x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

A revival of the TV show Arrested Development is afoot

While it was cancelled in 2006, there are now talks of not only a return of the TV show, but a movie as well.

Being a fan of Arrested Development hasn't been easy. With its cancellation in 2006, the offbeat comedy about a once-wealthy family of property developers forced to live together under a single roof came to represent the cruel world of US television - notorious for axing great shows too soon. Hope, then, began to grow that the series would be revived on the big screen and new tidbits of information, no matter how small or speculative, set internet forums buzzing. Despite all of the necessary cast and crew members declaring themselves on-board, however, a date for cameras to start rolling never seemed to appear.

But the saying "good things come to those who wait" might just have been proved true. Last week, it was not only revealed that the dysfunctional Bluth family are a step closer to reuniting for a movie, but there are plans to precede the feature with a new season of the show. This would make the underdog comedy one of the tiny number of US series ever to be revived.

Running from 2003 until 2006 and created by Mitch Hurwitz, the irreverent sitcom saw the fictitious Californian family struggling to adjust after their company is investigated for fraud and their assets frozen (with little suggestion made that they might be innocent).

Despite earning an army of loyal followers, the show was cancelled due to poor ratings and supporters felt its finale offered insufficient closure. Since going off air, the show has found an even wider audience on DVD and many of its principal actors, including Jason Bateman (Horrible Bosses), Michael Cera (Superbad) and Will Arnett (Despicable Me), have gained considerable Hollywood attention.

The announcement that Arrested Development was closer than ever to making a return to both the big and small screens was made at the New Yorker festival on October 2, as the ensemble cast appeared together onstage with Hurwitz.

"We're trying to do a limited-run series into the movie," the writer said. "We're basically hoping to do nine or 10 episodes", each of which will focus on a separate character's journey over the past five years.

But despite the screenplay for the film already half-written, Hurwitz admitted that the rights problems that have delayed the movie have still not been completely overcome. Bateman, who played the show's only responsible family member, Michael Bluth, said he was hopeful that an agreement would be reached soon.

"There's business left to be done, but creatively we are all on board and have a very specific plan about how it would come out and what we would do and when we would shoot it," he said. "I think we're targeting next summer to shoot it."

Revivals of US shows, either on TV or at the cinema, are rare but not unheard of. One of the most beloved series of all time, Star Trek, was almost cancelled in 1968, until a letter-writing campaign forced NBC to renew the show for one more season. James T Kirk and the Enterprise crew then made the jump to the big screen a decade later, as Paramount was keen to develop a lucrative sci-fi series of its own to rival Star Wars.

Pinning box-office dreams on a failed TV show might seem like an unusual move for a Hollywood bean-counter to make, but it's worth remembering that the hugely profitable Naked Gun films were spawned from small screen cop comedy Police Squad, which was cancelled after just six episodes.

Also brought back from the brink was Joss Whedon's post-Buffy the Vampire Slayer space Western, Firefly. The colourful series about a renegade spaceship crew won over fans and critics when it debuted in 2002, but was axed after just one 14-episode season. Although Whedon managed to raise the cash to continue the story with the 2005 film Serenity, a lukewarm box-office reception finally killed off the futuristic saga.

Animated show Family Guy, which originally aired on the Fox network until its cancellation in 2002, became the first US TV show to be revived on the basis of DVD sales. Although cancelled after its third season, the outrageous comedy is now in its 10th run and boasts two spin-off shows. Similarly, sci-fi cartoon Futurama was resurrected in 2008 after a five-year hiatus. Reviving animated series will always be simpler than their live-action counterparts, however, because the characters can simply be drawn back into existence and new voice actors hired, if original cast-members are unwilling to participate. If it had not been renewed last week for two more seasons after tense negotiations, The Simpsons could have followed suit.

Although closer than ever, Arrested Development's return still isn't completely assured. If it does make its long-awaited comeback, however, it will become the first cancelled show to be revived both on TV and in the movies, simultaneously.

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