The “Arrested Development” cast knows good things are worth waiting for — that’s why they’re declaring the fifth season supreme before even hearing from fans.
“I think it’s just through the roof the best,” Jeffrey Tambor, who plays patriarch George Bluth Sr. and his twin brother Oscar, says. “It’s my prediction, but I think it’s going to bring together another generation of viewers.”
The cast gathered at roundtable during a Netflix junket last week to promote the comedy, which dropped its first half Tuesday after a five-year hiatus. They hope seeing the Bluths together again after half a decade apart will give the series that nostalgia-boost that revived sitcoms like “Will & Grace” are still riding.
When we pick up with the Bluths, it’ll feel like almost no time at all has passed for the self-proclaimed “Family of the Year.” Scenes new and old are near-seamlessly intertwined, letting the viewer see the cast age in moments.
“It’s all very surreal. It was surreal to go back to the model home, to see each other in wardrobe again,” Tony Hale, aka Buster Bluth, says.
Not much has changed in that model home. The set, in fact, felt nearly untouched to the cast who returned to find some of their old belongings still in place.
“You know what I did, when I went to the model home, I checked the couch for sides and there were still sides tucked in there,” Will Arnett (Gob) told his co-stars — Tambor, Hale and Alia Shawkat — who were equally surprised to find out their pocket-size script cards were still where they left them years prior.
“No! Shoved in? That’s where we hide them in between takes,” gasps Shawkat, who plays Maeby Funke.
“From like 12 years ago. First of all, where are they keeping that couch? Is that just in Mitch’s garage?” Arnette jokes, referencing series creator Mitchell Hurwitz.
In season five, Hurwitz keeps enough of the script familiar so that you’ll slip into your streaming coma as easily as the cast slid back into their roles. The first half of the extension of the Bluth family story leaves viewers with even more questions involving the cliffhanger question: What happened to Lucille 2 (Liza Minnelli)?
“It’s the hook to the whole season,” Tambor says. “What was interesting was none of us knew, I mean I didn’t know who it was! I just knew it wasn’t me.”
“I still don’t know,” Hale interjects. “I mean, I have an idea, but Mitch would tease it to each person differently, I think, to keep the mystery alive. Or, maybe he just did it to me.”
Hale’s character is most impacted by Lucille’s mysterious disappearance, which left each member of the Bluth family a prime suspect. Buster spends much of the first half of the season wearing the orange jumpsuit that George Bluth Sr. wore four seasons ago.
“Buster was taken away by the cops and he’s a person that doesn’t handle that well. He doesn’t handle anything well, so he’s now behind bars which is not a bonus, or is it?” Hale teases.
As for the rest of the family: Lindsay (Portia de Rossi) is running for office with a Trump-inspired “Make America Bluth Again” slogan; Maeby is hiding out at a senior center; Gob is exploring his sexual identity; George-Michael (Michael Cera) and his dad Michael (Jason Bateman) are still dodging each other after finding out they’re dating the same woman; Tobias (David Cross) is figuring out his place in the family; and Lucille (Jessica Walter) is calling the shots.
“George is kind of going off of alpha and it is Lucille who’s running the show,” Tambor says. “That was a very interesting switch for him and quite new to play, very enjoyable.”
The series’ return made headlines for months not only for its long-awaited release, but for speculation around Tambor’s involvement in post-sexual harassment allegations on the set of his Emmy-winning Amazon series “Transparent.” While an interview with the New York Times uncovered “raw” emotions involving Jessica Walter’s experience working with Tambor, the cast only had positive things to say about one another during the amNewYork roundtable.
“We’ve been working together off and on for 15 years and it’s really cool that it does just click in again,” Hale notes.
The first eight episodes of “Arrested Development” season five are now on Netflix, along with a recut version of the heavily criticized season four. A release date for the second half of season five has not yet been announced.