Joss Whedon – “The Show Is Really Coming Together”

by admin on October 26, 2008 · 6 comments

Finally! Some actual Dollhouse news/information that comes from a credible source – Joss Whedon himself. He’s been talking about Dollhouse and what has really been going on behind the scenes. May contain aspects that you might conisder spoilery:

I know there’s been a lot of concern, various fabulous hues of panic alert readiness. So here’s the skinny. Some of the names have been changed.

The show was ruined by Flim Flinear. Okay, that’s another lie, and you’re probably close to giving up on this blog, so here we go. Yes, we’ve had to make adjustments. Yes, it’s been hard and I’ve been depressing to be around for awhile. Basically, the Network and I had different ideas about what the tone of the show would be. They bought something somewhat different than what I was selling them, which is not that uncommon in this business. Their desires were not surprising: up the stakes, make the episodes more stand-alone, stop talking about relationships and cut to the chase. Oh, and add a chase. That you can cut to. Nothing I hadn’t heard before on my other shows (apparently my learning curve has no bendy part) but frustrating as hell given our circumstances – a pilot shot, scripts written, everybody marching together/gainfully employed… and then a shutdown. Glad I was for the breathing room, but it’s hardly auspicious. So back into the writer cave I went, wondering why I put up with this when I can make literally dozens of dollars making internet movies. Why I do put up with this is divided into three parts.

One: They’re not wrong. Oh, we don’t see eye-to-eye on everything, but wanting the first episodes to be exciting and accessible is not exactly Satanic. Being Satan is, but that’s in their free time and hey, there’s no judging in the Dollhouse. This kind of back and forth has happened on every show I’ve done, so if you liked those, chances are that was a part of why. And the need to focus on the essentials of what makes this universe tick – and which wire to cut to make it stop – really does bring up our game. So we as a staff have gone from blinking like unhoused moles to delving in with the same relish we had when we started. The show is really coming together now, in a way that I believe excites us and satisfies the Network. Of course, I have no idea if anybody else will like it, but I have the same faith in the staff, the crew and the remarkable cast that I always did. More, in fact. And what’s more crucial:

Two: Nothing essential has changed about the universe. The ideas and relationships that intrigued me from the start are all there (though some have shifted, more on that), and the progression of the first thirteen eps has me massively excited. The episode we’re shooting now I wrote as fast as anything I have before, not because I had to (although, funny side-note: I had to) but because I couldn’t stop the words from coming. Because I can feel the show talking to me; delighting, scaring and occasionally even offending me. It’s alive. Alive! Which is a far cry from how I felt a month ago. It’s been hilarious trying to keep up with what’s in, what’s out, who’s met whom and when – we’ve shot all of the first seven episodes out of airing order – but it’s come together in a pretty thrilling way. My huge gratitude to our cast for their precision and patience. Which also includes…

Three: Eliza. Watching her on the monitors at two o’clock this morning I was reminded forcibly how much I wished I were in bed – but also how strong, radiant and unmistakable her presence is. She’s someone who could coast on talent and never ever does. I love to watch her work. In fact, I think I got myself into this mess for that very reason, and though I have this fall occasionally sworn never to eat lunch with an actor I like again, I’m pretty pleased and crazy proud.

Read whole post here.

One has to appreciate Whedon’s honesty, it’s rather refreshing.  Anyway, I’m gonna try to make sense of the information:

1) There have been differences of creative (and corporate) opinion between Whedon and the FOX suits. That’s hardly surprising, but It’s interesting to actually hear him say that FOX didn’t know what they were buying. Looks like FOX might have been expecting something less taxing, more stand-alone. More on that in a bit.

2) Some of the character names have been changed. Figured this might be the case after Tahmoh Penikett’s character was changed from Paul Ballard to Paul Smith, before reverting back to Ballard. What a dance.

3) The original pilot has been completely thrown out, which is a shame, as I was looking forward to seeing how Whedon’s organic creation compared to the second pilot (if you will) that FOX largely influenced. Perhaps we’ll get to see the original Pilot on DVD? (or streamed free on the Internet? ;))

4) Some of the characters have been thrown out or placed in different roles. This includes the character “November” (Miracle Laurie), who I was looking forward to seeing. Ah well, as long as “Alpha” is still in tact…

5) Despite the changes the fundamental premise, style and story of the show will remain the same. Thank goodness for that! I remember the day when I fell in love with this premise, I’d hate to ditch this site/show now because that has changed.

6) Despite having some depressing times, Whedon and his team are still positive, confident and excited about the project. We should remember that although FOX have good intentions, it must be incredibly difficult to have ones creative license restricted, especially when the folks who bought the show actually thought that they had bought something different. Ouch. Good to see them dusting themselves off and still believing in the story they’re trying to tell.

From a personal point of view, my one concern from this is that FOX want Dollhouse to be more stand-alone and less serialized. Dollhouse, from my perspective, is simply begging to be a serialized show with deep over-arching mythology and back-story. It involves memory-wiping and..heck, it involves ‘memory’. It needs to be accessible not only in terms of excitement and high stakes, but in terms of character development and importantly, allowing the audience to feel an attachment to Echo and her fellow “Actives”. That’s not to say some kind of story-telling hybrid can’t be formed – “Fringe” is doing it, although I’d love for that show to be even more serialized (like “LOST”). A stand-alone/serialized hybrid can work, if the over-arching mythology is continually respected. That said, I do appreciate FOX wanting the show to ‘storm out of the gates’, many viewers don’t have patience these days, so I guess FOX have to consider those folks. 

The thing is though, we all have our own expectations and hopes for what “Dollhouse” will be, but in the end we’ll just have to wait and see. I hope the show is packed with over-arching mythology and mystery, but even if it isn’t, I’m willing to give whatever they have a chance and judge it when it airs.

Nevermore October 26, 2008 at 3:25 pm

Fucking network. First Terminator became more stand-alone, and now this. They’ve basically got zero serialized shows in their entire lineup. I know, I know, Lost sure proved that serialized shows can’t be successful… oh, wait… Plus there’s the whole changing tone aspect. I was really looking forward to a dark, edgy show, but it seems like FOX wants the same old formulaic crap. More than any other network, FOX really considers its viewers completely brainless. That’s the problem here. They don’t take any chances. The man Joss Whedon comes to you with this great idea for a new, unique show and you say great, let’s do it, but not until we screw with it so that it’s just like all our other shows. How bout some artistic freedom? You think you can really make a better show than Joss Whedon? Give me a break. I was really looking forward to a serialized show. It would have been only the second one on TV. Guess that dream has gone out the window.

Nevermore October 26, 2008 at 3:32 pm

Ok, new thought. I can understand FOX wanting a hook. They’re dead last in the network rankings, so they need people to start watching their shows. So here’s a proposal for the network: you can have the first six to eight episodes to get the people interested as you see fit, and then leave the rest for Joss Whedon to work his magic. Once people have made up their minds on watching the show or not, it won’t hurt it to become serialized. The audience isn’t suddenly going to stop watching because they have to remember something that happened two weeks ago. I think this is a fair compromise. The network gets their larger audience, and we get the show that we were meant to get, eventually. It’s win win.

Page 48 October 26, 2008 at 11:27 pm

I’m really starting to detest the term ‘stand-alone’. Make it more stand-alone? Gimme a break! Even though “Fringe” is attempting to succeed using the ‘hybrid’ model, it’s nowhere near as effective as “Alias” or “Lost” or even the short-lived “Jericho”. If the network really wants a hook, how about the weekly cliffhanger they’re so dead set against? How about the seamless storyline that takes all season to unfold? Works for me.

Roco October 27, 2008 at 6:09 am

@Nevermore – I agree, "LOST" is proof that serialized shows can be successful. Granted it has lost a few of the more casual viewers, but it's still one of the most watched shows on TV. "Heroes" would also have incredible viewing figures if it didn't have such a terrible second season.

I think your suggestion is a good one – perhaps FOX can make the first half of the season more episodic, and if people bite the hook, they could perhaps allow for a more overarching theme to be incorportated? Although because they wont have viewer feedback whilst filming, this might not be viable for them.

@Page 48 – I with you on the seamless season long storyline, it works for me too. I guess the network just doesn't think that enough people are willing to commit to story-lines that actually pay-off over time. Which is a shame because I think they underestimate the fan base. I'm really curious as to how Dollhouse will work as a stand-alone (sorry, that dreaded word again ;)) because at the moment, I just can't see it being as captivating with such a model.

{ 2 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post:

Flash Forward TV Series - Fringe Fox - Fringe Fox - TV Show Blog - Serialized TV Forums