This site will work and look better in a browser that supports web standards, but it is accessible to any browser or Internet device.

Whedonesque - a community weblog about Joss Whedon
"It's a nativity scene, except nobody here is wise."
11944 members | you are not logged in | 02 September 2014




Tweet







January 26 2009

Joss Whedon's Dollhouse and the TV audience. A'n'E Vibe looks at what's riding on the show's run.

A fairly well written and researched (for once) article. I certainly hope we manage to make Dollhouse a success. It would be brilliant to have a new ongoing Whedon series to watch. :-)
so, Joss's stuff is too good and smart for the average TV audience? I feel my superiority complex rapidly swelling ;)

On a less silly note, I'm not sure that Dr. Horrible proved he's "capable of reaching out to mass audiences": I think it's more a case of the Internet being the perfect medium to get the most out of niche audiences and markets. That doesn't mean he can't do it or that Dr. Horrible couldn't do it.

Also, isn't Buffy's success and impact played down a bit in this piece?

[ edited by nyrk on 2009-01-26 17:33 ]
Simply put, audiences have a difficult time computing with the arching story-lines and waiting for them on a week-to-week basis. This would explain why Buffy and Angel have done so well on DVD.

I think there is a nugget of truth in that. Week-by-week isn't so bad, it is the extra time off for holidays/sports events/etc. I remember Buffy S6 and Angel S4 being a chore when broadcast over 7 months. When I went back to watch them on DVD, the pacing of the story was much better.

nyrk: so, Joss's stuff is too good and smart for the average TV audience?
I think it is more that you have to pay attention to get all the goodies. If you are making dinner or corralling the kids, harder to keep track. When "Police Squad!" came out, the network complained that people were missing some of the jokes because they were coming too fast. Most of the popular procedurals can be understood with minimal viewing. (Nothing wrong with that, as long as the networks don't try to make EVERY show like that.)

[ edited by OneTeV on 2009-01-26 17:42 ]
The discussion of which medium is best for Joss is an interesting question.

Joss has said (something to the effect of), "Movies provide answers. TV shows ask questions." I think Joss primarily likes to ask questions, and so a serialized medium like TV works best. Of course, there are other serialized media: comic books and webisodes (or, as some have speculated: radio dramas).

Personally I think his best chances of commercial success comes including a blend of humor and drama (BtVS, DHSAB). I'm a little concerned that Dollhouse's emphasis on drama will turn off viewers who are looking for a little humor to brighten their world.
Kinda off topic but this just struck me and who am I to ignore striking thoughts?

I know I've seen "smiling" pictures of Eliza in the past. I know it. A quick Google search proves it. I understand Echo's not supposed to have her own emotions but I'm sure at least one of the characters she portrays is bound to smile at some point. IMO, she's much more attractive when she shows her pearly whites. I'm sure I can't be the only one. And now that I think about it a little more, did she ever smile on Buffy or Angel? Maybe in a want, take, have moment but I can't recall it.
I feel like the last line of the article deserves a more prominent emphasis. "However, with complex storylines in TV shows like Lost and Heroes coming out in recent years, maybe the TV audience is just about ready for Whedon’s artistry onscreen. "

If I were writing the article, that would be my premise. TV is different now from when Buffy was on. Audiences (and technology) are more capable of handling Whedon-style long plots than they were when Buffy was on. That makes all of the difference.
Although this review was less obvious about it, it still managed to mention the doom of shows getting aborted. Which is kind of exaggeration, Buffy after all had a good 7 seasons and Angel 5, both which are more than most series get. I mean, Prison Break only got 4 (more than it deserved, but it did have the watchers). Of course there is Firefly, but that's still only 1/3.
I think this piece is mostly dead-on. We fans are always saying "why don't TV networks beat a path to Joss's door," but the cold, hard truth of the matter is that if all you care about is the bottom line, Joss has proven himself as a script doctor, but not really in any other capacity.

I know that sounds like heresy, but the fact is that Buffy and Angel never drew an audience that would have saved them from cancellation on one of the networks. They are both works of, in my view, true genius that people will be watching and discussing for decades to come, but they just didn't ever find the kind of audience that makes TV execs go gooey inside. Firefly was brutally mistreated by Fox, sure, but there was also a reason they were willing to mistreat it; it wasn't producing "don't mess with me" numbers. Serenity was pretty much a box-office flop.

I think it is, probably, true that Joss's shows are a little too quick-witted, a little too envelope-pushing, a little too philosophically probing for a large segment of the population that turns on the telly because it wants something familiar and predictable at the end of a long hard day.

P.S. Alexreager: Faith smiles a lot in Buffy. Usually when she's about to kick some ass.
Faith kind of playfully smiled/sneered alot early on...the only time if I remember correctly that she genuinely smiled on Buffy and Angel was Angel season 4, and smiling at Wood in season 7 Buffy.

Also, in regards to the article, I think unfortunately, Joss' reputation preceeds him...also, I know this came up earlier somewhere that the titles of Joss shows turn people off which is unfortunate that they are too lazy to see what is hiding under the cover so to speak.
Can we say Serenity was a flop? I know it didn't get fantastic results, but they must have at least broken even after dvd sales, even turned a small profit on it.

Firefly was mistreated before it ever aired, it didn't have a chance to produce "don't mess with me numbers". Maybe some better advertising, maybe showing the pilot first, etc, would have helped!
Can we say Serenity was a flop?


We didn't get the planned Serenity trilogy so yes I guess.
You have to factor commercials into the story interruption as well. After watching the dvds I have to say they did a really good job planning for commercial cliffhangers.

I would still like to see Joss move to HBO or Showtime though. Then we would not have to worry about commercials, sporting events, or holidays interrupting our story. Plus those shows seem to get respected more. If True blood can get a Golden Globe, then any of Whedon's shows could easily win many awards as well. It is all about the presentation and the perceived drama.
Serenity wasn't a flop. It didn't gave much profit to Universal, but at least they didn't lost any money. With the continuation of the DVD sales and the tv rights they will have more profit.
Serenity wasn't a flop. It didn't gave much profit to Universal, but at least they didn't lost any money.

"Quick, get that Whedon guy--he knows how to make films that just about break even!"

That is an example of how studio execs DON'T think.
The article's notion that Dr. Horrible showed that Joss can reach out to mass audiences is dubious. The actual viewing numbers for the three acts when they first aired were a tiny fraction of his tv audiences. Act 3 got about 400,000 hits. I'm sure over time that many more people have seen DH, but that's because it's available every day, unlike the tv shows. And I'm not sure that, even now. as many people have seen it as have seen, say, Lost.

We don't know what being number one or two on Amazon means because we don't know what per centage of the population get their dvds through Amazon. I'm not aware of anybody who does that. I've only done it for Joss-related stuff. And Amazon is the only place where the DVD is available. So, a little caution is in order here.
We don't know what being number one or two on Amazon means because we don't know what per centage of the population get their dvds through Amazon.


As I said on an earlier thread, I emailed The Numbers website and they said that a very very rough estimate would be 50,000 copies of the Dr. Horrible DVD sold in the first week.
The first week was a pre-Christmas number, though, when pretty much everybody is buying something. Presumably, after-Christmas and January sales figures would be far lower.
On a less silly note, I'm not sure that Dr. Horrible proved he's "capable of reaching out to mass audiences": I think it's more a case of the Internet being the perfect medium to get the most out of niche audiences and markets.

Yes, exactly. Dr. Horrible was a great conceptual fit for an internet experiment. Dollhouse has a very different set of conditions.
Serenity was a flop. There is no way around that no matter what fans would like to think. That being said I adore the movie, and have the standard DVD, the collector's DVD and the new BD.

Still a flop.
"Simply put, audiences have a difficult time computing with the arching story-lines and waiting for them on a week-to-week basis" -- "computing"? "arching"? Awkward. It's arc, not arch. I don't think people are "waiting for Whedon to fail"; at least on this site, I think fans are cynical about the possibility for success -- not based on Whedon's sheer genius but based on the way networks have treated him in the past....
I was wondering about that "arc" vs. "arch" thing. The writer uses "story arch" which is definitely wrong, but is "arching story-lines" also wrong? An "arcing" story line would sound more like a downed power-line, wouldn't it?

Sorry. Derail.

Here's hoping that this series becomes Joss's big-audience breakthrough without sacrificing the Joss-y goodness we all love.
While a part of me wants to say the article is blasphemous...and maybe throw my shoe at my screen, the more realistic part of me has to concede that in the eyes of those not "Whedonites" or part of the Whedonverse mob as a close friend would comment, this article is pretty dead on. I feel it does sell BTVS and Serenity a little short...but gets the point across. I truly feel Joss belongs on HBO or Showtime....how True blood won anything is beyond me... but as 'Jaynes Hat' noted, recognition does seem to tie in closely with the "reputation" of the network.

BTW, My firt post !!lol..
Congrats on the first post SuperLaz!

I concur with the writer, it seems many, many people are waiting for Joss to fail. Many of the critics "don't get" Joss and his body of work. What better vindication for one of those neigh sayers than to have Joss fail in yet another attempt at mainstream entertainment?

And a side note for Snot Monster from Outer Space, I think you might have broken a record or something. 196 posts in less than one month as a member on the board is quite a feat, considering the thoughtful posts you submit. (Better watch out Saje, someone is quickly coming up from the rear of the pack.)
While channel reputation is important, I was also pointing out that HBO and Showtime would allow Joss to show an uninterrupted dramatic experience instead of one cut up with commercials and canceled for sporting events and holidays.

HBO and Showtime also re-run the crap out of their shows which allows a larger audience to catch it while flipping through the channels.

True Blood aired around 8 times the first night that each episode aired if you count east coast, west coast, HBO2 east and west, and the late night re-airs on each channel. Then they would air it several more times that week and even have special marathons on the weekends.

That is a lot of air time compared to the one shot, commercial interrupted episode on network television.

Does anybody know why nobody is showing Buffy reruns?
I really enjoy seeing Angel in HD on TNT even if it is the stretched HD.
Many of the critics "don't get" Joss and his body of work.

Actually, I'd tend to disagree. Critical reception of Joss' work generally is positive and supportive. It's never really been a critical issue or a fan issue. It's been a mainstream financial success issue.
I actually buy all of my dvd's from Amazon. Also, the numbers for Dr. Horrible sales improved shortly before its actual release and have remained quite strong since then. It has been in the top 10 (and mostly the top 5) for dvds each hour since around December 20th from what I've seen (number six at this moment for instance).
" "Simply put, audiences have a difficult time computing with the arching story-lines and waiting for them on a week-to-week basis" -- "computing"? "arching"? Awkward. It's arc, not arch."

Yeah, some of the writing in this article hurt my brain. Especially 'computing' and 'disinterest' where s/he means something like 'lack of interest'. But I actually think 'arching' is correct
This was an unusually fair and balanced piece, but I wish the writer would extend his research to the correct use of apostrophes. "Arching"? "Overarching" is definitely in common use, though it has a connotation of "including" that I don't think the writer means. I agree it can't have much to do with "arc." One's a metaphor from architecture, the other from geometry? I'm guessing.
God, yes, snot monster and others, "arch-driven story-lines" is 100% wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Epic editorial fail right there. Made me grind my teeth, along with some of the other stuff pointed out by dreamlogic and others.

Otherwise, an interesting piece in places. I'll keep reading Dollhouse posts that people here are kind enough to share (thank you). Yet I feel I've reached the point where I just want the damn thing to start showing already. I'm sick of the pre-debut second-guessing while admitting that I've been extra-guilty of it. Yup, guilty as charged about that and a gajillion other sins, I'm sure.
Whedon *does* have arc-driven stories, in that each season works to establish a central point; within the arc are individual episodes as well. Can't think of any stories driven by arches, though! (Though Spike and Angel might drive through some in Italy...)
Oh, totally, whedongeek. There is much arc-y goodness in the Whedonverse.
whedongeek: Can't think of any stories driven by arches, though!

I'm guessing that the "Doublemeat Palace" was driven (in part) by the golden arches.
:-)
I'm guessing that the "Doublemeat Palace" was driven (in part) by the golden arches.:-)

That's clearly what McDonald's thought, since they threatened to withdraw sponsorship over it. A lot of bad mouth goes on about it, but I like Doublemeat Palace.

I came back to this thread because I had the thought that the problems we saw with the language might be explained by English as a Second Language (and translating idioms too literally). I couldn't find any other bylines for "Sarah Rix." So I dunno.
The idea of Joss on HBO or Showtime is a very bad one. At least until I get HBO or Showtime. :P
I think it's clear at least, that this writer (not me - her!) is just waiting for 'Dollhouse' to fail. Jeez, talk about damning with faint praise...
Upthread: And now that I think about it a little more, did she ever smile on Buffy or Angel? Maybe in a want, take, have moment but I can't recall it.

The time I recall, alexreager, is when Faith is having a shitty day in Season 3 and the Mayor knows just the thing to brighten her up. Miniature. Golf.

That's when she truly smiled.
Miniature. Golf.

I seem to recall from the commentary that that was actually Eliza cracking up at Harry Groener's delivery, but they left it in.

You need to log in to be able to post comments.
About membership.



joss speaks back home back home back home back home back home