Netflix gets 'Arrested Development' stars cheap

The cult hit's online-only revival uses a novel sliding pay scale for the increasingly famous cast.

By Jason Notte May 24, 2013 8:26AM
© FOXMaybe there isn't always money in the banana stand.

Abandoned Fox show and cult classic "Arrested Development" makes its return on Netflix (NFLX) on Sunday, but bringing the show back from its untimely death required some creative accounting. Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, Portia de Rossi and Michael Cera were a lot more affordable when "Arrested Development" went off the air in 2006 than after it propelled them to become movie stars and brought them lead roles in TV series and other high-paying career opportunities.

So how did Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and content honcho Ted Sarandos work their financial wizardry? Let The Hollywood Reporter explain how they came up with starring roles for each actor in all 15 episodes and created a sliding pay scale based on the effort involved:

The actor "starring" in the episode is paid $125,000. If he or she appears in more than 90 seconds of an episode (but is not the star), that actor receives $50,000. For less than 90 seconds of airtime in an episode, he or she receives $10,000. Finally, if a clip featuring the actor from a previous episode is used, that actor gets another $1,000. Bateman, for instance, stars in more than one episode.

Got it? So if Tony Hale's Buster has his one remaining hand ripped off by a rabid otter just before being deployed to Afghanistan and spends a whole episode fleshing out the details, he gets $125,000. If David Cross' Tobias Funke blue himself in an episode with a Blue Man Group subplot, he gets $50,000. If Scott Baio's Bob Loblaw makes a cameo as a millionaire after Yahoo (YHOO) buys his law blog, that's $10,000.

"That show launched a lot of our careers and everyone is doing great, so to come back together while things are going well is really a fortunate situation," Bateman told GQ in March. "Everybody had to be big boys about not making it financially impossible."

While it's not the tidiest system for paying actors, it was the only way to make the new episodes happen. That same structure also leaves the door open for a fifth season, depending on how Netflix subscribers react to the retooled Bluths.

"We would love to do more, and we have a deal in place that says that there could be," Netflix's Hastings told The Hollywood Reporter. "They're very in-demand movie and TV stars, and they're all working full time and doing this show in between. They did it for the love of the show and for (creator) Mitch Hurwitz. If we can muster up that love again, we'd love to do it again."

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May 28, 2013 7:50AM
thank god for Netflix, I just started to look at this show last week and it is a Freaking RIOT. that family is krazy disfunctional. Now if someone like Hulu, Crackled, or even Netflix, will pick up some of the shows that were never properly finished, like HEROES, Break out Kings, No ordinary Family, Deception, Go On, and alto of others good shows that got canceled for no reason.
give them a proper Burial.
May 24, 2013 7:29PM
Rabid otter? It was a loose seal. Get your facts right, Mr. Manager!
May 28, 2013 11:31AM
May 24, 2013 11:56AM
Whatever, it's a highly overrated show with limited appeal.
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