The Bluth Family reunites at the Arrested Development Season 4 press conference
Last weekend, I got to see something that no one has seen in over seven years: Arrested Development's Bluth family back together again, all in one place. Jason Bateman (Michael Bluth), Michael Cera (George-Michael Bluth), Portia de Rossi (Lindsay Bluth Funke), David Cross (Tobias Funke), Alia Shawkat (Maeby Funke), and Jessica Walter (Lucille Bluth) all gathered at the Sheraton Universal City for a press conference to discuss the long-awaited Season 4, debuting all 15 episodes at once Saturday, May 25 on Netflix.
Although Arrested Development only ran for three seasons on Fox, between 2003 and 2006, the show always had a rabid cult following, one who was collectively frustrated that the show had ended so abruptly. When asked if this season offered any sort of vindication, Jason Bateman offered the following response.
"I don't think any of us have felt any sort of bitterness or a huge frustration that the show had gone away. I think for the most part, the emotion around the set when it went down was certainly we were upset, but we felt pretty grateful that we got that far. There was blood in the water after the first 13 episodes. That we had been so embraced by people like yourself and the rest of the media, as well as the vocal minority that cheered us on and the awards or nominations or whatever it was. Now with this, it's great, selfishly, I think I can speak for all of us, for Netflix to give us all a chance to have kind of a reunion party to hang out with one another again and just work. So it's all been gravy for us, really from the start."
David Cross, however, revealed he, "doesn't take the same meds as Jason," and spoke his mind freely.
"I was a little pissed that it was cancelled and 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. This should HAVE continued. But then everything else Jason said, yes."
Portia de Rossi spoke about the possibility of an AD movie, and when she finally knew that this long-awaited season was actually happening, after so many years of rumors.
"Well, I hope that there is still a possibility of a movie. I think we all would love to be a part of this crazy family for as long as we can be in any format that (series creator) Mitch (Hurwitz) thinks is right for the show. I think we're all on board for that. I think it was a little boy who cried wolf for a while I must admit. Really, until business affairs called, that's when I knew that we actually were going to, because it was scheduling. It was oh, it's going to happen in this month or whatever and here's a script or here's an idea. Until business affairs, until it got down to that, I was a little skeptical. 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."
When asked what she missed the most about the show, Jessica Walter said she missed the clothes, the flowers, and, of course, the writing.
"Well, I guess the clothes. I miss the flowers. This is from the original show. I borrowed it. I just miss the juiciness of the writing. The writing is so character specific for all of us. They don't have Arrested Development writer trees out there, so to come back to this writing was very exciting."
Alia Shawkat echoed that sentiment, but also added that she enjoyed the different character dynamics this year.
"Yeah, I'd say the same, just being with everyone. It's fun to have different scenes with different people, different characters. They're like very different dynamics and it was always fun to see what weird things I was going to be doing with whom next. You can quote me on that."
David Cross revealed the most common thing fans say to him, when they approach him on the street.
"For me, it's 95%, 'blue yourself,' or some variation on that. And, it often happens that people will yell it from a car, so there's a doppleganger effect to it, which makes it more interesting."
Alia Shawkat also revealed a humorous fan experience, at her high school graduation.
"At my high school graduation, I graduated from like a home school, so it was like pregnant teens and gang members, mainly. But, when I got up on stage, there were kids in the background, like five of them, and they all yelled 'Marry me' very loudly. I can't escape it."
While all of the original actors are back, fans are definitely going to have to get used to the show's new format. Each of the 15 episodes center on one specific character, an aspect Jason Bateman hopes the fans will embrace.
"I don't think it's going to be easy, no. I hope that's appreciated by the few people who do love the show. They seem to be a group who likes things somewhat challenging, by virtue of the fact that they come back for this dense writing all the time. It's incredible. The fact that Netflix affords him the opportunity to have these stories go out over 15 different episodes, that are so intertwined that the same scene will repeat, from different angles, in multiple episodes, is a really unique thing and exciting thing to be a part of, in working with his complexity and with Netflix's distribution platform. It's a neat time to watch TV."
David Cross also chimed in, revealing that the show's structure will be made clear very early on.
"This is what I'm particularly excited about, after watching the first two episodes. If you're watching it, especially in chronological order, I think, as you get to Episode 3, Episode 4, you're going to realize how you're supposed to start watching it, as opposed to just being a passive viewer. That's what I think is going to be really, really exciting for people, as they figure it out. Not to give too much away, but it's taking those moments you had, as a fan of Arrested, especially when you watch it on DVD, and go, 'Oh, wait, that's a reference to that thing three shows earlier.' But, quintuple that. I don't even know what number that is. I think it's going to be a bit of an epiphany or a revelation, once you get into Episode 4 or 5 or whatever it is. You're going to realize, 'There's a structure to this that I wasn't aware of when I started watching.' That's going to make everybody triple-excited, and there's going to be a sense of discovery to it that I think will be really exciting, and really define what TV can do. I think it is important, just based on watching the episodes the other night, and that's the first time I had seen that stuff, it is important to watch Episodes 1 and 2 first, because of the story. Because of the whole Cinco de Quatro, and it catches people up. But after that, go nuts."
Jason Bateman also spoke to the notion that fans don't necessarily have to watch all 15 episodes in exact order.
"Mitch is numbering them on purpose, but it is not required to watch in that order. As David said, pretty shortly after you start watching, you'll realize, 'I can complete that scene, if I re-watch the second half of that last episode.' You'll start to make your own order, as you're interested in certain stories, or try to figure out what the whole thing is going to be about. That is one of the differences that people are going to have to make a friend of, that not everybody is in every episode. As much as you treat these as individual episodes, the 15 are meant to be one singular act of this three-act saga that he's going to tell. It's a good thing they're all being released on the same day, so you can get your fill."
Portia de Rossi feels that this actually makes it easier on the viewer, focusing on one story line at a time instead of multiple stories per episode.
"I also think, there's also something a little easier, for the viewer. It's channeling your focus onto one character per episode, so, in a way, it's easier to digest, than the original series, because we were following storylines A, B, C, D, E, and F. Now, we're just following this one character, so, in a way, it's easier to watch, and we've got a little bit more time to tell the story, as much time as we need, so you can sit with the jokes a bit more. We definitely saw that with Jason's character, because he has that moment where he sits and waits for all of us to make fools of ourselves in some way. It's just really nice. It's a nicer pace."
When asked whether these characters have grown in the seven years off the air, Jessica Walter teased that they're more desperate than ever.
"The desperation, I would say, is magnified, in the 15 episodes we just did, due to certain things we can't tell you."
David Cross spoke about how much physical comedy he has with Tobias this time around.
"Well, I'm certainly game for anything. But, much like the fading athlete who perhaps should have quit a year before he starts degrading, I was definitely attempting to do some fun stunts. My mind is the mind of a fresh, virile, 19-year-old, but I'm definitely getting creakier bones. I'm not nearly as limber. Also, I'm fatter. I was doing ADR, and I was doing a scene with my shirt off, which was never a problem before. I turn around and I go, 'Oh my God.' There's definitely that middle-aged gut. I didn't even suck it in. I'm not quite as limber, but, still, for my peers in my age group, dude, I'm top-notch."
He also teased that there are a few characters who get "blue."
"There's a couple of characters who get blue. That's I'll tell you."
Michael Cera spoke about the George-Michael-Maeby story line, and if he is still a "daddy's boy" this season.
"The Maeby thread is still going. I don't know how much to say about that, without blowing the whole thing. Actually, he's less of a daddy's boy this season, kind of trying to take a step back, but he kind of turns into Michael, in terms of hairstyle and looks."
David Cross closed out the press conference with a unique observation about the show's documentary style, and the state of reality TV today.
"There's something that, as a viewer, you tend to forget about, which is this family that we're watching, is shot in a documentary style. We're so used to it, but that has a connotation that goes with it, that was prevalent when we were shooting it, but now even more so because of how many more shows there are, on how many more cable networks there are, that are reality but don't feel like reality TV did 20 years ago, when reality TV started. Now it's just a thing we forget about, because these people on reality shows don't act like there's a camera there, but, of course there's a camera there. The idea of what's real and what's fiction is blurred, because so many of these people are phony and shallow in their own right. When you watch any of the Real Housewives, or any of those types of shows, they're all performing, even though they're all real people. In Arrested Development, there's cameras there, and I think there's even an episode where you see a boom (microphone). We did that on purpose, to remind you this is documentary-style. That's the landscape of half of our TV, that we just forget what's real."
Arrested Development finally returns with all 15 episodes of Season 4 debuting Saturday, May 26, exclusively on Netflix. Stay tuned for my exclusive interview with Alia Shawkat as we get closer to this highly-anticipated season.