Nobody Would Want To Be a Doll

One thing that has occurred to me while watching Dollhouse — and I’ve seen others mention this — is that apart from the show’s confusion about what it wants to be (last Friday’s two episodes mostly fell into the “conspiracy thriller” camp, which I’m not that wild about, though they were good episodes) there’s a serious built-in conceptual problem that the show could never overcome.

Why Was DOLLHOUSE Renewed?

The ratings for the first two episodes of Dollhouse have been so bad that it’s in serious danger of being taken off the air within weeks, and unless something big changes, the question right now is not whether this is the last season of the show, but how long that season will be. (If it does in fact survive, please note the “unless something big changes” qualifier.) Because Fox went to all the trouble of renewing it, only to make immediate noises about yanking it, the question that’s being raised is why they renewed it in the first place. Here are some reasons I can think of:

Talley of the Dolls

Based on tonight’s season premiere, Dollhouse seems to be going in the right direction, which for me means two things:


Short-Shooting, Crew-Borrowing, and other Traditional Production Methods

Of Maureen Ryan’s 13 Facts about “Epitaph One” (the Dollhouse direct-to-DVD episode), my favourites are the first three, which deal with the technical and scheduling aspects of shooting an episode on a tight budget and schedule:


Fun With Time Slots

Fox has announced its fall schedule (also its mid-season schedule, but they do that every year and every year, the announcement bears little resemblance to what the schedule winds up being). Apart from the over-exploitation of So You Think You Can Dance, which will start in the fall and have three hours devoted to it — two on Tuesday, one on Wednesday — and the decision to move Fringe to the more challenging Thursday time slot, the big news is that the renewed Dollhouse will continue on Fridays but its lead-in, Sarah Connor Chronicles, has been canceled. (Its ratings, Fox said, were trending in the wrong direction, and it was so expensive to produce that it couldn’t be saved with a Dollhouse-style budget cut.) Instead it will follow Fox’s only two half-hour comedies for the fall of 2009: the new show Brothers, starring Michael Strahan, the latest in a long line of NFL players trying their hand at TV, and the ironically unkillable ‘Til Death.


No More Historically-Normal Commercial Loads

This was announced unofficially a while ago, but it’s now more or less official (and therefore okay for me to mention a second time on this blog) that Fox won’t be bringing back “Remote-Free TV,” their experiment with letting Fringe and Dollhouse do longer episodes and selling fewer commercials at higher prices. Maybe neither of those shows were, in retrospect, the best vehicles for this experment: Fringe has quite a bit of padding and may actually work better when cut back to 41 minutes, and Dollhouse has figured out how to make decent use of the extra time, it’s not successful enough to pull in the big advertising money.


Oh, You Beautiful, Or At Least Not Entirely Unsightly, Doll[house]

After doing all those “Is Dollhouse in trouble?” posts (for which I don’t apologize — it was fascinating to see a show’s struggles and re-tools exposed so clearly to the public, when they’re usually hidden from view), the fact that it is in trouble seems vaguely anti-climactic. So instead I’ll direct you to Todd VanDerWerff’s post at The House Next Door, entitled “Hey, Fox. Save Dollhouse.” It’s a good argument for why, after all the pre-production trouble and miscasting and the weak start, the show has real growth potential — that is, it’s not a great show yet, but it arguably could be:


The Great TV Episode Burn-Off

The saga of Dollhouse‘s 13th episode is one of the more amusing TV-scheduling issues of recent months. According to the schedule, Fox only needs 12 episodes of the show before the season ends. But the deal between the production company and the network — that is, between one division of Newscorp and another — was for 13 episodes, and the original pilot doesn’t count because it never became a completed episode. (After the network rejected it, scenes from the original pilot were used in subsequent episodes.) So they wound up shooting an extra, half-budget episode that could be a selling point for the DVD/Blu-Ray release:


That Show Didn’t Start Slow!

Dollhouse offered its best episode yet on Friday (not coincidentally, its funniest), but it kind of got buried by two things: one, it was up against the BSG finale, and two, Joss Whedon and Eliza Dushku spent weeks telling every interviewer that this was going to be the episode where the show got good, meaning that what should have been a pleasant surprise wound up as an anti-climax. Even the Fox promos might as well have said “Forget what you’ve seen before, watch the episode where it doesn’t suck any more.”


Bad News For Advocates of Longer Episodes

Fox’s experiment with “remote-free TV” — a fancy DVR-era name for returning to the old practice of having longer episodes and fewer commercials — didn’t turn out too badly, but it didn’t turn out well enough for them to continue with it. They won’t be repeating it with other shows, and when Fringe returns for another season (and if Dollhouse does) it will probably be back to shorter running times and longer commercial breaks.


In My Own Defense

This piece on “Why Dollhouse Might Be in Trouble Before It Starts” was written for the website, not for this blog, so technically it’s not another blog post speculating on the problems of Dollhouse. I may repeat myself, but not always in the same place.


Four reasons why Joss Whedon’s ‘Dollhouse’ might be in trouble before it starts

There’s a lot of buzz, but it doesn’t seem like Fox has a strategy for making it a hit