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Web Exclusive: Mitch Hurwitz Blathers On
Additional thoughts from the creator of resurrected ‘Arrested Development’
Check out our print edition for the first part of the interview with Arrested Development’s Mitch Hurwitz.
On the original series’ appeal …
It would really be armchair psychology, but I think the answer is: It’s really good casting. These actors are so wonderful. None of this happens without them.
On the benefits of having a cult following …
It became clear, early on, that this was not going to be a big moneymaker. And for me, it was, “Well, I’ve got the keys right now.” They’re not pulling it off the air, thanks to the critics and the fans we did have, and the awards we were given.
On the show’s breakthrough idea …
[Executive producer] Ron Howard wanted to do something in television. He had this idea based on what he called the “new vocabulary of reality shows.” At that time, there was “Cops” and “Blind Date,” and suddenly on TV you were seeing hand-held cameras, you were seeing bad resolution, hidden cameras in cars. Things that used to be considered “not found” on broadcast television were on broadcast television. And he thought, “What if we use that documentary style and we tell a story as if it’s a real story? Maybe it’s about a real family. Maybe that’s the way to get people interested.”
If you look at the history of comedy, at the recipe of “I Love Lucy,” in the first act of “I Love Lucy,” she’s not shoving chocolate in her mouth. She’s saying, “Hi, Ricky. Hi, Ethel. How was your day?” It just couldn’t be more mundane. There’s the sense that it’s real life, that it could happen to you. And then when she gets to shoving chocolates in her mouth, you’re with her. It’s funnier than if it was just a sketch. And that was kind of the spirit of what I was trying to do.
We’re voyeurs to a certain extent. Now, obviously, we started going very broad right away. But the tone of the show tried to stay in the real world. The tone that the actors took tried to stay in the real world. Even though there are magicians, and yachts exploding, and houses falling apart as kind of the climaxes of our shows, often, they always started in a very real place.
It’s too soon to say where this belongs in the continuum. But I would say it certainly scratched an itch with a certain kind of viewer. And, I’m that kind of viewer.
On paving the way for “30 Rock” …
“30 Rock” is a descendant, I think, in many ways. Not to say that Tina [Fey] wouldn’t have done that show exactly as she did it without us, but we’re all part of a continuum. I mean, we wouldn’t have done the show we did without “The Simpsons.” I personally see a lot of things in “30 Rock” that I think, “Oh, that’s right from us.” But, listen, you could point to any joke in “Arrested Development,” and I could tell you, well, that’s actually Albert Brooks’ rhythm, that’s “Fawlty Towers.” That’s just the nature of the medium.
On why Marina del Rey had to double for Balboa …
As you know, there’s something called the studio radius, outside of which it’s more expensive to shoot. So it’s always cheaper to say, “Why don’t we go to Marina del Rey?” than “Why don’t we go to the Balboa Peninsula?”
On the Bluths’ house, a model home for a development that was never finished because the Bluths lost all their money …
It was this perfect home—but there was nothing of substance there. It was all façade. It was all about looks; it was all about money. It wasn’t until the end when they’d lost their money and they all kind of came together in this fake home that it became a real home.
On returning to the show …
Returning to the show is kind of like returning to Orange County. It’s like returning to family. It’s so comfortable and it’s such a joy. We didn’t choose to separate, but I think in life sometimes you do need a little time apart to realize how important your family of associates really is to you. I think I only realized belatedly that this was such a rare opportunity.
Illustration by Eddie Guy
This article originally appeared in the May 2013 issue.