Michael Bluth is at the center of “Arrested Development,” and so too is the man who plays him, Jason Bateman. That much at least won’t be changing when the fan-favorite comedy returns on May 26 with its fourth season.

“[Michael] is still the moral center, but the curve has dropped quite a bit,” Bateman confirms to Zap2it in a recent interview. “They — the rest of his family — are in even deeper dire straits, but he is still slightly elevated from them in his despair. But he’s pretty banged up and he’s trying to get it back together and get them propped up a little bit too.”

He elaborates, “There’s nothing really funny about a family that’s all okay, so these episodes are a process to kind of rehabilitate and carry on and tell the rest of the story.”

Seven years have passed since development on the show was once again arrested — literally and figuratively — at the end of Season 3, so one would expect that the Bluth family would grow up a bit during the time. Though that seems to be an inaccurate assumption, what has changed is that the show has gotten a bit darker. Bateman says that, despite the slight shift in tone, the “template” of the show remains the same.

“I don’t know if FOX ever mandated that [creator] Mitch [Hurwitz] keep things light because those episodes were pretty dark at times, but to be sure you can do whatever the hell you want on Netflix, and so the gloves are kind of off,” Bateman says of Season 4. “We’re still bleeping the swear words so there’s still sort of a template that we want to honor. These are damaged people do and justify a lot of dark things, so in the interest of being authentic to that they’re having to navigate some pretty twisted stuff and Netflix is letting us do that. I don’t think it’s going to offend anybody. It is still a family show, but it’s a broken family.”

Zap2it has spent the past couple of months holding an “Arrested Development” Rewatch to help fans get caught up on Seasons 1 through 3 in anticipation of the release of Season 4. In the spirit of that project, we asked Bateman what his favorite recurring joke on the show is.

“You need to send me a link to that. I need to do that,” Bateman says of the Rewatch. “If you gave me a while, I’d probably be able to come up with one. There’s a ton of them. I don’t know.”

It turns out Bateman tried to arrange a rewatch of his own, but wasn’t able to fully pull it off.

“I will tell you that Will Arnett and I made a concerted effort to watch every episode before we started shooting these, and we only got through the first four episodes just because we got together and we’d just start bullsh**ing and not watching TV and doing our homework,” he says. “But it was really fun because we hadn’t seen them — I hadn’t seen them — since they were on FOX. I mean, he used to come over to the house and we would watch them when they were on and then go outside and talk about it while we smoked out cigarettes. But we’ve changed now. We’re adults. We’re not smoking, we’re not watching TV — we’re having babies.”

“Arrested Development” Season 4 premieres in its entirety on Netflix on May 26 starting at 12:01 a.m. PT.

Posted by:Terri Schwartz