Here’s one way “Arrested Development” on Netflix will be different from the show Fox canceled seven years ago: It won’t have to leave room for commercials.
Or even fit in a half-hour.
Which apparently surprised “Arrested” creator Mitch Hurwitz.
“The first couple of episodes, I really labored to make under 30 minutes, and then finally I had a talk with Ted Sarandos [Netflix’s chief content officer] and he said, ‘No, we never said under 30 minutes.’ So that just saved me weeks,” Hurwitz said, laughing, during a conference call with reporters Thursday.
What was originally envisioned as nine new episodes that would catch fans up on the doings of the dysfunctional Bluth family became 10 and then 14 and ultimately 15, all of which will become available for streaming to Netflix subscribers at 3:01 a.m. Sunday EDT.
This, I suggested to Hurwitz, wasn’t exactly the way it had worked when the show was on Fox (where cuts in the network’s order of episodes became an inside joke in the series’ final season).
“They’ve been very generous, and I believe — and this is a little out of my ken — but I believe they they had a contract in place [with Twentieth Century Fox Television, which owns the rights] that allowed them to ask for more episodes, up to a certain number,” he said.
So while “I wanted to be somewhat responsible,” an episode might run, say, 35 minutes, Hurwitz said. (The one episode I’ve seen, after agreeing not to publish anything resembling a review until the show goes live to subscribers, ran a bit over 32 minutes.)
As for the number of episodes, “I will say that I, early on, I’d been worried: What if there’s not enough material?” he said.
“And so I worked and worked and worked, working out these stories...And the average script for these kinds of things is about 26 pages and I think I’d gotten to Page 50 and I hadn’t gotten to the halfway point of one of the shows. So I was in a bit of a panic. And I did call Ted Sarandos and he said, ‘Well, we’ll take more.’
“’Oh. Well, that’s another big time-saver for me.’ I mean it was and it wasn’t. When you have to make more episodes, you have to make more episodes. It really was dictated by the story. We had set out this whole story we wanted to tell and sort of my initial idea was, ‘Well, we have nine characters, we’ll do nine episodes.’ But there were all sorts of things in the story that just transcended one episode. And I’m really glad they gave us this flexibility because we would suddenly find out there’s a piece of Jessica’s [Walter] show that we can put into the Buster episode. And that actually helps the Buster episode and it takes some of the burden of...setting things up out of Jessica’s show. So it gives us more funny in that show.”
Timesavers or not, Hurwitz said he’d only finished the show last week, and Jeffrey Tambor, who, along with Walter, was also on the call, said he’d “looped” [rerecorded] a line only five days ago. Using his iPhone.
Fans aren’t the only ones trying to figure out if they’ll binge-watch or try to string out the episodes to make them last.
“I think I’ll be sleeping” when the show goes live Sunday, “but when I get up in the morning, I’ll watch a couple,” Walter said.
“In doing the show, I was aware there were people who were going to use it up in one night,” Hurwitz said, but added that he thinks “there’s enough detail” that they’ll enjoy rewatching. “Unlike ‘House of Cards,’ or any drama, it’s fun to rewatch comedy..but I do think there’s some fatigue that sets in.”
“Arrested” star Jason Bateman, he said, plans “to try to watch four a night.”
But while Hurwitz seems excited about the technology that will allow viewers to move from one show to another quickly, he’s decided there are limits to choosing your own adventure.
“They have to watch them in order..because it turns out stories have to be told in order.”
[SLIGHT SPOILER AHEAD -- ONLY SCROLL DOWN IF YOU WANT TO KNOW BEFORE SUNDAY]
Please stop reading NOW if you don’t want to know anything about the new episodes before Sunday:
Tambor and Walter, who play George and Lucille Bluth, were asked how they felt about their characters’ younger selves being played by Seth Rogen and Kristen Wiig.
“She really nailed it,” Walter said of Wiig. “She must have studied some of the tapes from the old days.”
“I love how he tried to lower his voice,” Tambor said of Rogen.
“He’s got the lowest voice in the history of cinema and he lowered it to be Jeffrey Tambor,” added Hurwitz, who said the flashbacks — to 1982 — were shot in one day. “They had very little prep time.”
“When I read the script, I thought we were playing those roles,” Tambor said.
Fair enough. As Hurwitz noted, “we did a lot of you guys playing in the past” and he’s worried about the lack of consistency before apparently deciding to do it, anyway.
And while it doesn’t hurt that Rogen and Wiig are movie stars, “we did still try to cast for who was right for the part,” he said.