Well-liked skein extended; legal drama ready to step in

Fox has picked up a full season of critic fave “Arrested Development,” while ABC has greenlit legal drama “The D.A.” for midseason.

“Arrested Development” has garnered some of the best reviews of the year, persuading Fox to order the back nine episodes of the half-hour comedy — even though the show has yet to make an impact with viewers.

“It’s the most inspired comedy to come along in years,” Fox Entertainment prexy Gail Berman said of the skein, from exec producers Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Mitch Hurwitz and Imagine TV prexy David Nevins.

“Mitch, Ron and Brian delivered what they pitched: a show that can create a new look and feel to a family comedy,” Berman added. “When you feel that way about something, it’s important to try to stand by it.”

After three episodes, the Imagine TV/20th Century Fox TV skein has averaged a 3.0 rating/7 share among adults 18-49 and 6.8 million viewers.

“The show didn’t get the pickup because of its ratings,” Nevins said. “We’re incredibly fortunate that Fox is hanging in with us. There’s nothing like a back nine order to signal to the press, to all the people inside the building at Fox and to the viewing public that this is a show they can believe in.”

Berman said Fox has no plans to move “Arrested” from its Sunday slot but will “take every opportunity that makes sense to expose the show to as many people as possible.” A New Year’s Eve marathon of four repeat episodes is already in the works, with the cast expected to shoot wraparound segments for the event.

“It’s a word-of-mouth show, and the word is just beginning to spread,” Berman said. “It’s going to take a while, and not a short while.”

Nevins said he hoped “Arrested Development” would exhibit a slow and steady build much like another Imagine series, Fox’s “24,” which performed just so-so in its first season but took off last year.

“When shows are really different, they take a little while to catch on,” Nevins said. “I really believe ‘Arrested Development’ can be on the same path (as ’24′). I always felt it would take the show at least a year to catch on.”

“Arrested Development” stars Jason Bateman as Michael Bluth, a single parent who attempts to quit the family business and move away from his eccentric clan, only to get sucked back in when his father (Jeffrey Tambor) is arrested for accounting fraud.

As for “The D.A.,” ABC has picked up four episodes of the drama (including the pilot episode) from Warner Bros. TV and the Shephard/Robin Co.

Series focuses on an ambitious district attorney (Steven Weber) and his chief investigator (Bruno Campos), who lead a department investigating high-profile cases.

James Duff wrote and exec produces “The D.A.” along with Greer Shephard and Michael Robin, while former L.A. County DA Gil Garcetti is on board as a consultant. J.K. Simmons, Sarah Paulson and Aunjanue Ellis also star.

“James, Greer and Michael have put together an outstanding ensemble cast, fantastic pilot episode and great stories going forward,” ABC Entertainment prexy Susan Lyne said. “With the pilot plus three additional episodes available to us in the spring, we’re going to be able to treat this limited run as a true event.”

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more