Each new episode of Arrested Development will focus on a single character when the show returns this year on Netflix, with the entire cast appearing together just once in the new finale of the revived sitcom. Creator Mitchell Hurwitz told USA Today that only Michael Bluth, played by Jason Bateman, will appear in each of the 13 or 14 new episodes.
"The show will look very different," Hurwitz said, in part because Netflix plans to make all the episodes available at once, freeing the writers – now including Michael Cera, who also plays Michael Bluth's son George Michael – from juggling multiple story lines to fit the constraints of traditional TV. "We're not jumping from one thing to another; you're staying with one character," Hurwitz said, though other cast members appear in smaller roles within each episode. Peripheral characters played by Henry Winkler and Liza Minnelli are also returning, and the show will include turns by Mad Men star John Slattery, along with Conan O'Brien and Andy Richter.
Each episode will detail what happened to individual characters after the family fled from the law in 2006, when Fox canceled the series after three seasons. "The bigger story is the family has fallen apart at the start of our show," Hurwitz said. "They all went their own way, without Michael holding them together, so they're left to their own devices, and they're not the most successful devices."
He said the season was designed as a "first act to what we eventually want to do, which is a big movie," though he cautioned that such a project may never actually happen.
Shooting began last fall for what was supposed to be a 10-episode fourth season of Arrested Development. After filming more material than planned, Hurwitz had ideas for additional story lines, and Netflix expanded its order. Shooting is expected to resume this month.
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