Yesterday, the entire Arrested Development cast gathered alongside creator Mitch Hurwitz at a “Bluth Family Reunion” panel in New York City as part of The New Yorker Festival.
It was the first time everyone had been together since last shooting the beloved cult comedy series in late 2005, and Hurwitz used the occasion to announce an ambitious new two-pronged Arrested Development production plan: The show will return to television a year from now for a limited run of about 9-10 episodes. Those will explain what the highly dysfunctional Bluth family has been up to the past six years and set the stage for the long-promised feature film in theaters the following year.
Hurwitz says the idea formulated while writing drafts of a film script, when he realized half the movie’s running time would be spent filling in the back stories of the show’s large cast of oddball characters.
Instead, each major character will be the focus of one episode of the new limited series, with the whole gang finally reuniting in the early scenes of the subsequent movie. (It’s interesting that Arrested Development‘s executive producers, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, have been pursing a similar idea for their in-limbo adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower: three feature films with two TV miniseries in between.)
Those characters and brilliant comedic cast include Bateman as Michael Bluth, the only marginally sane member of the “riches-to-rags” Bluth family; Michael Cera as his son George-Michael Bluth; Will Arnett as Michael’s magician brother “Gob”; Tony Hale as their younger, less “savvy” brother Buster; Portia de Rossi as Michael’s lazy sister Lindsay; David Cross as her buffoonish husband Tobias Fünke; and Alia Shawkat as Lindsay and Tobias’ daughter (and cousin George-Michael’s crush) Maeby. Atop it all are Jessica Walter as the Bluth family’s alcoholic matriarch, Lucille; and Jeffrey Tambor as her fugitive-from-the-law husband and Bluth Company founder, George Bluth Sr.
While it aired on Fox from 2003 to 2006, Arrested Development garnered high critical praise, Emmys, and devoted viewers, but never large ratings thanks to its convoluted storylines, obscure jokes, and deeply unlikable characters.
Since its cancellation, rumors and plans for a film have flown about for years (every cast member got asked about it during every one of their press tours for other projects), but–to the frustration of fans–those plans never came to anything. And those same fans should celebrate cautiously now.
Hurwitz’ proposed TV miniseries is being once again produced by 20th Century Fox TV, but it does not yet have a channel to air on, though Fox is in talks with both Showtime and Netflix. (Showtime almost continued the series back in 2006.)
And while for the first time in years everyone in the cast says they’re on-board and have set aside time to make the series and the movie (which Hurwitz says he wants to shoot next summer), the feature film does not yet have a studio deal in place.
“We’ve talked about this, we’re all game, we hated be coy, we’ve been trying to put together this more ambitious idea and I think we’re very close. The script is halfway done and we have to get the film companies on board,” Hurwitz said yesterday on the festival panel. “They’ve always been great to us, but you know times are tough and money is tight. But I’m very hopeful.”
If all goes to plan (which of course nothing with the Bluth Family ever does), we’d have the new Arrested Development TV series in the fall of 2013 and the feature film in the spring of 2014.
(For the record–unlike Erika, who poo-pooed it three years ago–I’m very excited for an Arrested Development movie and think the whole TV series/feature film idea makes it even better.)