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‘Development’ cast speaks for itself

"Arrested Development" is beloved by critics, and with its own cast.
/ Source: The Associated Press

There aren’t many words the Bluths won’t let fly out of their mouths — especially when it comes to putting down other family members.

The actors who play the out-of-whack Bluths in the Fox sitcom “Arrested Development” were equally outspoken in a recent question-and-answer session following a public reading of the pilot episode at a Westside theater.

“It’s nice to see Jason in something you can watch,” quipped Will Arnett, topping Jason Bateman’s admission that the series was “so not” what he’d done before.

Once the star of such traditional sitcoms as “Silver Spoons” and “The Hogan Family,” Bateman plays Michael, the most normal Bluth, who’s faced with the emotional and financial messes created by his once wealthy but now cash-strapped family.

Arnett plays Michael’s older brother, Gob, a philandering magician who prefers to be called an illusionist.

Though no ratings smash, “Arrested Development” has been critically praised for its innovative style and humor and last month picked up seven Emmy nominations, including for best comedy series, writing and casting.

The first season is in summer reruns (Sundays, 8:30 p.m. ET), with the new season set to debut Nov. 7.

“We are here tonight for some shameless Emmy pandering,” creator Mitchell Hurwitz cracked as he came on stage to join the cast after the reading.

Besides Bateman and Arnett, there was Portia de Rossi, who plays self-absorbed sister Lindsay, and Tony Hale, who plays little brother Buster.

Alongside were the show’s older and younger generations: Jessica Walter as manipulative mother Lucille; Jeffrey Tambor as jailbird father George; Michael Cera as Michael’s earnest son, George Michael, and Alia Shawkat as Maeby, Lindsay’s self-sufficient daughter.

Absent was David Cross, who plays Tobias Funke, Lindsay’s husband, a doctor turned actor.

Original seriesThe series is shot in the single-camera method on sets and locations, not in the standard sitcom style with multiple cameras before a studio audience. There’s no laugh track.

The family crises are captured as if for a documentary, with voiceover spoken by director Ron Howard, an executive producer of the show along with Imagine Television partner Brian Grazer.

The reality television device is not used as overtly as it is in the British comedy “The Office,” but, Hurwitz said, “I still think of it as documentary, so I don’t do dream sequences, don’t have strict point-of-view shots ... and I won’t do a flashback that doesn’t make sense.”

Everyone in the cast expressed happiness with their gig.

“I didn’t think at this point in my career I would be so fortunate” said Walter, whose extensive resume includes the homicidal stalker in Clint Eastwood’s 1971 thriller “Play Misty for Me.”

Bateman referred to a Hurwitz comment that the writers’ job is to make the characters “as despicable as possible. Our job is to make them as likable as possible.”

On stage, Hurwitz didn’t demur, but later at a party at Grazer’s home said he didn’t want to settle for sounding “so glib” in typecasting the characters as an unethical, uncaring bunch.

“In a way I think the show is kind of manipulative because I think these are really good people. We start out with this lie that all these people hate each other, and then every time they hug it’s a little more effective and affective,” Hurwitz said, grinning. “I never really saw this (show) as being dark and cynical.”

The title works as a reference to the upheaval caused by Orange County, Calif., property developer George Sr. being sent to prison for financial impropriety, and also as an overall theme.

“I wanted there to be some point to this experience and that sort of started presenting itself to me as how their money, success and stature had kept them from developing as human beings ... but now they are becoming better people,” said Hurwitz.