No, sorry — not luck as in the beloved sitcom which boasted the rapidest-fire repartee this side of Gilmore Girls is Kickstarting its way to the big screen a la Veronica Mars. Just luck as in series creator David Caspe and executive producer Jonathan Groff are breaking their silence about the show’s fight for survival (and how close they were to sealing a deal with USA), the amahzing legacy the series leaves behind and what they had in mind for season 4 (Penny and Dave?).
TVLINE | The talks with USA Network — how close were you to a deal?
CASPE | It was as close as it could come without happening.
GROFF | I think USA, to their credit, really wants to be in the business of making original programming. It sounded like it would have been hard for them to do everything they wanted to do in terms of development [had they picked up the show].
TVLINE | Were there any other serious suitors in the mix?
CASPE | I think there were. We don’t know the specifics; that’s all sort of above our pay grade. But there were ongoing talks with a lot of places. It just didn’t work out. The truth is, how many shows have moved networks ever? It’s very difficult to do, and there’s probably some financial algorithmic reason for that that I don’t even understand.
GROFF | Sony took the lead on this and was really great about pounding the pavement. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re like, “Is there one more last call we can make to pull this off?”
TVLINE | As far as crushing disappointments go, where does this one rank?
CASPE | For me, the show’s a gigantic success. The people that I want to love the show love the show in a way that I could never have necessarily imagined when I went out to pitch it. It was the first television show I ever pitched. I came from writing movies. For it to go to pilot, much less series, much less 57 episodes, is pretty incredible. It’s hard for me to really complain. That said, I am super bummed. Devastated [is a word] I would like to reserve for non-career disappointments. [Laughs] But I’m super bummed in that it was very fun. Everyone, all down the line from the crew to the cast to the writers, loved making the show and was proud of the show. And I think it’s very rare that you get to work on something that you actually think is good and you would watch on your own. So I’m very bummed that I don’t get to continue to work with all those people and make this show that was very fun to make.
GROFF | I agree with David. My goal in my career always is to work on stuff I like with people that I like. That’s always the definition of success. I really liked the show and I really liked the people I was working with, from top to bottom. I also liked these characters. I really would like to have seen where Penny ends up and what happens with Dave and Alex. Do they ever get back together? They seem like they’re right for each other. And to see Elisha Cuthbert, who is so funny and was sort of undiscovered to us before as a really talented comedienne, to get to see [Alex] out dating really for the first time with someone other than Dave would have been a lot of fun. Brad and Jane talking about starting a family or new jobs, things like that. I’m bummed about not getting to tell those stories more.
CASPE | If there’s one thing that we are a little pissed about — and I’m not laying the blame anywhere because I don’t know where it lays — but the show felt like it was built to be a better performer than it was in the end. It maybe wasn’t gonna be a Modern Family-sized [hit], but it shouldn’t have died the way it died, in our opinion… It didn’t deserve 14 million views, possibly, but it also didn’t deserve 1 million. It should have performed more in the middle and should have been able to hang out for a few more seasons, in our humble opinion.
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TVLINE | Jonathan, you threw out some possible Season 4 storylines. How much thought did you guys really give to Season 4 and beyond? For example, were you planning to ever go there with Dave and Penny?
Caspe | Maybe. We knew we couldn’t do Dave and Penny until we got Dave and Alex sorted out. At the end of Season 3, they got the break-up that they really needed to have, which is one with an even playing field and nobody having left anyone at the altar. We wanted to have them break up in an amicable way so we could go back to telling Dave’s dating stories in a way that was more serious, or Alex dating and what that would mean for the group in a way that was more even-handed. Would Penny have been part of that? Maybe. I think we would have needed to regroup because Penny and Alex are so close and that relationship is so important and they’ve known each other their whole lives. [It’s similar to] the way it was tricky for Barney and Robin to hook up on How I Met Your Mother. It didn’t come without some degree of difficulty for Ted and Barney’s relationship. We would have had to handle that. And maybe we would have, I’m not sure.
TVLINE | What do you think the show’s legacy will be?
GROFF | One legacy is gonna be the careers of these six [actors]. I think they’re all going to go on to such great things. The best part of Arrested Development‘s legacy is it gave us Will Arnett and Tony Hale and David Cross.
CASPE | For me, legacy is hard to see from the inside. We’re so on the inside that I don’t really know what the show is like to other people. I read the articles and talk to fans, but I have no real conception of what the show is. Honestly, when we finish each episode, I’m not even seeing the jokes anymore. I’m just trying to get out the 16 frames of time that we need to air it. Then maybe a year later, I’ll remember. I was on an airplane and they had one of the episodes from the previous season that I actually thought was one of our worst episodes. I watched it on the plane and I’m like, “Oh, yeah, that’s actually pretty good. I like that one.” So I think I’m just way too close to sort of know what it is.
GROFF | I really liked the comfort and matter-of-factness with which Max’s sexual orientation was [handled]. I thought he was an interesting character that I hadn’t seen before. I loved the ease with which his sexuality was just part of the basic facts of the group. I also really liked the way that race was handled easily in the group. I’m proud of that. I lot of that was, honestly, in David’s original pilot script. I’m proud of having been a part of that and to help keep that going, not to sound lofty or grand about it. But I like the fact that people noticed that and responded to that.
TVLINE | You mentioned Arrested Development. Do either of you think that someday the show will continue in some form? Or is this really the end in your eyes?
CASPE | I would never say never to anything. We would always be open to talking about it. But the only way to move on is to move on. We have other stuff that we’ve gotta do. Who knows? I’m sure when they moved on from Arrested Development they never imagined that seven years later they would do it again. If you’re thinking that it’s gonna happen as a writer, you’re not focusing on the new stuff you have to work on. None of us would ever close the door, but I can’t really spend too much time hoping for that.
TVLINE | Will there be some kind of off screen reunion with the cast and crew so you guys can all get some closure?
CASPE | We just had it, actually. Elisha got married last weekend [to hockey player Dion Phaneuf] and most of the cast [flew to Canada] for it. We had an awesome time, and her wedding was great. I was actually thinking about it today that it was probably the last time we’d all be together as a group. Hopefully, we will all still see each other one way or another, but it’s probably the last time that we’ll all be together, and that’s kind of sad. Luckily, I didn’t realize it until afterwards. [Laughs]
GROFF | There was cool closure about the fact that the pilot started with Elisha’s character at a wedding. And, in a way, our time together ended with a wedding, only obviously in a happier way; Elisha was marrying the real-life love of her life. We joked, “Is [ABC president] Paul Lee gonna roll in on rollerblades in the middle of the ceremony saying he changed his mind?” Dion would probably have just body-checked him, and it would have been very strange. [Laughs] I remember talking to Elisha when we were shooting the pilot and saying, “Have you ever been in a wedding dress for a part before?” And she hadn’t. And here she was in her real wedding dress. It was a nice way to round it out.