Which Cable Net is ‘Arrested’s’ Best Fit?

Apr 4, 2005  •  Post A Comment

TelevisionWeek spoke to nearly a dozen TV insiders, including agents, producers and cable network executives, to compile a list of likely and not-so-likely cable network destinations for “Arrested Development” should Fox cancel the series.

HBO: Critics often say “Arrested Development” has an HBO sensibility. With the premium network’s deep pockets and commitment to quality, HBO would seem to be a good fit for the program, except for one problem: HBO doesn’t air TV shows. “It’s not TV, it’s HBO” is more than a tagline, but a dead-serious branding philosophy. Regardless of the quality of “Arrested,” it’s still a broadcast television program. From Fox, no less. HBO considers itself a creative leader and would be reluctant to buy a network castaway.

USA: USA can afford “Arrested” and has the household base to ensure that fans can find the show. But insiders say the network’s upcoming branding campaign, the details of which are still unannounced, will not be conducive to positioning a half-hour sitcom.

Showtime: President of Entertainment Robert Greenblatt has proved he is willing to take risks (renewing “Huff” before its premiere) and is in serious need of a hit. Like HBO, Showtime prefers to develop original programming. Another question is how much of the “Arrested” niche audience would translate to Showtime’s limited universe. Still, the show would probably be a boon for the network.

FX: Like HBO, the Fox-owned network is another commonly cited potential “Arrested” destination that is less likely than it appears. FX does not want to be seen as Fox Junior and already has a packed development slate. Still, with former FX Networks President and CEO Mr. Liguori named president of entertainment for Fox Broadcasting last month, he might look to FX as a way to keep the acclaimed, home-grown “Arrested” in the corporate family. The series would also provide the drama-packed FX with an element the channel lacks: a sense of humor.

TBS: Most musings on the cable prospects of “Arrested” neglect to mention TBS, but the “Very Funny”-branded network would be one of the top contenders for the show. TBS has made a business of acquiring quality network sitcom properties (“Seinfeld,” “Friends,” “Everybody Loves Raymond”) and is willing to spend money to make money (TNT’s upcoming “Into the West”). Cost, however, would still be a concern.

Comedy Central: If Fox cancels “Arrested Development,” executives from Comedy Central will be ringing Mr. Hurwitz’s cellphone within the hour. The Viacom-owned network is the ideal home for “Arrested” in the cable universe (and, perhaps, in the overall television universe). As with TBS, cost is an issue, although the network has been known to pony up for particularly valuable and proven fare. (Example: The $50 million payday it gave Dave Chappelle for a deal that included the renewal of “Chappelle’s Show” for two seasons and a development deal.) Spike TV could also benefit from the show, but Viacom would more likely want “Arrested” to go where the brand fits best, and by all accounts that’s Comedy Central.