Fans say farewell to quot;Arrested Developmentquot;

In the tradition of these shows, FOX has another program that celebrates the frayed ties among family members.,The FOX network has made its name by exploiting family dysfunction. It brought us Al Bundy and the trashiness of “Married … with Children,” has had Homer’s hijinks on “The Simpsons” for 16 years and recently revived the raunchfest “Family Guy.”

In the tradition of these shows, FOX has another program that celebrates the frayed ties among family members. There is only one problem-nobody’s watching it.

Actually, that is not true. The dedicated (albeit small) fan base of “Arrested Development,” which returns this Monday after a brief hiatus, received a shock three weeks ago when FOX decided to cut the episode order for the show’s third season from 22 to 13. Blogs and entertainment writers everywhere (including this one) are still ablaze to praise the merits of “Arrested” and blast the network.

It is not a hyperbole to call “Arrested Development” the best show on network television right now (sorry, “Lost” fanatics). “Arrested” chronicles the mishaps of three generations of the Bluth family and their struggle to drag the family name out of ill repute after their patriarch lands in jail.

The foremost reason for the show’s success is its pitch-perfect casting. None of the actors was a major star before (save for Portia De Rossi), thus allowing them to completely inhabit their roles and become the respective members of the Bluth family. Unlike many sitcom caricatures, the quirks and oddities of the characters and their back stories add to the hilarity, such as Tobias’ (David Cross) inability to be complety naked (a condition that brands him a “nevernude”).

The show is also consistently bringing in a stable of Hollywood heavyweights, including Ben Stiller, Zach Braff, Heather Graham, Martin Short, Henry Winkler and, most recently, Scott Baio and Charlize Theron.

The actors are aided by the scripts; each episode takes a complex situation and compacts it into an all-too-brief 22 minutes. The numerous twists and turns are almost always resolved at the end in a usually unpredictable manner.

Because there is so much going on, “Arrested” has the potential to be syndication gold. Every repeat viewing brings out a one-liner previously missed or a quick sight gag that shows the detail that goes into the production of each episode.

Part of the problem is FOX’s negligence with the show. After a mediocre run on Sunday nights, “Arrested” is currently being aired at 8 p.m. on Monday nights, facing stiff competition from hits like CBS’s “The King of Queens.”

Then again, maybe simple comedy is what America really wants, but “Arrested Development” is a new, smarter sitcom. No laugh track is necessary because its makers assume you are intelligent enough to laugh when something is actually funny. The show is also geared toward adults; curse words are often bleeped out and the series is filled with sexual innuendos and puns.

Despite the often raunchy humor, “Arrested” truly is moral at its core. Although the family members are always bitching at each other, the finale of each episode always reinforces their love, particularly the bond between the father-son team of Michael (Jason Bateman) and George-Michael (Michael Cera).

But, perhaps Cross (Emerson Class of ’88) said it best at the end of Season 2’s DVD blooper reel: “Why don’t you f—ing fire your complete marketing team, all right, get a new one in there that knows how to market a show that’s won five motherf—ing Emmys …” before he lists off the accolades that “Arrested Development” has earned.

He continues: “If you can’t market that kind of show and get better ratings, then maybe the problem doesn’t lie here [with the production team]. Maybe it lies with marketing.”

Whether or not the show can be saved by another network remains to be seen. One sure way to aid the series is to recruit more viewers-invite over two to a million of your closest friends to join you, then pick up the Season 1 and 2 DVD box sets. Help the rest of the population discover the fun of getting “Arrested.”

,Bryan O’Toole