By Alan Pergament
Before he came back to Buffalo in 2009, Channel 2 morning co-anchor John Beard was a hotshot news anchor in Los Angeles for 26 years with celebrity admirers.
Working at the Fox affiliate in town led to Beard being hired to make 16 cameo appearances as himself on the critically-acclaimed, award-winning but little-watched situation comedy "Arrested Development" on Fox.
And now that "Arrested" returns Sunday with 15 episodes on Netflix, Beard reportedly is back in 12 scenes scattered throughout as many as seven episodes.
But if you watched Channel 2's "Daybreak" this week you undoubtedly know that because the station ran taped interviews on three straight mornings with the show's cast that were conducted by Beard.
Cast members Jason Bateman (who plays the normal member of the dysfunctional Bluth family, Michael) Portia deRossi (Lindsay), David Cross (Tobias), George-Michael (Michael Cera) and Maeby (Alia Shawkat) seemed to admire Beard as much as the cult show's viewers loved "Arrested" when it played on Fox from 2003-2006.
The "Arrested" interviews on the final three mornings of the sweeps amounted to a shameless plug for Netflix and for Beard. It also was the kind of celebrity story that led Beard to bolt the Fox affiliate in L.A. in 2007 and stay on the beach (TV talk for unemployed) until he returned to Buffalo decades after working at Channel 4.
But at least the "Developement" story was as harmless as it was shameless.
The highlight might have been Bateman's reaction to seeing and hearing Beard again.
"I just love your voice," enthused Bateman, a former child actor. "Growing up listening to you, listening to you on the show. It's a symphony."
He said it in a comic way, but the spirit of Bateman's remarks seemed to be genuine.
Beard didn't have to do much prep work for the interviews, essentially asking cast members if they ever thought the series would return after it was canceled seven years ago.
That question also was addressed in January during a Netflix press conference I attended during the semi-annual meetings of the Television Critics Association.
"It really didn't seem as impossible to me until we got into it and I realized how impossible it was," said series creator Mitch Hurwitz. "Because I'm close to all these people. We've all remained close in different ways. So I think I just kind of always held out hope that this would work out, and it was a very naive hope. So yeah, it's a good point. We shouldn't be here. I accept that premise."
It was called a press conference but it seemed more like a mutual admiration society because the cast appreciated critics for helping the show last for three seasons as much as many critics appreciated the show's outlandishness.
I wish I could tell you if the Netflix version of "A.D." is any good, but Netflix is keeping it away from critics until all 15 episodes start streaming at 3:01 a.m. Eastern time on Sunday.
Beard's frequent return as a news anchor at the fictional Fox 6 affiliate suggests the Bluths got into more than their share of trouble during the years since the series went off the air.
During the press conference, Hurwitz explained these episodes are going to be presented in a different way, partly because they had to be filmed around the schedules of the cast.
The episodes, which will be of various lengths close to 30 minutes, will focus on individual characters and some of the comic lines won't pay off until later episodes.
That structure may be ideal for fans of binge viewing, but less so for people who weren't as fanatic about "A.D."
"The only way we could get everybody together for what we'll call loosely an anthology or a series was to kind of dedicate each episode to a different character's point of view and that became a really fun, interesting, engaging, creative challenge, because we started finding out that the stories would intersect,” said Hurwitz.
Bateman also tried to put the Netflix version of "A.D." in perspective.
"If one was to be fair to these episodes, you cannot and should not hopefully compare them to what the series was where you had 22 minutes and you had all the characters in every single episode," said Bateman. "This is something that is completely different on purpose creatively per the format that Netflix affords us per the long term and larger long form of the whole story."
"So we're telling a complicated story that jumps around in time and has all these intersections and we’re shooting it way out of order," said Hurwitz. "And so it was a lot of pieces to juggle."
The idea also is to set up a long-rumored "A.D" movie to run either in the theaters or on Netflix.
It probably is unlikely to make it into theaters, but anyone who has followed the Bluth family knows that stranger things have happened.