The angst of the Bluth family multiplied in Sunday's season finale of "Arrested Development." But it's nothing compared to what fans will suffer if Fox's unconventional sitcom isn't renewed for a third season.
Despite a best comedy series Emmy and lavish critical praise, the series about a wildly dysfunctional Southern California family has been unable to pull respectable ratings.
In fact, viewership in the second season eroded a bit. For the season to date, the show has drawn an average 5.9 million weekly viewers, compared to the 6.2 million it averaged for the 2003-04 season.
A Fox management change also could affect the future of "Arrested Development," which was developed and given a second chance under Fox entertainment chief Gail Berman.
Berman left for a Paramount Studios job and it's uncertain if her replacement, Peter Liguori, will have the same affection for the show. Its fate will be announced when Fox unveils its 2005-06 lineup in May.
In the finale, the Bluth family's very foundation is rocked: The model house for their star-crossed real estate development is falling apart because of shoddy plumbing.
Meanwhile, brother Gob (Will Arnett) has proudly produced a CD of his ventriloquism act with a black dummy. Maybe "it will heal this country a little bit," he says — although its racist lyrics send a black studio technician storming out.
The puns also fly, including one about Pop Secret popcorn and the possibility that one man's uncle may really be his dad.
The series features Jason Bateman, who won a Golden Globe for his role as atypically normal Bluth son Michael. Others in the powerhouse ensemble cast are Jeffrey Tambor, Portia de Rossi and Jessica Walter.
Sunday's half-hour ended with scenes from the next episode, the one that would open the fall season. Devotees can only hope the optimism isn't misguided.