‘Dollhouse’ canceled; Whedon moves on to web and drinking

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elizadushku Dollhouse canceled; Whedon moves on to web and drinking
As widely reported yesterday, Joss Whedon’s latest TV series, Dollhouse, got the axe from Fox yesterday. The show had gotten one reprieve, but low ratings had led it to be pulled for the crucial November sweeps, so the cancellation has zero surprise factor. On the good news front, all 13 of this year’s episodes will be aired — including the one directed by cartoonist John Cassaday. With one less show to run, Whedon may make more Dr. Horrible shorts, or continue his interest in “binge drinking,” as he wrote on Whedonesque.

Now call us naive, but why does anyone even bother trying to do quirky, intelligent programming on network TV any more? While Dollhouse undoubtedly needed a network budget, it would have been a hit on SyFy, AMC or Bravo. No wonder Time’s Jeff Bewkes says “multichannel TV” (once known as cable) is beating the nets to a pulp. .

Comments

  1. Brenticles says:

    AAA! That’s terrible news! Why does Wheden even bother with Fox? Surely Dollhouse would have worked with a smaller budget in Syfy (or USA, or Bravo or…). Firefly also might have had a better chance, but I’m not sure. That one really did have the need for a bigger budget.

  2. Caged Wisdom says:

    Whedon went with Fox on Dollhouse because he really wanted to do something again with Eliza Dushku and she already had a development deal with Fox. Hopefully this will be the last time we have to see our beloved Joss get abused by Fox Network.

  3. Kid Kyoto says:

    Looking forward to Dollhouse Season 3 comics!

  4. Synsidar says:

    Maybe it’s because I’ve read several SF novels involving erased and suppressed personas, but I thought that the erased memories element was a defect in the premise. What’s the point of repeatedly referring to her original personality if she’s never going to regain it? And if she does, the series is over. The earliest SF I recall reading with that theme was Piers Anthony’s Omnivore, Orn, and OX trilogy in the ’70s.

    SRS

  5. Whedon in previous interviews talked about doing other original webseries outside of Dr. Horrible. I personally hope he goes that way and works for himself directly with his audience rather than go through a studio (just look at the original Dollhouse pilot which was great and interesting compared to that aired which the network was involved in the direction).

  6. DOLLHOUSE was sadly doomed by its main premise. Having your lead character mindwiped into a blank slate every week (at least in the first season) gives your audience little to connect with, especially when she becomes a creepy little sextoy for rich guys on a regular basis. And when your secondary characters like Victor and Sierra became more interesting than your lead, the whole foundation for the series quickly turned into a house of cards in a hurricane.

    If the beginning of season one had featured the Dolls secretly retaining their true identities and working from within to escape and/or bring down the Dollhouse, I think this series would’ve had a lot more life in it.

  7. Synsidar, just a couple of episodes into Dollhouse, Echo starts recalling her old persona, as well as other personalities that she possed. However, if she completely regains her personality it’s not series over as she still has a several year contract with the very powerful Dollhouse organization. So there’s the issue of Echo hiding the fact that she’s regaining her old memories and escaping or possibly staying to do damage to the Dollhouse organization.

    Where it really got interesting, was the final unaired episode in season one (*SPOILERS*) which jumped into the future and explored what could happen to society if this kind of memory technology could be easily massed produced and used on large groups of people at once.

  8. Charles Skaggs: “If the beginning of season one had featured the Dolls secretly retaining their true identities and working from within to escape and/or bring down the Dollhouse, I think this series would’ve had a lot more life in it.”

    What you are describing is the original pilot (it’s on the season 1 DVDs) that FOX apparently thought was too dark and confusing. :(

  9. Synsidar says:

    Thanks for the info, Matthew. I don’t doubt that individual episodes of Dollhouse could be entertaining, but I react skeptically when the premise for a series is based on a single problem with a possible resolution.

    BTW, memory erasure is on the verge of becoming practical technology.

    “Every time you remember something, that memory becomes biochemically active again, and when it becomes biochemically active, it can be interfered with, ” said Andre Fenton, Ph.D., neuroscientist and associate professor for the department of physiology and pharmacology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York.

    After decades of research, Dr.Fenton and colleagues have discovered what they call the memory molecule, “this is the first physical identification of a molecule that is definitively important for storing memory.”

    In a lab experiment, Dr. Fenton manipulated that molecule in the brains of rats. The animals were put on a turntable. One area of the table delivered a mild shock to the foot. “Rats don’t like to have a mild foot shock, so they run away from that area, “he explained.

    But when researchers injected a drug called “zip” into their brains, the rats go straight to the spot that shocked them. They forgot what they had learned!

  10. hcduvall says:

    Caged Wisdom: “Whedon went with Fox on Dollhouse because he really wanted to do something again with Eliza Dushku and she already had a development deal with Fox. Hopefully this will be the last time we have to see our beloved Joss get abused by Fox Network. ”

    I find myself in a strange position to be on the internet, defending Fox, but this show had a big push when it came out, big budgets to start with, and it just didn’t hit with a large audience. It’s not always conspiracy or malfeasance.

  11. Marsha says:

    I think Firefly was one of the greatest shows ever, but thank god this show has been put out of its misery.

  12. The Beat says:

    Synsidar, memory erasure is not only possible but it is happening on a daily basis here at Stately Beat Manor! Now where did I put my glasses…

  13. why does anyone even bother trying to do quirky, intelligent programming on network TV any more?

    Actually, it seems to do pretty well. Whedon should try it sometime.

  14. MBunge says:

    Whedon has NEVER made a show that appealed to more than a niche audience. Even Buffy at it’s height didn’t get ratings that would have kept it alive on one of the Big 4 networks.

    Mike

  15. Charles Knight says:

    The show simply wasn’t very good – as someone else has said, it’s not always “The Man!” who is to blame but the show itself.

  16. Bob Fingerman says:

    FOX does it again! Sigh….

    I just hope it has some kind of end. I hate when shows get canceled midflow and there’s no conclusion. “Reaper” springs to mind.

  17. CBrown says:

    “I just hope it has some kind of end. I hate when shows get canceled midflow and there’s no conclusion.”

    ABC allowed the producers of “Life On Mars” to wrap things up, and it sucked! You can literally see them wrapping up plotlines that were intended to run the course of seasons in every beat of the episode, and then they capped it off with a final scene that still makes me livid when I think about it! Really, the series would have been better with no conclusion at all rather than the one it got.

  18. “ABC allowed the producers of “Life On Mars” to wrap things up”

    Oh, really? Let’s have a look…

    *YouTubes*

    …aw.

    //:(/\

  19. Tom Spurgeon says:

    I think this show would have been a very good Frank Thorne comic.

  20. … kurtzman/elder.

  21. Caged Wisdom says:

    Hcduvall: “I find myself in a strange position to be on the internet, defending Fox, but this show had a big push when it came out, big budgets to start with, and it just didn’t hit with a large audience. It’s not always conspiracy or malfeasance.”

    I agree completely – some shows just aren’t meant to succeed. However, in this case, I do think Fox deserves more than a little of the blame.

    It’s been well documented that Fox, as they did with Firefly, made several heavy-handed changes to Dollhouse (specifically the pilot) in an attempt to make it more accessible to the same viewers who have made it possible for Fox to have a 90- minute block of Seth McFarlane shows on Sunday nights.

    In addition Fox premiered and kept the show in their Friday night death slot – the last time a network has successfully run a Friday night block of programming was ABC’s TGIF nights during the days of Full House.

    Finally, the promos run for the show prior to the premiere played up the “whores who will do anything you want and not remember tomorrow” aspect of the show rather than the sci-fi or dramatic angles. (Something they also did with Firefly with the whole “naked girl in a box” promos of River Tam.)

    I’m not as fond of Dollhouse as my arguments may make it seem. Don’t get me wrong – I found Dollhouse as a whole to be a lot of fun, and the show was definitely getting better each week, but the first five episodes were pretty much total crap. I can easily see where viewers would have been turned off by them. I frankly am glad that the show’s cancellation will mean Whedon will be able to start work on something new – especially if Felicia Day could be involved in a recurring capacity. Rawr.

    But I still think that if Whedon had been able to show his original pilot and build from there the show would have started off on a much stronger footing and would have had a better chance at building a fanbase.

  22. I’ve missed the entirety of the second season, anyway. I really felt like this was a show that only needed one season to do what it wanted to do. Hell, I’m pretty sure Whedon was only banking on getting one season the way things all kind of wrapped up so neatly at the end of season 1.

  23. “Now call us naive, but why does anyone even bother trying to do quirky, intelligent programming on network TV any more?”

    See, I don’t think that’s a valid question to ask here. Dollhouse wasn’t cancelled because it was ‘quirky’ or ‘intelligent’, it was cancelled because it was shit and no-one watched it.

    Please don’t think I’m just a hater here. I like Eliza Dushku, I wanted to like Dollhouse… but it was so appallingly bad I couldn’t stand watching it any longer.

    Maybe now Whedon can concentrate on making something good instead.

  24. @hcduvall,

    If memory serves me – I thought Dollhouse survived to a second season on a wing and a prayer through the magical graces of what we call in the television ratings business as a Live + 7 rating which translate Dollhouse had huge DVR playbacks within each episode’s first seven days of airing… but if they had changed their Nelsen gathering criteria to a Live + SD ( DVR playback within one day of it’s original airing ) rating, then I could sympathize with their decision.

    People were watching the show – but the not the way Fox wanted you to watch it.

    Fox demands that you stay home on a Friday night and put your social life on hold.

    ~

    Coat

  25. To be fair, no one who DVRs a show watches the commercials. So DVR ratings don’t really help Fox tremendously.

  26. Well Ben – there’s a special category of rating measurement for people who do watch their DVRs and don’t skip the commericals – it’s called the C3 rating.

    You have to realize that the whole television industry are absolutely petrified of this DVR thing. The people at Nielsen don’t know which end is up when it comes to accurate ratings reporting because it’s all broken down into different categories.

    ~

    Coat

  27. Synsidar says:

    Firefly is #17 on the A.V. Club’s “The best TV series of the ’00s”:


    Like Joss Whedon’s other shows, Firefly sported some serious flaws. And like Whedon’s other shows, it fought to stay on the air long enough to address them. But unlike Whedon’s other shows, Firefly failed, and given how good it was apart from those flaws, it seems churlish now to focus on what could’ve been.

    Buffy came in at #25.

    SRS

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