Looking back over the span of TV history, there are tons of series that took considerable leaps and shifts in subject matter and story presentation, and high up there on the list is Arrested Development, which jumped from a hyper-serialized plot in Seasons 1-3 on Fox to a hyper-focused jigsaw puzzle of a plot for Season 4 on Netflix. More so than the earlier seasons, the fourth installment seemed to polarize the show’s fanbase, and star Jason Bateman thinks that a lot of that was Netflix’s fault for its marketing.
It’s not every day you hear someone badmouthing one of the biggest entertainment hubs on the planet, and to be fair, Bateman stakes his claim without much animosity or ill will, but it’s clear he thinks that Netflix was to blame for the shift in viewer love. Here’s how he put it on a recent episode of the podcast WTF with Marc Maron when the subject of the latest season came up.
The new ones were these episodes on Netflix that were meant to be the first act of a three-act story that Mitch had in his head. And the second two acts are still yet to be told. And he thought it would be fun to do the first act in some episodes. And that’s what that was, yet Netflix called it Season 4 of the original show, which was a little disingenuous because it implied that the show was coming back and we did it. And that’s not what the show was, because each episode was about an individual character, so I think it was a little confusing and underwhelming, frankly, for the audience. That was unfortunate. It wasn’t branded honestly. Or correctly, I should say.
I have two reactions to Bateman’s words. One, it’s pretty awesome that Mitch Hurwitz knows this universe so well that he’s able to keep coming up with mega-arcs for the Bluth family to inhabit with their distinct personalities, though it’s of course unfortunate that this style isn’t the most easily understood. And I can’t wait to hopefully see where the other acts go.
Second, I’m not quite sure what Bateman thought that Netflix could do with Arrested Development’s fourth year that didn’t involve calling it Season 4. Possibly altering the title or giving it a subtitle over a season number would have worked, the same way some revival shows are doing it. (Heroes Reborn and the like.) But TV audiences, even ones as smart as Arrested Development’s core fanbase, can be fickle enough to not always understand things that aren’t packed as neatly as “Season 4.” So it’s hard to fully blame Netflix’s marketing decision in this case, as it’s not like there’s a rulebook in how to bring canceled shows back from the depths.
What’s more, Bateman doesn’t even seem to be aware of the fact that producer Brian Grazer is trying to make Season 5 happen. When Marc Maron asked about the future of the show, here’s how Bateman put it.
There is no plan to do more. There is…those remaining two acts that I don’t know what format that they’ll take, or if it’ll ever happen.
Considering Hurwitz has a multi-year deal with Netflix, I seriously doubt we’ve seen the last of the Bluths. And maybe next time, he’ll have a bigger say in how the season is presented to audiences.