Arrested Development was one of Netflix’s early original TV success stories: A cult comedy canceled after three years, it found a second life after Netflix revived it and made two additional seasons. But Arrested Development’s long-running tenure on the streaming platform is about to end after plans for the series’ exit from Netflix emerged, a move that upset both show fans and people concerned about streaming originals being removed from the platforms that made them.
News that Arrested Development would leave Netflix on March 15 was first reported earlier this week, and when you look up Arrested Development on Netflix, a banner indicating the last day you can watch the series appears on the landing page. The removal isn’t just for the first three seasons that aired on Fox, but also for seasons 4 and 5, which Netflix produced with Imagine Entertainment and 20th Century Fox Television (now known as 20th Television). The first three seasons of Arrested Development are also streaming on Hulu, which is owned by Disney (and which also owns 20th Television).
Streamers add and remove titles they don’t own all the time based on licensing deals. But the proposed removal of Arrested Development seasons 4 and 5 hits on a rare situation (although not unheard of) that’s becoming more common: Removing seasons of TV it made.
Netflix’s Marvel projects and several other original titles have disappeared from its platform in the past, sometimes turning up elsewhere; the Marvel shows are now on Disney+. But the removal is notable partly for it paving the pathway for Netflix as a streamer that created its own programming (it was one of the first shows that Netflix made) and its role as one of the earlier TV revivals before they became commonplace.
“‘It’s five seasons, Michael. What could it cost to maintain the streaming rights?’” @hipstermermaid asked, riffing on one of the show’s most famous jokes.
The bigger concern is about those last two seasons, which are Netflix originals but aren’t owned outright by Netflix. While the Fox seasons have had a physical release for a while, and Netflix released a physical DVD for season 4, it did not do so for season 5. If the Netflix seasons aren’t made available on Hulu (or wherever the series may end up), viewers will not be able to watch the show’s fifth season legally. Even though people might have mixed feelings about the Netflix seasons—season 4 had a mixed reception while season 5 was largely panned by critics—they’re aware of the pitfalls that come with TV shows no longer being available to anyone.
The move falls in line with a recent trend from Warner Bros. Discovery and Showtime, which have removed several original streaming titles from its platform. In some cases, those shows don’t have physical releases, so when they’re gone, they’re gone.
It’s possible that Arrested Development could remain on Netflix; as some reports have pointed out, something similar happened to Lilyhammer, a Netflix original set to depart from Netflix before a last-minute deal was made. But if that isn’t meant to be the case, you only have a few more weeks to watch the series in its entirety.