The fourth season of "Arrested Development" is not the fourth season of "Arrested Development," Jason Bateman tells GQ, of the show's upcoming Netflix release. "It got misbranded or mislabeled way, way, way back when and was never corrected for one reason or another," he said. "There are different agendas at work there, but it is not season four."
We already know that producer Ron Howard's vision for the next installment of "Arrested Development" is character-driven, with each episode focused on a specific Bluth character; it will “look very different,” like a “very, very complex puzzle," according to Howard.
Bateman elaborates on the vision, explaining that they are like acts in a play or a movie:
"The last line of the last episode of 'Arrested Development' was Ron Howard saying to Maeby—she's pitching him a show about her family at Imagine—and he says to her, "No, I don't see it as a series. Maybe a movie!" And then the screen goes black. That's it. So Mitch [Hurwitz, the show's creator] was always planning on writing a movie. Every time he went to start a movie script, there was so much work to be done just to fill the audience in on where the family had been since the end of the show, and to also initiate the uninitiated about who these characters are. So he thought: The only way to tell a story of this size is to do the first act in episodes. So it's really a hybrid distribution of one big story. The episodes are simply act 1, and the movie will have act 2 and act 3 in it. So one does not work without the other.
Unlike the traditional series that first aired on Fox, you don't have to watch the episodes, or acts, in order to get the story -- or all of the jokes:
"It's not exactly like a 'Choose Your Own Adventure' type of thing, but Mitch has written these episodes exclusively for the distribution platform and format of Netflix, knowing that they were all going to be released, like an album, on the same day. So certain clues are revealed to you based on the order in which you watch them. There will be an order that is suggested, but because part of the fun of what he does is so dense and multilayered."
The episodes will tie into the long-rumored (but not yet confirmed) movie, Bateman says:
"There are many, many questions that these episodes ask that only the movie will answer. And there are many stories where the loop is closed inside the episodes. But the overall story, the bigger story, once you see the movie you will see that 'oh, this story started with those fourteen episodes,' because the action in these fourteen episodes happens simultaneously."
The series arrives on Netflix in May. In the meantime, however, die-hard fans can support the multi-year effort, "The Arrested Development Documentary Project," which features interviews with Howard, Bateman and other cast members and needs about $20,000 for its completion.