Last Laugh

Salt Lake City Weekly | February 22, 2005
Last Laugh

Does Fox’s Arrested Development really need to continue on? Probably not.


Two weeks ago, professional actor-comic-agitatant David Cross reportedly appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live and mentioned that his Fox sitcom, the critically-adored-but-virtually-unwatched Arrested Development, had stopped production for the season. He then added that he hoped it would be replaced by a new Fox reality show, something like, “America’s Cutest Retards.”

This just added fuel to the Internet fan-fire that began a day before when Fox cut the show’s season order from 22 to 18 episodes and announced they’d be pulling it from the schedule for May Sweeps. Both actions that usually point to cancellation, a black cloud that’s been hanging over Arrested Development (the premise of which has been covered here ad nauseum—if you don’t know by now, it’s too late) for two seasons.

All of which begs two important questions: 1. Is the Arrested Development cancellation that’s been feverishly predicted every week since its debut in 2003 finally nigh? And 2. Someone actually watched Jimmy Kimmel Live? (Bonus 3. Who the hell uses words like “nigh,” anyway?)

Fox says not to worry; they love the show and they’re sticking with it. Fox is not to be trusted. Fox is like a too-charming abusive boy/girlfriend: “No, baby—it won’t happen again, I promise. We belong together, come on over here …” Then, lights out.

Everyone has a favorite Fox show that has been (or is about to be) canceled after months of promises … or complete silence. For me and about a dozen sci-fi chatroom geeks, the most recent example would be Tru Calling, the second season of which Fox keeps passive-aggressively dangling (“No, it’s not canceled. No, we’re not going to air it”) but never delivering. For you, perhaps it’s Who’s Your Daddy? (which was filmed as a six-episode series, not a single ill-received special). America’s Cutest Retards—hosted by David Cross, if the money’s right—should help ease your pain.

The San Francisco Chronicle’s Tim Goodman made the excellent point that Fox is actually helping Arrested Development by having it sit out May Sweeps. Getting lousy ratings during an intensely analyzed Sweeps ratings period would kill the show quicker than simply holding it back for a month and plugging in American Dad—which, if there’s any justice, will be killed before it tarnishes the Family Guy legacy any further.

Since Goodman’s the only TV writer smarter than me, I bought it. But then, a couple of days later, he wrote an article about how most series outlive their creative peaks and limp on for years past their prime—rightfully citing, among others, Everybody Loves Raymond, a boneheaded sitcom that’s lasted nine (!) seasons only because boneheaded America loves it, even though it ran out of material before the first season was even through. They’ve been phoning it for years; Patricia Heaton invests more in those Albertson’s commercials, and if Ray Romano had one ounce of soul left, he’d be pouring it into Jimmy Dean Sausage ads, no question.

Arrested Development is off this week; for the final Sunday of February Sweeps, Fox is going with the 184th airing of Independence Day—sadly, boneheaded America will award Will Smith’s command performance with a higher overnight rating than Arrested’s entire second season combined. After Arrested Development returns on March 6 with a two-episode catch-up installment, it’s a six-week stretch of what could be The Final Episodes … which might actually be for the best.

Smart America almost unanimously calls Arrested Development the funniest, most intelligent U.S. TV comedy ever—me, I believe the title belongs to Bravo’s Significant Others, but even fewer saw it than Arrested. That said, I also believe two seasons of Significant Others was plenty, and the same goes for The Office, the acclaimed British series that also wisely bowed out after two.

If Arrested Development joins the Two Season Club, ‘twould be a far better thing than sitting at the bar (probably with David Cross) and saying, “Yeah, that show used to be good” three years from now. Let the Internet message-board flaming begin.

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