It took seven years to get another season of "Arrested Development," and only eight hours for fans to burn through all fifteen new episodes. And now that the dust has settled on one of the most hyped television seasons in recent memory, series creator Mitch Hurwitz has had some time to reflect on how it all came together, the massive response to the show and, just as crucially, what happens next on "Arrested Development."
HuffPost Canada TV spoke to Hurwitz about his future plans for the Bluths, his thoughts on all the attention and scrutiny the long-delayed Season 4 received, and Bob Loblaw's Canadian connection.
HuffPost TV: In Canada, there's a grocery store chain called Loblaws. Was that in any way inspiration for the name Bob Loblaw [Scott Baio] character?
Mitch Hurwitz: You know, the Bob Loblaw thing came from a Canadian who pitched it in the room who said it was his father's joke. He said, my father used to always say Bob Loblaw was a hilarious name for a lawyer. And I've always been amazed that this has become as popular, that it's gotten quoted as much [as it has]. Because it really is kind of an old joke I think. I do think it's from a Canadian store, yes, I think you're right. You've cracked the code.
We've heard for a long time that this season is potentially leading into a movie. But in watching it, it occurred to me that you packed so much in, there's so many guest stars, so many callbacks. Does the format really lend itself that well to a movie, or would it be better just to do another season?
I think it's really interesting, isn't it? There's a lot that you can do in television that you can't do in a film, theoretically. You know, at the time that was the only possibility -- to do a movie. It kind of seemed like it was the only way to get the cast together, and the television thing really did start much less ambitiously to just introduce the characters and lead up to that. I think you might be right actually. [Laughs]
My interest is in telling the story of this family, and I guess it's like, give us the canvas and let's see what we come up with. If it was a movie canvas, we would absolutely tailor it to that. But the life of the family does seem to play out episodically, so I think there's an argument for both things. [It's] really whoever wants it. Maybe we can do it as a series of articles. Or remember when Woody Allen got turned into a comic strip? I think we should go with the comic strip format.
The response to this has been phenomenal. I don't think any show, certainly not a comedy, has ever been scrutinized to the point this has in the last few weeks. Is that all good to you, or is it giving you a colossal headache? Do you read much of it?
Well, I try to have a pretty open attitude about it. I think everybody wants to be loved all the time, but it's not realistic. But also it's certainly not realistic if you're going to be ambitious in terms of changing the form or evolving. There are risks either way. I think if I had done the exact same show I did last time there'd be blowback to that. I think what's interesting about the show is, at the time, it wasn't considered this inviolable classic. I mean, that really is so flattering that people have such esteem now for the old series. I didn't really realize the height of that. I'm kind of glad I didn't.
And when I entered into the Netflix thing, they gave me this freedom, and then I had all sorts of restrictions based on the cast availability, and I just really, really fully embraced it as a way to use the new media to tell a different kind of story, to not give people exactly what they want, to surprise them. And I think it's inevitable that if you do that, people are not gonna be on board at first, or maybe ever. But that's a risk that I very willingly took.
But it is all very interesting to me. My least favorite kind of criticism is the kind that I agree with, when it's like, "Yup, they're right about that, that never ended up making sense, or that was sloppy, or that bit of storytelling wasn't as sharp but we were losing the light." There are certain things that you agree with, certain things you grow from and certain things that you expect if you try something novel. And the bad news is I'm going to do it next time too, because I just like the idea of playing with form and finding a new way to get at the themes of the family.
The way this season ended, it seemed like we immediately want to see the next episode, to see what happens with George Michael and Michael Bluth. So what are you doing right now as far as continuing the story? Is there a script, do the actors have time sectioned out to make this?
One of the things that I've done from the start is, even in the pilot -- if you think about the audacity of this -- the pilot ended with, "On the next 'Arrested Development.' " And that's a pilot, you know, there's no series yet. So I really tried to do that from the start. I think it's actually one of the things that helped get it made as a series because one of the questions they ask in testing is, "Do you have any interest in watching more of these?" And I had outwitted the system by saying here's what happens on the next "Arrested Development": George Michael watches his cousin take a shower and George Sr. loves prison. [Laughs] I always like the idea of, "And there's something else."
But I've always trusted that our little family wants to work together and wants to continue telling the story. So in this one particularly, not only are there opportunities for that to happen, but there really is a whole storyline behind it. And I did feel like even if we're to never come back again, you could look, maybe not today, but you could look back on this episode, the last episode of this season and say, "Wow, look at that, he broke out of the Bluth circle. The whole show is a circle, and everybody is arrested, everybody keeps falling back into the same patterns." George Michael broke the circle. And really, what is the next step if you were to have that kind of situation with your father, the closest person to you, what does happen next? As it turns out, I do have answers to that. [Laughs] But I just need someone to let me make them.
There's been a lot of talk from various critics about what episodes were the best, but what episodes do you feel work the best for you in terms of what you wanted to release to the fans?
I will tell you that I really didn't think of these as episodes, and I think that's the disconnect. I mean, they are episodes and every one does have a story, but as soon as we got into this Netflix model, I really thought, "OK, the opportunity here that I don't have on broadcast television, what does the medium allow for?" And it wasn't so much that people could watch them all at once, but like a novel, they could look at it as being part of one bigger thing. That really is how I approached it, it's how we wrote it and it's how we shot it.
On the first day of shooting we shot things for five different shows. In the old days, we'd end a week and we'd have an episode. On this show, we'd end a week and we'd have fifty pieces from fifteen different episodes. And as a result, the story itself just became one giant saga and within that, everyone had their story. But on the old show, everybody had their story, it just took place in twenty minutes. So the question to me is akin to saying, "In Episode 206 of the second season, which storyline did you like best, GOB's or Tobias' or Lucille's or Michael's?" It really is about telling one story.
I don't know if you're aware of this, but there are people who have taken the Netflix episodes and are re-editing them either in chronological order, or so that you can see the entire Quarto de Cinco scene from everybody's perspective, but as a continuous narrative. How do you feel about that?
I love it. I mean, I think it's like sampling. So, first of all, I'm very ... flattered is kind of an obnoxious word because it sounds like they're doing it for me, but I'm very gratified that people are taking this material in, ingesting it. I mean, what could be a better thing?
We have a lot of material that we're planning on putting out on Netflix at a later time, probably to tie in there -- again, it's not my place to talk about really, because it's their business. But I would say more than anything, I love the fact that it inspires creativity in people. That's a great thing, and my hope with the show at the very start was, "Boy, there are 15 episodes, I can tell there's a drumbeat leading up to them, won't people be so disappointed when they get to number 15?" And to me, the fact that they still have ways in which to play with it and to dig it apart and to enjoy it, that's really great.
One of the great things about this season is that the episodes are just so densely layered that it's impossible to catch everything in one viewing. How important was creating that rewatchability factor for you in developing this season?
With this particular story, because of the fact that the stories were happening simultaneously and I didn't have all the characters at the same time, it became one of the themes. One of the themes is nothing is what it seems, and we really don't know what other people's lives are. We can see how people's lives look, but we really don't know what they are until we're in their shoes. And that was great fun to have Michael and George Sr. meet up in Michael's episode and Michael thinks he's there to apologize and in George Sr.'s episode you see that no, he's got completely different intentions, and we illuminate the scene a different way. So I think those things do contribute to rewatchability, but they really are done kind of conceptually and comedically first, and hopefully that simultaneously makes it fun to rewatch.
I know that even in my own experience with this show, and it's always been this way with this show, it gets in your head. The comedy of it hits you a beat later sometimes because there's so much to take in the first time, and the only filter it's going through is, am I laughing? And that's kind of a small window. And then when you see it again and you're understanding the whole world, it is funnier. I love that personally, it's just a fun thing for me.
I think what the fans would like to know even now is, when can we expect more "Arrested Development" content after this?
I don't have a timeline yet, I don't have a timetable on that. I'm game to work on it and we're going to not do what we did last time, which is keep saying, "It's coming, it's coming, it's coming." If there is more, I promise you we'll put a date out there. Because the last time it really got out of hand. I mean, I had said like, "Hey, we should do a movie about this." And then I would say it to Jeffrey Tambor, "Hey, we got to do a movie about this, you know, I've got an idea," and I'd tell him a joke and he'd like it. And then he would be interviewed the next day and he'd say, "Oh, Mitch is working on it." And then it would become a story and I'd think, "Oh God, no, we're out too far ahead of it and we're constantly teasing the audience."
One of the reasons we eventually said, "OK, let's do this as a miniseries, as an anthology series," it was to manage expectations that had built up over time for the movie, but also to give the fans something more satisfying than 90 minutes of content, because we had promised them for so long that it was coming. [Laughs] So I don't want to give a date yet.
You can stream all of "Arrested Development" Season 4 at any time on Netflix.