How best to describe the structure of the 14 new episodes of Arrested Development that will become available on Netflix on one glorious but not yet named day in May? A jigsaw, a puzzle box, a Rashomonic hall of mirrors? The episodes, each less than 30 minutes, are intended to set up the Arrested Development movie, which executive producer Mitch Hurwitz is still hopeful will happen.
According to Hurwitz and the cast members assembled at the Television Critics Association session on Wednesday afternoon—Jeffrey Tambor, Will Arnett, Jason Bateman, Jessica Walter, Alia Shawkat, Michael Cera, and Portia de Rossi—each episode will be told from the point of view of one cast member, with characters interacting and story lines intersecting.
The odd structure is a creative solution to a business problem: “We’re in second position to most of these actors,” Hurwitz said, meaning that other, better-paying TV shows and movies have a higher priority for the cast members’ time. The difficulty of assembling a group of actors on any one day has forced the producers to shoot scenes out of order and fit the pieces together like a jigsaw.
Asked if he was concerned that viewers will experience the new episodes in a different way than the creative team intended, Hurwitz likened the same-day release, which will allow viewers to jump from one episode to the other in any sequence, to a record album: “There is an order that we have put together to create the maximum number of surprises, but that’s just part of the storytelling.” In other words, Hurwitz is fully aware that he is working in an era when producers are losing control over when or how audiences experience their creations.
Hurwitz refused to say much about any of the coming storylines. “We’ve started guarding the material to make it fun for the audience,” he said. That’s probably a good call, since the simultaneous release of the entire season will surely lead to an explosion of spoilers as soon as Netflix makes the content live. And after the Christmas Eve outage, let’s hope Netflix’s servers can handle the demand that its streaming of the original three seasons has helped to build up since the show went off the air in 2006.