Order Cut Back

November 14, 2005

It looks like Arrested Development is nearing the end of its run, as Fox will extend its order beyond the first 13 episodes of this third season.

This probably isn't a surprise, as the show has suffered anemic ratings, despite critical appeal. While Fox will promote Family Guy, The Simpsons, Prison Break 24, and reality shows during football, I think I have yet to see a promo for Arrested Development while watching football on Fox. On the Season 2 DVD outtakes, David Cross (in costume as Tobias in costume as Mrs. Featherbottom) rants about Fox's inability to promote the show.

The SF Chronicle's Tim Goodman confirms rumors and discusses the show in his column today: Die-hard 'Arrested Development' fans already feeling sting of loss:

Now, let's get serious here for a minute as it concerns Fox's alibi. The fact is, Fox has never known what to do with "Arrested Development," which has won six Emmys, including outstanding comedy. On-air promotions for the series have been sporadic at best and incompetent, never selling the humor of the series.

To give Fox some credit, at least they are showing the episodes in order, started the show off in a decent time slot, and brought the show back for its second and third seasons. This is more of an patience than Fox exhibited with other beleaguered shows. Maybe broadcast is the wrong medium for Arrested. Maybe the show is better off in an alternative medium.

After all, creator Mitch Hurwitz described that show as one made for the DVR generation: An interview with Mitchell Hurwitz of 'Arrested Development': "We’re making the show for new technology and DVDs, it’s made for TiVo, much moreso than it’s made for watching once. There’s a value in rewatching it." With numerous callbacks and foreshadowing to jokes introduced in other episodes, Arrested rewards dedicated viewers.

Will AD become the first tv show to cross over into post-television distribution? Since the debut of the iPod with video and the addition of TV episodes, including Lost and Desparate Housewives, to the iTunes Music Store, many other media companies have announced plans for post-television video distribution-- either through the internet, on DVD or through on-demand pay services on cable and satellite systems. (That will be another post when I get over this cold.)

With a dedicated fan base that will follow Arrested to any new medium, it seems a likely candidate for testing new methods of distribution. However, it is also an expensive show to produce, with 9 main cast members, many of whom are established performers, it seems unlikely that the show will get financed by the studio without a commitment from a network. Goodman reports rumors that have Showtime the most likely candidate to pick up the Bluth family with an outside shot of Fox trying again in another year. There is a case for why Fox should stick with the show-- it brings respect and prestige to Fox within the creative community. Shows may take longer than 2 seasons and 4 episodes to develop into hits-- The Amazing Race was in danger of cancellation for its first 4 seasons. Only in season 5 did that show become a hit. Like Arrested, the Race is show that is expensive for the category (and logistically difficult), but after floating around the schedule with indifferent promotion, the quality show found an audience. (And then, CBS decided that the "Family Edition" would be a good idea, and is now airing a lame, watered-down version of the Race. The Amazing should be back with TAR9, hopefully.)

As a show that only reveals its genius after multiple viewings, Arrested may take longer than usual to find its audience. The fans will follow.

Posted by Andrew Raff at November 14, 2005 05:27 PM
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Would be a pity indeed to take such a great show off the air. I sure hope Fox comes to its senses.

Posted by: Peter on November 14, 2005 07:12 PM
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