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January 13 2009

Fox's Kevin Reilly comments on Dollhouse's timeslot. The network's entertainment president says "We're going to let the show play out for 13 episodes ... if we can do some business there it will be a great thing for the future." More positive comments over at SCI FI Wire.

There will be a Dollhouse panel starting at 3pm PT so expect coverage of that later on today.

On placing "Dollhouse" on Friday nights: "Joss Whedon does a certain kind of show hes right tin the zone in on that ... some other scheduling scenarios there could be enormous pressure on it ... we have a very compatible lead in on that with 'Sarah Connor'... were going to let the show play out for 13 episodes ... if we can do some business there it will be a great thing for the future."
What does "some business" mean?
Decent (for a Friday) ratings. Ratings = advertising money = business.

Looking forward to Dollhouse TCA panel. Cast are there, I think.
Ratings. ETA: Dammmmn you, Gossssiiiiii!

[ edited by pat32082 on 2009-01-13 20:36 ]
But what does 'some business' mean concretely... What ratings would make them happy?
J.I.G. - we don't know. I don't think anybody has asked them. We can only guess.

I think the strategy is this:

- Run it on Friday. Limited advertising spend.
- If it tanks, limited loss.
- If it gathers a growing audience week to week, you know you have a show. Renew it for a second series, put it in a strong slot (e.g. post American Idol) and let it grow.

I don't know if it will work. It hasn't really in the past. So we'll see.
How extraordinary is it to get a commitment to air all the episodes of a show's initial season?

ETA For a show that has not yet even premiered?

[ edited by Pointy on 2009-01-13 20:45 ]
Especially if their marketing strategy consists of a few pics of Eliza and a vague hope that Joss's fans will show up.
Also of note in there is that they seem to be fairly happy with how the "Remote Free TV" idea is going:

Will the RemoteFreeTV experiment continue? If Fox has its way, yes, but the model that uses half as many commercials for shows like "Fringe" and "Dollhouse" remain a tough sell for advertisers. When asked if RemoteFree was a success, Reilly says, "For the most part, yes. Viewer feedback was great ... advertisers were very happy ... studies showed retention was high ... but not every advertiser wants to pay that premium." Plus, there's an additional production factor of doing shows that are slightly longer than usual.

I think these guys put way too much emphasis on the time slot.

They worry about it so much that they sometimes lose the regular viewers by switching it around too much to find what they perceive is the best result based on incomplete statistical data.

I understand balancing the show budget with the advertising dollars needed to air it, and rating are important to get the top advertising dollar. But the time slot is not that important. Stick it in a prime time slot where it is airing against a reality show and you are sure to get several viewers that want a scripted show.

They do need to come up with a better ratings system though. The statistical based one is too flawed to get real results.
Couldn't they coordinate with the cable/satellite providers and INTERNET streamers to get real numbers. You could even see who was recording it on their DVRs since they have 2 way comunication. Then you only have to estimate the numbers of over the air viewers with the Nielson Boxes and surveys.

I also wish they would stop saying American Idol is the most watched show on TV. While it might be, I have heard those numbers are based on the votes, and we all know one person calling in to bote for their neighbor's kid 50 times is still just one person watching.
Hrm, not happy about the news on Virtuality in that piece.
How extraordinary is it to get a commitment to air all the episodes of a show's initial season?
I'm not sure the commitment is that extraordinary, what would be extraordinary IMO is if the ratings are poor and they actually follow through and air all 13 episodes.
I'm not surprised to hear Reilly talk of committing to airing all the eps of a show that he thinks has a chance; he's known for allowing shows to find an audience as much as possible and renewing things that others wouldn't. He should probably get the network to kick in more advertising for the show, though, or they might not see the numbers they want as quickly as they want.
I read this as saying they are ceding the time slot. If it does well, cool; if not, nothing ventured, nothing gained.
I'm filing this under good news.
As for not airing all the episodes: They have kept "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" on the air and even ordered 9 additional episodes, although the ratings sucked from the first season two episode on. I don't think we have to worry about not seeing all of the episodes that are produced for DOLLHOUSE this season. We have to worry about season two, but not yet, as the show hasn't even premiered yet. =)
I read this as saying they are ceding the time slot. If it does well, cool; if not, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

I might not read it this way if they had given the show an actual promotional budget to take away the self-fulfilling prophecy that zeitgeist refers to by saying, "He should probably get the network to kick in more advertising for the show, though, or they might not see the numbers they want as quickly as they want."

But precisely because they don't appear to have given it real advertising, this is how I read these statements as well. It sounds kind of like, "It'd be great, but we're not going out of our way to try to make it happen."

[ edited by The One True b!X on 2009-01-13 21:32 ]
I don't know if it will work. It hasn't really in the past. So we'll see.

Worked for X-Files.
Yeah, almost a generation ago.
15 years ? Only in Chavland.
15 years is a generation of geek culture.
It's probably about 3 generations of geek culture ('93 is basically pre-web, certainly pre-mainstream web anyway).

(I don't disagree with the main point, it was a long time ago and how people watch TV has changed a lot since then)
Is it just my rose-colored glasses view of the world that thinks that Dollhouse could actually win the timeslot? What is its competition? (Seriosuly, I don't know.)

Friday Night Lights? While it's a great show, which I will be DVRing at the same time as I DVR Dollhouse, it has never done well in the ratings and now the most hardcore fans will probably have already seen it.
Also, X-Files was the right show at the right time. In the same way that Buffy was for the WB.
Dollhouse, Joss Whedon's new show, has undergone, but Reilly now says the show is where he wants it to be creatively. "Joss has done his thing," he said. "I want him to just do his show. We had a couple of false starts, and then, frankly, we just left him alone."

Early buzz from critics has been lukewarm at best, but Reilly puts it in the eyes of viewers. "You guys should judge for yourself," he said. "Joss is a creative guy, and he does what he believes in. Hopefully you guys believe in it, too." Dollhouse debuts Feb. 13, following Terminator.


The Friday Night Death Slot. Reilly acknowledges that Terminator and Dollhouse have a curse to break on Friday nights, the slot that killed shows such as Firefly and Freakylinks. "Well, that's been the case for a lot of shows, but there've also been a lot of shows that were kind of buried there for a reason," Reilly said. "I think these are two worthy shows, so we'll see what happens."
Yes, that opening sentence is missing a word or two somewhere, but that's SCI FI Wire for you.

[ edited by The One True b!X on 2009-01-13 22:02 ]
I wonder if our fervor & reputation is part of the problem.

Maybe Fox is limiting promotional money because they feel Joss's fanbase demonstrated over the summer how commercially successful we can make a film (Dr. Horrible) despite no advertising budget. I.e., have they delegated promotion to Joss's social-networking savvy fans?
Kevin Reilly certainly says all the right things.
Awesome. Just leaving Joss and friends alone is what I wanted when they moved it to Friday. Happy times.
"Early buzz from critics has been lukewarm at best..."

Is this really true? Putting my rose-colored glasses firmly to the side, I'd say that early buzz from critics has ranged from lukewarm to quite positive "at best," with a heavy helping of potential-seeing.

I resent the room "Fringe" has been given to grow and do its thing. So it took some time to find its storytelling footing, did it? Isn't that nice for it. I'm sooooo glad it got all that lovey dovey support. I'm being snide because I think it's a pretty mediocre show. I guess it's a ratings winner of a sort now, though, so I can just shove it, I suppose. Still, it's aggravating to compare the friendly attitude towards the "creative" aspects of "Fringe" with the assessment that Ron Moore's Virtuality is too "dense." Huh. And Joss "does a certain kind of show." Yeah, kinds of shows that are critically championed and the kind of show that right now is burning up Amazon sales as a DVD (Dr. Horrible) and made many "Best of 2008" lists.

Sight unseen, I'd take "Virtuality" and "Dollhouse" over "Fringe" any old day of the week. I'm up for "dense." I'm up for dark. I'm up for people doing their own thing. I guess that's why I have become a cable person, where the dense and dark are allowed to go and flourish and where mediocrity does not almost inevitably win out because it's more popular. Screw that.

Rant over. Reilly says some goodish-sounding things about Dollhouse, I suppose. No offense to him personally meant by my rant. Fingers crossed. (Although gossi's latest snark gives me pause. That *was* snark, right?)

Edited to add: That was an interesting comment from Reilly about the couple of false starts with Dollhouse. I wonder how much of these false starts he is ascribing to meddlesome network folk who hated the pilot, and how much to Joss? It seems a bit of the former if the remedy was to just let Joss alone to do his "creative guy" thing.

[ edited by phlebotinin on 2009-01-13 22:48 ]
Competition = Friday Night Lights (NBC), Flashpoint (CBS), and Supernanny (ABC).

Of those, Flashpoint is the most competitive. It got 10m viewers with its return this past Friday (a series high). With that sandwiched between Ghost Whisperer and Numbers, CBS will likely be #1 for the whole night (which is pretty much what it has been in the past). Friday Night Lights has been getting viewers in the 5-6m range, and Supernanny even less than that.
Phlebotinin, I thought gossi was being sincere, actually.

That being said, I agree with your assessment/resentment of Fringe. I watched it for a while and it never caught my interest. It seemed like a warmed-over X-Files, 15 years too late.

As for the other competition. Well, I guess CBS may have the night locked up (though I'm uninterested in any of those). I can imagine a TSCC, DH, BSG evening going on in the more geeky households across the country, though...

[ edited by Septimus on 2009-01-13 22:49 ]
FNL is a show that Reilly saved from cancellation, ironically, and has just now completed or begun its 3rd season. FNL's unique airing situation will certainly affect how many eyes it gets on NBC. It aired on DirecTV (they paid for half of it) first and finishes its season tomorrow.
Reilly is a god for having saved FNL while he was at NBC. I wonder if it will get a fourth season. Haven't seen any of the third season yet, but I look forward to it. Greatly. Still, Dollhouse will get my eyeballs first. Three incredible series put forward by Joss, plus one incredible big-screen movie plus incredible internet movie. Yeah, on the strength of that, Dollhouse will most definitely get my eyeballs first. (Not that it matters, since I'm not a Nielsen household.)

[ edited by phlebotinin on 2009-01-13 22:59 ]
Third season is incredible - better than second by far. Love it!
That's really good to know, zeitgeist. I did think that the second season was down from the first in terms of quality (although I still enjoyed the second season greatly). Glad to hear there's been a creative resurgence in season three. I'm intrigued by the DirectTV arrangement. I wonder if other shows will go that route to stay alive...
What's especially great about it is that it was a cheap show to begin with and now each party is shouldering half of the bill, which makes it incredibly cheap for both to hold onto if they want to.
Why Fringe is getting support - it got a big bunch of million viewers. They're a business and they got a successful franchise out of it.

I was being sincere about the leaving Joss alone thing, by the way. As soon as it moved to Friday nights, I came on here and posted a complete rant I later removed, and the point I was trying to make at the time was that Dollhouse risked turning into something not many people liked due to everybody trying to smash everything into it. My theory is that, obviously, network execs should be involved in shows, and in many cases they can be incredibly useful - but at the same time sometimes it risks everybody jumping in and trying to steer something, and they end up crashing into a wall before they've left the driveway. That's what I think happened to Drive. I didn't want that to happen to Dollhouse, and just wanted everybody to take a step back and make compelling TV, 'cos when it moved to Friday night I knew nobody was going to support it as TV's Hit Action Show Dollhouse, so let's see if it fly because it's Dollhouse.
It also fits nicely into what Joss said about Steven DeKnight's episode and how it saved the show's ass, as well as into what Dana Walden (20th Century Fox) said about that episode:

The third episode is as compelling a script as Ive ever read. You just fly through it. Its engaging, its exciting. It was the script where everyone said, You know what, Joss is on to something. We need to give him some breathing room. Lets take a couple weeks down so the scripts can catch up to this direction.

So they basically stood back since the retooling and let it evolve? Could put an end to "they have dumbed it down"-talk.
Joss on "Dollhouse" changes: Old pilot showed the world of the show, the one that will air shows more of the structure of the show.
First five "Dollhouse" episodes are more stand-alone. The sixth works in more mythology, almost like a pilot, Joss says.

I'm wondering if the success of Dr. Horrible and its numerous 'Best of 2008's' translates to giving Dollhouse more time to establish itself. Numbers are numbers, but how much consideration do networks give to the pop culture cache?

...none, probably.
Reilly's comments are both good news and bad news for us Whedonites.

On one hand, the tone of his quote "let's see if we can do some business" seems to indicate that the bottom line will take precident over nurturing the show beyond 13 episodes.

However, on the other hand, there appears to be a commitment to play the entire 13-episode series February through April (uninterupted?) which is better treatment than Firefly received from the very same network.

Is the glass half full, half empty, or smashed on the table?

Time will tell!
And just to add to the fun, now SAG is calling for a strike authorization vote.
And just to add to the fun, now SAG is calling for a strike authorization vote.

No substantive actions were taken by the Guilds national board, which met at SAGs national headquarters January 12 and 13 for almost 30 hours straight.

No mailing date has been set for the previously approved TV/Theatrical strike authorization referendum.

[ edited by The One True b!X on 2009-01-14 04:55 ]
Kevin Reilly should do all the talking and Ligouri should be locked in a cupboard when reporters are around. I'm feeling a fair bit more positive now than I was after reading Ligouri's take on it
See, that's a better way of saying things. A positive spin rather than "friendly fire".
I think I like this Kevin guy. He knows what to say.

Though I am very, very worried about Virtuality after his comment. Here's hoping that the show can still make it to air, and not be interfered with too much.

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