'Arrested Development' writers' room
Bringing back a show from the dead is no easy task. Especially when that show is Arrested Development. The highly revered cult comedy returns with 15 new episodes that will be released simultaneously on May 26 on Netflix, and it’s fair to say that a lot of care and thought (and more thought) went into them. Series creator Mitchell Hurwitz and his writers did not structure the episodes like typical Arrested installments: In telling the tale of what has happened to the splintered family over the last seven years, each episode will focus on one of the nine main characters, with a few other Bluths making an appearance. The episodes are crafted to work as a whole — the first act of a larger saga that is designed to play out on the big-screen — and certain jokes and stories that are planted in one show bloom in another. “There’s never been a half-hour comedy with the level of complexity here,” says Troy Miller, who directed the episodes with Hurwitz. “The idea of how characters interrelate and the episodic arcs in A, B, C, D, and E story lines — it’s this crazy wormhole he’s created.” Several people in the Arrested family colorfully described their first visit to the writers’ room, but our favorite may come courtesy of David Cross.“You know the murder scene where they go to the psycho killer’s apartment and he’s got all this crazy s— mapped out? That’s what it looked like,” he says. “Post-it notes and index cards all across the three walls in this big conference room. Yarn stretching from one thing to another and pinned in one place, and then a sharp angular uptick to the Lucille character and down. And then there’s a different-colored yarn that intersects and weaves in. It took him 25 minutes to explain what I was looking at. And I still didn’t get everything. When you see that, of course it has to be a TV show. There’s no way else to do this.”
Michael Cera was more than familiar with the challenges of that room: He did double-duty by serving as a writer on the series as well. “There were, at one point, three pieces of different-colored yarn that all led to a card that had a question mark on it,” he says with a laugh. “I think everyone — including Mitch and Richie [Rosenstock] and Jim [Vallely], these incredible minds that were navigating this whole thing — felt confused many times. But it helped the process, which was reassuring for me and for some of the newer writers who felt way in over their heads. It comes with the territory of doing a really ambitious story like that.”
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For our cover story on Arrested Development, pick up a copy of this week’s Entertainment Weekly, available on newsstands on April 26. And to see two photos from an upcoming episode, visit our Facebook page.