The funny thing about it was, it was the first day of shooting, and you know Jason Bateman and I had had this long talk about let's not, you know, it's going to be tempting to tweet things, but let's not. We'll both decide right now, we're going to keep this under our hats. He said do you mind if I just take a picture of the empty set. And, I said no. You know, do that. That's a great idea. But the Workaholics were so under his radar that with these two guys in the shot, two of the three guys he considered it an empty set. And so, he sent this picture of the so-called empty set, and immediately it was like, yes, the Workaholics are on Arrested Development, and it got everywhere. He called me immediately and said, I can't believe it. He's since become a big fan of theirs, by the way. But, they were hilarious."