ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT An Affectionate Look Behind-The-Scenes (Season 3) Part 2
If you haven’t read part 1 yet, you can find it here.
THE MAGIC OF RON HOWARD
I discover that the Ron Howard voiceover is what makes ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT possible.
There is so much story in a single episode of ARRESTED that there’s simply no way to cover it in full-length scenes and still have a 22 minute show. Instead, we write jokes and fun set pieces and use Ron’s voiceover to quickly connect the dots for the viewer. Months later, in editing, we will be constantly rewriting the voiceover to accommodate the changes we make based on different cuts of the episode.
And I discover a couple odd things about Ron’s voiceover. First, Ron’s cadence is naturally very slow… much slower than you think it is. In order to time the VO properly, we find a writer who has a similar cadence to Ron, and he records a temp VO that we use until we get the real one. And when we do get the real one, it always sounds weird.
Ron is a big-time movie director, so he’s recording these things wherever he is at the moment, which could be a soundstage in LA or a field outside of Paris. Every time we hear a new one it sounds different.
Where was Ron when he recorded this? A wind tunnel? The cockpit of a jet airplane? The dark side of the moon? Doesn’t matter. The sound guys always fix it and Ron’s performance is always spot on.
SHOOTING ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT
Finally, it’s time to actually shoot an episode and I discover something else about the writing of ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT — the script will always be finished mere hours before cameras roll. Every episode shoots Monday through Friday, but the script will not be done until Monday morning at 3am — four hours before it starts shooting.
Initially, I’m part of this process but, eventually, I have to miss the last, final push because I have to be on set at 7am. I always come in early Monday morning to find the writer’s offices dark and assistants sprawled asleep on couches and floors after having been up all night to get scripts out, surrounded by soda cans and empty potato chip bags.
These late scripts cause chaos for production, but somehow everyone always manages, partially because they have detailed outlines to prep from and also because, when the scripts do come in, they are universally admired.
We start shooting.
The process is grueling and far more complicated than anything I have done before. Most sitcoms have 12 to 20 or so scenes per episode. It’s not unusual for ARRESTED to have upwards of 80.
We might have a cutaway to a hotel room where Tobias looks at someone and shouts: “Those are blue, too!” But even though it’s only one line, a set has to be built, lights have to be moved, cameras brought in, it has to be blocked and rehearsed… and it all just takes time.
Finally, we finish shooting an episode only to begin another enormously complicated step — editing. I’ve been in a lot of editing rooms and worked on the cuts of a bunch of shows, but nothing has prepared me for this…
RANDOM MEMORIES FROM THE SET
Charlize Theron is cast as the British girl that Michael falls in love with, not realizing that she’s mentally disabled and also not British. She’s gorgeous — and a big movie star — and we’re all in love with her. At one point during the shooting, I’m sitting with her on the bed in Michael’s bedroom set, chatting between takes. Later, I go to the writer’s room and everyone is grinning at me. Jim says: “Did you enjoy sitting in bed with Charlize Theron?” I’ve forgotten that the cameras were on and the writer’s room was watching the feed from the set. They’re sitting there working, while I’m chatting up Charlize in bed. Ooops.
I meet Henry Winkler, who plays the family’s lawyer. For some reason, I expect him to be like the Fonz. Instead, he’s the kindest, gentlest, nicest man in show business and he talks like an aging Jewish uncle. He’s so Un-Fonz-like that it’s startling. I love him.
I’m on location in a hospital set and Will Arnett (who plays Gob and is one of the funniest guys on Earth) suggests a joke. Gob: “I’m going to see if there’s a bar in this hospital.” Then Gob leaves to look for one. It’s funny, but he was originally scripted to be in the whole, long scene even though he doesn’t have any lines. I tell him okay, let’s try it. We shoot it and it’s funny. It’s only later that I realize Will’s true agenda — he doesn’t want to stand there with no lines during the shooting of the two-hour scene, so he came up with a joke that would get him out of the scene (and home) early. And I realize, “that’s the way you do that…
Visit here Friday for Part 3 of ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT: an affectionate look behind-the-scenes of season 3, the scoop on how the show was edited along with more memories about working with the cast and crew.