Netflix has confirmed via Twitter that a full 14 new episodes of beloved comedy series Arrested Development will be available for streaming in May 2013. A Netflix spokesman was not able to immediately confirm a precise date for the series' relaunch on the service.
In a group appearance at the Television Critics Association Press Tour, creator Mitchell Hurwitz and the cast confirmed that all 14 episodes will debut simultaneously. "It is not Season 4," said Jason Bateman. Hurwitz added that the episodes will have an order, "to create the maximum number of surprises," but that the slate could also be treated like an album, or a choose-your-own-adventure novel.
Each episode will have a variable length, and, of course, be commercial-free, allowing for a different kind of structure from that of the original network series. Only Bateman's Michael Bluth appears in every episode; Hurwitz describes the season as a "first act to what we eventually want to do, which is a big movie" — unproduced and unconfirmed as yet — assembling the entire cast of characters from the series.
Both a serial dramedy and a choose-your-own-adventure novelIn an interview with Hurwitz and Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos, USA Today put dates to the series for the first time. However, USA Today pegged the run at "13 or 14" episodes. In December, Netflix reportedly paused production on the series to expand its order from 10 episodes to as many as 15. The new episodes are still in post-production, the cast and crew said at TCA.
"One of the reasons Arrested wasn't embraced at the time was it wasn't easy to get your head around it," Hurwitz told USA Today. "It was a point of pride with me; I wanted to create a show that had surprises. But that's what they want to do (at Netflix). They want to take risks. They encouraged the complexity that had been discouraged before."
Netflix "encouraged the complexity that had been discouraged before." Netflix's Sarandos adds that "we're not trying to figure out how to make cheaper shows," which has generally been the trend for web-first television. Netflix commissions no pilots, and gravitates towards shows whose content and creative teams are already "somewhat well-known," whether from an earlier television series, a book, or some other media. "We're mostly interested in very highly serialized storytelling… There's less risk because we're not programming for a time slot." Sarandos and Netflix just need shows, preferably exclusive ones, that can attract and retain subscribers over months.
"It's different than the original Arrested Development and beyond anything I had hoped," said Jessica Walter. But don't worry: Walter says her character, matriarch Lucille Bluth, is still "Joan Crawford with laughs." In an outtake screened at TCA, Lucille blows smoke into her son Buster's mouth. Buster's wrist still sports a prosthetic hook.