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.