The "Arrested Development" movie is the great white whale of internet fandom of the past few years. Originally airing in 2003, Mitchell Hurwitz's Fox sitcom has, over the years, enshrined its place as one of the great comedy series of all time, despite being canceled after three seasons. As the show's cast, which included Jason Bateman, Michael Cera, Will Arnett and David Cross, went on to bigger things, the cult grew and grew, and rumors began to circulate that Hurwitz and the show's producer/narrator Ron Howard were planning to reunite the Bluths for a big-screen adventure.
And for years, and years, and years, there's been no real movement. Every time a cast member would appear in public, they would inevitably field a question about what progress had been made on the film, and more or less the same lack of news would get spun on to a story; a script was being written, they're waiting for everyone's schedules to line up. Again and again. And most of us gave up any hope of the revival ever happening.
Having said all that, while we wouldn't count our chickens just yet, there seems to be some good news on the way. Yesterday afternoon saw a New Yorker Festival event that reunited the cast and creators of the show, and Hurwitz suggested that he's hoping to shoot the movie next summer, while the cast said that they're keeping their schedules clear to do so (Jason Bateman confirmed on Twitter soon after the panel began that they hope to shoot next year for an early 2013 release). Not a million miles away from what we've heard before, but there was one big surprise: perhaps inspired by Howard's aborted "Dark Tower" movie/TV crossover project, the plan is to precede the movie with a limited nine-or-ten episode fourth season of the show. And the internet subsequently exploded.
Hurwitz told the audience, "I have been working on the screenplay for a long time and found that as time went by there was so much more to the story. In fact, where everyone’s been for five years became a big part of the story. So, in working on the screenplay I found that even if I just gave five minutes per character to that backstory, we were halfway through the movie before the characters got together. And that kinda gave birth to this thing we’ve not been pursuing for a while and we’re kinda going public with a little bit. We’re trying to do kind of limited run series into the movie.”
The creator then revealed that, perhaps as a concession to the busy schedules of his cast, each episode of the proposed series would focus on a single character from the show. "We’re basically hoping to do nine or 10 episodes with almost one character per episode, where like the first episode will just be Buster. We’re kinda picturing it like, um, well the latest joke we have is that, you know, it’s Cambridge, Massachusetts and there’s all these scientists in lab coats and they’re waiting for somebody and Buster comes through the door wearing a lab quote and says `Let’s begin,’ and they say, `You don’t get to wear the lab coat, we’re experimenting on you...And then we go through his life and we meet the people in his life and maybe he goes to see his therapist who he’s getting a good rate on because it’s Tobias and he’s lost his license. We can do cross overs and things like that. But it’s an unusual style of show I think and we get him to a certain point of peril in his life and then maybe we jump over to like Maeby and she’s living with Cornel West…We’ll do this kind of thing that builds the peril in their lives until they all come together, really, in the first scene of the movie."
It could be so much hot air, but Hurwitz revealed that he's actually in talks with two broadcasters about airing the series: Showtime, who considered picking it up after the show was cancelled in 2006, and Netflix, who recently announced their move into original content with the David Fincher/Kevin Spacey show "House of Cards." Either sound like good homes for the show, although we suspect the latter may want it more: imagine all the subscriptions that would come from hardcore "Arrested Development" fans desperate to catch up with the Bluths.
The bigger question here is whether the movie will indeed follow. Hurwitz admits that the rights situation is complicated, and that no backing for the film has yet emerged. "I really have to say, we’ve talked about this, we’re all game, we hated being 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," he explained. "They’ve always been great to us but you know times are tough and money is tight but I’m very hopeful , there is business left to be done but creatively we have a very specific plan of how it would come out and what we would do and when we would shoot it. Our hope is that, perhaps the series is in the fall.”
Considering their TV wing was behind the show, and their network aired it, 20th Century Fox would seem to be the obvious home, or even indie wing Fox Searchlight, but that's far from a given; if we were a mini-major like Summit or FilmDistrict, we'd certainly be interested in talking out the rights with them. There's an audience for the film certainly, particularly given the way that the cult has grown over the years thanks to DVD and re-runs.
We've been cynical about the prospect of the film happening before now, but there's no doubt that this is real, concrete movement, and it seems closer to happening than ever before. The question is, do we really want this? Hurwitz's work since the show ended hasn't been too great, and we wouldn't want the show's perfect run to be tainted. Still, it's good news. All we need now is for people to start watching the top-notch comedy shows that are on right now, like "Community" and "Parks & Recreation," so we don't have to spend the next five years writing about possible cinematic reunions for more prematurely-canceled classics. [EW]