Mitch Hurwitz, Remake King

It’s hard to know what to make of Mitch Hurwitz’s career since the cancellation of Arrested Development. We all knew he wouldn’t do anything like AD again, in large part because no one will ever buy anything like AD again. (30 Rock has a somewhat similar approach and only slightly better ratings, but it does not have quite as much ironic distance as AD — no narrator — and has less complicated story structure and more straightforward jokes than AD, where the jokes often depended on our having seen not just one but multiple episodes.) Also, he gave the impression of not really wanting to continue in that vein; remember that Showtime expressed an interest in picking up AD until it became clear that Hurwitz didn’t want to do it any more. Unlike the TV-era Judd Apatow, whose cult failures just made him want to produce more cult failures, Hurwitz may not be comfortable as the flop king; he wants a hit.

Hurwitz is in the news again because he’s agreed to produce a U.S. version of Absolutely Fabulous. Last year he produced a pilot based on another British show, The Thick of It, but it didn’t get picked up. (It would have been essentially a political version of The Office, a mock-doc set in Congress.) The calculation on his part, and Fox’s, appears to be that he’ll be all right if he applies his AD approach to subjects that have already been tested out successfully: the mock-documentary approach last year, and the self-absorbed drunks this year. On the other hand, AbFab doesn’t exactly cry out for a remake, because as the linked article notes, it’s had plenty of unofficial remakes. Cybill was a fairly good, reasonably successful knockoff of AbFab that proved the wisdom of that ABC executive, the one who said that American networks should copy successful foreign shows instead of paying to remake them.

Hurwitz has also been working on a remake of the Australian show Sit Down, Shut Up, a live-action series to be remade as an animated show. That appears to be his niche for now — Fox’s remake guy.