There was a lot of touching yesterday at the New Yorker Festival’s “Bluth Family Reunion” panel, which reunited Arrested Development’s main players — co-creator Mitchell Hurwitz, Portia De Rossi, David Cross, Michael Cera, Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, Jeffrey Tambor, Jessica Walter, Tony Hale, Alia Shawkat, and Ron Howard (via speakerphone) — for the first time since they wrapped their final show in December 2005. There was plenty of talk about how Fox made a huge mistake when it canceled the series six years ago. And there was even unlimited juice — okay, that’s a lie, but it was still, in Buster’s words, “OFF THE HOOK.”
I’m not just referring to the clan’s announcement that they were working on a limited-run series to segue between the final episode and the show’s long awaited movie adaptation. The clearly happy-to-be-there group — Arnett finished the evening by thanking the crowd for giving them an excuse to get back together — spent a good hour and forty minutes reminiscing about the show’s early days, joking about bowel movements and pop-pop (you know what I mean), dissecting Jason Bateman’s revitalized career, and making fun of Michael Cera’s new mop-top ‘do (seriously, think Muppet hair). As for the fans, not only did they get to ask questions, but they also got to show off their stuff. And I mean real stuff — one guy had paid $350 for one of Buster’s prosthetic hands, another had purchased GOB’s Segway. They also asked the Bluths to fulfill one final request: Do the chicken dance for the audience. And they got their wish.
Here are 13 other tidbits you might have learned had you’d been there.
1. The first script came with a warning.
Portia De Rossi: There was a cover letter that came with the script that basically said, pretty much, no diva type behavior, it’s going to be shot from the hip, we’re not really going to have fancy trailers … I remember reading that and then came the “What are we getting ourselves into?”
2. The cast was originally supposed to be in their fifties.
Mitchell Hurwitz: When I started working on this pilot, I was thinking that [Jeffrey Tambor] was going to play Tobias. And I had everybody in their fifties and it was actually Jill Clayburgh who said to me, ‘Oh that’s horribly depressing,”
3. Some of the best lines were ad-libbed.
Will Arnett: [The camera] was still shooting on Jeffrey in that sequence when he gets arrested [in the pilot] … and he’s calling his secretary to say ‘clean everything out,’ and then Jeffrey threw in, “Why are you crying?!” That moment [for me] was like, “This is great.”
4. You can spend the night in Lucille’s apartment — which is also where Will Arnett had his epiphany about the cast’s camaraderie.
WA: I remember there was a moment on the pilot when we were shooting in Lucille’s apartment, which was at the time a suite at the Ritz in Marina del Rey — which you can go and stay in if you’re so inclined. And there was a moment when we were shooting a scene and we’re all in it … and there was that moment when we’re like, “Wow, everybody’s kind of doing the same thing. This is unusual.”
5. David Cross had to fight Fox to keep Tobias’ mustache.
David Cross: As I remember it … you guys were having a real tough time casting GOB. You guys had seen a lot of people and [said] ‘Would I look at GOB, also Buster?’… I immediately got the sense of Tobias and knew exactly what I wanted it to be. But I had to fight for the mustache. That was a big fight with Fox.
MH: Apparently, [former Fox president] Gail Berman had this standing rule that there were no hats or mustaches allowed.
6. GOB wasn’t a jerk.
WA: Honestly, I never thought that GOB was a jerk. He was just completely out of touch with reality … I always thought that GOB’s main objective — all he wanted — was the love of his father and of his brother. He knew he wasn’t going to get the love of his mother — that was gone. He was kind of jealous that George Michael had shown up.
7. And he was inspired, in part, the 1987 British film Withnail & I.
WA: The most influential thing to me were things like Richard E. Grant in Withnail & I. That showed you could be really funny but desperately sad and pathetic at the same time. Really confident and really dumb — I’ve always loved that combination.
8. Jason Bateman’s favorite episode is…
Jason Bateman: When the one armed guy taught us lessons. [a.k.a. “Pier Pressure”]
9. Jessica Walter’s favorite line is…
Jessica Walter: “Like anybody would want to ‘R’ her.”
10. The stair-car gag originated 33 years ago.
MH: I remember making that joke when I was, like, 15-years-old.
11. The Bluths were Jewish (sort of).
MH: When it started, it had a real gentile vibe to it and then it kind of got more Jewish. And I think the name Bluth … my wife [who suggested the name] was the one saying we’ve got to find a name that’s Jewish but not too Jewish, ’cause you want to have that freedom comedically.
12. The fake “scenes-from-the-next” started as a craven way to get the show picked up by the network.
I knew that when they test pilots, one question they ask is, “Would you want to see another episode?” So it really did come from that. It was like, “Well, let me just put some teaser on the episode” … It’s a pilot, of course it’s not [already going to have] a next episode … Then it was a great thing because you always end on a big joke.
13. When Fox called Hurwitz to tell him the show had been canceled, they used the Pamela Anderson comedy Stacked as an excuse.
MH: I remember getting the call [mimics taking a call]: “Listen, Stacked is coming on… ”