I didn’t expect to be back here talking about Dollhouse, but the impossible has happened. In fact, I thought there was more chance of me blogging about American Idol than Dollhouse getting renewed! But guess what, Dollhouse got renewed. I can only think of two possible reasons for this – either Whedon somehow managed to imprint the Fox execs with ‘Yes Man‘ persona’s, or the show actually improved after episode 6. Whilst the later is most likely, there are several things that just don’t make sense to this mid-season drop-out.
Despite the apparent euphoria, one thing that has struck me about the renew is the rather knee-jerk reaction of some fans. No doubt the same people who compared the Fox Network to the devil, are now proclaiming them as being the best thing since sliced bread. Maybe its short term memory or the result of imprints, but Fox is suddenly back in many people’s good books. Sure, Fox renewed the show, but they didn’t do so out of the goodness of their hearts, or because cancellation would have left some fans feeling suicidal. As Maureen Ryan from the Chicago Tribune says:
Fox doesn’t care about how viewers feel (you saw “Moment of Truth,” right?). No, Fox renewed “Dollhouse” because it thinks it can make money off the project — enough to keep the enterprise profitable.
She’s entirely right. It’s all about the Benjamins, baby. Fox obviously feel that their division can make a tidy profit through DVD sales and various media avenues (iTunes, Hulu, etc). Good for them, they’ve allowed fans to drive themselves crazy over a show which most were always going to love, regardless of the actual quality – seriously, some people went wild for the ‘backup singer episode’ – and they’ve filled their pockets.
Personally I would save my thanks – be happy certainly, but fans should be wary that they’ll be going through exactly the same thing next season.
One of the main contributing reasons for the renewal is Whedon convincing the network that he’d produce the show on a shoe-string budget next term, as Ausiello points out here. Without this compromise, Dollhouse season 2 would never have been a consideration for Fox. They simply would not have been able to reconcile the truly awful viewing figures with a show that cost a fair bit to produce. It’s all about viability.
Now if I was a fan of Dollhouse the ‘television series’, I’d be quite concerned by this detail. For me, Dollhouse was already cutting back on some much-needed sparkle and scope. It’s a sci-fi show that (according to popular opinion) rarely breached the confines of the Dollhouse, and when it did the locations were often dull and uninspiring. Now they have an even smaller budget? How are they going to convincingly portray the imprints, for example? The sets are fine, they can just re-use those, but cuts will have to be made – perhaps the ‘ensemble’ (and I say that with a touch of irony) will have to be cut in half? Maybe there will be less special effects, or, heaven forbid, no more water rafting?
Don’t get me wrong – I believe that the core of any show is the premise of the story and how it is portrayed. But Dollhouse is a show that deals with cutting edge scientific technology and concepts – wiping the human mind, uploading it with other personalities and making them interchangeable – these are concepts that NEED a decent budget in order to make them work effectively. I mean, as much as JJ. Abrams’ take on Star Trek rocked (and it rocks hard), if you take away the special effects it would have less resonance, because it’s a movie dealing with elements ahead of our time. Likewise, Dollhouse will no doubt have less relevance if the powers that be are unable to effectively make people believe in the world of the show. It can be done, of course, but it’s going to be a challenge.
Anyway, it’s been speculated that the unaired 13th episode of Dollhouse will be a model going forward:
Another factor was the show’s unaired 13th episode, which Whedon shot on a shoestring budget for the “Dollhouse” first season DVD set. Whedon presented it to the network as an example of how “Dollhouse” can achieve a high-quality production with a lesser budget.
I guess we need to see that episode before we can make our minds up.
Ken Tucker of EW sees Dollhouse’s renewal as a victory for fans:
a great display of power: passionate fans finally making networks understand that, at a scary economic time to be a network, they’d better start listening to the fans
I’m all for people power, but there’s also a danger here (bear in mind I’ve only fully seen the first 6 or so episodes in their entirety) – fans are not always right. I mean, the first 6 episodes of Dollhouse were poor, in my opinion. I’m being honest here, I know some people are too delicate to have anything negative said about the ‘best show eva’, but that’s my honest opinion. So from my perspective it’s quite worrying that Fox have nothing better up their sleeve to replace the show with. I was glad when Fringe got renewed, but it deserved it on merit – the no.1 new in the key 18-49, with a large fan base to support it. The figures don’t lie. So I look at Dollhouse’s plummeting viewing figures and even they suggest that the supposed people who watch this show don’t actually watch it live. Have Fox been duped by the power of social media? Have we all decided to settle for the mediocre? Or should did the show deserve another chance? It’s something I’m interested in finding out once I get the time to watch those ‘missing’ episodes. That’s the point of this post really, it’s road-mapping my perspective 6 episodes in.
Another thing that has to be factored in is the time-slot the show will be getting next season. *I’m hearing that it will remain in a Friday position, which seems ridiculous decision if Fox really want to give the show the best possible chance to succeed. Although it could be argued that the Friday time-slot actually saved DH from an even worse ratings massacre and certain cancellation. That said we’ll have to wait for official confirmation on this anyway.
Anyway, some of you WD readers have emailed me over the weeks to see whether I’d be blogging about the show again – well let’s just say that I never ever expected to being making another post about DH, although I didn’t rule it out. Had it been renewed prior to episode 6, my decision to stop would have been the same. The only thing that has changed [since then] is that the best two shows on TV are now on hiatus – Lost and Fringe..and Dollhouse is also on a break. Which means that should the fancy take me, I’ll have a tiny-teeny bit more time to post my thoughts on the show. Of course, Watching Dollhouse has never been your typical “Dollhouse” fan site, and it never will be. No disrespect to anyone, but I’m not into the whole ‘Whedon worship’ thing, it strikes me as kind of ridiculous. I will always be an admirer of some of his ideas, but it’s not in me to say I love something for the sake of fitting into this community. I’m reminded that some people think this isn’t right – that I have a Dollhouse site so I should only say great things about the show. What those people fail to recognise is that I started this site because I loved the premise and its themes. SO, with that said I might go back and post my thoughts of the episodes that I haven’t seen – although I doubt I’ll do any in-depth posts. Like always, I’ll go with the flow and do my thing if and when the feeling takes me.
“Did I Fall Awake?”
*UPDATE:It has been confirmed that Dollhouse will remain in a Friday spot for next season. You can view the Fox fall and mid-season schedule here.