New Developments on the Future of 'Arrested Development'

Netflix is releasing a recut version of Season 4! Wait. What? Why? Also, maybe Season 5.

Arrested Development S

Netflix is releasing a recut version of Season 4! Wait. What? Why? Also, maybe Season 5.

You remember that new Arrested Development season we were promised? Way back in April 2015 we got the news that there would be a fifth season of the show. Well, after all this time, get your “I just blue myself” quips ready.

Netflix, for a totally unexplained reason, is dropping something different than Season 5. Series creator Mitch Hurwitz has completely recut Season 4, and that will be available for our binge-viewing pleasure starting May 4th.

Wait. Record scratch. What’s all that about?

Arrested Development has always enjoyed playing with jokes. For the fourth season, released in 2013, the makers of the show played with the format. Instead of having a traditional narrative unfold, they took the approach of dedicating each episode to a member of the family as they experienced the same events from their own perspectives.

It was very strange. A lot of people hated it.

Hurwitz likened the original viewer experience of that season to something “akin to eating some toast, then some bacon — maybe a sliced tomato followed by some turkey and realizing ‘Hey, I think I just had a BLT.’”

And, he’s not wrong. Back in 2015, Film School Rejects’ own Scott Beggs was scratching his head over the appeal of an ensemble show where none of the cast ever seem to be in the same location. And, all things being equal, just how the heck could they hope to improve?

To a certain extent, that was a creative solution to a practical problem for the show’s producers. They couldn’t get the cast to co-locate long enough to shoot traditionally. So, they expeditiously made the creative choice to think outside the box of traditional television.

In fact, Hurwitz promised this new cut back in 2014. And thanks to the extreme weirdness of streaming television, and apparently either an abundance of free-time or a fat budget, Netflix agreed to this experience, newly titled Arrested Development: Fateful Consequences.

Okay, a cosmic do-over or whatever. But why? A couple of possibilities come to mind.

The original series has made its way into the zeitgeist. The idea certainly pulls at the same heartstrings that get tugged every time Michael Bluth tries to right the sinking ship that is his family. I want to root for them. Make that Cornballer work for you! It’s pure Bluth.

Careful, it’s hot.

Recutting the season has a certain elegance to it. The move demonstrates to fans that their complaints have been heard, and it gives them something to chew on until the show comes back. Perhaps this is also what wooed parties back to the table for Season 5. I’m not totally clear on when Hurwitz finished his recut.

While I’m not sure if it’s clever to creatively lean on a weaker entry, the decision is certainly attention-getting. That’s exactly the sort of thing Netflix has been playing around with when it comes to marketing. And this move is totally bonkers.

Netflix’s Super Bowl ad campaign announcing the surprise release of A Cloverfield Paradox was definitely unorthodox. Their recent bid to open their own theater chain got people talking — mostly about whether or not it was actually legal, but the conversation still happened.

The company is uniquely positioned for a stunt like this. Unlike regular cable networks, they have the ability to demand coverage that others would have to pay for in advertising dollars and commercials. Keep in mind, a traditional cable or network channel would absolutely not make space in its regular programming for recurring episodes of a recut season that a lot of people really did not like. Netflix, on the other hand, can drop it and leave it out there for whoever wants to get at it.

With that in mind, another interpretation would be that this could be a good way to get the show back into the public sphere without having to talk about Jeffrey Tambor. The actor lost his job on Transparent amidst allegations of sexual harassment. Netflix can’t be too thrilled about being caught up in a scandal with another one of their actors.

This feels like a cynical read. But haven’t all the rotten apples shaken loose by the #MeToo movement taught us to be skeptical? And while House of Cards wasn’t quite in the same boat with a season in the can, Netflix sure dropped Kevin Spacey like a lead weight.

Opening with a recut version of a weak season of television to ignite viewer passion is a strange idea. Most shows use new, tiny pieces of content like mini-sodes to get viewers engaged. So strange, we just have to talk about it.

Is this a five-dimensional shell game, only executable by a streaming service like Netflix, designed to control the tide of the news? And perhaps distract people from wondering how they should feel about Tambor’s involvement? Or, is it just a combination of an influx of budget and Hurwitz’s weirdo sense of humor when it comes to form?

In Hurwitz’s own words, exploration of the science of humor seems to be his endgame.

“I also pursued it as a comedic experiment to see if new jokes and a new perspective would emerge from a remix that features all the Bluths in every episode, and where the simultaneity of the story plays out chronologically. And I’m really excited about the final result. It’s funny in a whole new way, and I believe it creates a really entertaining and hilarious new experience for the ‘viewer.'”

It’s up to you on why the heck Netflix would run with that.

As far as shot-calling goes, the cast and crew seem bullish on season five. In an interview with Deadline, Jason Bateman declared it will be “the best year ever.” But, that’s kind of what the star of a show would say. And, Alia Shawkat shared with Vulture that the cast was able to actually spend time on set together. So. You know.

Perhaps all the stars aligned and the universe is really coming up Bluth. Could we wind up with another season on the level of the original run? Shit. Could we get a great Season 4 out of this? I’m rooting for them.

Writer for Film School Rejects. He currently lives in Virginia, where he is very proud of his three kids, wife, and projector. Co-Dork on the In The Mouth of Dorkness podcast.