We're so close to the premiere of Arrested Development on Netflix that it's almost to the point where the show is the only thing I want to think about or talk about. Fortunately, series creator Mitch Hurwitz and stars Jessica Walter (Lucille) and Jeffrey Tambor (George Sr.) were kind enough to take the time to sit with the press on a conference call and talk about the show's approaching Netflix revival, which is set for this Sunday (May 26), in case you didn't pencil it into your calendar, or whatever it is people do to keep track of dates these days.
One of the things Hurwitz talked about early on was how flexible Netflix - and Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos, specifically - was with them in terms of developing the series and the length of the episodes.
They've been very generous. I believe - and this is a little bit out of my ken - but I believe 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 the details of that. I know from our perspective, they were interested in more content. The one thing that was in the contract, they didn't want the shows to be to short. The first couple of episodes, i really labored to make under thirty minutes, and then finally I had a talk with Ted Sarandos, who said, 'No, we never said under 30 minutes.' That just saved me weeks!"
Hurwitz mentioned that, for example, Jessica Walter's (Lucille Bluth) episode runs about 35 minutes. So we should expect some fluctuation on the time of each episode, which is just fine, especially if it means more AD. That's really the beauty of the way Netflix distributes their programming. They aren't constrained to the traditional timeframes for TV shows. If an episode runs long, it doesn't affect any kind of schedule beyond the viewer's.
Longer episodes ended up turning into more episodes. Hurwitz spoke about the decision to extend Season 4 to 15 episodes...
I will say that early on, I had been worried, there's not enough material and so I worked and worked and worked at working out these stories, and I got to page - 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 half-way 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! That's another big time-saver for me! It was and it wasn't. When you have to make more episodes, you have to make more episodes, but it really was dictated by the story.
I know I'm not alone in having high expectations for the series' return. In fact, recently, I've found myself wondering if there's any way Season 4 could possibly live up to what I hope it will be… or what any of us hope it will be, for that matter, as I'm sure we all have varying degrees of expectations. Hurwitz isn't oblivious to that fact, which he made clear when he responded to a question about fans' high expectations:
"I'm not happy about them. I'll be honest, I really feel like we all should just lower our expectations. That would really be great for me. I'm joking. Of course, it's very, very flattering that the fans are this interested. And it's such a different experience than when we first made the show, when nobody knew what it was and there was no conversation to be had with the fans. The last couple of days, i started getting nervous...
Jessica interjected here to talk about her own reaction to the early scripts, saying, "I was nervous about doing it again because the fans were so thrilled with the first three seasons, but the first time I read a couple of the scripts in advance, I was blown away, and 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." She went on to state confidently, "The writing is incredible."
"Incredible" is about where my expectations are probably lingering, based largely on the first three seasons of the series. From what Hurwitz added, what we shouldn't expect is your typical TV reunion special.
I would say that one of the things we did that may confound expectation is or hopefully let us live up to the expectations is that it doesn't feel like the kind of reunion shows that we've seen in the history of the medium. Everybody comes back a little infirm and it tries to trot out the old jokes. We really are trying to do something different with this, and I think that's what made it viable for us. And didn't feel like we were just repeating ourselves. And initially may get a little confusing to an audience, but hopefully will reward them.
Jessica Walter also said - and Hurwitz agreed - that you need to watch the episodes in order.That might be assumed, however I think there was some talk at one point about being to watch the eps out of order. That's not the case. Start from the beginning.
Here's where things get more SPOILERY. Read on at your own risk!
One of the last questions asked had to do with Kristen Wiig and Seth Rogen. As you may or may not have heard, Wiig and Rogen are playing young Lucille and George Sr. From what Walter says, Wiig really nails the part.
I don't know Kristen Wiig. I had no idea who was up for or who wanted to do it and when I saw the episode - she really nailed it. First of all, I was so flattered that Kristen Wiig was playing the young Lucille. And she must have studied from the tapes from the old days because I thought she was wonderful.
Getting to see Wiig as a young Lucille Bluth is one more reason to be excited about the show, especially if Wiig's as good as Walter says. Meanwhile, Tambor and Hurwitz laughed when they spoke about Rogen as young George Sr.
"Seth Rogen," Tambor said. "We did Paul together. I love how he tried to lower his voice…," to which Hurwitz responded with a laugh. "I know, that was funny! He has the lowest voice in the history of cinema, and he lowered it to be Jeffrey Tambor."
Hurwitz went on to speak highly of both Wiig and Rogen, "He was a sweetheart to do it. They both were. We shot in one day, they had very little prep time. And that was a benefit of the show, but also the fact that they have close associations to some of the actors that have been in the show."
For those who haven't seen it, here's a visual to go with the mental picture of Wiig and Rogen as young Lucille and George Sr.
For more pictures and details about the new season, check out our AD primer here. Arrested Development Season 4 premieres on Netflix on Sunday, May 26 at 12:00 a.m. PST (3:00 a.m. EST) in the U.S., Canada, the UK, Ireland, Latin America, Brazil and the Nordics.