Olympics vs. ‘Arrested Development’

I believe the Fox Network loved “Arrested Development” at one time. But when that love was not shared by millions upon millions of viewers, Fox’s love turned to resentment and bitterness.

Here are the most recent developments:

– Lowering the order from 22 episodes to only 13, the subtext being: “After these 13 episodes, you’re canceled.”

– After airing nine episodes, suddenly taking the show off the schedule altogether.

– Refusing to OFFICIALLY cancel the show, thus preventing any other interested parties (like Showtime or ABC, reportedly) from picking it up. Fox isn’t obligated to make it official until May, and they have no reason to do it any sooner, other than basic human decency.

And now here’s the very latest word:

Fox WILL air the final four episodes, and they’ll do it in one two-hour block — 8-10 p.m., Friday, Feb. 10.

You’ll notice I said Friday. Curiously, this is the night of the week “Arrested Development” should have aired this season anyway. Overall viewership is much lower on Fridays, and thus so are networks’ expectations. On Friday, a paltry 3 million viewers for “Arrested Development” would have been just fine. On Mondays, though, Fox expected a lot more and were disappointed when they didn’t get it.

Anyway, here’s the real kicker. Guess what is ALSO airing on Friday, Feb. 10? That’s right, NBC’s coverage of the Opening Ceremonies of the 2006 Winter Olympics!

So Fox is doing the right thing by airing those last four episodes — but they’re dumping them against what will be one of the highest-rated programs of the entire year. (In 2002, the only thing that got more viewers than the Opening Ceremonies was the Super Bowl.) That way, when nobody watches “Arrested Development,” Fox can say, “See?! We were right! Nobody watches this show!”

Luckily, fans of “Arrested Development” tend to have DVRs (or at least VCRs, for heaven’s sake), so they can record it even if they’re watching something else. But honestly, Fox. Why you gotta be such jerks about it?