Though the Arrested Development TV show was cancelled after three ratings-challenged seasons, the Bluths are making the trip to the big screen. Is this good news for other cult-favorite series like Moonlight, Pushing Daisies, Veronica Mars, and Jericho?
Arrested Development centers around the wealthy and dysfunctional Bluth family. At the center of it all is a good-natured widower, Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman), who takes over as the family business’ CEO when his father, George Sr. (Jeffrey Tambor), goes to jail. Michael tries to keep his sanity while raising his son, George Michael (Michael Cera), and dealing with his eccentric family’s antics. It’s not easy.
Michael’s manipulative mother, Lucille (Jessica Walter) is perpetually drunk and tries to exert control over her family, particularly her sons; Michael, socially inept Byron “Buster” (Tony Hale), and delusional illusionist George Oscar “Gob” (Will Arnett). Their adopted sister, Lindsay (Portia de Rossi), is shallow and superficial and has created a dysfunctional family of her own with her husband, quack psychiatrist Tobias Funke (David Cross), and their attention-starved daughter, Mae “Maeby” (Alia Shawkat). The series is narrated by Ron Howard and also features the talents of actors Henry Winkler, John F. Beard, Mae Whitman, B.W. Gonzalez, Justin Lee, Liza Minnelli, Judy Greer, and Justin Grant Wade.
Created by Mitchell Hurwitz, the TV show debuted on FOX on November 2, 2003. Though the series was a hit with critics, it never achieved ratings success. The network stuck with it for three seasons but ultimately pulled the plug after 53 episodes. The last original installment aired on February 10, 2006. Showtime reportedly wanted to pick up Arrested for another season but Hurwitz declined to be involved. He believed he’d taken the show as far as he could as a weekly series and that the cast was ready to move one. Showtime’s interest dissolved.
Rumors of an Arrested feature film began even before the show left primetime. Few took them very seriously as it just seemed like wishful thinking. Making a movie out of a short-run TV show seems pretty unbelievable. But then, a few months ago, some of the series’ stars were quoted as saying that, not only would they be interested in taking part but, a movie was actually in the initial planning stages.
News is that the movie is indeed moving forward. Hurwitz is in final talks to write and direct the feature in a deal with Imagine Entertainment and 20th Century Fox. Howard is a principal at Imagine and is expected to reprise his role as narrator and have a backstage role as well. Eonline has reported that the budget is a modest $15 million and, thus far, all but one original castmember has agreed to return. The identity of the holdout is unknown but the movie will move forward with or without the person. A start date is expected to be announced in the next few months.
Studio execs will likely be watching the Arrested movie’s performance at the box-office very carefully. The audience wasn’t big enough when people could watch it for free, will more people want to pay money to see the cast on the big-screen? The show has always had a devoted, core audience but will it be enough to ensure box office success?
Historically, most big-screen remakes of TV shows have failed at the box office. In most cases, a TV show’s title is used but there’s little resemblance to the what made a show successful with its fans; cast, character relationships, situations, etc. In a few instances, a series’ original cast has made the transition to the big screen. The Star Trek movies have had mixed success for sure but have helped to grow the Trek franchise nonetheless. A feature version of Firefly didn’t do big business at the box office but both the series and movie have have been big sellers on DVD.
In today’s tough economy, execs would love to find a series-to-movie formula for sure-fire success but there obviously isn’t one. Just this year, movie versions of both The X-Files and Sex and the City were released with their casts intact. X-Files fizzled at the box-office while Sex’s big success is fueling plans for a sequel. Both shows were very successful in their day but neither has a huge cult following today, much like Arrested.
With a modest budget and the series’ creator and original cast as part of the project, it seems likely that the Arrested movie will retain much of the look and feel of the series. If it does well at the box office, it could certainly start a trend for remaking other cancelled shows. Pushing Daisies: the Movie anyone? Stay tuned!