Friday, May 24, 2013

War of 18-49 Flashback, Arrested Development (Fox, 2003-06)


Scheduling history: The first two seasons of Arrested Development were part of Fox's Sunday comedy lineup, back in the days when mixing animated and live action comedies was commonplace for Fox. The show's first season aired at 9:30 after what was really the last OK-rated season of Malcolm in the Middle. Arrested then got a decent upgrade in season two, moving to 8:30 and leading out of higher-rated The Simpsons. The 13-episode third season was then asked to fend for itself, leading off the Monday lineup in fall 2005. After it got horrible ratings in that role, Fox infamously burned off the series' final four episodes in a two-hour block against the Opening Ceremony of the 2006 Winter Olympics.

When there was hope: Arrested Development premiered on November 2, 2003 to an audience of 7.98 million viewers and a 3.3 demo rating, retaining about 80% of its 4.2 Malcolm in the Middle lead-in. Arrested took significant drops the next two weeks, to a 3.0 in week two and a 2.6 in week three, but it bounced back a bit from there and steadied in the upper 2's for most of the rest of the fall and winter. That level became mid-2's in the spring, with the exception of the series high 4.2 demo in a post-American Idol tryout on 3/17/04. (Idol had a 9.7, by the way.)

In season two, Arrested actually made minor gains in raw numbers, but probably not as much as Fox had hoped considering its awards attention and timeslot upgrade. Though The Simpsons averaged almost a point more in the demo than Malcolm the previous season (4.5ish vs. 3.6ish), the year-to-year gain from Arrested was only about a tick. Fox ended up cutting Arrested's order to 18 episodes, clearing the way to launch Family Guy and American Dad! at the end of the season.

When hope was lost: Arrested's move to Monday failed from day one. The show premiered on 9/19/05 at just a 2.0 demo (which was awful back then!) and pretty much hovered around that mark for the whole fall. The Opening Ceremony burn-off actually didn't go that much worse than the norm for the show; those episodes scored 1.6 / 1.7 / 1.9 / 1.9.

Yeah, the season three scheduling was pretty bad, but this show got its chance. It could well have died when it had borderline flop numbers in season one, but it was probably a decent idea to see if the loyal online following and a better lead-in could get some momentum going. Borderline flop numbers in season two after a borderline hit? Not acceptable. At that point, the third season was a gift, but so often the networks need to see the show post massive flop numbers in a bad situation before they're truly convinced.

This post goes up on the eve of Arrested Development returning yet again, not as a TV series but as a Netflix original. Because Netflix keeps a tight lid on their viewing metrics, it's unlikely we'll ever get a solid grasp on just how many people (much less adults 18-49) follow it to its new site. But whatever happens on Netflix, this show will have somehow produced at least 68 episodes, making it one of the very few shows to scrape together a legitimately decent-sized run without ever really amounting to anything in Nielsen ratings. Go Internet!

Adults 18-49 info by season:

Seas Year Timeslot Avg Now Lo Hi Results
12003-04Sunday 9:302.771.442.04.221/22
22004-05Sunday 8:302., 2 pre.
32005-06Monday 8:001.951.011.62.21 prelim

Year A18-49+ Label Year-to-Year In-Season
Premiere Average Finale P -> F

For more on The War of 18-49, my look at the history of primetime TV's veteran shows, see the Index.

1 comment:

Spot said...

I am amazed at how buzzy this show remains 7 years after it was first cancelled. The revival has gotten so much attention, primarily because they got the vast majority of the cast back.

I think it's a bit unfortunate for you, because this could potentially add a huge level of competition that you can't account for.

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