When it was announced that Arrested Development was coming back for season 4, fans of Mitch Hurwitz' comedy series (which has continued to amass a strong cult-following in the years since it was canceled), went bananas with excitement. Not only would they be getting the Arrested Development movie they've been clamoring for - Netflix will air an entire fourth season of the show as well! It's like winning the lottery and getting two payouts!
Today we have some updates about Arrested Development season 4 from Hurwitz himself: the show will resume production this summer, and it seems that the deal with Netflix has steered season 4 in a different direction than originally intended. Read on for details.
At first it was proposed that Arrested Development's fourth season would be a 10-episode arc, which served as a lead-in to the movie. Each episode of the season would focus on a different member of the Bluth family - what they've been up to in the time since we last saw them - and the circumstances that steer them all toward the events of the movie (click the following link to see what the movie's plot might be about). This format would allow established fans to get re-acquainted with the characters; would allow new viewers to get to know each character; and would allow for the cast members - many of whom are bigger celebrities now than when the show originally aired - to each be spotlighted. Not a bad approach.
However, Netflix is attempting to launch a much different business model with its original programming (which includes the Sopranos-in-Norway comedy Lilyhammer, or David Fincher and Kevin Spacey's upcoming political series House of Cards). Netflix doesn't have to bother with the episodic format of a standard television show - and subsequently, the ratings and advertising demands that come with it. The streaming service is more interested in total viewers calculated across a much wider window of time (say, fiscal quarters or years), and they therefore can release entire seasons of a show all at once, in order to help increase interest and views by getting audiences to do what they already do naturally with the service: watch large blocks of programming in marathon fashion.
It's that new approach that has Hurwitz thinking about an equally new approach to Arrested Development Season 4. The showrunner was at the National Association of Broadcasters convention alongside Netflix chief Ted Sarandos, where it was announced that AD Season 4 will premiere all ten of its episodes simultaneously. Hurwitz also addressed his change in approach:
"That is now kind of evolving into becoming more like the old show again... There's going to be some mystery sprinkled throughout this [but] instead of watching one a week and try to get ahead of it, the hope is [fans] will watch them all together and then go back and look for clues and connections... We'd also like to use the technology to provide additional material, where you might be able to access another part of the story... It's comedy. The twists really aren't as important as the characters."
If you're not an established fan of the show: Hurwitz' comments touch on a truth that has been learned from experience. One reason that Arrested Development didn't become a smash hit on network TV in the mid '00s (besides being too far ahead of this era of 30 Rock and Office-style comedy), is that it was not really a good fit for episodic viewing - not to mention the constant hiatuses and breaks that FOX imposed upon it (to make way for other shows, sporting events, etc).
When AD really caught on with people was after it had been canceled and was available on DVD, streaming services like Hulu, or cable syndication - i.e., where viewers could watch it in larger blocks and truly keep up with the carefully-stacked reoccurring jokes and semi-serialized storylines. I say all that to say: marathon-style viewing has always been the best way to approach this show.
The NAB convention made Arrested Development a centerpiece of attention (and the fans certainly showed their love), so there was much more discussed about where the property is headed from here:
- The movie is still on the way.
- If season 4 is successful, there could be MORE new seasons released on Netflix.
- We WILL be seeing some returning characters. Bob Loblaw (Scott Baio) has already been confirmed.
For more of what was revealed in the panel, head over to Vulture.
Arrested Development season 4 will be released (in entirety) on Netflix in 2013.