Thursday, November 12, 2009

And they burned the (Doll)house down

Dollhouse has been officially cancelled and I can’t say that this is a big surprise.  While I have felt the show substantially improved as it went on, the ratings continue to be abominably low.  Not to mention, when a network puts a show on hiatus during November sweeps, it is an obvious presage of things to come.

I am sad to see Dollhouse go.  The show had a rocky start, but then so did Buffy: The Vampire Slayer.  I will admit that I enjoyed Dollhouse less for what it was than for what it had the potential to become.  We saw some of this potential in the episode "Epitaph One".  I really believe that if Dollhouse had been given the full five season run that Joss Whedon envisioned that it could have become a truly outstanding show.

Still, my feelings about the cancellation are a lot more complex then mine were when Fox cancelled Firefly back in 2002.  At the time it seemed like Fox had deliberately sabotaged its own show.  Fox chose not to air the pilot episode, forcing Joss Whedon to rework the second episode into a new pilot.  They continuously preempted the show when it was just starting out, making it almost impossible for it to find an audience.  They even cancelled it unceremoniously after eleven episodes, with three completed episodes left unaired in the United States.

What made this treatment inconceivable to me is that unlike Dollhouse or even Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, Firefly hit the ground running and caught my interest in the very first episode.

You could argue that Dollhouse had some of the same issues with Fox.  Like Firefly, it was stranded in the TV wastelands of Friday night.  Dollhouse also had an unaired, and in my opinion superior, pilot episode (although in this case Joss Whedon took the blame for pulling it). So there are some similarities.

There are also differences.  Fox gave Dollhouse a full season to find an audience.  They also put a marketing push behind Dollhouse at the start of season two, something they never did for Firefly.  They have even stated that they will air the full thirteen episodes they ordered for this season, another courtesy they never gave Firefly.

So I am sad to see Dollhouse go, but not outraged like I was when Fox cancelled Firefly.  It does make me long for a time when TV shows were given a greater opportunity to grow before the threat of cancellation loomed.  After all, by today’s standards a low-rated show like Seinfeld would have been pulled by the second season, long before it hit its stride and became a ratings juggernaut.  Nevertheless, I am not sure I can lay my ire at the feet of Fox since these changes are occurring industry wide.

I am curious to see what Joss Whedon’s next project will be.  He has stated that if Dollhouse was cancelled that he would begin work in earnest on a second Dr. Horrible series, which I am definitely looking forward to.  I am curious if he will make another attempt at creating a network TV show after the fate of Dollhouse though.  After all, Joss Whedon has great name recognition, a loyal fanbase, and has already had great success on the Internet with Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.  

Maybe he needs the television networks less than they need him!


Scafloc said...

I have personal issues with the TV format in general, so I would actually be gratified to see Joss leave the medium. He has some fine film credentials, and could easily work with internet serials if need be.

The television offered by Joss often reminded me of Straczynxki's Babylon 5. Unlike many serials, characters are very dynamic when appropriate, and even the basic premise of the show evolves to a surprisingly wide degree. Both men also conceived their respective projects in roughly the same 5 year time frame. The pacing seems to be similar as well, using much of the first season to establish character, gross setting, and starting relationships, before moving on to influence (or sometimes downright destroy) the notions planted early on. This willingness to be a "giant in the playground" is what makes their work compelling to me. In most shows, the title character just doesn't die; Buffy did. We were just beginning to see that willingness to break the premise on Dollhouse. Kind of sad that the TV industry can't see what they stand to loose though.