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Mitchell Hurwitz talks Sit Down, Shut Up and Arrested Development

by Nick Zaino, posted Apr 10th 2009 2:25PM
Sit Down, Shut UpWith Arrested Development, Mitchell Hurwitz went through the ringer with critical support, winning awards, and grassroots campaigns to convince Fox to keep the show on the air that ultimately failed. So what does Hurwitz do for a follow-up? He takes some of the same cast (Will Arnett, Jason Bateman), goes back to the same network (Fox), and back to an idea he had before Arrested hit the airwaves.

The new show is Sit Down, Shut Up, an animated series that debuts April 19th at 8:30 PM, in between The Simpsons and Family Guy.

"It's funny, this is a show that I actually wrote in the year 2000, and it was an adaptation of a live-action show from Australia," Hurwitz said in a recent conference call. "I kind of kept it in the drawer for a long time, and finally brought it out, mostly because I needed money, which - I enjoy money, and I also use it for all sorts of different things in my life, but mostly for food and shelter."

So why go back to Fox, the network that canceled Arrested Development? "I was glad they were willing to make another show with me," said Hurwitz. "And they're kind of the only game in town when it comes to animation, which we decided early on to do with this."

Sit Down centers on the faculty of a small town school in Florida where no one seems to care about the kids or teaching. The exception is Larry Littlejunk, voiced by Bateman, who is relegated to teaching gym. Arnett voices Ennis Hofftard, a wannabe jock who teaches English. They join Will Forte, Henry Winkler, Kristin Chenoweth, Cheri Oteri, Tom Kenny, Nick Kroll, and Kenan Thompson in the cast.

"There's an element of it that's kind of like Peanuts for adults," said Hurwitz. "The kids in the school are almost nonexistent. They're as integral to the show as the paper products are to the show The Office. It really is just about these unbelievably immature adults."

Hurwitz is thrilled to be working with Forte, who was also on the conference call. He compares having Forte on the show to working with Jim Carrey before he did Ace Ventura, putting Forte in pretty good comic company. "I remember that with Steve Carell too, thinking, like, this guy is going to be huge, right?" said Hurwitz. "And I feel that way about Forte."
Sit Down, Shut Up
Forte is equally impressed with Hurwitz, especially the scripts for Sit Down. "Each one, they're better and better and better, and they're just so rich with jokes," said Forte. "Sometimes I'll go through - there are just so many jokes in there that I can't process them all, and you're constantly like rereading and you're finding new things. It's just such a joy."

That rapid-fire style was the main difference Hurwitz noted between writing for live action and writing for animation. "I have noticed that writing for animation is much more joke-intensive and much more about the comedy, and more specifically, much less about grounding a character's drive," he said.

And what of the much rumored Arrested Development movie? Hurwitz said there is no script yet, but the ideas are coming together (he asked Forte during the conference call if he would be part of the movie, and the two joked about what his role would be - Forte would be happy with Kraft services).

"You know what, we have a lot of little pieces," said Hurwitz. "I'm writing it with Jim Vallely, and we have all these little ideas and everything. But with the show, it's always been about tying all the pieces together, so - none of them alone quite make a movie yet. We're still assembling the pieces."

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bruce

MLJ: If it's good, then it's going to have low ratings, so they should renew it for a second season even though only a few people watching it, knowing that their penchant for premature cancellations of good shows in the past has cost them the trust of the viewers.

That being said, I saw a preview for it the other night and it looks really bad. I don't think animation is Hurwitz's area of expertise.

April 12 2009 at 1:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jim

I love Arrested Development and will be first in line to the movie, along with 20 or so friends who, one after the other, have fallen in love with the show. And knowing how densely-written his comedy-style is, I'm sure we'll all go twice. In a similar vein, I can wait for In the Loop to hit cinemas next week.
Also can't wait for Sit Down, Shut Up, but movie first!!

April 11 2009 at 11:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bruce

Because it's Fox, I will not watch it until it's been given a second season. I can't handle having another of my favorite TV shows cancelled. It's better to have never seen a show than to love it and have it cancelled after one season. I can't handle the disappointment, and I've been screwed far too many times by Fox.

Plus, since this is not a reality show about fat people, dancing celebrities, or American Idol, they'll move it to Friday nights where it will be doomed to have low ratings (because DVR viewers don't count and people GO OUT on friday nights). Anyway, if the show is as smart, witty, and well-written as Arrested Development was, 90% of the American population will be too dumb to understand it... they'll quickly change the chanel to watch "Celebrity Basketweaving."

If Mitchel Hurwitz has lowered his standards to ameliorate this problem, I'm not interested in watching what he has to offer. I don't want to see a dumbed-down version of Arrested Development. If his standards are as high as they were with Arrested Development, then the show will be too smart for enough people to understand... so it will get crappy ratings and quickly get cancelled (despite winning many critical awards).

Screw Fox, they have to prove to me that they are going to take the time to invest in good shows and let them grow, despite low initial ratings. No good TV show is an instant hit from its first episode. It took Seinfeld a few seasons to grow and find an audience... think what society and American culture would have lost had Seinfeld been on Fox... it wouldn't have lasted more than 13 episodes before getting the axe.

On the verge of tonight's "season" finale (have the balls to call it what it is - the series finale) of Terminator: TSCC, I'm not the least bit open to watching new shows on Fox. My rule is not to watch new shows on Fox until they've been given a second season. I did make a rare exception for TSCC, which was given a "second" season (after a WGA-shortened, 9-episode "first" season).

April 10 2009 at 4:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to bruce's comment
MJL

And the Pessimist of the Year award goes to...Bruce!

How is a show supposed to be picked up for a second season if people like you don't watch it? On second thought, don't watch it...Hurwitz's talents shouldn't be wasted on people like you.

And Nick, it's "craft services," not Kraft.

April 11 2009 at 8:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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