Apologies for my absence from this space today. I’m trying to put out a number of actual and potential small fires before hitting the road after work, destination Hometown. But I did get word of some new developments regarding “Arrested Development,” thanks to an alert reader. The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that Fox is enhancing its efforts to find the audience the struggling show deserves. The most immediate impact of these efforts? “Arrested” will air tonight following “American Idol.” That’s 9:30 Eastern. Tune in, or set your VCRs and Tivos. Here’s some of what Joe Flint at the Journal had to say about the new push from Fox:
The freshest comedy on television this season is Fox’s “Arrested Development,” which follows the antics of the Bluths, a rich Southern California family. Patriarch George Sr. (Jeffrey Tambor, best known as Hank, the long-suffering sidekick on HBO’s “The Larry Sanders Show”) is behind bars for raiding the corporate coffers. Jason Bateman plays his second son Michael who is the only one with any sense of decency. When he’s not trying to rebuild the family’s real estate business he is fending off efforts to undermine him by his jealous older brother GOB (short for George Oscar Bluth), boozy mother Lucille and superficial sister Lindsay. The show is from Ron Howard and Brian Grazer’s Imagine Television and the former child star turned movie mogul serves as executive producer as well as narrator of each episode. Mitch Hurwitz, a veteran sitcom producer whose career started as a writer on “The Golden Girls,” created “Arrested Development.”
Despite all the critical raves (The New York Times called it “sharply satirical,” Time said it’s the best new sitcom out there and USA Today said the program is “heaven-sent for anyone who has longed for something, anything, outside the comedy norm.”), “Arrested Development” is struggling. So far this season, it is averaging only 6.2 million viewers in its Sunday 9:30 p.m. time slot, according to Nielsen Media Research. It usually is dead last in those coveted 18-49 demographics as well.
Fortunately for the hardcore fans of the show, Fox isn’t ready to throw in the towel–yet. This week, in an effort to get the show sampled, Fox is putting “Arrested Development” behind its blockbuster “American Idol.” “Seinfeld’s” Julia Louis-Dreyfus is guest-starring in a two-part story as a blind attorney prosecuting George Bluth Sr. while bedding son Michael. Ms. Louis-Dreyfus joins an already impressive list of guest stars on the show including Heather Graham and Liza Minelli. Since these folks aren’t doing the show for ratings, clearly the program is already hitting a high note in the creative community. It was saluted recently by the Museum of TV & Radio’s annual festival that salutes the best of television, a rare honor for a freshman program.
The Julia Louis-Dreyfus gig starts tonight. Help rescue a terrific show from the fate of “Freaks and Geeks” and “My So-Called Life.”