As we approached setting the 2005-06 schedule on FOX, one factor that influenced my take on a third season of “Arrested Development” (other than the dismal ratings) was the return of “Family Guy” in May 2005 and “American Dad,” another Seth McFarlane animated series that would be ready in the fall.
We had the beginnings of what we would call “Animation Domination,” our unique Sunday block of animated comedies (which also included “The Simpsons” and “King of the Hill”), and “Arrested Development” no longer had a home on Sunday night.
The second factor in my thinking about “Arrested” was a pilot starring Bradley Cooper called “Kitchen Confidential,” based on the book by the recently passed Anthony Bourdain. It was a strong testing pilot and was well-received in the screenings. With “Arrested” no longer secure on Sunday, we would need something to pair it up with, and “KC” was the only smart adult comedy we had developed. Given that there was likely only one direction for “Arrested’s” ratings to go in a third season, my goal was to protect “Kitchen Confidential” by saving it for midseason and giving it a prized “American Idol” lead-in.
We had “given at the office” regarding “Arrested,” and I believed returning it for a third season would cause more harm than good to the schedule. I also felt that creatively, the show had gone off the rails.
When scheduling started, I would generally put up a schedule to start the conversation. It was generally pretty close to where we would wind up, but everyone needed a chance to contribute to the conversation. I did not put “Arrested Development” on the fall 2005 schedule. There was an immediate pushback from sales, and I believe my boss, Peter Liguori (Gail Berman had moved over to Paramount Pictures), also suggested that “Arrested” return in the fall. Since there was no room on Sunday, it was suggested that “Arrested” move to Monday at 8 and that we pair it with (you guessed it) “Kitchen Confidential.”
Now I always treated the schedule as my “third child,” and I really believed this was a bad idea on many levels. Most of all, it put a potential future hit in jeopardy when there was an opportunity to give it a midseason push with prime “Idol” real estate. I strongly argued against the fall slot and had the support of my partner-in-crime Mike Darnell, who in addition to being the king of unscripted was a pretty savvy programmer.
The issue became the focal point of the scheduling meeting, and I figured when Rupert Murdoch arrived, he would probably side with me and “Arrested Development” would be off of the schedule. Rupert arrived, and we started the discussion of whether “Arrested” would return for a third season. We all presented our cases, returned from lunch, and I went at it again. I could get very aggressive in the scheduling room. At some point Liguori took me aside and told me to “shut up.” It turned out sales had gotten to Rupert and convinced him that they needed the show on the fall schedule. The fix was in, but no one bothered to tell me. We went back into the scheduling room, Rupert said “fine” and “Arrested Development” got a reprieve for a third season.
I was not a happy camper, but whatever. At least during the meetings, Darnell brought in this contraption where some people can place their finger on a pad and one of us gets shocked. Sort of Russian roulette. Mike, Rupert and I played with it for some time, so at least there was that.
There’s one final piece to this story, but I’ll save that for tomorrow. One more painful memory of scheduling “Arrested.”