Why Was DOLLHOUSE Renewed? - Macleans.ca

Why Was DOLLHOUSE Renewed?


hiring this guy as a writer probably wouldn't helpThe 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:

They were expecting bad ratings, but not the worst. While Friday night is a rotten night, and Brothers is a rotten lead-in, networks take that stuff into consideration. Fox executives knew that while Dollhouse‘s season 1 performance on a tough night was poor, it wasn’t necessarily much worse than another show might do in the same slot. And a new show would be more expensive to make than the budget-slashed Dollhouse, and wouldn’t get them any of the critical/fan brownie points they got for giving Dollhouse a second chance. So they kept it on, figuring that it might do a little better than last season. Instead, it’s done worse, but it wasn’t irrational to think it might improve.

Fox doesn’t care about the first half of the season anyway. The first half of the season, for Fox, consists of a) Sports and b) Waiting for American Idol to come back. Because their biggest hit is a permanent midseason replacement (and so is another hit, 24), anything that happens before midseason is pretty much pointless for them. This has changed a bit this season, because their pre-Idol ratings have been better than usual (except on Friday nights). But the idea behind renewing Dollhouse was to give it another try in the dead half of the season, when the network had nothing much to lose.

New media matters, though it’s not everything. You’ve heard this one; Dollhouse does better when online, DVD, and other formats are factored in. Because of those other formats, it might only have required a small ratings improvement to make it a better investment (whereas a show that depends entirely on the regular-TV ratings would have to do a lot better than that). Again, I think the renewal was based on the hope that there would be a little bit of improvement in the ratings (even an improvement when you factor in the fact that it has a bad lead-in), rather than a ratings dip.

I should add that I’m not rooting for Dollhouse to get canceled. The season premiere was good, the second episode had entertaining moments, and even if it were terrible, I find it imposible to root for a show to be canceled unless it’s really repugnant. (My default assumption is that when a show is canceled, whatever replaces it will probably be worse. When it’s replaced by something better, it’s a nice surprise.) It probably will get canceled, but it’ll probably just wind up getting replaced by repeats of Glee or something.

Another thing that’s often said about Dollhouse, and any show that suffers declining ratings, is that the network isn’t giving it enough promotion, and that’s why the ratings are down. This should probably be another post, but I’ve frequently had that reaction when I like a show that isn’t getting a lot of promotion. I’ve never quite figured out, though, whether there is really a direct link between insufficient promotion and low ratings. I feel like there ought to be, but I don’t know if there are actual statistics on whether that’s the case — especially since networks show a lot more promos now than they used to, and even under-promoted shows probably get a lot of on-air plugs by historical standards. But I’m going to have to use Le Google to see if there are studies of this issue: do promos drive ratings, or do they mostly make advertisers feel that their investment is being protected?

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Why Was DOLLHOUSE Renewed?

  1. With a lot of shows starting up, or starting up again, it is easy to miss a Friday night show, if it gets little or no promotion. I do believe this has happened with Dollhouse. I also think that Whedon & Co are still finding their way with the show. The premise is tremendously engaging, they just have to be given a proper chance to find their audience.
    The renewal has done that as long as they get the full 13 episodes. The show improved so much half way through the last season that I know it can be done again.

  2. I don't know about the promotion thing. I know I've heard a lot that it isn't being promoted that much, but I don't watch a lot of FOX, so it's hard for me to tell if that's true. I do know that I don't feel like FOX is excited about it and that seems to have a huge impact on ratings. ABC was excited about Flash Forward so you heard a LOT about it from other sources. If anything, I think you're right about FOX not being invested in the first half of the season and that comes across as not being invested in Dollhouse.

  3. I love this show… but the Friday slot kills it… I'm never home on a Friday, so either I remember to set the recorder or I wait til Sunday to catch it online somewhere… I think if it could be on another night, it may have a chance… there is a following but I don't think people are willing to stay home on Friday to just watch a show…

  4. Over the summer, Fox said that if Dollhouse could match its season one average, it would be just profitable enough (with online and DVR viewing added in) that they'd probably keep it around for a while, mostly for the cachet points but also because what else are they going to put on Fridays? That the show has come back to a substantial ratings decline (though this is true of EVERY show on Fridays, when people are watching everything they DVRed on Thursday) has put it in a tough position. Honestly, even if they could get back up to 3 million viewers, they'd have quite a bit of breathing room, but it's not immediately obvious that's possible.

  5. On the other hand, when I look at the show, it feels like a natural fit for DirectTV, if that platform wants to pick up more series that are cheap and have something of a built-in fanbase. I'm not counting on this happening, but it also wouldn't surprise me.

  6. I work for a Fox affiliate, and it seems like most of the promotion right now is centered on Glee, with Fringe and The Cleveland Show (believe it or not) right behind. Dollhouse got plenty of promotion before it debuted last season, but it seems like it's gotten a little lost in the shuffle this year, so the "lack of promotion" claim has some merit.

  7. Meanwhile, two and a half men soldier on.