'Arrested' creator bails as showrunner

“Arrested Development” creator Mitch Hurwitz says he will not be continuing with the series, throwing a major — likely fatal — monkey wrench into attempts to keep the Emmy-winning laffer alive for a fourth season.

Series producers 20th Century Fox TV and Imagine Television had agreed on a deal to move “Arrested,” previously on Fox, to Showtime — assuming Hurwitz was willing to come back. In the end, however, a mix of creative and financial concerns has prompted Hurwitz to move on.

“The fans have been so ardent in their devotion and in return … I’ve given everything I can to the show in order to try to live up to their expectations,” Hurwitz told Daily Variety on Monday in a telephone interview from Gotham. “I finally reached a point where I felt I couldn’t continue to deliver that on a weekly basis.”

Nonetheless, Hurwitz said he put off making a final decision on his involvement so Showtime and 20th could talk about a possible deal.

“Of course, if there was enough money in it, I would have happily abandoned the fans’ need for quality. But as it turns out, there wasn’t,” he said.

Indeed, Hurwitz and 20th have long been at odds over finances, sparring over everything from the show’s budget to Hurwitz’s own compensation. The two sides were unable to come to terms on an overall deal last year, and while creative concerns were clearly at play in Hurwitz’s decision, coin may have been a key factor, insiders said.

Hurwitz said he had briefed most of the show’s cast about his decision, as well as some of the writers. He also talked with exec producer-narrator Ron Howard, who asked Hurwitz if he would be willing to continue as a consultant on “Arrested” should 20th and Imagine find a network willing to continue the skein without Hurwitz.

“I said I’d be happy to do that, but that as showrunner, I’ve gone as far as I can go,” he said.

Showtime entertainment topper Bob Greenblatt made it clear in January that Hurwitz’s participation in the show was essential to a deal (Daily Variety, Jan. 20). With Hurwitz out of the equation, Showtime is no longer a viable home for “Arrested,” insiders said.

It doesn’t help that one of Hurwitz’s key deputies, exec producer Jim Valleley, also says he won’t do the show without his boss. “We couldn’t do the show without Mitch Hurwitz, and I wouldn’t want to be the guy who tried,” Valleley said, who called the apparent end of the show “heartbreaking.”

Hurwitz said he had lunch with Showtime entertainment chief Bob Greenblatt even though he was leaning against continuing with the show. “He was actually very persuasive in telling me how much he believed in the show. I walked away thinking, ‘Maybe,’ ” Hurwitz said.

Despite word of tension between Hurwitz and 20th, scribe said the studio and its sister net deserve credit for having produced and aired three seasons of the show.

“I can honestly say I’m appreciative. They put a lot of money into this, and I put a lot of my life into this,” he said.

He also hinted that while “Arrested” may have run its course as a TV show as far as he’s concerned, he would be interested in reviving the franchise as a feature film.

Reps for 20th and Showtime declined comment. One person familiar with the studio’s thinking, however, said fans of the show shouldn’t write an obit for “Arrested” just yet, noting 20th is the studio that revived “Family Guy.”

(Denise Martin contributed to this report.)

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