Oct. 24, 2014
Arrested Development creator amuses students
Mitchell Hurwitz, creator of the Emmy-winning sitcom “Arrested Development,” sat down at Drexel’s Bossone Research Center on Oct. 21 to talk to students from the Westphal College of Media Arts and Design about his career and the show’s success. The writer spent about an hour and a half sharing anecdotes, giving advice and telling insider stories. Photo Credit: Kameron Walsh Hurwitz has had a long and incredibly successful career leading up to his crown jewel, originally working as a writer and producer for critically acclaimed shows including “The Golden Girls” and “The John Larroquette Show” during the early to mid-1990s. A sitcom expert, Hurwitz also helped write each of the three different “Golden Girls” spinoffs during that span and helped create Ellen DeGeneres’ second sitcom in the early 2000s. In 2002, television producer Ron Howard came to Hurwitz with an idea for a sitcom about a dysfunctional, rich family, which quickly led to the creation of “Arrested Development.” “Arrested Development” stars Jason Bateman as Michael Bluth, the only logical member of an over-the-top family that cannot curb its spending habits. With his father (Jeffrey Tambor) quickly arrested for numerous crimes against the U.S. government, including tax evasion, escaping prison and building homes for Saddam Hussein, Michael has to try to keep his family together under increasingly unbelievable circumstances and stop the Bluth Company from collapsing. The show was a critical phenomenon upon its premiere in 2003, garnering endless praise from nearly every major publication. In its first season it won three Emmy awards. However, it struggled to garner what Fox believed to be a sustainable fan base. In its first two seasons on Fox, “Arrested Development” averaged six million viewers per episode — Fox’s current number one sitcom, “Family Guy,” averaged 6.1 million last year. Hurwitz said that Fox silently refused to advertise the show in its second and third seasons, even when Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron guest-starred in several episodes. Fox aired the final four episodes in one swoop, competing directly with the 2006 Winter Olympics, and subsequently cancelled the series. “Next week we’re starting the Pamela Anderson show,” Hurwitz recalled being told by the company right after his show was dropped. Right afterward, he quipped, “It’s called ‘Stacked,’ how can it not work?” The show was revived by Netflix in 2013 after years of a rumored fourth season. Hurwitz said that a fourth season only happened because of the show’s unique situation. He had already been working on the script for an “Arrested Development” movie, when he came into a problem: It became tough to explain what happened to each character over the previous six years while still continuing the movie. “I’m trying to preserve a movie that’s 90 minutes, and I’ve got eight hours of film [in backstory alone]. I think I’m doing this backwards.” He explained that he briefly considered doing online webisodes to fill the gap before Netflix came to him with an offer to produce the 15-episode fourth season. Fan reaction to season four wasn’t entirely positive, though. The new season’s layout chose to focus each episode on a character, often out of chronological order, leaving the viewer to piece the overall plot together. “I forgot to tell everyone that [season four] was a prequel to the movie. Whoops,” a smiling Hurwitz recalled, realizing as the initial backlash poured in. He then made an exciting announcement for fans that were turned off by the newest season’s puzzle-like design when he revealed that he was re-editing the entire thing into 22 normal-length episodes, and placing events in the correct order. When asked by a student about a release date on the new-and-improved season four, he replied with a chuckle, “I’ll send you a link.” The entire event was filled with this sort of lighthearted air, as the writer discussed future projects and memorable moments and answered student questions. “Arrested Development is the scale by which I judge potential friends,” one student claimed during the question and answer segment. A residential assistant claimed that he forced his entire floor to watch the show, to which Hurwitz replied, “Is that how all these college kids keep finding the show?” The audience was also treated to an extended version of the first half of the pilot episode and got to hear how fan-favorite characters and jokes started. For example, Tobias Funke’s mustache was almost cut by a Fox executive who for some reason hated mustaches; Hurwitz and Tobias’ actor, David Cross, were so adamant about the mustache that Cross made sure to underperform when the executive asked him to perform without it. Additionally, Hurwitz didn’t want Bateman as Michael Bluth at first, and Rainn Wilson (of “The Office” fame) almost got the part of Gob Bluth (Will Arnett). After the event, Hurwitz stayed at the Bossone Research Center for a reception and talked to the students on a more personal level, actively shaking hands and asking the name of anybody near him. He also took pictures and signed autographs. Freshman student Nicco Piagesi, who had Hurwitz sign his laptop, said he was “shaking” after meeting the creator of his favorite show. “This is probably going to make me rewatch the show another time” he said. What other advice did Hurwitz have for prospective writers, actors and directors? “It’s just applying yourself. It’s grit. It’s perspiration. It’s all those things. It’s blasting through the fear that you’re not talented.”
Mar. 1, 2013
Actor and writer gives trade tips
Ruben Santiago-Hudson, a Tony Award and Humanitas Prize-winning actor and Emmy-nominated screenwriter and director, came to Drexel Feb. 25 for a special interview and question-and-answer session for Drexel students after a screening of his film “Lackawanna Blues.”
Jan. 25, 2013
Annex completes URBN center
The second building of the new URBN Center, the URBN Annex, has just been completed and is ready for use. The Annex is located at 3401 Filbert St. and is home to the newly expanded Leonard Pearlstein Gallery.
Oct. 12, 2012
Film program left behind in revamp
Despite a multimillion-dollar renovation to the URBN Center, which offers a host of new amenities to the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, some programs within the college are staying in their original facilities.
Oct. 5, 2012
URBN Center is CoMAD’s new home
The URBN Center, located at 3501 Market St., is now the official home of Drexel’s Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design. The building was renovated over the past year to make the 130,000-square-foot space an ideal working environment for students and faculty.
Jul. 6, 2012
Campus mourns death of music director
Drexel University Music Program Director Myron “Mike” Moss died July 2 from a sudden heart attack. He was 60.
Mar. 16, 2012
Westphal begins work on ‘smart’ fabrics
The Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts and Design signed a $1 million agreement with knitting machine producer Shima Seiki USA in February in order to build a lab emphasizing the research and development of smart textiles, as announced Feb. 27 in a Drexel press release.Genevieve Dion, CoMAD’s fashion design program director, headed the agreement for the Shima Seiki Haute Technology Laboratory, which will be located on the fifth floor of Nesbitt Hall.
Feb. 3, 2012
Senior earns chance to display work
One Drexel graphic design senior was named a winner of the 2011 Best of Art in the Air award in December, and as a result, his motion video, “Color Philadelphia,” will be displayed on the PECO Crown Lights at 23rd and Market streets until early March.
Jan. 13, 2012
Senior-designed exhibit featured
A Drexel graphic design student designed the “Art Ignites Change” exhibit in the new public space at The Gallery at Market East, which officially opened Dec. 13.
Jul. 15, 2011
Students aid Thai farmers
A group of interdisciplinary Drexel students recently visited Thailand for a two-week trip, where they worked with farmers in the Bo Klua region to improve rice planting techniques from June 14 to June 28.