"Arrested Development" may have finally played its last get out of jail free card.
Fox has cut back its episode order on one of TV's most critically praised shows to just 13 segs, down from 22. Skein, from 20th Century Fox TV and creator Mitch Hurwitz, has also been pulled from the schedule for the rest of the month, another sign that the network may have finally given up on trying to bring an audience to the show.
News was nearly as grim for "Arrested's" Monday night companion, the Darren Star-produced "Kitchen Confidential." It's also been pulled for sweeps, and producers have been told the show won't be getting a full-season pickup.
As for "Arrested," skein returned from a month's hiatus this week, while "Kitchen" was slated to return Monday. Despite tough competition from a high-rated "Monday Night Football" matchup, "Arrested" performed about as well as it had been in the timeslot before baseball. Ratings for "Prison Break," however, took a notable dip, which is what likely prompted worried Fox execs to reverse their previous plan to keep "Arrested" on the air through year's end.
Instead of the two laffers, Fox will air repeats of drama "Prison Break" in the 8-9 p.m. Monday slot for the rest of the sweep.
"Arrested" and "Kitchen" will return to the sked Dec. 5. Come January, net is expected to stick with its original plan of moving "House" into the Monday-at-8 slot.
Fox wasn't commenting Thursday, and for now, nobody's using the word "cancellation." But in the case of "Arrested," the handwriting appears to be on the wall.
"Arrested" is in the middle of its third season. Skein has never produced a full season of 22 episodes, with Fox cutting the order for the show every season it's aired.
Basically, Fox isn't picking up the back nine episodes. Technically not cancelled, technically it could still get a fourth season, but cutting the order this early in the season is a de facto statement that they won't be making any more. We knew it was coming but this is still very sad. it wasn't unexpected, but the DVD sales were strong and I was hoping that would make a difference. The frustrating part is that it looks like we'll have to wait a while to see the remaining episodes. Then again, this isn't the first time Fox pulled the show from a sweeps month. In fact, that's pretty much the routine.
In Fox's defense:
- Arrested's numbers were not likely to go up, since in creating one of the funniest, most rewarding comedies on television, Mitchell Hurwitz also managed to create one of the least-accessible-to-new-viewers shows of all time.
- Fox stuck with Arrested a relatively long time. We'll have roughly two and a half season's worth to enjoy over and over again, which is more than you can say for other prematurely cancelled shows like Freaks and Geeks, Undeclared, or Andy Richter Controls the Universe. (However, it's less than Futurama, and probably about equal with pre-resuscitation Family Guy.)
Strikes against Fox:
- No, they didn't promote the show well, but even when they tried, the promotion was poor. No commercial for the show ever communicated how funny it is. But it could have. Just watch the menu screen of any of the DVDs and you'll see a succession of ten-second clips, each of which is hilarious all by itself. Why couldn't the editors in charge of that menu screen be put in charge of promoting the show? Those clips capture the show's unique cleverness in a way that the zany, slapstick-heavy Fox promos never did. It might not have saved the show, but I'm sure better ads would have strengthened the ratings at least a little.