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'Arrested Development' returns in May... but will look much different on Netflix

Good news, “Arrested Development” fans: Your favorite oddball comedy, which ended its three-season run on Fox in 2006, is back this May with 14 all-new episodes, to be streamed exclusively on Netflix. But before you dig into a celebratory frozen banana, know this: The new-look “Arrested Development” won’t exactly be the same show you know and love.

“This is not Season 4; we should probably make that clear,” series star Jason Bateman, who plays the level-headed Michael Bluth, said today at a Television Critics Association panel, which featured much of the “AD” cast -- Will Arnett (Gob), Portia de Rossi (Lindsay), Michael Cera (George-Michael), Ali Shawkat (Maeby), Jeffrey Tambor (George), and Jessica Walter (Lucille) -- along with show creator Mitchell Hurwitz.

To start with, rather than making us wait a week, all 14 of the new “AD” episodes will be released at the same time. (So plan on burning a sick day sometime in May.) And instead of the freewheeling family chaos of the original Fox run, each new episode of “Arrested” will focus on a single Bluth family member, telling a part of a larger story from their perspective.

Why the change? To an extent, “Arrested” is a victim of its own cult success. “We couldn’t afford to do the show with what these people are worth now,” Hurwitz said. (In fact, several cast members are currently tied up on other TV shows: Arnett on “Up All Night” and Tony Hale on “Veep,” for example.) So they had to develop a new framework for the show to accommodate everyone’s busy schedule. Per Hurwitz, “the only way we could get everybody together is to dedicate each episode to a different character’s point of view.”

The panel was tight-lipped about revealing even the slightest plot detail, and Hurwitz said that’s for the fans’ sake: “We hold back questions about the plot because we want to reward fans for sticking with us.” But from what we can gather, it seems Michael is once again tasked with bringing the dysfunctional Bluths together (“The family grew apart,” Hurwitz hints), and each episode sees him approaching a different family member, with the entire cast reuniting in the finale.

But Bateman promises we’ll still get plenty of that Bluth family madness: “Everybody sort of intermingles in each episode. There’s plenty of the regular cast that filters through there.” Along with the regular cast, expect appearances from “AD” favorites Henry Winkler (Barry Zuckercorn) and Liza Minnelli (Lucille 2), plus “Mad Men’s” John Slattery, Conan O’Brien, and Andy Richter.

The greater plan for these episodes, though, is to get us ready for an “Arrested Development” movie -- albeit one that, as of now, might not even happen. “This is an Act 1, which we hope to continue and complete in a movie with Act 2 and 3,” Bateman said. And the entire crew is acutely aware that with these new installments, they’re risking tarnishing the legacy of a great show. When asked about the pressure of living up to fans’ expectations, Hurwitz replied, “I could vomit right this moment.”

But if the deleted scene shown to critics is any indication, he doesn’t need to worry about losing his lunch. In it, Lucille is smoking cigarettes inside her luxurious penthouse apartment and blowing the smoke directly into the mouth of her adoring son Buster (Hale), who then rushes outside to exhale it. This process goes on repeatedly until an out-of-breath Buster groans “I have to stop”… and then Lucille lights up another cig. In short, classic “Arrested Development” -- and we can’t wait to see the rest.

To whet your appetite, enjoy this scene from "Arrested Development's" original run:

"Arrested Development" premieres on Netflix in May.