"Arrested Development" will premiere with FOX's November schedule at 8:30 p.m. on Sunday nights, with the coveted post-"Simpsons" time slot. In January the show will move to 9 p.m. on Sunday, after "Malcolm in the Middle" and before "American Dad" from Seth MacFarlane ("Family Guy").
FOX's track record with esoteric comedies has been a bit spotty. Although the network has done a superior job of developing trailblazing comedies, keeping them on the air has been a different issue. Despite some of the year's best reviews, dramedy "Wonderfalls" left viewers stranded before even a handful of episodes aired. "Undeclared" fared marginally better, as the single-camera college series ran for a single, truncated season. While "Andy Richter Controls the Universe" made it to a second season (after a six-episode debut), it fizzled with five episodes unaired.
To the network's credit, the audience figures for "Arrested Development" would never have been enough to justify a renewal under other circumstances. Its average viewership was 6.18 million. That number ranks below such perceived freshman disasters as "The Brotherhood of Poland, N.H." (6.94 million) and "Threat Matrix" (6.46 million), which both aired against tougher time period competition.
Much has also been made of "Development's" difficulties holding onto viewers from its "Malcolm in the Middle" lead-in. Even the show's stars have been aware that more than two million viewers vanish between comedies.
"My dream has always been to be on a show that holds 'Malcolm's' numbers," joked David Cross at a fan-filled Hollywood event back in March. Soon after, "Arrested Development" had the golden opportunity to air after an episode of "American Idol," and while it posted personal best ratings, it failed to maintain a respectable percentage of the "Idol" audience.
As other members of its FOX comedy freshman class made early departures (anybody remember "Luis" or "A Minute with Stan Hooper?"), the network stood by "Development" as critical momentum began to build. In January, the series topped a semiannual TV critics poll conducted by TelevisionWeek.
It earned a Golden Globe nomination for outstanding comedy series and won a Golden Satellite as best comedy. Expectations are high that the show's esteem in the creative community will translate into Emmy nominations as well.
"We know it's had a modest run so far in terms of audience appreciation -- critical acclaim has been extraordinary -- and we hope to see that build in the same vein of 'Seinfeld' and 'Everybody Loves Raymond,'" Berman says. "We know some of these new shows take time and we'd like to see this show achieve the success of those."