Two weeks after he locked the final cut of Netflix's Arrested Development revival, show creator Mitch Hurwitz is catching up on TV, traveling to New York and checking social media to gauge the reaction to the fruits of two years of labor. "Right now my hope is that the people who are interested in the Bluth family give the show a try," he says of the new episodes, which each focus on a different character yet are intertwined.
The 15 Arrested episodes were released simultaneously on May 26. Fan reaction has been decent, but critics were mixed, with some of those negative reviews reportedly hurting Netflix's stock price (although anticipation for the show previously helped boost the streaming service's stock).
Hurwitz tweeted on May 28 that critics were "resisting change." But in a lengthy chat last week with TV Guide Magazine, he clarified what he meant, and also discussed his future plans for the show. Hurwitz even addressed Internet chatter about star Portia de Rossi's appearance. An edited transcript follows.
TV Guide Magazine: What do you make of the reaction so far?
Hurwitz: Early on, I remember thinking, fans are looking so forward to this and after 15 episodes it's going to be over for them. That's what motivated me to keep layering and layering. The audience may watch it once, and like it or dislike it. Or they may want to watch it a lot and have fun digging out all of the subtext and connections. It seemed like fun to use the new medium as something people can play with. Like an Arrested Development toy.
TV Guide Magazine: Were you taken aback by some of the critics' reactions?
Hurwitz: I wasn't taken aback at all. I wrote a tweet that I immediately thought, well, if I had a couple more characters, I would have used the word "some critics." I was surprised at that first review. We got off to a bad start with that bad review. Most have been positive. And all criticism is valid. Like anybody, I'd like to have 100 percent love all the time. But it's not realistic. I'm so flattered and grateful that so many people have found it and are so outspoken in their support of it. It wouldn't be interesting for me or the cast to make another episode like we used to. That was the joy of this.
TV Guide Magazine: Why was it important to stress that viewers should watch the 15 episodes in order?
Hurwitz: Like any story, there is a beginning, a middle and an end. I ended up trying to have all the episodes happen at the same time, but have the Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman) story progress throughout them. That's what gets really confusing if you see them out of order. The original idea was actually much less ambitious. It was to just do webisodes that focused one at a time on each character. And then it grew to this idea of doing one giant, eight-hour episode of Arrested Development.
TV Guide Magazine: What's the story behind the ostriches?
Hurwitz: There's a lot in this show that not only refers to later episodes but that also refer to a future story. A lot of what we were doing was setting up a future for this world. I would put the ostriches in that camp.
TV Guide Magazine: Does that mean another batch of episodes to come?
Hurwitz: It was important to me that I had a story behind this one that we built to. Whether that ever becomes a feature or a puppet show or a graphic novel or a needlepoint pattern, I'm not sure. A lot of things [this season] make sense when you rewatch it. Then there are other things that are just set up for something in the future. And then there are other things that are probably just bad writing.
TV Guide Magazine: Will you be able to do another season?
Hurwitz: I would want to do it again, definitely. It just requires some logistics. I'm sure that could be worked out.
TV Guide Magazine: What wound up on the cutting room floor? Could you have done more with that footage?
Hurwitz: Some jokes, some hilarious scenes, but they didn't really further the plot. They'll show up in the stew somehow.
TV Guide Magazine: How did you cast Kristen Wiig and Seth Rogen as a younger Lucille and George Sr.?
Hurwitz: That was just dream casting. That was, OK, who would be absolutely right for the part. Instead of having a casting session, let's see if we get lucky and that they would be up for doing it. Is there anybody funnier than those two?
TV Guide Magazine: Did you luck into bringing in so many new and returning big name guest stars?
Hurwitz: It didn't feel like that to me, the casting was about who was right for the part. It was always about staying in our world, so when we had an idea that Lindsay and Tobias would fall victim to the housing crisis, we looked at who we had established in the world of real estate, and there was Ed Helms. With "Tony Wonder" coming back, I did not want to let go of that character. Ben Stiller is very busy, but I just waited him out. Conan O'Brien was an outgrowth of having Andy Richter in the show. John Krasinski was a total cameo. He had the day off and was close by and he's close to our casting director and Will Arnett. I've been a fan of John Slattery for years. He did a sitcom that my wife (Mary Jo Keenen) was in.
TV Guide Magazine: You also gave your Imagine Entertainment bosses, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, quite a bit of screentime.
Hurwitz: We just endlessly amused ourselves by making Imagine references. Talk about an inside joke! It's like, "Hey, let's put our boss in it, that would be funny!" There was this meta quality to the fact that [Howard] is the narrator. But I think he's the narrator because of the story that we're continuing to tell. That ultimately will tie together.
TV Guide Magazine: There has been a lot of speculation over whether Portia de Rossi changed her looks, is that why there are more playful digs at Lindsay's appearance?
Hurwitz: I've read a couple things that people thought she looked different. It's been 10 years since the pilot, and I think she's a vegan now and that really changes your whole body type. But it was absolutely not meant to be a joke at Portia's expense. It was at Lindsay's expense. She doesn't look different to me. I've seen her over the years. I think she looks so beautiful. I had such a schoolgirl crush on her. One of the reasons Portia looked different is because we had to put a wig on her. And it looked bad. I asked, "Why does this wig look like this?" And the hair person said, "Oh, it's too small." Oh for God's sake. I think if I wore a wig I'd look different.
TV Guide Magazine: Were we not supposed to recognize "Steve Holt"?
Hurwitz: That was intentional. I loved how we wanted to hide him in plain sight. I wanted audiences to have the same reaction that Gob did, "Wait, that's Steve Holt." Alia [Shawkat] didn't recognize him either. There are so many things that happen this season that are right before your eyes. You really don't see them until the second viewing. There's the thing called the "Selective Attention Test." Look up on YouTube, it explains basically what the whole show is.
TV Guide Magazine: Have you considered editing different cuts of this season?
Hurwitz: I thought that it would be fun to put the pieces together in a way that seemed like the old show. Cut this chronologically and see what shakes out.
TV Guide Magazine: How different would it have been on Showtime [which also attempted to pick up Season 4]?
Hurwitz: I can't say it would be better or worse. But it would be different. This is the canvas we got to paint on.
TV Guide Magazine: Has Netflix given you any viewership numbers?
Hurwitz: No, but I haven't asked. For all I know they'd be willing to. But they have their business model and I want to be respectful.
TV Guide Magazine: Aren't you curious?
Hurwitz: Not really. If it's six million or it's 15 million, they're both incomprehensible. And beyond that, it's meant to be seen over the next couple of years. It's a cool model. I don't think it replaces television, but I think will lead to a lot of creativity from a lot of people.