'Arrested Development' return shows life after TV via the Web

The cult favorite show cancelled by Fox after three seasons has secured a spot on Netflix's streaming lineup next year, showing that the Web has become a viable source for mainstream entertainment.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

"Arrested Development" has discovered life after cancellation courtesy of Netflix, which will be streaming the show's fourth season next year.

Speaking at a National Association of Broadcasters event in Las Vegas on Tuesday, series creator Mitch Hurwitz said that production on the next season will start this summer. All of the original cast members are aiming to return, some of whom popped up at the event.

Hurwitz also said that 10 episodes will be offered, all of them available for streaming on the same day. However, Netflix spokesman Steve Swasey told CNET that the company hasn't yet decided on the actual scheduling of episodes or any specific "air" dates.

Hurwitz also was open to the possibility of additional seasons. Of course, that's a bit premature since the initial episodes would have to score well enough for Netflix to want more. But like other series shot down before their time, Arrested Development has already proven popular among Netflix viewers diving into the first three seasons. So the new season has a certain guaranteed audience built in.

Netflix has managed to do well with other series, even those still on the air. Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos revealed at the NAB event that the hit series "Mad Men" has scored big on Netflix, with 3.5 million subscribers watching the show's fourth season. The company has also been testing the waters with its own original programming, with current shows such as "Lilyhammer," and future shows, including "House of Cards" and "Hemlock Grove."

"There's a huge amount of enthusiasm for the Netflix original content strategy," Swasey told CNET, although he did note that this is only a small piece of the Netflix pie. The company's focus remains on acquiring movies and TV shows.

Still, the return of "Arrested Development" points to Netflix and by extension the Web as a growing and serious outlet for original commercial programming. An online world that once offered little more than amateur YouTube videos now has an air of legitimacy around it. The Web is now seen as a place where the creative folks from Hollywood can thrive in an outlet beyond traditional TV and find an eager and potentially large audience.

"We were very fortunate to even get on the air with a show that was very different at its time. And there's just something very exciting about doing that again in this new format,"Hurwitz said at the event.

The show could have ended up at a couple of other places, including Showtime, Hurtwitz revealed. But Netflix apparently felt like the right spot.

"It feels like the broadcast model makes a lot of people a lot of money," he added, "but there's a lot more to be exploited there, a lot of great material that has nowhere to go, and I think Netflix is providing it."

As a diehard A.D. fan, I'm hoping the new season does well for Netflix. If so, it could lead to more episodes and possibly the return of other popular TV series cut short by the networks.

Personally, I'd still love to see a revival of my own cult favorite "Firefly," which was also cancelled prematurely by the folks at Fox. But for now I'll savor the return of "Arrested Development" as a sign that there can be life after network TV thanks to the Internet.

About the author

Journalist, software trainer, and Web developer Lance Whitney writes columns and reviews for CNET, Computer Shopper, Microsoft TechNet, and other technology sites. His first book, "Windows 8 Five Minutes at a Time," was published by Wiley & Sons in November 2012.

 

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