The 924th "Is DOLLHOUSE In Trouble?" Story - Macleans.ca
 

The 924th “Is DOLLHOUSE In Trouble?” Story


 

But this one comes in the form of an interview with Joss Whedon by the Futon Critic, Brian Ford Sullivan.

His explanation of why the show needed a new pilot is plausible, and doesn’t make him or the network sound bad: the original pilot plunged immediately into the “dark and moody” stuff without clearly setting up the structure and premise of the show. (If Buffy the Vampire Slayer had started all angsty, instead of working to make us take its premise and characters seriously, it probably wouldn’t have worked.) On the other hand, that’s true of the original Firefly pilot as well, and the new, lighter first episode didn’t help it much.

I’ve never thought that the Fox network mis-handled Firefly that badly — something that seemed to be confirmed when the non-Fox-ified Serenity film didn’t do much better — but this different set of executives does seem to be following a similar pattern, rightly or wrongly, with Dollhouse. Part of the problem may simply be that Buffy and Angel both benefited from the perfect meeting of network and producer: a network, the WB, looking to rebrand itself as the place for teens who considered themselves too cool for 90210, and a producer trying to do teen angst in a hipper, funnier way.

That Whedon hasn’t done anything quite as good since (I don’t think Dr. Horrible is a masterpiece; I like it, but it’s a great home movie) may just be an outgrowth of the lack of executives who have an actual plan for this kind of show: it seems like Fox keeps ordering shows from him without actually knowing what they want the show to be, so they’re shocked and appalled when he delivers it. They may be right to be shocked and appalled; I don’t like the Firefly pilot much myself — but the key point is that a network that freaks out after the expensive first episode is filmed and says “this isn’t what we wanted” is a network that doesn’t really know what it wants.


 
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The 924th “Is DOLLHOUSE In Trouble?” Story

  1. “I’ve never thought that the Fox network mis-handled Firefly that badly ”

    Having watched it when it first aired, I have to disagree. I can’t blame them much for the “Train Job” pilot, since that episode certainly caught my attention, but there was a lot of information that was still in the real 2-hour pilot that was rather important to understanding the rest of the series. Particularly with regard to the rather major River subplot.

    But rather than airing the 2-hour pilot a week later, or two weeks later, Fox didn’t air the *real* pilot until three MONTHS after the show began. Three months of episodes with viewers unable to understand rather large chunks of backstory. Worse yet, they didn’t air the pilot until a week AFTER they announced the show’s cancellation, so the show was already dead by the time viewers were finally able to see the first episode.

    Similarly, as big of hits as they were their first seasons, I daresay that even Lost or Heroes would’ve had trouble maintaining an audience if their pilots had been kept on the shelf for the first three months of the fall season, while subsequent episodes aired.

  2. How can you say Fox didn’t mis-handle Firefly? First, they put in on the schedule on the toughest night of the week, Friday, when the target audience is usually getting ready to go out. Then air the episodes out of order, but wait, to add insult to injury, pre-empt so many shows because at the time they had the TV rights to broadcast the World Series, so any momentum the show may have gotten, would disappear since casual viewers would not see it the following week and then forget about it.

    I think TV execs and record companies forgot how it used to work. Today, if it’s not a hit right out of the gate or within a ridiculously short a mount of time, it’s gone. If they applied that same logic back to some of the shows/musicians that we consider classics or touchstones today, wouldn’t be here or revered. All In the Family; floundered in the ratings for a year. Seinfeld; didn’t really find its way until the early nineties. Led Zeppelin; would have been written off after their first album, and so on and so on.