The second show in a week to shut down production while the writers fix scripts that aren’t working. First it was 24, and this week Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse is taking time off to find itself and meditate.
What’s going on with 24 is not hard to figure; it’s in a late season, a season that was endlessly delayed by the writers’ strike, and its first season without its mastermind Joel Surnow, Hollywood’s greatest right-wing paranoiac since John Milius made Red Dawn. (I mean the Milius comparison as a compliment, by the way.)
Dollhouse is a trickier question. The linked report says that it’s a matter of Joss Whedon spending too much time directing and not enough in the writers’ room, with the result that the fourth script didn’t turn out well and needed to be rewritten. Which could be, but when you put that together with the earlier news that Whedon had shot a new episode 1 because the original pilot wouldn’t work as a series opener, this kind of looks like a series that doesn’t know what it wants to be, and while it’s not necessarily in trouble, it sure isn’t a promising start to the most-anticipated series of the midseason.
Of course it may be just a sign of the problems of ordering a show direct-to-series without a formal pilot. Fox gave Dollhouse a full 13-episode pickup without making Whedon do a pilot first, and the advantage of that is supposed to be that the show can plunge right into production and spend more money on individual episodes, instead of blowing the wad on one big expensive pilot. In theory, it’s a more efficient use of studio resources. But when there is a formal pilot, the problems can be spotted and dealt with before production begins on the series; with Dollhouse, all the problems they would normally fix after the pilot are being dealt with while the actors and crew are standing by with contracts for 13 episodes. The result may well be worth waiting for, but it sure doesn’t seem efficient, and what’s worse, a show that’s dealing with script and structural problems in the middle of production gets a lot more negative publicity than one that hasn’t started full series production yet. It just gives a hint as to why the pilot system will never completely die out.