It's the most-anticipated TV series salvage in recent history, with the added possibility of reshaping how we all watch television.
Indeed, Sunday's debut of a new season from cult comedy Arrested Development on Netflix — which will unveil all 15 episodes in a rush at 3:01 a.m. local time — is so unorthodox, even creator and executive producer Mitch Hurwitz has no idea what he'll do on the day.
"I thought at first I could do a live Twitter thing; but then, people would just register their complaints with me," said Hurwitz, laughing. "Why should I offer them that opportunity?"
In a conference call with reporters Thursday, Hurwitz was joined by co-stars Jeffrey Tambor and Jessica Walter to talk about Netflix's decision to exhume a show canceled by Fox more than six years ago.
The series, focused on the supremely dysfunctional and once wealthy Bluth family, features Larry Sanders alum Tambor and showbiz legend Walter as felonious parents George Sr. and Lucille Bluth. Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, Portia de Rossi and Tony Hale are siblings Michael, George Jr. (or G.O.B.), Lindsay and Buster Bluth, respectively. Michael Cera (Superbad, Juno) is Michael's son George Michael, and David Cross (Men in Black, Modern Family) is Lindsay's sexually confused husband Tobias Funke.
When it aired on Fox, Arrested Development had the pace of a live-action Simpsons' episode, filled with convoluted, intersecting storylines and sight gags so complex it might take three viewings to get them all. Fan love grew after its 2006 cancellation, thanks to DVD box sets and Netflix, which cut a deal for a new season after seeing how subscribers flocked to archived episodes.
The Netflix version takes even more chances, telling stories focused on each of nine major characters in hopes of setting up an Arrested Development movie. Guest stars such as Kristen Wiig and Seth Rogen pop up, with Ron Howard returning as the show's narrator.
Here's a few points that emerged from the call:
Even Hurwitz doesn't know how fans should watch the show. "If you (binge) watch all of the episodes back-to-back, you'll gain something and you'll lose something," he said. "What's you'll gain is the macro story. What you might lose is some of the fun. … I joked that 30 seconds a day for three years is the best way." (He may also have to school Tambor, who admitted he doesn't even have a computer to watch Netflix yet.)
Non-Arrested Development fans may have to do some boning up. Critics on the conference call could watch the first new episode (after agreeing not to review it until Sunday). It often moves quicker than the network version, shifting in time and space to pack an amazing amount of jokes and plot into one 30-minute span.
Netflix may not say publicly how many people watch the show, and it may not matter. "Do they care (about ratings)?" Hurwitz said. "Is the fact that we're doing this conference call enough to boost the profile of the company? Do they (think) it's already established Netflix as a place where you can get premium content?"
It's not on broadcast TV, but there's almost no nudity — and profanity is still bleeped. "I think we embrace the notion that the story is being filtered by this unseen narrator, who is a pretty nice guy," said Hurwitz, referencing Hollywood nice guy Howard. Walter joked she doesn't appear nude, because "they wouldn't let me do it."
They just finished up work on the episodes last week. "Do you know that (as late as) five days ago, I recorded one line on my iPhone (for the show)?" Tambor said, incredulously.
"What's different about this, is that the audience owns the material," Hurwitz added. "They aren't being told when they would get each particular bit of information. It informs the telling of the story."