After spending an hour listening to the cast of Arrested Development at Netflix's official press conference for the new season, three things are very apparent:
1.) They all missed doing the show
2.) Mitch Hurwitz is the Second Coming
3.) This Netflix series isn't necessarily the last you've heard from any of them.
In what is now recorded as television legend, Fox summarily deemed the show unpopular with the viewing public seven years ago, axing it after three seasons of critical acclaim, a small but cult-like fandom that promised its undying devotion, and lackluster network marketing support (the latter a tongue-in-cheek claim by the show's third season, in which they goofed on Family Guy promos overshadowing them). Arrested Development became another entry in a long line of shows that Fox is blamed for canceling too soon: Wonderfalls, Firefly, Terriers. Terriers was actually FX but close enough, right? You can sub in The Chicago Code if you disagree.
Arrested Development went on to become a martyr for "quality" television while Fox earned a reputation as the network that destroys all that is good in this world. Recent years have been marked with rumors of an AD movie, but nothing concrete has emerged outside of Hurwitz or Will Arnett or someone close to the AD fantasy players leaking information to the tune of, "No, seriously, we're going to work on it right after the planets align and the moon separates into curds and I can 3-D-print a real puppy."
But now that we have unconventional players in the television landscape inserting themselves into the resurrrection after-market (DirecTV with Friday Night Lights, for example), AD has new life and distribution on a Netflix platform that's ready to become a major player. Do you think the actors feel any kind of vindication for being saved after all these years?
No, says Jason Bateman (Michael Bluth): "I don't think any of us felt any sort of bitterness or huge frustration that the show had gone under. I think for the most part the emotion around the set when it went down was— certainly we were upset, but pretty grateful that we got that far. There was blood in the water after the first thirteen episodes. … Now with [Netflix picking up the show], it's all been gravy for us."
But David Cross (Tobias Fünke) inserted something more akin to how the supporters might feel. "I don't take the same meds as Jason," he starts. "I was a little pissed that it was canceled kind of unceremoniously. I don't know if vindication is the word I'd use, but it was certainly satisfying … to know that all of us as well as all the fans were right. This should continue. This should have continued."
That same sense of a cause permeated the conversation with the cast. These were characters who were not only were missed dearly by fans, but by the actors themselves. Portia Di Rossi said she felt Lindsay has always been a fun character, someone who always wants to do good but is completely terrible. Cross spoke the same of Tobias, and Bateman mentioned that he isn't really much different from Michael, so he might've just been playing himself all along.
But Jessica Walters, who may have the day job that runs closest to her Lucille Bluth roots (Mallory Archer on Archer), remarked that what she missed most about AD (besides the wardrobe) was the writing. "They don't have Arrested Development writer trees out there."
And then began the noticeable praise bestowed upon Mitch Hurwitz, the one man who could get the band back together. Bateman and Cross sang the loudest, while detailing this upcoming season's structure and commending Hurwitz's plan for the future. Apparently even the cast members believe there'll be a learning curve for viewers, but they took care to point out that the audience for AD is smart enough to catch on quickly. Di Rossi even suggested that the new episodes might be easier to watch, since each one will focus on a single character. But what impressed everyone most about Hurwitz is the plan he has in store and how he has everything all worked out in his head.
Bateman suggested that this season was just one act of a planned trio, which includes a movie. Netflix hasn't come forward to say it's on board with shepherding the rest of Hurwitz's plan, but it's clearly a liturgical miracle to the cast that Hurwitz has the plan that he has with the structure that he wants to use. They all seem to really believe in him, like his face should be on a coin with "In Mitch We Trust" stamped around the edges; it's reminiscent of the kind of cultish charisma you see in some of the most well-known television "auteurs," like Joss Whedon or even Shonda Rimes. Maybe it's just publicity, maybe it's just coaching, but the actors appear to honestly believe the new Arrested Development will be the best product introduced to narrative storytelling in some time. But maybe that's just them acting.
All told, if there's any feeling you could derive from that panel of actors, it's confidence. Even though Fox ripped them off the air and told them they weren't good enough to attract a real audience, they've come back with a swagger in this Netflix outing. And, if they have it their way, there'll be more to come.
Arrested Development Season 4 premieres May 26 on Netflix.