Formally Offended (eXpletive-free version)

by on Nov.12, 2009, under TV

I understand that business is business.  Even in the business of entertainment, if you aren’t making more than you are spending on a project then you need to either find a way to turn it around or cut your losses.  I get that.  However, with entertainment properties there is more than a simple matter of supply and demand.  There are qualities of value and message that come into play, factors that lead to a fandom and critical acclaim despite, sometimes in spite of, the numbers on the board.

Every season brings a crop of new shows presenting new talent and new twists on old themes, occasionally some unique perspectives and ideas.  And with this annual crop, there are at least as many weeds as blossoms.  And there is always some level of shuffling things around to give every piece its due time in the sun.  But it seems that some people are too cautious of thorns to know a rose when they have one.

Yesterday, Fox officially announced that they are cancelling Dollhouse during production of this season’s episode 11.  So Joss Whedon now has 2 remaining episodes to tie up all of his loose ends and create a series finale for a show that shouldn’t need to be singing its swan song.  I have not gone looking for a response from Joss or the cadst, but I can only imagine that none of them are happy with the decision.  Given the Fox/Whedon track record, I wouldn’t be surprised if Whedon is turned off from television for a long while.

This situation was completely avoidable.  (a) Fox could have allowed season one to follow Joss’ plan instead of forcing him to change it (since their changes lead directly to depressed ratings during the first half of that season).  (b) Fox could have given it a fighting chance by putting it on a higher traffic night and/or giving it a better lead in.  A Dollhouse/Fringe pairing would have made more sense this season than exiling it to Friday nights nestled among doomed sitcoms.  (c) Joss could have started shopping for a new home for the show at the end of last season when the series was in danger of cancellation (sorry Joss – didn’t want to pin any of this on you, but this IS the third time Fox has screwed you).

As far as I’m concerned, this is a last straw for Fox.  I encourage anyone who feels similarly to consider the following:  Do watch the remainder of the episodes of Dollhouse – preferrably live.  If you don’t watch any other Fox shows, keep it that way.  If you do, DVR them or watch them in some other method where you can avoid watching the commercials (note – I’m not advocating illegal downloading).  Make a conscious effort to avoid Fox and its related properties – take this to the degree you prefer, but note that Fox is owned by the News Corporation which also owns Fox News, FX, FMC, the My Network, NatGeo, Speed, MySpace, Photobucket, IGN and many others.

Luckily I’m fairly liberal-minded and Tom is not my friend, so many aspects of such a boycott will be easy for me.  But I am a fan of a number of other Fox shows such as Bones, Lie to Me, House and 24.  So I will have to either divorce myself of some of these shows or follow my own advice on finding alternate ways of watching them (though I do already DVR pretty much everything I watch).  I hope to see Joss bounce back from this – perhaps get the show picked up elsewhere or work on some cool new project.  Only time will tell.  As sad as I will be to see Echo fade away, I will not forget where the stake through her heart came from.  I understand business, Fox, and this is bad business.

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4 Comments for this entry

  • Chris

    I don’t know, Ben. I spilled all my tears over Terminator: SCC, and there just aren’t any left for Dollhouse. More aggressive product placement would’ve been the way to go, I think, but it’s not like there are a whole load of loose ends to tie up.

    Plus, what I like about the series is the philosophical allegory, and if you ask me he’s already reached his limit there (the politician’s speech a few weeks ago was almost painful to listen to)…another season or two would’ve forced Joss to switch into strictly character-driven stuff. I would have kept watching, just like I keep watching and enjoying Dexter. I’d watch because I felt invested, but I doubt it could remain as densely interesting as it’s been.

    So cheer up!

  • SilentBen

    I don’t know that you’d hold the same opinion about the potential future of the show if you’d seen the unaired 13th episode of the first arson – Epitaph 1 – which takes place 10 years in the future. The rabbit hole goes much deeper than is currently apparent.

    I do understand your point about T:SCC – I was also upset to see that one go too, buy I gave Fox a probationary period because they at least gave Dollhouse another shot. Now they’ve blown it for good.

  • Chris

    “Epitaph One” was pretty excellent, especially the flashbacks, and I guess I would like to see Keith Caradine’s character get revealed. I wonder what his motives are? Even so, it seemed to indicate that Joss was planning to take the show in a more conventional “us v. them”/”liberators v. oppressors” sort of direction instead of the more ambiguous dynamic at work in characters like Dr. Saunders.

    I don’t know if this works as a response to digital downloads and dvrs, but I’d sort of like to see more mini-series on tv. I like it when shows work towards some definite end. That appeals to the “whole and complete”ness loving New Critic in me.

  • SilentBen

    I agree about the mini-series issue – there should be more of them. The only ones that I tend to see that are noteworthy are some of the ones that SciFi runs. I loved The Lost Room (though I do feel that was very conducive to a series) and the Tin Man was a very interesting re-imagining of The Wizard of Oz. I’ve heard some rumblings about them doing another mini-series called Alice (a Tin Man-esque revision of Alice in Wonderland) which I’m curious about – premieres Dec 6. I’ll have to remember to set my DVR.

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