The name of the game regarding the Arrested Development revival has been “surprise.” The announcement of the short-lived, much-beloved comedy’s return arrived out of the blue, and in order to keep the details of the show’s so-called fourth season under wraps, creator Mitch Hurwitz has done everything but hide his cast and crew in the attic of a Bluth Company model home. That sense of secrecy extended to today’s Netflix presentation at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour, where Hurwitz and the majority of his cast (minus David Cross and Tony Hale, but still the closest thing to a full AD reunion we’ll see in 2013, apparently) took questions—when the answers didn’t divulge too much—about the 14 new Arrested Developmentsset to première this coming May. And if Hurwitz is to be believed, it was always supposed to be 14 episodes; the 10-episode order that was initially reported was a bit of under-promising intended to goose the enthusiasm of the show’s rabid fanbase.
Jason Bateman would like you to stop calling those 14 episodes “season four,” by the way: The most vocal cast member on the dais, Bateman repeatedly underlined the notion that the new episodes won’t directly continue the story told during Arrested Development’s three seasons on Fox. They’ll feel different from what’s come before, too: Portia De Rossi confirmed murmurings of the new episodes’ “Rashomon, but with the Bluths” approach when she alluded to a line from Jessica Walter’s Lucille that’s presented in different ways in two separate episodes. It sounds like the interlocking, multiple-view-inviting nature of Arrested Development taken to the extreme, basically. “Mitch’s writing is so pleasantly dense,” Bateman said, speaking to the process of making a TV show outside of the traditional broadcast model, “I don’t think it’s conducive to something that has commercials in it.”
And as the cast and creator acknowledged, the now-expanded audience waiting for new Arrested Development isn’t used to watching the show with commercials. They caught up with it in marathon viewings—the method in which De Rossi said she caught up with Breaking Bad one summer—a consideration made by Hurwitz, Netflix, and whoever greenlit the decision to drop all seven-plus new hours of Arrested Development on the same, to-be-determined May date. (Hurwitz said the new episodes vary in length, but run as long as the average episode of a premium-cable comedy—perfect for a show that never seemed to be able to fit enough jokes into 22 minutes.) Couple that with Netflix’s similar strategy for House Of Cards, and the distributor’s new motto might as well be “Don’t get up.” But outside of a few excerpts—shots of Will Arnett on a cross, Jeffrey Tambor being strangled, a deleted scene where Walter’s character abstains from smoking by exhaling into the mouth of Tony Hale—there’s no telling what we’ll not be getting up for. And that’s the way Mitch Hurwitz likes it.