It's been a pretty horrid year for Netflix. With a price hike combined with a name and service change, they lost stock value and customers in equal measure, forcing the company to go back on their plans and try and salvage some kind of goodwill with both Wall Street and the people who get those little red envelopes every day in the mailbox. Well, it looks like they are heading out of the year on a high note, as the DVD rental and streaming company has picked up the rights to one of the most highly anticipated returns in some time.
After the cast and creators announced with great fanfare at the New Yorker Festival that "Arrested Development" would be coming back for a fourth season and a movie, Netflix and Showtime quickly became the two networks (if you can call Netflix a network) battling for the rights to the show. Well, Netflix has emerged victorious and will premiere the next season on their service, but that's about all we know for now. No word yet on the number of episodes, but it is expected to debut in 2013.
Last month when the fourth season was first announced, Mitch Hurwitz had a pretty clear idea of what the structure for the new episodes would be, saying, "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's a smart play, largely because it makes scheduling about a zillion times easier rather than trying to corral the increasingly busy cast. It's expected that this will provide the lead-in for the much-rumored movie, but that's still a question waiting to be answered. As of last month, a script was only halfway done and it needed financing so it could still be a bit of a ways off. However, a fourth season is good test to see if interest in the comedy series is a fans-only affair or something that has broadened in the pop culture sphere (although, putting it on a subscriber only service kind of gums up the analysis a bit).
Either way, it's a coup for Netflix, who add it to the David Fincher/Kevin Spacey series "House of Cards" as premium content to rival folks like HBO and AMC. Could this be the key to Netflix's future success? Either way, for all those people who canceled, it looks like they've got a reason to return. [Variety]