GQ: Okay, Arrested Development. What was that like to get everyone back together after all those years of talking about it and fans clamoring for it?
Jason Bateman: It was something that, every month or two since the end of the show, there would be an update about the progress [about some kind of reunion]. So it wasn’t that big of a shock when it happened, because it always seemed like it was a half a year from happening anyway. But when we did finally all come together on the set, it was pretty neat. I just don’t know how many examples there are of that—where people get to come back and do a reunion-type situation and have it not be a bit of a Hail Mary, careerwise. That show launched a lot of our careers and everyone is doing great, so to come back together while things are going well is really a fortunate situation. Everybody had to be big boys about not making it financially impossible.
GQ: What else can you tell me about the show? The entire Internet wants to know.
Jason Bateman: 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.
GQ: So there are stories in the episodes that won’t resolve until the movie?
Jason Bateman: 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. Each character has their own episode. There’s a Michael episode, a Gob episode, a Lindsay episode, a Maeby episode. And the action across the episodes is happening simultaneously. If I’m driving down the street in my episode and Gob’s going down the sidewalk on his Segway, you could stop my episode, go into his episode, and follow him and see where he’s going.
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—I mean, if you could see the writers’ room before we started shooting—the cards and literally the strings of yarn, different colored characters where plotlines and index cards are matched to this one, and then there’s an entire other room that is the movie. It looks like A Beautiful Mind.
Naturally, those who live to serve really nice, noble rich people only come in so many variations. Note the parallels between the downstairs lot of Downton Abbey and the transmorgified animate objects of Beauty and the Beast.
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In The Revolution Was Televised: The Cops, Crooks, Slingers and Slayers Who Changed TV Drama Forever, longtime critic and blogger Alan Sepinwall deftly tells the stories of twelve shows—from Oz to The Wire, Friday Night Lights to Mad Men—that helped transform television from cultural also-ran to the dominant medium of the first decade of the 21st century (give or take a few years). But the book is also, in its way, the story of another, complementary upheaval: the revolution in how television is covered.
So, it’s no surprise that The Revolution Was Televised has made media news of its own, rising out of the ranks of self-published books to receive a New York Times review and a spot on Michiko Kakutani’s Top Ten Books of 2012. (It was recently picked up by the Touchstone imprint of Simon and Schuster.) Here he talked to GQ about revolutions within revolutions:
GQ: Why do you think the networks have done such a better job staying innovative and sophisticated with comedies, as opposed to drama?
Alan Sepinwall: I don’t want to say that comedy is easier, because it’s not; you know the old saying, “Dying is easy, comedy is hard.” But at the same time, if something is funny it can more easily reach more people than something dramatic. You know, The Office was a really big hit for a while. Regardless of what it was saying about society and the media and all that, it was just Steve Carell being really, really funny.
GQ: Of the shows you left out, which have had the most vocal lobbies?
Alan Sepinwall: I’ve heard a lot about The West Wing. I have nothing against The West Wing, it was a great show. But it represented the past, as far as I was concerned: one of the last of the traditionally structured prestige network dramas. I’m asked a lot about Six Feet Under, too, and certainly there were persuasive arguments to be made for including it. I just didn’t want to do every single HBO show from that period and I just preferred the other four—Oz, The Sopranos, The Wire and Deadwood.
GQ: So where do you see the next frontier?
Alan Sepinwall: I’m interested in seeing what Netflix is going to do. I want to see if House of Cards is good, if Arrested Development is as good as it used to be. I also want to see how people react, because it’s going to change the nature of viewing things. And the nature of reviewing them, as well, because they’re putting all the episodes up at once. I’m not going to be able to review thirteen episodes of House of Cards before the first episode airs. It’s just not logistically feasible.
As TV bids farewell to its favorite band of entitled trust-funders (and Serena Van Der Woodsen’s coverage-resistant cleavage) from Gossip Girl, we’d like to take a moment and pay tribute to a man who introduced a whole new style of Upper East Side dandy into our sartorial vocabulary—Chuck Bass.
Our love of Daryl can be chalked up to the fact that Norman Reedus’s nuanced portrayal of the southern lone wolf with a heart of gold adds a depth that can make the other characters seem one-dimensional. Somehow, he shows up first on our lists for every hypothetical situation (ex: Who would you most want to get a beer with? Who would you want with you in a knife fight? Who would you want to discuss the intricacies of Love Actually with?) In an exclusive interview, GQ caught up with Reedus, the actor who, armed with a crossbow and a scowl, has slaughtered his way into America’s apple-pie heart.
So says Amy Poehler, and she isn’t alone in thinking ‘Cheers’ is pretty much perfect. On the thirtieth anniversary of the show’s premiere, GQ sat down with just about everyone who made it and asked them about creating Sam and Diane, the birth of Norm!, Woody Harrelson’s one-night stands, and many other secrets of what became TV’s funniest guy show of all time:
Danson: I’ll tell you about the worst day of my life. Shelley and Rhea were carrying that week’s episode, and the guys were just, “Let’s play hooky.” We’d never done anything wrong before. John had a boat, so we met at Marina del Rey at 8 a.m. We all called in sick, and Jimmy caught on and was so pissed. Woody and I were already stoned, and Woody said, “You want to try some mushrooms?” I’d never had them, so I’m handed this bag and I took a fistful. On our way to Catalina, we hit the tail end of a hurricane, and even people who were sober were getting sick. Woody and I thought we were going to die for three hours. I sat next to George, and every sixty seconds or so he’d poke me and go, “Breathe.” [gasp] And I’d come back to life.
Harrelson: I was a little worried about him. It looked like his face was melting. I think I may have been freaking a little myself, but I had to be cool about it.
Wendt: We got into serious trouble for that. I think we thought Jimmy and Les and Glen would have more of a sense of humor about it. We did it because Ted was doing it. He’s sort of a reluctant leader. He didn’t try to flex his influence. He’s just eminently followable.
Danson: My job playing Sam Malone was to let the audience in, to love my bar full of people. And that informed my life. I mean, we’re so different [in the cast], some of us. Miles apart. [But] when I see anyone from those days, I tap into that instant love for them. I don’t care what they do, what they say, how different we are: I love them, because it was eight hours a day, eleven years, making each other giggle and laugh and being a team. There was no weak link.