PASADENA, Calif. — For those of you scoring at home, here's the rundown on Fox sitcoms: "That '70s Show," canceled; "Malcolm in the Middle," canceled; "Arrested Development," probably canceled.

The first two will be getting big send-offs this spring; "Arrested" will air what are finally its final four episodes in a two-hour block on Friday, Feb. 10.

It's not completely a done deal, but it's almost done.

"I have to be frank with you — it is highly unlikely the show is coming back," said Fox Entertainment president Peter Ligouri. "But no definitive final answer has been made on that."

Just as there is no definitive answer to whether another network — possibly ABC, possibly Showtime — might pick the show up.

"It is regrettable that we could not find the audience that that show deserved," Ligouri said. "It is, in fact, a (Fox) studio property. If there's interest at other networks, it's the studio's right and (executive producer) Mitch's (Mitch Hurwitz) right to move that on and put that up to bid."

And, while some have questioned how realistic a move to Showtime might be, Ligouri isn't one of them. (Although, remember, Fox has a vested interest in keeping the show alive.)

"Again, I know nothing about those negotiations," Ligouri said. "But if you just look at it as an outside observer, from a numbers standpoint, if Showtime were able to migrate the absolute numbers that 'Arrested' gets on Fox to Showtime, that would be by far and away its No. 1 show.

"So as far as hearing those rumors and saying, 'Does that make sense for a Showtime?' — strategically, numerically, quantitatively, probably."

Some have suggested that "Arrested" might be a good fit on Fox's sister cable network, FX, but that ignores the realities of the TV business. "We have thought about how to work that out," Ligouri said. "The biggest difficulty for a network like FX is, 'Arrested Development' is an expensive show. And it's way more difficult to make the economics of that show work on FX versus another network broadcaster."

Including Showtime, for that matter.

IT'S NOT LIKE it's even a minor surprise that "Malcolm" and "That '70s Show" are leaving the air — their ratings have waned; the cast of the former have grown from boys to men; the cast of the latter has been depleted by actors' departures.

"With 'Malcolm,' clearly, Frankie's (Frankie Muniz) aging has played into our thinking," Ligouri said. "You look at the performance of the show. You also, in an odd way, look at honoring the show. We don't want to see these shows kind of crawl to their ending. We'd much prefer to have them go out with a loyal audience and with some strengths, so that the shows have a fertile afterlife."

It's a lovely thought — but those trains already left the station.

AS TO WHETHER departed "That '70s Show" stars Ashton Kutcher and/or Topher Grace will return for the series finale, that's a good question. "We're in conversations with both of them on that," Ligouri said. "We would love to have them both, but let's see what happens."

"BERNIE MAC" HAS NOT been canceled yet, but there's conjecture it will join the list.

"The show does have a loyal audience following it," Ligouri said. "Creatively, the show is incredibly strong. In terms of deciding what we're going to do from this point, we'll look at the show and decide by May."

"KING OF THE HILL" hasn't been in production for some months, and, given the time needed to produce animated episodes, it couldn't be on Fox's fall schedule even if Ligouri wanted it there.

But that doesn't necessarily mean that it's over.

"No, there is a chance that it will come back," Ligouri said. "We are in discussions with the show runners. And we have to have an announcement one way or the other soon. If we are able to renew and are able to bring the show back, it would probably come back in January of '07."

WHAT ABOUT THE NBA? I don't want to say Fox is getting a little bit carried away with the whole "American Idol" thing, but the network's chief programmer actually said this: "It's a phenomenon," said Ligouri. "It's almost as if there's the NFL season, there's Major League Baseball season, then it's 'American Idol' season."


E-mail: pierce@desnews.com