PASADENA There are rare times when cranky and jaded TV critics go all soft and gooey inside. Wednesday afternoon, when Netflix rounded up the beloved cast "Arrested Development," was one of those times. "I think I always held out hope that this would work out, and it was a very naive hope," said creator Mitch Hurwitz to a room full of rapt journalists at the TV critics press tour. "We shouldn't be here. I accept that premise." Hurwitz was referring to the highly improabable return of an acclaimed show that left the air nearly seven years ago. "Arrested Development," which earned three straight best-comedy Emmy Awards and volumes of critical praise during its low-rated run on Fox, gets a second life with 14 brand-new
episodes on the Netflix streaming service sometime in May. Hurwitz was accompanied by stars Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Portia de Rossi, Jeffrey Tambor, Jessica Walter and Alia Shawkat. The only no-shows were Tony Hale and David Cross, who will also be in the show. But don't call these new episodes, which will be available simultaneously, Season 4. "This is the first act of what we would like to lead into a movie," Bateman explained. "These are episodes that set that up. One does not work without the other." Hurwitz spoke of the logistical challenges of producing a show with a large collection of actors that were busy with other projects. Dependent on the availability of the actors, he was
forced to shoot episodes and scenes "way out of order" and devise a new storytelling structure. "Our family had drifted apart," Hurwitz said. "The only way we could get everybody for what we will loosely call an anthology was to dedicate each episode to a character's a point of view. That became really fun, because we'd find that some of the stories intersect. It's kind of an evolution of the storytelling that was necessary." That means fans will seldom see the entire dysfuntional Bluth family together at once, although Tambor recalled a day when all nine actors convened for some scenes. "This isn't a sentimental group, but that was pretty special," he said. Naturally, plot details were not shared, the better to surprise the audience, Hurwitz said, though at one point, Walter teased that "I finally get to play Joan Crawford with laughs." Is Hurwitz at all worried about tarnishing the show's legacy with this fresh material? "I could literally vomit at this moment," he said, apparently indicating that, indeed, he is. Before leaving the stage, Hurwitz introduced a clip featuring Walter and Hale that would likely wind up on the cutting-room floor. But he indicated that if the critics liked it, he just might change his mind. Judging from the thunderous laughter that ensued, he better count on using it.