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Mitch Hurwitz Explains His Arrested Development Rules: Watch New Episodes in Order, and Not All at Once

When watching Arrested Development, don’t stay on the couch all day! Photo: Sam Urdank

Originally, the new episodes of Arrested Development were conceived as something of a “Choose Your Own Adventure” series for fans: Creator Mitch Hurwitz said we’d be able to watch the new episodes on Netflix any which way we pleased and in any order. Then, last week, after he wrapped the final mix on all fifteen new episodes, he said, scratch that, never mind, please watch sequentially! And, before the shows go live Sunday at 12:01 a.m., PST, he’s intent on making sure everyone knows he has redacted his earlier strategy. “I’m really doing everything I can to put out that misconception that it can be watched in any order,” Hurwitz told Vulture during an interview Tuesday. “Although I really did have that ambition at one point.”

“Not only will the episodes be available at the same time on Netflix, but they also cover the same period of time in the characters’ lives. So it seemed like, yeah, you should be able to jump in in any order and see George Michael’s episode and then maybe Buster’s episode, if you want, and see what each of them is doing,” Hurwitz explained. But he found out in post-production that the plan wouldn’t work, specifically because the many jokes and sight gags that span multiple episodes would not pay off in the right way, or even at all, if viewed out of order. “Our brains like to make stories out of things and that requires order. I pretty quickly realized everything here is about the order of telling the stories, that there will be shows where you find out a little bit of information and then later shows where you revisit the scene and you find out more information — and that’s not fun in reverse. To get more information first and then less information isn’t as interesting. I thought, okay, this may not be up for debate.”

“In good storytelling, you’re surprised by the information. You find out that people aren’t as one-dimensional as they originally appeared to be, or that there’s more to something than meets the eye. Because of the way we made it and because of the fact that it’s kind of an anthology story, that happens a lot for these characters. We’ll see Gob in a scene in George Sr.’s  story, but we won’t really know much about him because we’re following George Sr. So later, when you get to see that scene again and you get to see Gob in that new context, you realize, ‘Oh, he had more of an agenda than I realized.’ That’s the fun of it, I think. It’s really just a different way at getting depth of character.”

Also, he has a suggestion — and it’s just a suggestion — for those planning to get a feeding tube and a bedpan and not leave the couch until they’ve binge-watched the entire seven-and-a-half-hour season straight through: Take it easy, because comedy get less amusing after a few hours. “You’ll get tired!” says Hurwitz. “One of the producers came by when I was in post-production recently, and he said, ‘Can I see some of them?’ and I said, ‘Yeah, we’ve got seven episodes.’ ‘Great.’ And I heard him in the other room laughing and laughing, and then I heard him laughing a little less, and then a little less, and then later I saw him getting a drink of water and I said, ‘What do you think?’ He goes, ‘I’m just getting a little tired. I love it, it’s great, but you can’t really laugh the whole time. You have to take a break. There’s so much material.’”

Plus, Hurwitz adds, “You can’t take it all in at once. It’s like the selective-attention test. The whole show is like the selective-attention test. No one sees the gorilla! I’ll give you an example: When I was at the last sound mix with our editors and there was one of our bigger sight gags in the background of one of our more absurd conversations, nobody saw the sight gag, including me. And all we were doing is staring at the screen! What I like about the show is not that gimmick but that it gives fans something to pore over if that’s fun for them. If they want to go right back and check out the Gob episode and see how that was set up, they can.”

In conclusion: “Don’t feel obligated to watch it all at once. It’s a comedy! It’s not like Lord of the Rings. Comedy takes a lot out of you.” Sound advice. That said, we’re still considering all our options.

Hurwitz: Don’t Binge-Watch Arrested Development