Netflix will stream new episodes of Arrested Development, available all at once beginning Sunday. Diehard fans have waited six years for the cult-comedy favorite.
“It’s seemingly reached a fever pitch in the last couple of weeks,” says Will Arnett, who plays the family’s misguided magician son George Oscar Bluth, more familiarly known as “Gob.” “Certainly the show’s never been more popular than it is now,” he says, as many younger fans discovered it online only after the show went off the air.
The return has been a labor of love for creator Mitchell Hurwitz, who presided — obsessively — over the show’s first three seasons and has tried to make a feature film ever since. This batch of 15 episodes (Fox aired a total of 53 from 2003-2006), is designed as the precursor to a still-hoped-for movie, but Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos says he’d “love” to do more.
Arrested Development “has always been among the most popular” TV series offered by Netflix, especially in the U.S., U.K. and Canada, Sarandos says, and this week, “the spike in viewing of the first three seasons has been enormous. The show is built to be watched over and over again” and in bunches, which fits Netflix’s business model. “It’s way too dense for 22 minutes a week.”
Reassembling the entire cast proved difficult, partly the result of the show’s rabid following. “We’ve all been given such a nice career boost or rehab from this show,” says star Jason Bateman, whose Identify Thief is the latest in a string of movies. “We’ve all been working very busily ever since, but we were excited to come back.”
And that forced some creative decisions that made the new episodes an ambitious, incredibly complicated jigsaw puzzle that’s tailor-made for binge viewing, but also a bit of a risk.
Each focuses on a single character — most of the major players get two apiece — and several scenes are replayed in two or more episodes from different vantage points, revealing new information or adding a joke that wasn’t apparent before. There are gags that refer to earlier episodes and earlier seasons, so sequential viewing is rewarded.
“No doubt it’ll get a very mixed reaction” from the show’s “very demanding” fan base, Hurwitz says. “How could it not, because it’s a new thing? But if people make it through the whole (season), it will be a very rewarding Arrested Development experience.”
The fourth season happily brings us back to Newport Beach, Calif., recaps what was thought to be the series finale, when hard-drinking matriarch Lucille (Jessica Walter) was caught by the Coast Guard after stealing the Queen Mary, and fills in the gaps in the five years or so since.
She was put under house arrest, and the rest of her family hasn’t held up so well either, thanks partly to the collapse of the housing market.