Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s TCA coverage.

Jason Bateman spoke about the possibility of a forthcoming Arrested Development movie as if it were practically a sure thing during a TCA panel promoting the long-awaited return of the comedy with 14 new installments on Netflix after a decade-long absence. The show is set to debut in originals in May, with all 14 being made available simultaneously via Netflix. The fresh episodes are “basically just the first act that we hope to complete in a movie, which will be acts 2 and 3,” star Bateman said. “The episodes will set that up, and one will not work without the other.” But he quickly added, “This will, however, provide a satisfying conclusion if for some unfortunate reason the movie doesn’t happen.” In other words, this isn’t merely a one-time novelty return of Arrested Development but the first element in the franchise’s continued re-invigoration — they hope. Creator/exec producer Mitch Hurwitz explained after the panel that what became a series originally was conceived as a movie. “We’d mapped this out as a movie and then worked backwards to do these shows. So it might not be a movie. It might be something else. I’d be happy with it as ColorForms at this point.”

Related: ‘Arrested Development’ Due in May For 14-Episode Run: TCA

Otherwise, the panel proved a giddy celebration of a day that few on the production team or in the cast truly believed would ever come. Hurwitz in particular was struck by the surrealism of it all. But he promised that everything has been done with the show’s longtime, ever-loyal fan base in mind. To that end, it won’t look or feel like Arrested Development‘s first go-around on Fox. It picks up the family seven years after the original show ended. But even though everyone in the cast was willing and eager to return, it was still tough for Hurwitz to pull all the strings. “The only way to get everyone together is to kind of dedicate each episode to a different character’s point of view,” he said. “It became an interesting, engaging creative challenge…It’s kind of an evolution in the storytelling that was necessary.” Added Bateman: “This is very different in purpose creatively.” At the same time, the fact that Netflix’s model makes all 14 episodes of the show available at once creates challenges of a different sort. “We’ve still held back information about the plot to reward the fans for sticking with us,” Hurwitz said. “Being surprising was easy when nobody was watching. That’s not going to be the case this time.”

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