Fans have spent the seven years since FOX canceled “Arrested Development” waiting for the Bluths to return, and in just a couple of days they’ll get their wish. Netflix will start streaming all 15 episodes of Season 4 at 12:01 a.m. PT Sunday (May 26).
It has been a long, winding road to get to this point. How long and how winding? Very, as you’ll see with this timeline of significant events in the life, death and resurrection of “Arrested Development.”
Summer 2002: Ron Howard pitches an idea to his fellow Imagine Entertainment executives for a comedy series that’s tightly scripted but filmed to look like a reality show or documentary. Imagine meets with a couple of writers, one of whom is Mitch Hurwitz, who was coming off “The Ellen Show” at CBS and had also worked on “The Golden Girls” and “The John Larroquette Show.”
Fall 2002: Imagine sells the show to 20th Century Fox TV and the pilot development process begins.
Spring 2003: The cast is assembled and a pilot is shot, with executive producer Howard serving as the show’s narrator.
May 2003: FOX picks up “Arrested Development” for the 2003-04 season and places it on Sunday nights. Initial reaction to the teaser FOX shows at its upfront is mixed at best; Zap2it is down on the show at first, saying it “will need to find a focus and some sort of through-line sensibility.”
Summer 2003: After seeing the full pilot, critics start to unite behind the show. Zap2it puts it among the best bets for fall: “The show is quick and different and at times brilliant, and we hope the TV gods smile on it so it doesn’t go the way of previous FOX gems like ‘Undeclared’ and ‘Andy Richter Controls the Universe.'”
Nov. 2, 2003: The series premieres to an audience of just under 8 million viewers and a 3.3 rating among adults 18-49, fairly mediocre figures for the time. Its lead-in, “Malcolm in the Middle,” draws 10.3 million viewers.
November 2003-May 2004: Ratings are low but relatively steady week to week — the season ends up averaging about 6.2 million viewers. Nervous fans wish it were three years later so they could express their love for the show on Twitter.
January 2004: The show picks up a Golden Globe nomination for best comedy series (it would lose out to the British version of “The Office” on Globes night).
May 20, 2004: FOX announces its schedule for 2004-05, and “Arrested Development” is part of it, once again airing on Sunday nights. “It was one of those things that when we got into the scheduling room was really a foregone conclusion,” then-network head Gail Berman says. “It’s not often that you have a piece of material that everyone feels so strongly about — its creative integrity and its groundbreaking nature are all things that we look for on FOX.”
Sept. 12, 2004: “Arrested Development” wins the Emmy for outstanding comedy series, one of five Emmys it would take home this year (the others are for writing, directing, casting and single-camera picture editing). Other Season 1 honors include a pair of Television Critics Association Awards, three Golden Satellite Awards, an AFI Award as one of the TV programs of the year and the “Future Classic” trophy at the TV Land Awards.
Nov. 7, 2004: Alas, there is no Emmy halo in the ratings. Season 2’s premiere episode, “The One Where Michael Leaves,” draws 6.61 million viewers. Fan nervousness begins anew.
Jan. 16, 2005: Jason Bateman wins a Golden Globe for best actor in a comedy series, and the show is once again nominated for best comedy, although the red-hot “Desperate Housewives” takes home the award.
April 17, 2005: Season 2 closes with the episode “Righteous Brothers,” which draws just under 6 million viewers. The season as a whole averages 5.94 million viewers.
May 16, 2005: Against long odds, FOX renews the series again, this time putting it on Monday nights. Network head Peter Ligouri says he’s hoping for growth from the show in its third season.
Sept. 11, 2005: Although it was nominated for 11 Emmys, the show takes home only one this time, for writing in a comedy series (Hurwitz and Jim Vallely‘s “Righteous Brothers” script).
Sept. 19, 2005: Season 3 premieres to just 4.6 million viewers. Fans rend garments, ritually burn themselves on homemade Cornballers.
Nov. 11, 2005: After five episodes of Season 3, FOX pulls “Arrested” for the remainder of November sweeps and announces it has cut the episode order from 22 to 13. The end is nigh.
Jan. 2, 2006: After three airings in December, “AD” returns (on a Tuesday night) with “S.O.B.s (Save Our Bluths),” an episode stuffed to the gills with references to the show’s plight and possible ways to save it. It doesn’t work.
Feb. 10, 2006: The final four episodes of “Arrested Development” air in a two-hour block on a Friday night opposite the Winter Olympics. The show goes out in style, though, with the finale “Development Arrested” featuring numerous callbacks to earlier points in the series. In one final meta moment, Maeby (Alia Shawkat) pitches a TV series about her family to Howard (playing himself). He’s skeptical of the idea, but closes the series with the line, “Maybe a movie.”
March 28, 2006: Amid rumors that Showtime has offered to revive the show, Hurwitz says he’s tapped out: “As showrunner, I’ve gone as far as I can go.” He does, however, hint at the possibility of a feature film.
March 28, 2006-November 2011: The cast and crew of “Arrested Development” can’t go out in public without being asked about where the movie stands. The typical response is, “I’m pretty sure it’s happenin
g, but I don’t know when exactly.”
Aug. 29, 2006: Season 3 is nominated for best comedy series at the Emmys but loses to “The Office.” Will Arnett is nominated for best supporting actor in a comedy, and the show also is nominated for editing and writing (Vallely, Chuck Tatham, Richard Day and Hurwitz for the finale).
Fall 2006-spring 2007: Hurwitz and Day work with Christopher Guest on an adaptation of the BBC comedy “The Thick of It” for ABC. The pilot doesn’t make the network schedule.
April 19, 2009: “Sit Down, Shut Up,” an animated series created by Hurwitz and starring Bateman, Arnett and “Arrested” semi-regular Henry Winkler, premieres on FOX. It lasts just four episodes in primetime; the remaining nine shows air in late night on Saturdays the following fall.
May 2010: FOX picks up “Running Wilde,” co-created by Hurwitz, Vallely and Arnett, who also stars (David Cross has a recurring role.) “Arrested Development” movie talk temporarily dies down as the show goes into production.
November 2010: After six episodes, “Running Wilde” is pulled for the remainder of November sweeps. It returns briefly in December before being canceled; the final few episodes are burned off in the spring of 2011 in late night.
November 2010: Arnett fuels movie speculation by saying that it will probably happen “sooner rather than later” and that the ideas Hurwitz has for a script are “super hilarious.”
Oct. 2, 2011: Hurwitz announces at the New Yorker Festival that he plans to do 10 new episodes of the series before working on a feature film. Netflix mentioned for the first time as a possible home for the show.
Nov. 18, 2011: Netflix and 20th Century Fox TV announce a deal for new episodes of “Arrested Development” to be released in 2013.
Aug. 7, 2012: After months of figuring out the actors’ schedules and other details, “Arrested Development” goes back into production.
Jan. 9, 2013: Hurwitz shows TV critics a first look at the new season during the TCA winter press tour, and it kills. (The clip, an outtake featuring Tony Hale and Jessica Walter, is released publicly a few months later.) He also explains the anthology structure of the season, with each character starring in his or her own episode(s).
April 4, 2013: After weeks and weeks of saying the new episodes will debut “in the spring,” and a few more weeks saying they’ll premiere on an unspecified date in May, Netflix nails down the May 26 launch date for Season 4.
April 10, 2013: Character posters!
May 12, 2013: An official trailer!
May 13, 2013: The banana stand goes on tour!
May 26, 2013: It’s “Arrested Development.” Again. At last.