It wasn’t until the last batch of trailers dropped for House Of Cards –the other high-profile show debuting on Netflix this year– that I started considering a big pop cultural question that looms: what is the simultaneous release of entire seasons of phenomenon shows going to be like?
While Arrested Development Season 4 isn’t exactly going to be American Idol, it’s still a big television event, and one that will debut as one large heap, with all 13 or 14 episodes pouring out at once! That’s going to be a rough week on twitter, that’s all I know.
In any event, USA Today has run a big profile on Netflix’s vision for the future, interweaving an interview with AD creator Michael Hurwitz. There’s a fair amount of information to be parsed about the nature of the new season from his comments. Here they are in the bullet point approach I decided on…
• Showtime was Netflix’s closest competitor in the bidding for AD, and the show ultimately fits into Netflix’s plan for “highly serialized” shows based on pre-existing IPs.
• The diminished availability of all the cast has forced the show to change structure to more focused stories, with each episode focusing on one character and all of them converging on the same event.
“Contractually, we couldn’t use all the characters in every episode; they were not free to do as much television as they want.”
“We’re not jumping from one thing to another; you’re staying with one character… The bigger story is the family has fallen apart at the start of our show. They all went their own way, without Michael holding them together, so they’re left to their own devices, and they’re not the most successful devices. Each individual (episode) kind of depicts what happens in 2006 as the Bluths fled from the law on the Queen Mary.”
• Jason Bateman, i.e. Michael Bluth, will be the only actor to appear in every episode. Beloved supporting characters such as Lucille Two (Liza Minelli) and Barry Zuckercorn (Henry Winkler) will return and pop up in different episodes.
• Michael Cera, i.e. George Michael, has not only returned as an actor, but has joined the writing staff as well.
• The show will have a very different look, and though it will have a more straightforward narrative in each episode to cater to actor’s schedules, it’s still being shot as a complex puzzle that will fit together in a sort of grand AD web.
“…[the show] slowly reveals itself, as the moment you saw in one show will reappear in another show from a different character’s perspective. If people watch it all at once, it will seem like a giant Arrested Development. It’s really tailored for Netflix.”
• The entire cast will only reunite once at the end, as part of the (hopeful) lead up to an Arrested Development film that would center around a family reunion.
“It was such a joy to be back with everybody; it didn’t feel like work, it felt like being back with friends. You don’t see them all together until you see the movie. I can assure you that the characters are just as damaged, self-involved and self-righteous as ever.”
• Ultimately, Hurwitz seems happy with their new Netflix home.
“One of the reasons Arrested wasn’t embraced at the time was it wasn’t easy to get your head around it. It was a point of pride with me; I wanted to create a show that had surprises. But that’s what [Netflix wants] to do. They want to take risks. They encouraged the complexity that had been discouraged before.”
I think that’s all good info to have upfront- people are going to need to calibrate their expectations a bit, lest they expect to slide right back into the same old format, look, and tone, only to find the rhthym has changed. That said, it seems Hurwitz has found a brilliant way of juggling the binge format of Netflix with his catering to the stars schedules by expanding the scale of the show’s interweaving humor and narrative tricks.
This is going to be a difficult wait till the undisclosed date in May, and I expect a lot of twitter silence in the 6 or 7 hours after this new season drops…