Tuned In: Netflix reconstructs a new 'Development'

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PASADENA, Calif. -- "There's always money in the banana stand!" declared patriarch George Bluth Sr. (Jeffrey Tambor) in the second episode of "Arrested Development."

Soon Netflix will learn if there's money in reviving "Arrested Development," a perpetually low-rated series during its Fox tenure whose cult status has only grown since ending its broadcast run after three seasons in 2006. (Netflix did not make any of the 15 episodes from the show's new season available in advance for review.)

The show's basic premise when it began was that levelheaded son Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman) took over the family business after his father, George Bluth Sr., was sent to jail. But in addition to handling the family business, he also had to manage the family itself, including his alcohol-gurgling mother, Lucille (Jessica Walter), oddball brother Buster (Tony Hale) and supremely self-confident but really self-deluded brother Gob (Will Arnett). There's also Michael's self-involved sister, Lindsay (Portia de Rossi), and her never-nude husband, Tobias (David Cross). Michael also had to keep an eye on his sweet-natured son, George Michael Jr. (Michael Cera), who had the hots for his cousin, Maeby (Alia Shawkat).

Getting the cast of a TV show back together can be a near-impossible feat. That was especially true for the "Arrested" cast because the show served as a launch pad to more starring roles in movies and other TV shows.

"Fortunately the people who hand out jobs in this city were watching 'Arrested Development' -- maybe the people in the middle of the country weren't -- but that was lucky for all of us on this show," said Mr. Bateman after a Netflix press conference during the Television Critics Association winter press tour in January.

Series creator Mitch Hurwitz said an "Arrested" movie, which everyone involved hopes to make at some point in the future, was always an easier prospect.

"People said, 'You'll never get them all together for a TV show,' but people could take 30 days to make a movie," Mr. Hurwitz said. "A TV show takes months."

In order to make this fourth season of "Arrested," Mr. Hurwitz and the show's writers, who now count series star Mr. Cera among their number, had to deviate somewhat from the format of the previous Fox series. The varying availability of the cast necessitated a new approach.

"The only way we could get everybody together for what we'll call loosely an anthology was to kind of dedicate each episode to a different character's point of view, and that became a really fun, interesting, engaging, creative challenge, because we started finding out that the stories would intersect," Mr. Hurwitz said. Episodes are named after characters with some characters getting multiple episodes devoted to them. "You'll see a scene again and from the other perspective [through the new episodes and] you'll get all this new information. So it is kind of an evolution of the storytelling that was necessary."

The show's two constants through the whole fourth season will be executive producer Ron Howard's narration and the presence of Michael Bluth.

"That's something Mitch and I talked about early on," Mr. Bateman said. "I understood the creative and financial and scheduling limitations, and I said I didn't want to hinder that process at all in all of those areas, and so if he wanted to maintain the sort of structure from the pilot forward that it might be a more relatable experience for the audience if the lens through which you experience all these eccentric characters and storylines be through the sanest lens, then I'm available to him if he wants that piece of conduit in every episode."

Although there had been some rumors that Mr. Cera did not want to return for another season, Mr. Bateman said that was simply untrue. The cast and writers stayed in touch, and all hoped to reunite on some sort of new "Arrested Development" project. They recalled one of the few scenes in the new Netflix season that featured the entire cast.

"There we all were, nine years later and except for the two kiddies who grew, we all were the same," Ms. Walter said. "The same voices came out. The set was re-created, the penthouse down to the nails in the wall. It was really surreal."

'Behind the Candelabra'

HBO's Liberace movie "Behind the Candelabra" (9 p.m. Sunday) tells a pretty conventional story, but, boy, does it tell it with flair.

At root, it's the story of an older, powerful, wealthy guy, Liberace (Michael Douglas), who seduces a young, naive love interest. The young love interest becomes addicted to the opulent lifestyle and drugs and ultimately chafes at the control demanded by the older benefactor. Then everything goes to hell.

That's a familiar scenario. Even though the young love interest is another guy, Scott Thorson (Matt Damon), the story at its root is a tale as old as time.

"Behind the Candelabra," based on Mr. Thorson's book of the same name, was written by Richard LaGravenese ("The Bridges of Madison County") and directed by Steven Soderbergh ("Magic Mike"). Terrific performances make it a movie worth seeing.

Mr. Douglas, in particular, does a fantastic Liberace impression that doesn't get in the way of showing Liberace's loneliness, his sense of entitlement and his rapacious appetite for younger men (yes, there are sex scenes between the two leads).

Mr. Damon brings a wounded need for love and acceptance to his portrayal of Mr. Thorson, a foster child whose career goal is working with animals until he gets wooed into Liberace's palatial kitsch lifestyle.

The film addresses Liberace's homosexuality and presents in a matter-of-fact way a time not that long ago when one's homosexuality was a secret to be guarded at all costs. The film doesn't dwell on this -- the main story really is the men's five-year relationship -- but the politics of navigating the closet lurk as an undercurrent throughout "Behind the Candelabra."

The film is full of cameo appearances, including Dan Aykroyd, Scott Bakula, Paul Reiser, Debbie Reynolds and Rob Lowe as an upbeat plastic surgeon so plasticized himself that he's like a more extreme version of Mr. Lowe's "Parks & Recreation" character.

But the outrageous Liberace outfits -- both his own and those that he makes Mr. Thorson squeeze into -- are the true stars of the film. They're the over-the-top garnish on a pretty familiar story.

Read more about this cable movie in Sunday Magazine.

'Cable Guy' visits Pittsburgh

History's "Only in America With Larry the Cable Guy" (9 p.m. Wednesday) visits a Pittsburgh power plant in next week's episode. Larry joins boilermakers as they engage in gritty work before visits to a Pennsylvania fertilizer farm and a survivalist's bunker.

Channel surfing

Syfy has renewed "Warehouse 13" for a fifth and final six-episode season that will air in 2014. ... TLC has ordered eight new episodes of the canceled NBC reality show "Who Do You Think You Are?" to debut on July 23. ... Monday's season finale of CBS's "Mike & Molly" contained a tornado-themed story and was pulled due to the devastation in Oklahoma. It will air at a future date. ... A new animated "Star Wars" series, "Rebels," will air on Disney XD in 2014. ... PBS will give Charlie Rose a half-hour program airing Friday nights starting in July in addition to his late-night show. He also will continue to anchor CBS's morning show. ... CMT will revive "Orange County Choppers" with Paul Teutul Sr. ... ABC will burn off unaired episodes of "666 Park Avenue" beginning at 9 p.m. June 22. ... Pittsburgh native Gretchen Berg and her writing partner, Aaron Harberts, have a new two-year deal with ABC Studios and the pair will be executive producers on ABC's "Revenge" in the upcoming TV season.

Tuned In online

TV Q&A and Tuned In podcast have the week off but will return next Friday. Submit your questions at http://old.post-gazette.com/tv/questions/qaform.asp.

This week's Tuned In Journal includes posts on "Nashville," "Motive," "The Goodwin Games," "Save Me" and "Sullivan & Son." Read online-only TV content at post-gazette.com/tv.

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TV writer Rob Owen: rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook for breaking TV news. First Published May 24, 2013 4:00 AM


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