'Arrested Development': Once too smart for TV, now the cult favorite lives again on Netflix
STORY BY Artie Vincent
Published: May 21, 2013
Mitch Hurwitz knows that he was too smart for the Fox Network. Hurwitz, in fact, is aware that his brand of humor wouldn't sell any of the major network in America except for those willing to take a chance.
Yet Hurwitz developed 'Arrested Development' in 2003 for Fox with hopes to reinventing the sitcom genre. The show, which followed the Bluth family in light of a corporate accounting scandal, was a critical success but ratings flop mainly because the show's smart sense of humor never reached a large audience -- it was 123rd on the Nielsen Ratings in 2006.
After three seasons, the show reached its culmination but gained steam as a cult-favorite shortly thereafter. In retrospect, the country's attention at the time was drawn to shows like 'Desperate Housewives' where the plot points were generic, easy to follow and filled to the brim with sex symbols.
Hurwitz and the show's mockumentary style even poked fun of the show's impending doom during the third and final season. Now seven years later, 'Arrested Development' returns for a fourth season on May 26th on the independent and creative-friendly Netflix Corporation. After its 15-episode season, they are rumors of a much-anticipated feature film.
Still, getting to this point for showrunner/creator Hurwitz wasn't so easy.
Showtime was willing to pick up the sitcom soon after its cancellation. Hurwitz declined and ended his involvement with the series.
In a 2006 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Hurtwitz said; 'In truth, I had taken it as far as I felt I could as a series. I told the story I wanted to tell, and we were getting to a point where I think a lot of the actors were ready to move on. My instinct was that it was over when Fox pulled the plug." Essentially, Hurwitz said he didn't want to let the fans down.
Underneath it all, Hurwitz and the cast were discouraged by Fox's nonsupport during its final season. He called the experience 'psychologically detrimental'.
In the year's following, the legend of the short-lived 'Arrested Development' grew exponentially.
The DVD sales of the three seasons exploded, and then it became one of the most watched TV shows on Netflix. Ironically, a year before AD's cancellation, Fox's sister station, FX, premiered 'It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.' The sitcom's comedic style invoked a similar approach to 'Arrested Development.' The difference it was on cable. In 2009, ABC (home to 'Desperate Housewives') presented 'Modern Family'. The show was a mockumentary about multiple families that was eerily similar to AD.
The two shows became both critical and ratings kings on their prospective stations -- mainly because of America's yearning for an 'Arrested Development'-esque sitcom.
Slowly, Hurwitz himself began to get revitalize. In February 2011, he wrote a guest article for The Guardian. In the article, Hurwtiz laid out 11 ways to get your sitcom axed, starting with giving your show a 'confusing title'.
Hurwitz always stated that 'If there's a way to continue this in a form that's not weekly episodic series television, I'd be up for it.'
So enter Netflix.
The online video streaming site was anxious for original programming, and it displayed a strong interest in producing 'Arrested Development.' The streaming giant would unveil the new season in its entirety.
In October 2011, the cast and Hurwitz reunited for panel at The New Yorker Festival. In the panel, Hurwitz declared his intention of producing a truncated fourth season and a possible film.
Filming started in August 2012.
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