In the lead up to their fourth series première on Netflix this Sunday, the cast of Arrested Development have spoken out about their initial cancellation by Fox in 2006.
David Cross, famous for playing the ridiculous doctor-turned-actor Tobias Funke, built upon past criticisms of the show’s former network – in which he ranted that the Emmy-winning show was marketed poorly – by explaining that “I still stand by everything I said… I was frustrated by what I saw as a lack of respect. There was a frustration of ‘look guys, this is a valuable thing’… They saw it as a bit of a burden.”
“The networks were still behind in figuring out how people were watching TV – they were still in that antiquated way that started in the ’50s, with a Nielsen box. You can’t look at the Nielsen ratings just because there’s a family in Rhode Island that wasn’t watching it at the time [it first aired] – that’s not how people are watching TV anymore.”
“Outside of the first season, it didn’t feel warmly received,” he added. “The worst thing that happened to Fox was Arrested winning the Emmy, ‘cos they had to keep it on. [Fox] didn’t have any real guts… but it’s a business [and] they’re not in the business of putting out great TV, they’re in the business of making as much money as they possibly can for Rupert Murdoch.”
The actor’s comments came at a press conference to promote the revival of Mitchell Hurwitz’s cult comedy – with 15 new episodes being made available exclusively via the online streaming service on May 26. Afterwards, however, he expanded upon his views for RadioTimes.com, explaining how different the atmosphere was on set for the fourth series as opposed to constantly being in fear of cancellation.
“It’s a huge difference going to work and knowing you’re wanted,” he said. “And [Netflix were] also very respectful to Mitch’s creative process, as opposed to a place that’s fighting with Mitch and giving notes all the time… Not that [Fox] were evil or shitty, but they did make it clear that, you know, we were not wanted… We spent over half the existence of that show going into work every day not knowing whether it was our last day. And that’s not an exaggeration; literally it was us going in and saying to each other, “Is today the day we’re going to get shut down?”
Alia Shawkat, who plays Maeby Funke in the series, also noted the change of atmosphere and revealed how one person in particular wasn’t best pleased with her past criticism of the network.
“My mother was furious because I did this one interview where I said Fox was shit and didn’t advertise it all and my mother said ‘Alia! You will never get hired by Fox!’ And I haven’t since… Netflix have been so overwhelmingly gracious and supportive, though. The boss came to set a lot and there was such good energy, laughing and jokes. But with Fox, it was like, ‘The boss is here… Everyone be cool.’”
A bit more diplomatic, however, was Jeffrey Tambor, who plays the Bluth’s patriarch George Sr. His opinion, backed by the show’s later online success, was simply that they aired at the wrong time.
“Here’s the deal: [Fox] did put us on the air and they’re also behind this thing and hopefully we’ll have a film. Everything has a timing and our timing was way off. They never knew what they had, we never knew what we had and now everything is in its proper place.”
“Those last six weeks were painful, though. It was like dating a girl who doesn’t quite get you.”