Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse will air the second episode in place of the intended pilot. You know another Fox show created by Joss Whedon that pushed the pilot back and aired another episode in its place? It was called Firefly. Not a good sign.
Yes, it’s different because Whedon says it’s his decision, and because Dollhouse doesn’t have (according to him; I haven’t read it) a “premise” pilot that sets up the whole show, so unlike Firefly‘s pilot, the first episode can be aired second without a lot of fuss.
But this shows the downside of ordering a show “direct to series” without a pilot episode being produced beforehand. With no pilot (just a pilot script, which is not the same thing a-tall), nobody can really know what the first episode is going to be like, and when production begins, a lot of re-tooling may have to be done after scripts have already been written, casting done, locations scouted, etc.
I’ll add that if network executives demand a cooler premiere episode, they’re not necessarily wrong. Even Firefly… that show may not have been well-handled by the network, but I remember the buzz about that pilot; I had no insider connections, yet I heard at least three reports (none of them on Aintitcool or anything like that) that the pilot was boring and incomprehensible. Faced with a long, boring pilot, Fox demanded another episode in its place; I don’t think they’re to blame for that so much as for ordering the long, boring pilot to begin with.