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April 11 2009

Ratings for last night's episode of Dollhouse. The Live Feed says "Dollhouse slipped a tenth. Dollhouse received a 1.4 rating among and 3.6 million viewers. This matches the show's March 27 season low in the adult demo, though it's not any kind of dramatic change".

Urgh. What we need is a miracle... laurie.
Looks like Epitaph One on DVD, then.
Damn it. It gets awesome, and people stop watching.
Tt's averaged around this for a while. Let's see what it's like with Prison Break in two weeks time - cross your pinkies, peeps.
I was a little bit concerned that the cancellation scare from two days ago would have had a detrimental effect. That and the Hannah Montana movie opening this week.
I keep wanting to believe that word of improvement will eventually get more folk to come back and maybe even some new eyes as well. It doesn't seem to be happening though and I'm beginning to fear it'll be too late even if it does happen in two weeks.
Shows traditionally go down in number if you take them off air for a week. Although if Prison Break launches big, it shouldn't matter.

Episode 1 - 4.8 million, 2.0 in 18-49 demo.
Episode 2 - 4.3 million, 1.7 in 18-49 demo. 5% share.
Episode 3 - 4.2 million, 1.6 in 18-49 demo. 5% share.
Episode 4 - 3.5 million, 1.5 in 18-49 demo, 5% share.
Episode 5 - 4.3 million, 1.6 in 18-49 demo, 5% share.
Episode 6 - 4.1 million, 1.5 in 18-49 demo, 5% share.
Episode 7 - 3.9 million, 1.3 in 18-49 demo, 4% share. (In the finals it was 1.4 in 18-49 demo).
Episode 8 - 3.5 million, 1.4 in 18-49 demo, 5% share.
Episode 9 - 3.6 million, 1.4 in 18-49 demo. 4% share.

By the way, the Terminator finale was amazing and it's a real shame more people didn't tune in for it.

[ edited by gossi on 2009-04-11 17:33 ]
I had this foolish hope that Thursday's panic would get people watching :(

Post links to the episode on Twitter and Facebook! It's up on Hulu now.
If I'm right... and I like to think I am... the show's chance for another season, for FOX to backup their apparent desire to give it another shot... "Dollhouse" will have to go upward by degree with "Prison Break", and not go from "Prison Break" (let's assume a 5.1 rating for argument's sake) back down to 3.5. If it doesn't grow the Prison Break audience like it did the Terminator audience, and instead goes right back down to these numbers, it's toast.
I've been "promoting" the hell out of Dollhouse to my friends and acquaintances. I know other people are too. It doesn't seem to be helping much.

It's a real shame, too. Dollhouse has quickly jumped from an alright show to one of my favorites. I loved last nights episode and episode 10 looks like it will be pretty interesting.

We're running out of episodes and it makes me terribly sad. It better be picked back up for a second season.
How much does it actually help to recruit new viewers? My housemate asked me last night if it would make a difference if we had all the teevees in our house tuned in on Friday night at nine.

Do "regular" viewers make enough of a difference or is everything set in Nielsen stone?
If you're not a Nielsen family, turning on multiple TVs isn't counted in any way. Online with Hulu, iTunes, Fancast etc is counted.
This is the fast overnight number, right? That was 1.4 last week too, if I recall, and then it became 1.5 when the final live # was in.

I don't think Dollhouse has to GROW from Prison Break's numbers to succeed (I mean, why would it? The point of a stronger lead-in is that the people watching the lead-in stick around), but it has to do better than it did after TSCC. If it does so, and then hangs onto those people the week after, that will be very good. (Unfortunately, the first post-PB episode looks like a non-arcy standalone. I hope it's a good one that will make people want to come back.)
It's a Jane ep, I believe, and it looks like it's right in her wheelhouse, so hopefully it will rock. But yes, I hope it's a little more arc-y than something like Go Fish, which was the last ep before Becoming (seems hard to believe in retrospect).
It's posted on TVByTheNumbers and PI Feedback too now. 3.56 million viewers, 1.4/4 in the demo.
gossi, do you know if Fox puts more weight on the Fox on Demand numbers than Hulu, iTunes, etc.?
I've updated the numbers above to reflect the fall in share.
*sigh* Last night I watched two of the finest hours of TV I've seen in a long time. To think it may well have been the last T:SCC and one of the last of Dollhouse--just as Dollhouse is hitting its mark... just *sigh*.

What's even more frustrating is I understand why both of these shows get such low numbers. T:SCC is less an action show, more character drama--and that's unexpected given the rest of the Terminator franchise (and let's face it, this season the pace slowed waaaay down and a lot of people didn't have patience to stick with it). Dollhouse had a shaky start--I'm someone who pretty much hated the first 5 episodes, but kept watching because it was Joss. It's really only been the last two episodes that sees me onboard with the show, excited to see where it's going, and finally finding the images and tone in harmony with the premise (THE major beef I had with the show). I'm sure most non-fans who didn't like the first episodes gave up on it long before I was willing to.

I hope Dollhouse gets a bounce from Prison Break, or at least holds its numbers. I'm doubtful, but I hope. I kinda wish I lived in a world where excellent stories could be told no matter how many people watched, but alas, I live in this one. *sigh again*
I'm a little worried that it dropped to a 1.3 in the demo in the second half hour. I don't think Dollhouse ever touched a 1.3. This also means it's pretty unlikely that the demo will climb one tenth in the finals (like it did the previous two weeks).
I've updated the numbers above to reflect the fall in share.

I would suggest to update the demo ratings for Echoes and Needs to the finals altogether, since the overnights have no relevance whatsoever. There is no reason to reprint them every week, just looks sad. :)
I have friends who said they'd only watch it if it got another season. So maybe if FOX was willing to renew it, there'd be a bigger audience.

Wishful thinking. I know.
I don't really get that logic: "Here are 13 (or, well, 12) hours of entertainment. We'll make more if enough people watch to justify them financially." "Oh, that's okay. I'll only watch if you agree to make more."
I don't get it either, but there's only so much I can do.

But then again, alot of these friends aren't Whedon fans...they're more *Eliza's HOT!!!* friends.

Sometimes I wish I had better friends. ;)
Technically, last night was only 1:55 of the best TV in a while -- the last 5 minutes of "Terminator" definitely don't count. (Terminator spoilers, but not really)
Fox needs to create a 30 minute long "Introduction to Dollhouse" and run it on FX 3 times a day coupled with the 3 most recent episodes (starting at Man On The Street). ABC does something like that for LOST.

IMO, Sci-fi fans don't want to jump in right in the middle of a long story. But if you make it easy for people to quickly get caught up and jump in, I bet they would. I mean honestly, after watching the "previously on Dollhouse" at the beginning of last night's episode, a new viewer would be completely lost.

I bet if they ran a weekend marathon like that next week, they would see a huge share increase for the 9th episode in 2 weeks.
KingOfCretins, that's the bit I liked most from the Terminator finale.
If "Dollhouse" fans really want to help, maybe we should chip in and either get one of our own who is qualified, or hire someone, to do some kind of study to demonstrate that fear of early cancellation actually deters viewership of new serialized shows.

Gossi, that's the bit that is probably why, where like bits have cropped up throughout the second season, that's probably going to have gotten "Terminator" cancelled.
I find it interesting how many people won't watch shows unless they're successful, edcsLover9. After losing Wonderfalls and Firefly, not to mention a few other shows I liked and thought had promise, sometimes I find myself wondering if it's worth getting invested in something that might not make it. I'm reluctant to start watching any show on the bubble, though I try not to let it stop me. Right now I'm kicking myself because I didn't watch T:SCC until a couple of months ago when a friend convinced me of its awesomeness. I started watching that show knowing the likelihood of its being canceled. Now I'm in love with it, and it's probably gone. But I'm still glad I watched it.

These days, most of the time networks won't give shows time to grow an audience. They don't have to wait, because if a show doesn't preform, they always have Dancing With America's Next Top Third Grader lined up to replace it--cheap reality shows don't have to do much to earn their keep. There's no incentive for networks to let struggling shows grow.

Of course, if everyone waits to see if a show will be renewed before tuning in, then no one will be watching anything, and no shows would ever get renewed.
KingOfCretins, judgemental much? Just because you didn't like a moment from an episode, does not mean it's definitely bad, nor does it mean it caused the series to get cancelled.
No, seriously -- all the non-linear Doctor Who "timey-wimey" is so far outside the idiom that made "Terminator" an iconic franchise that I suspect it probably is making people tune out -- "if I wanted to watch 'Lost', I'd watch 'Lost'", the reasoning would go. I like the show, but it's no T2, not even close, and that's probably been costing it plenty of old school Terminator fans on a week to week basis. Awesome improvements over the past few weeks, but that ending is iconic of how it's lost touch with its Cameron-esque roots.
Okay, you might want to head over to the Terminator fansites and tell the few thousand people squeeing over the finale to stop.

Also, people may notice I've not called time of death on Dollhouse still.
Dizzy, I find that it's nothing more than merely majority rules....go with the crowd...don't dare to be different....another cliche here!

That's my experience anyways.
These numbers just don't want to budge. Too bad, especially after the show has improved so much. Last night's ep was my favorite. I can't help but wonder what these ratings would have looked like if the format of the early episodes had not been dictated by Fox.
Oh, clever thing, next episode will not only bring in new viewers via Prison Break, it's actually aimed at the Ghost Whisperer crowd!
They can squee all they want. I squeed for 55 minutes when it actually was very "Terminator" again. But the proof is in the proverbial pudding, isn't it? The first two Terminator movies are all time classics and are still spawning sequels (and the show), and the show, which began to diverge from the style of the movies in Season 2, is unfortunately probably going to get cancelled. It's a damn shame, too -- the entire first season, the premiere of Season 2, and the last few weeks have been right on the ball.

"Terminator" is #3 on my shows to save wishlist behind "Chuck" and "Dollhouse", and I'm glad that "Dollhouse" has a credible chance still. Do we have any exorbitantly wealthy fans? Can't anyone shamelessly put out a $500 offer to Nielson families to watch Dollhouse?
Also, people may notice I've not called time of death on Dollhouse still.

You always make me feel a little less sad when you say this. And that sounded like sarcasm, but honestly, I'm just that pathetic.
Can't believe those numbers. This was one fracking good episode. I was glued on my couch just staring at my screen and going wtf scene by scene..
The "not wanting to watch a show unless it is successful" trap seems to me to be a combination of unfortunate forces at work at the same time.

At least here in the USA, we can see the desire to be on a winning team at work all over the place. I'm still shaking my head over an interview in the NYTimes with an"undecided" voter, who said she hadn't made up her mind yet which candidate had "more charisma." She seemed quite sure that this was a valid basis for a choice of leader.

Despite the supposed inclination to "root for the underdog", many of us take for granted the idea that worth is determined by popularity. Maybe it's a fundamental lack of self confidence, maybe it's laziness- not wanting to spend the time and thought necessary to make our own decisions, maybe it's fear of being thought out of it by our peers...dunno.

But when you combine this inclination with the fear of getting attached to, and invested in, something that's going to be snatched away...there's a powerful inertia at work. There's been a lot of good press for Dollhouse since the sixth episode...I really hope it's enough to give it the necessary push. I love this show.
How much does it actually help to recruit new viewers?

If the people involved aren't Nielsen viewers then it doesn't make any direct difference - and just having multiple TVs in the house on won't help. However, if you get other people to watch and they enjoy it they might in turn recommend it to others etc etc and eventually the chain may start to include a Nielsen family or two. So in the long run it isn't hopeless but it isn't a strategy that instantly pushes up the numbers.

As for the next episode I'd think holding steady in the face of a weaker lead-in (if Prison Break flops) could be enough or seeing an uptick in line with a better lead-in (if Prison Break does better than Terminator has).
One thing I am starting to tire of in these threads is the constant "I wonder how ratings would have been if Fox hadn't forced the format of early episodes to be standalone, etc, etc, etc"

That's a convenient excuse to make everyone feel better, but that's all it is.

The reality is that Joss himself did agree with the change before the show took the airwaves and he supported it. What's more, for all we know ratings could have been WORSE if it had started with the original format. Those on this site and people who enjoy shows by people like Joss Whedon are IN THE MINORITY out there. Ratings prove this! And networks like Fox, unfortunately have to market to the lowest common denominator to make money. Its not the network's fault. Its every other viewer who would rather turn off their brain for an hour and watch "Wife Swap" than watch an engaging television show.

So I'm really getting tired of the Network hate on sites like this. Fox has done much better by Dollhouse than many other shows out there, and haven't written it off yet. Blame the average viewer. We are in the minority out there folks, and we had best get used to the concept.
We are in the minority out there folks, and we had best get used to the concept.

At least we have each other *sniffels*
Hopefully I speak for more people around here when I say that I like being in the minority.
Recoil is not wrong.
If "Dollhouse" fans really want to help, maybe we should chip in and either get one of our own who is qualified, or hire someone, to do some kind of study to demonstrate that fear of early cancellation actually deters viewership of new serialized shows.

I'm sceptical that this affects a lot of people. I mean most people don't actually follow the ratings of TV shows which is why whenever shows get cancelled you see people expressing surprise. I could see that this thinking is more of a phenomenon amongst genre fans but again I doubt it's a widespread enough issue to make or break shows on network TV.
I agree, helcat, but it's still an odd attitude to take.
As someone who ends up watching a lot of canceled shows on DVD, I can't say I get it either. Whether I wait until it's already canceled or watch it while it's on the air, the show will still end prematurely. Except in the latter case maybe I can help prevent that (I know, I know, it makes about as much difference as me voting does, but I still vote).
I agree with much of what you say, recoil - but I'd rather you didn't shout in your comment. Cheers.
Frustrating thing revealed in the chart from TV by the numbers, if you look at the 9pm rankings for our old friend "the demo" (18-49):

Net Show 18-49 Rating/Share / Viewers (Millons)
CBS Flashpoint 1.9/6 / 9.72
ABC Supernanny 1.8/6 / 5.36
FOX Dollhouse 1.4/4 / 3.56
NBC FriNiteLites 1.3/4 / 4.36
CW Am.Next Model 0.6/2 / 1.23

Neither the rating nor the share of the shows that beat Dollhouse is anything special: yes 6% is 50% bigger than 4%, but it's fricking SIX PERCENT: By the standards of the timeslot as a whole, its not like Dollhouse is sucking horribly. Surely it can't be that much bigger a risk to try letting it play out another (partial) season versus throwing some other random show at the wall in hopes it sticks. (Of coures, if you look at total numbers, not individual demos, the gap is much larger, but as many cool 50,60 and 70 year olds as we know (or are ourselves in some cases), none of us was under the impression this show was ever gonna make a big dent in the overall 50 and up market, and most of us probably have little problem with most of the under 18 crowd not quite being ready for some of the content)
I think one of the reasons people don't want to watch something until its been around for a while is cause so many shows get cancelled so quickly, if they are anything like me, they don't want to get attached and then be hurt when that happens. Don't get me wrong, I still watch, cause I'm a glutton for punshiment. But I think that's why some people would rather just wait and see. It's sad.

KingofCretins, I'm a Terminator fan and I've enjoyed the second season of TSCC way more than the first, which I never would have thought, since I'm generally a fan of action and things getting blown up. The last few minutes of last night's ep were amazing, I thought. But I can agree that all the time stuff gets confusing. When you watch Doctor Who, Lost and TSCC, all using different parameters for time travel, it gets hard to remember what's what and who's when.
I think part of the issue with the competition is that Flashpoint is bought in from Canada and thus cheap for CBS, Supernanny is also cheap and Friday Night Lights is subsidised to NBC thanks to the Direct TV deak. ANTM is also a reality show which tend to be cheaper than dramas. So I'd suspect Dollhouse costs substantially more to its network than every other show it's up against.
How many people watch the show on Hulu and iTunes? I know those don't really factor into the decision but I'm just wondering.
iTunes and Hulu numbers are not public knowledge. Fox does take them into consideration but we won't really ever know any concrete numbers.
What TamaraC said.

[ edited by helcat on 2009-04-11 20:23 ]
Thanks TamaraC.
I skipped the bits about future episodes because I'm remaining unspoiled, but io9's coverage of the Harvard event has an interesting bit from Joss about the first half of Dollhouse.
Whedon spoke candidly about his problems with the first few episodes of Dollhouse. He admitted that he has made episodes that have nothing to say, for which he is ashamed. He singled out the fifth episode, "True Believer", as one that fails to explore the motivations for why people join cults and how these reasons connect with why people end up in the Dollhouse. Ultimately, he said, though there's nothing wrong with making television that is merely diverting, it's not something he's interested in doing.

There's also more fascinating spoilage of Epitaph One in that i09 article, and the depressing news that Joss is already acting like Dollhouse is pretty much cancelled :(

The True Believer statement is especially interesting as Joss has said that Minear episodes are usually his favorites. But Minear hinted on his commentary that the original idea was Joss's, and that he wasn't too thrilled about doing the episode.

I dunno, I liked that ep, and I don't think it had nothing to say, just that maybe it didn't say as much as it could have.
Avoided the spoilers but oh wow, assuming that's straight-up then that io9 article is pretty huge B!x and totally changes how we should look at the first few episodes (i'd love to see a video of it to see how seriously to take each comment but the general tone as reported seems sincere and slightly pissed off, maybe even bitter i.e. as if Joss is saying what he really feels).

Now we have concrete evidence that he's not happy with the early episodes. Really not happy in fact. Ashamed ? Seriously ? That's really bad, feel for the guy.

(must admit, I thought 'True Believer' was pretty decent and definitely said something about faith and how it related to the dollhouse, in fact the parallels seemed pretty explicit to more than a few people in the discussion thread. I didn't and still don't agree with Tim Minear that it was a "workmanlike" episode, felt it was better than that myself and that no-one involved has anything to be ashamed of)
That's interesting, True Believer was probably my favorite of the first five episodes, except maybe the Target.
I think True Believer was more about faith then it was about cults though I can see how Joss could wish that episode was more about the similarity in people joining cults and the Dollhouse.
Tone is the key to those statements, I agree we need the video or audio to get a better sense. But it's a start.

He could have exaggeratedly bowed his head when he said "ashamed". For all we know, the question might have been "why did the first few suck" and so he was just suffering the question by going to schtick.
Buffy and Angel were never that high in the ratings. They were cult hits. They did have eager networks willing to work with them and they also had a young demographic which helped. What they actually had that Dollhouse doesn't, at this point, is a compelling premise with charismatic characters. From the start you cared about practically every character on BTVS and Angel. Personally I don't have that same feeling for the characters on Dollhouse.
I think it's the weakness of the show and why it can't gain momentum.
I'm so sad now. Last night was some of the best two hours of TV I've ever seen. Easily the best I've ever seen on Fox. But of course that apparently doesn't matter.

biffsbabe, I disagree, I care a great deal about the folks at in Dollhouse. But that's me.

Also, I fear that Prison Break will not save us. Though I will be willing to eat all of my contempt for the show if it manages to boost Dollhouse, though I think it will be even sadder comment on TV nowadays if Prison Break does better than Terminator.

[ edited by SteppeMerc on 2009-04-11 20:57 ]
He could have exaggeratedly bowed his head when he said "ashamed". For all we know, the question might have been "why did the first few suck" and so he was just suffering the question by going to schtick.

Yeah, we've seen his self-deprecating humour being taken the wrong way before, could really do with hearing/seeing it (most of the article isn't even quotes, it's just relating what he said as interpreted by the author).

Gotta say, even though i'm a big believer that our take is as worthwhile as the creators', it does make me feel slightly daft when we've spent 400+ comments discussing what an episode's about and we then hear that the creators don't consider it to be about anything. Sometimes it's hard to remember that the stuff we see worlds within might just be a day at work for them.
And some of us think that what we bring to the viewing is what matters. :-)
I find it totally amazing that people still think Prison Break will perform better than TSCC or Dollhouse in the ratings. I may be proven wrong in a week, but I really don't see the PB crowd staying home on Friday night to watch their already canceled show that has been off the air for 4 months.
helcat, your point about the cost of the competition on Friday night is well taken. I guess my point is slightly different: how many (or what relative ratio of) eyeballs counts as "success" on a night when the top broadcast shows seem to indicate a fairly low ceiling of possible expectations. We all know that cheaper reality/unscripted fare is becoming an economic reality, and other factors (like buying from Canadian networks, etc) also goes into it, and that all of this may mean Dollhouse is doomed. But that is a different question than the one that asks "ok, given that this show IS on the air at the moment, that the money to produce it HAS been spent, how much do the numbers we're seeing really say something about its own specific success or failure at reaching an audience and how much does it say about the current realities of that broadcast slot. Many people have pointed out in many forae the extreme unlikelyhood of ever again having a live broadcast "must watch" EVENT television series on Friday night (like the X-Files was in the early '90's), so that's pretty patently not which we should hold any Friday nite show to.

ETA: spelling.

[ edited by doubtful guest on 2009-04-11 21:28 ]
I finally got to see the show after I worked all night on a big crime story in Sacramento.
I'm telling you. This show deserves better, and let's hope anyone who's going to the Paley Festival panel lets the cast know how we feel. Incredible episode last night...
oh, and I'll get to the TSCC episode sometime this weekend.
I suspect that none of the 9pm shows are actually viewed as bona fide hits. The only real 'hit' of the night I'd say would be Ghost Whisperer which manages over 10 million viewers a 2.5 in the demo and a 9 share.
Yes, I must say I disagree about Recoil not being wrong. I think it pretty clearly is wrong to suggest that Fox had nothing to do with the relatively lower quality of the first few episodes. We knew this before because Joss said he was following Fox's "mandate," with these eps, and we certainly know it now because Joss has apparently just publicly confirmed it. It's also wrong to suggest we have no idea what the series would have looked like without Fox interference. We can get a pretty good idea because we can watch the more recent episodes, which were not constrained by Fox's mandate for standalone engagements. Virtually everybody agrees (apparently even Joss himself) that these later episodes are significantly better than the earlier ones.

I'm not really sure why there seems to be such a rush to condemn any criticism of Fox, especially when it is richly deserved, like now. As I've said ad nauseum before, I'm not saying Fox is evil, and yes, I'm grateful they gave this show a chance. But that doesn't mean they're above criticism. I think it's abundantly clear that their creative "mandate" hurt the show, and in particular, the quality of the first five episodes.
Joss's initial pitch for Dollhouse included a bow hunting episode, things like that Squishy. He went in, in November 2007, in interviews, saying he was going to do 6 pilots. He also talks about this on the DVD commentary for Firefly. And, correct me if I'm wrong, the Angel S1 DVD.

I'm not saying the network didn't have input into the first episodes. Clearly, they did. That's absolutely part of the creative/business process, and is the same for any show on any network. I think FOX got a little bit too hands on in same ways early on, but you live and learn. Joss wrote Ghost, and directed it. That was his episode. And it was kinda crappy.

Ratings wise, the 'best' episodes are the first ones.

[ edited by gossi on 2009-04-11 23:57 ]
Yes, but pilots are often the highest rated episode, and for reasons that often have nothing to do with quality. And yes, Joss wrote ghost, but he did so only because the original pilot (which most agree is way better) no longer worked in the framework of the show Fox insisted upon. Joss may have talked about six "pilots," whatever that means, but he pretty clearly said he would have preferred less emphasis on standalone engagements, and more on the arcy stuff (which, we know now, is the stuff everybody likes).

I get that it's normal in this business for the network to have creative input. But that doesn't mean I can't criticise the network when their input is misguided and hurts the show.
Squishy, unless you have a wire on Joss or in the writers room, you have no idea what input came from the network and what came from Joss. What is being criticized is that everything bad is the fault of FBC and all good is all Joss. That is just patently silly.
Respectfully, TamaraC, we don't need a wire because Joss has already publicly described the changes Fox wanted, namely, an emphasis on standalone engagements in the first few episodes. And that emphasis is precisely what people have been criticizing in those episodes. There may be other issues with the show as well, but that doesn't change anything. Of course, no one is saying "everything bad is the fault of FBC and all good is Joss." At least I never have.
Squishy, Joss has also said FBC pitched many of the elements in "Man On The Street". They also said they wanted the show more like "The Target" in structure, which is something I entirely agree with.
TamaraC: we actually do have a fair bit of specific information on what changes FOX wanted. They wanted the episodes more standalone ie. 'reset television' as Joss puts it. (And we can now see that almost everybody prefers the arc stuff). They made the creators case basically only beautiful people in the Dollhouse. This led to the scrapping of various plotlines eg. the one about the older woman active. They changed the direction of the show to such an extent that the drooled over original pilot had to be scrapped because it no longer fitted with the show. FOX also demanded that the show stick to being a thriller and stop mixing lots of genres. We know that this led to the scrapping, for example, of a romantic comedy episode. And we also know from Buffy how great Joss Whedon is at mixing and matching genres. Etc. Etc.

I understand that it's a bit convenient to blame FOX for absolutely everything we don't like about the show. But it's disingenuous to rush to FOX's defence and say that we don't know how FOX intervened or that it might have been the good sort of intervening. The people on FOX's side are being just as silly as those who want to blame everything they don't like on FOX.
Gossi, do you really think that Joss was being entirely truthful there? He's not going to start lambasting FOX when he was still working with them and hoping for a second season. Frankly, to me Joss's comments have mostly conveyed thinly veiled annoyance at FOX's involvement. And that's not to mention Tahmoh's and Eliza's comments which weren't even thinly veiled ie. they said the show got better once Joss was left to do his thing

As for The Target, I really didn't like that episode but I guess there's no way for me to prove that it sucks so I'll leave that point
Yes, gossi, if Fox's comments resulted in improvements to MotS, then they should get props for that. No problem there. I would note though, that one reason MotS is so much better than the earlier episodes is because it was the first one to focus more on the arcy stuff that Joss is so good at. As to the comment about Target, I'm not really sure what it means. If it means, "emphasize standalone engagements," I think it was bad advice. If it means, "give us more action," it may well have been good advice. Again, I'm not saying Fox has never made any useful contributions. Just that their principal creative mandate for the first five episodes significantly hurt the quality of the show.
Just for info, I'm not on FOX's side. I don't have a side; I'm a fan. I'm just trying to make the point that it's not quite as black and white as most people suggest.

I know from experience what I saw. It's entirely subjective, but "Echoes" is an episode where they left the creative side of DH to (mostly) do their thing and they turned out... not the best episode ever. "Ghost" is entirely written by Joss and it's not his greatest work. Etc. The thing is, Joss sold the show to FOX. A major network, owned by Rudoch. That's probably not the best fit if you want to do a show like this as they're a business which makes almost all of it's money from - hey - American Idol and 24. But it what it was. Joss has been equally clear in interviews he not only respects the creative/business process, but in some cases it improved the show.

If Dollhouse fails to get renewed, to me, it's because the show wasn't good enough to live on FOX. I'm pretty sure I'll be alone in that opinion. And I'm fine with that.

[ edited by gossi on 2009-04-12 00:53 ]
I haven't seen "Echo," but you can find the script online, and it's like a much weaker version of Man On The Street. I honestly don't know what Joss was thinking with some of it. There is no action. People point some guns. I think one person gets shot. That's it. It's dialogue heavy, morose, needlessly confusing. There's some great dialogue, true, and some cool ideas, but that's it.

The network wanted more action: good idea.
The network wanted a structure more like Target: good idea.
And here's the other thing the network kept asking: well, how does the Dollhouse actually work? How does it stay secret? Who uses it? Why? And these are questions some fans are still asking. If they had lept right in with all the "someone's taking down the Dollhouse" stuff, before explaining the premise, it would have been a mistake, in my opinion. Maybe they didn't need five standalones, and maybe the standalones could have been stronger, but it's just silly to say "leave Joss alone and everything would have been a million times better."

It's funny, everyone talks about how Fox screwed Joss on Firefly, and yet which version of Mal do the fans like? The morose antihero from the original pilot, or the network mandated space-monkey-joking, lovable rogue?

Or another example: Joss said his original conception of Ballard was more like Gabriel Byrne in Miller's Crossing: constantly getting his ass-kicked and losing every fight, until the network asked if he could "grow a pair." And how many of us enjoyed his fight in "Stage Fright," or his two major fights in "Man On The Street"?

The teaser in "Echo" is literally this: Echo swimming in a pool, followed by something like a five-page scene of Echo on a philanthropic mission talking a junkie through detox.

Honestly, I don't think my tastes are especially crass, but if I was a Fox exec who just bought a show from the creator of Buffy, starring Eliza Dushku, about a hi-tech whorehouse, and the first scene of the pilot features the following scene description: "Echo is dressed very simply: jeans, workshirt, both rumpled from dozing in the chair by the bed for the last couple of days," I might have some issue as well.
Posting this even though most of it's been covered in the time I spent laboriously typing this out. Think I need to take a typing class...

Joss wrote Ghost to please the network after they indicated they weren't happy with the wonderful and far more arc-like pilot, which packed three of the stand-alone eps worth of revelations into one hour. That thing moved like a freight train, pretty much the way most of the last four eps have. So, based on what I read in the pilot, even if it was Joss's idea to have six introductory episodes, they were far more likely to have resembled what we're getting now, if not for the network.

I do think that Joss's twists and shocking reveals need the audience to know the characters and have some stake in their fate, which is why Firefly went that stand-alone route. And it fit there. You got to see the proto-family dynamic developing, and got to see the emotional connections between all the characters. That was the arc for the season, actually, with the various random adventures just a device to let the characters interact.

But in Dollhouse, where there's no family, few fixed identities even, and most relationships are strictly professional, the more plot-heavy direction that Joss was going for originally in the pilot seems to have been the better choice and what he went back to when he stopped production for a while. It's certainly working in these last eps. You would still need to develop the relationships for the twists to have an impact, but as we're seeing, it can be done in arc-heavy episodes quite well.

As far as the best episodes being the first ones, assuming the ratings still declined, that would have been true if they'd continued going for arc-heavy episodes too.
What I can't figure out is... FOX read the pilot script before Joss made it, right? So what happened between script and screen that made them stop liking it?
I'm not entirely sure what point you're making, gossi. You might be right that that taking Dollhouse to a network like FOX wasn't a good idea. It might have been a bad fit or a silly business move. But I have no idea how you leap from that to saying that if the show dies it's because it wasn't good enough. At most you've shown (with your American Idol and 24 examples) that it wasn't the sort of show that is right for FOX. Unless you're suggesting that American Idol and Who's Smarter than a Fifth Grader are better quality shows than Dollhouse?

As far as your specific examples go:
- 'Ghost' was written by Joss but it was the second pilot after the mandate from the network came down that the needed to be different and in particular be more standalone. I don't think you can cite that as an example of Joss being left to his own devices. Especially when the best comparison point is 'Echo' which critics mostly loved
- 'Echoes' may well have been an episode left to the writers - I don't know. I actually did enjoy that episode more than many of the first five episodes. But in any event most people agree that MoTS, Needs and TSitHoL (did I invent that acronym?) are better than the first five episodes. So three out of 4 would seem to suggest the oppositie of what you're saying
The network actually liked the pilot script. I liked the pilot script - I reviewed it shortly after it was written for Dollverse, and gave it 8 out of 10. However, upon actually viewing the thing, there was an issue - it's really fucking confusing, and not terribly involving. For movies, that's fine. For broadcast television, that's a big problem.

For example, Echo speeds through - I think - 4 engagements. Adelle is Miss Lonely Hearts with Victor. Victor is also undercover. And a Doll. You get where I'm going with this; if you really pay attention, you can keep up. But you have to be really paying attention. Also, because many of the big big reveals were there, they had absolutely no impact - it's the first episode. I'm actually glad the episode didn't get used in the end, as having Miss Lonely Hearts in episode 9 really worked. You felt connected with Adelle, so it had heart.
I was wondering that too Jobo. My best guess is that they hoped it would play better on screen than on the page. Because it certainly doesn't read as anything Fox would like. And I respectfully disagree that it was wonderful, shambleau. It packed in a lot of revelations, but they had no weight.

SIDENOTE: Do we need spoiler warnings for "Echo?" It's unaired and non-canon, so I'm thinking not...

For instance, Victor is revealed as a Doll two scenes after we see him with Ballard (in Echo). Well, so what? We barely understand the concept of Dolls, and already you're pulling fast ones? That reveal was much better after two and half whole episodes of "Lubov" stringing Ballard along.

Or, another example: Echo is imprinted as what seems to be a victim who is also looking for the Dollhouse to trick Ballard. But it turns out the imprint is actually a psychopath who was pretending to be the innocent within her imprint, so she could kill Ballard. This is an incredibly confusing concept to introduce in an episode where you've barely explained the basic premise.

I also think they might have done reshoots/rewrites to try and punch up Echo before scrapping it, because those rock climbing/sky diving shots from the early promo are not in the original script.

ETA: Gossi said much of what I did. I wanted to second that Echo racing through engagements was a bad idea... you know in the promo, stuff like Echo dancing with a guy at the wedding, and Echo negotiating in Spanish? Those scenes are barely longer than they are in the promo, and right on top of each other, about ten minutes into the episode. The things just starting and Joss is showing us a montage of Eliza playing six different characters in scenes with little to no dramatic heft, before even explaining the Dollhouse. Extremely confusing/uninvolving.

[ edited by bonzob on 2009-04-12 01:12 ]
I see. So it seemed perfectly easy to follow on page, since you were reading it and thus catching details and all. But once on-screen (since watching is far more passive than reading) the stuff started to get confusing?

Also, if I read the pilot script now, would there be any major plot points the show hasn't yet revealed? (I'm surprised Adelle being Miss Lonely Hearts is in there... that does seem rather an early time to bring it in)
Well after these harsh reviews I'm even more keen to see it. Not sure about spoiler warnings - but I'm trying to skip the spoilery things you're saying about the ep
bonzob, I think the rock climbing shots were stock footage. I believe 20th refused to pay for reshoots on Echo which lead to it being abandoned.
What's better is subjective, whether more people would've watched is speculative. Claims like "most agree" or "way better" are unsupported by actual numbers (not necessarily untrue BTW, just unsupported) and so are again, subjective. But (and this is key) being presented as fact.

The effect of having the episodes precisely as standalone as Joss wanted is unknown (very arc heavy episodes early on might not have worked and besides, my own impression from reading some - but by no means all or even most, i'm not claiming that - the reviews was that the extent of the standalone aspect was, as complaints go, a long way behind Eliza's acting, the lack of humour, the lack of typically Whedonesque dialogue, the lack of sympathetic or interesting characters, hackneyed plots, the difficulty in identifying with the characters etc. i.e. fixing that may not have had much effect - look in the threads for the last few which are apparently free of interference being after the "interference watershed" of MoTS and you see a general upswing in how people see ALL the things they previously thought were problems. Conversely read the early episode threads and I doubt you'll find many critical comments that go "I loved everything except the standalone aspect which kinda ruined it").

For me it's not a rush to condemn criticism of Fox BTW and i'm not even "on Fox's side" (notice i'm not actually defending Fox, nor have I previously on this topic) it's more that i'd prefer we don't just take our own perceptions and desires and form revisionist myths from them based on evidence open to honest disagreement and interpretation which then, in years to come (and we will still be talking about this in years to come ;), calcify into received wisdom like "Fox ruined dollhouse" (subjective opinion) or "If not for Fox Dollhouse would've been a success" (subjective speculation) or, for a real example, "The Firefly DVD sales enabled Serenity to be made".

That said, if this io9 article accurately represents what he says then yep, there's now explicit concrete evidence that he was effectively forced to produce TV he didn't believe in, is even actively ashamed of. Gonna wait for the video to be sure, we've been caught out this way before with reporters entirely mis-reading his jokey comments and i'm leery of rushing to believe something that (in some ways) I want to believe but when the evidence changes then it's only reasonable that so should your conclusions. Previously i've felt Joss wasn't totally happy with the episodes but that he ultimately felt they were his work after the usual network inteference - now he seems to be saying they're not at all the sort of TV he'd make if given the choice and that's new.

[ edited by Saje on 2009-04-12 01:17 ]
Let's be clear about who likes the arc-y stuff. The fans. Because it certainly isn't the folks who make up the ever dropping ratings. I like all of the episodes and even enjoyed Ghost enthusiastically. I really don't think FBC dictated the pretty lame dialog and storyline in the popstar ep. Even within network dictated constraints (just like every other show on television) some balls were most definitely dropped by the wrting staff. I don't see how folks can argue against that, but I'm positive someone will. :)
Agreed, Tamara. When did they shut down production? I think it was after shooting Ghost, Grey Hour, Stage Fright, and True Believer, if I remember correctly. Joss has already said he was unhappy with True Believer, and it seems just about everyone was unhappy with Stage Fright. Then they came back with The Target, Man On The Street, etc., and it got better from there.
TamaraC, I heard Kevin Reilly made them have the "follow the red pipe" scene in Echoes. (Lie).

I actually quite enjoyed Ghost first time I saw it, truth be told. It just doesn't feel as good as it should have been.

And, again, I'm still not sure where this stand alone hate comes from. Joss pitched the cult episode. And the bow hunting episode. And, ya know, the others, too - he talked about it back in 2007. It was always the plan. I'm still pissed at the network for throwing out the gay, romance thing though. Although I'm pretty sure it would have got about 4 viewers.

ETA: "Man on the Street" was shot before True Believer.

[ edited by gossi on 2009-04-12 01:29 ]
But Saje two of the things you mention as major turnoffs (lack of sympathetic / interesting characters and the difficulty of identifying with characters) I see as part of the standalone / arc issue. When Joss says that the network made him make standalone episodes I don't think he means purely in terms of the plot. He also means in terms of character development. He has specifically said that they had to reintroduce the basic things about each character in each of the first five episodes and try to keep the characters fairly the same; and in this context he said he had to make reset TV which has previously criticised. To take a specific example, in the early episodes I thought Adele was - despite being well played - a pretty dull character. I started to get interested in her in MoTS but it's from 'Spy' that I've fallen completely in love with her character. The reason is her 'relationship' with Victor. That moved me very much - I now find her much more sympathetic but also more morally confused about her. From what I've read above, it looks as if Joss planned to show that relationship from the start.

As for Echo's acting I think it's quite likely that making the plots more standalone meant a greater focus on the lead actress rather than the ensemble nature of the show. I fully accept that I'm in the realm of speculation here, but I do think it's very likely
gossi, what was the gay romance thing? I've never heard about that. (Don't tell me if it's in 'Echo' please - I'd rather not know in that case)
I enjoyed the first five episodes but I of course prefer the most recent episodes. I do think it's important to take into consideration the circumstances under which the new first episode was written. When Joss conceived of "Ghost" he did so with the intention of it being a prequel to "Echo". He didn't want to cover the same ground and make "Echo" obsolete (although that's eventual what happened) so he had to avoid certain ideas he might have otherwise included with the assumption that they would be covered the next week. If he had known going in that "Echo" would be scrapped, I have to believe he would have structured things differently.

[ edited by Barry Woodward on 2009-04-12 01:48 ]
Tamara C and gossi, I don't think anyone here is arguing that things like some of the bad dialogue were FOX's fault. Bit of a straw man you're attacking there

Edited for grammar

[ edited by Let Down on 2009-04-12 01:40 ]
He has specifically said that they had to reintroduce the basic things about each character in each of the first five episodes and try to keep the characters fairly the same; and in this context he said he had to make reset TV which has previously criticised.

He's said that about his previous shows too Let Down (that he tries where possible to have early episodes as "access episodes"). I hadn't heard he's actually called it "reset TV" though, that is interesting given how clear he's been about his feelings on that.

As for Echo's acting I think it's quite likely that making the plots more standalone meant a greater focus on the lead actress rather than the ensemble nature of the show. I fully accept that I'm in the realm of speculation here, but I do think it's very likely

Just to be clear, my raising those criticisms is entirely independent of how I personally feel. I think Eliza's acting has been great from 'Ghost' on through - even in the episodes I feel are weaker ('Stage Fright' and 'The Target') she's done very well. Which just serves to highlight how incredibly subjective it all is.

ETA: "Man on the Street" was shot before True Believer.

Was it written/broken before it though ?

Just to be clear BTW, we need to watch it a bit too - we're in danger of attacking a straw-man of the other position. No-one "over there" (*waves* ;) is claiming that ALL the flaws are Fox's idea and none Joss'. Fair's fair, you can't be annoyed about what you see as unsubstantiated claims and then make unsubstantiated claims as counter-arguments.

ETA: As Let Down points out (I may be a sleeper for the "other side" ;).

[ edited by Saje on 2009-04-12 01:42 ]
He's said that about his previous shows too Let Down (that he tries where possible to have early episodes as "access episodes"). I hadn't heard he's actually called it "reset TV" though, that is interesting given how clear he's been about his feelings on that.

Sure but it does seem clear that his idea of 'access episodes' is very different to FOX's. He was talking about 7 pilots even before FOX demanded major changes. But clearly those changes went well beyond what he had in mind. The Adele / Victor relationship is just one example of that. And him referring to it as 'reset TV' makes his feelings pretty clear. (Btw, that comment came from one of the comic conventions. From memory he said something like: 'My writers couldn't get that jazzed about making reset TV. But we got better at it').
And on that note I have to leave this interesting discussion for an accursed easter lunch with the family
What that quote also says to me, Let Down, is that the writers aren't (or weren't) very good at writing reset TV. And truth be told, Reset TV can be very entertaining. House is essentially Reset TV, as is Law And Order, and both those shows can be very enjoyable. But I've never liked it when Joss has done it. I just don't think it's his forte.

Honestly, to expand on what someone said earlier, what people are responding to, now, more than anything, is the overall quality of the episodes improving. A lot of that has to do with the arc like nature of the episodes, but not all. My feeling is that if the first five eps were considerably better (although I liked them just fine as is), we wouldn't be having this discussion, stand alones or not.
I feel like Joss or FOX took the concept of standalone a little too far this time. And for the record, I'm a fan of the first five--I even like Stage Fright. I don't know if FOX or Joss is to blame--no point in speculating--but the problem with the first several episodes of DH versus those of Firefly or Angel is that they were almost completely resets. They made small references to the plots of other episodes, but the characters were indeed mostly stagnant, developmentally. Whereas in Angel and Firefly, the plots of the episodes were independent (again, maybe with small references) but the emotional stuff was pretty continuous. A person watching the show for the first time at episode might not pick up on Doyle and Cordelia's slowly developing chemistry, but they could understand the plot of the episode and thus enjoy it on that level.

I don't really know what I'm saying, I started this post a while ago and then stopped, but I guess all I mean is that DH was too piloty, and didn't have to be, as evidenced by Joss's success with other shows.
What is the love for "The Target" all about? I mean, it's good, but it struck me as much more workmanlike and cliché than "True Believer" or even "Stage Fright." Event he action wasn't all that exciting.
Scanning all the debate here and it suddenly dawned on me....

We need a (cable?) network called "ARC TV:" Whatever else happens on the shows on that network (including relatively stand alone-ish eps), all the shows on my mythical network have ongoing arcs and no-one at the network and no-one in the audience can ever complain about the artistic decisions made in support about this. My special probably cable b/c cable is more comfortable with multiple airings of an ep. in a week, so viewers can get hooked in/catch up with the arc without having to commit to downloading or going online, etc (and could also have regular mini-marathons, sorta like the marathons of BSG I believe they showed before the start of new seasons).

One thing I've liked about catching up on a few cable series I heard about late in their runs, whether the Wire or madmen or whatever: they are totally comfortable with seasons of 10 to 15 episodes -- however long the season arc needs (with no "filler" because an artificial goal of a season of 22 eps). It is great when you can get 22 good eps, but the arc-heavy shows may be the first to show the strain if over-extended. "Lost" had the good luck to almost accidentally figure out its current reduced-episode situation a few years ago when the creators were starting to fear the X-files infinite ambiguity syndrome and wanted an end point for the series as a whole, and the show got much tighter. If Dollhouse (as visualized in the 5 year plan that Joss supposedly presented to the network at the time of the initial pitch) would need, say, 13 eps/season to create satisfying arcs of content, so be it!

(Of course, I'd love it if it were possible to produce not just 13 or 22 eps of my favorite shows, but 52 eps/year of them, dammit! And with no reduction in quality! But I will begrudgingly acknowledge that I do not wish to bring upon the cast and crew the mass-suicide that would inevitably result after about a season and a half.)
For me, Joss' strengths are writing long-reaching arcs that reward attentive viewing, and creating characters that one immediately wants to follow. The first season of Buffy was, arguably, not the best, filled with standalone episodes that were pretty weak. However, what Buffy had going for it were characters I loved nearly instantly--I was willing to slog through weak episodes because I wanted to spend time with the characters.

I found this lacking in the first few episodes of Dollhouse. I prefer stories told in arcs, yes, but I can also enjoy standalone TV. I watch and enjoy House, after all. So it wasn't just the standalone nature of the episodes that I didn't like. For me, there were many things going wrong in the early episodes: lack of characters to hook me, cheap and rather cliche engagement/action plots, a shallow treatment of the premise, and some pretty bad dialog and less than stellar acting. I realize all this is YMMV, and I know there are plenty of people who loved the first few episodes. Myself, I think the early episodes were examples of building a show on Joss' weakness, not strengths.

I don't know what compromise was made to bring us the episodes we eventually got, nor who is to blame. Honestly, I think it was both Joss and Fox making a poor compromise between Joss' vision and what Fox thought was sellable. It could be that some things Fox suggested made the show better, it could be Joss agreed with some of the notes and was more than happy to make the changes. It could be some of the issues a lot of people have with the early episodes--i.e. that they were standalone--did in fact originate with Joss.

I'm not going to march on Fox with pitchforks and torches, nor am I ready to give up on Joss. It's easy to blame Fox for everything, especially given their history. But I don't think Joss is perfect, that he is capable of making mistakes, and it's possible that not everything he creates is for me.

Ultimately, if the show fails, it'll be because it didn't pull in enough viewers. And while people can argue about why that is, I'm of the belief Dollhouse would never have been a ratings smash, that this show would always have been engaged in an up-hill battle to gain viewers. Joss and sci-fi and a show about prostitution/human trafficking are all hard sells to the general public.

I'm excited the show is finally firing, I'm looking forward to the coming episodes, and I'm glad I stuck with it. And if it's cancelled, I'll try to be happy for what we got. And I have both Joss and Fox to thank for that.
I hope for Joss and our sakes,it gets picked back up..
I've seriously got into this series and just watched Battlestar Galactica go bye-bye,so its too soon for another to pass away.
Mr Whedon,if you read this,Dollhouse is soo much better than Firefly and FOX would be STUPID to cancel it,IMHO!
In all this back and forth over what FOX dictated or Joss wanted, and maybe it's been pointed out previously, I'm not seeing any real discussion on how it follows with the ratings.

As much as many fans don't much like the "reset TV" episodes, it has to be noted that the ratings stayed at around 4.1-4.3 million for all but 1 episode. It was only after those episodes ended, and the much hyped episode 6 was broadcast, that the ratings dropped solidly into the mid 3 millions.
I'd have to disagree with those who say the first five episodes of Dollhouse were "reset TV." Yes there wasn't much character development overall but for Echo, we did see her slowly gain a certain awareness and retain memories of each Active experience. I feel I must be one of the few who've actually enjoyed all the Dollhouse episodes so far, and not only that, I feel the entire season has been creatively satisfactory. I don't mind the standalone nature of the first five episodes. I think the slow build for each episode worked to help make the twists and turns and reveals in the later episodes mean a lot more than if they occurred in the first few eps (e.g. the Miss LonelyHearts reveal as mentioned by others). The slow build also helps the viewers get to know and understand the characters before they start to change and go on their respective journeys. Not to mention, even though each of the five were standalone, the stories were really about Echo and her growth.

As far as whether the standalone episodes make the ratings worse, I don't think anyone can really know. It's true that some viewers were dissatisfied by the client-of-the-week stories and maybe that made them stop watching after a couple of episodes but there's no way to know if jumping into the arc right away would have made those same viewers any happier. If anything, if you look at the ratings, the biggest drop seems to be after Man on the Street, the first arc-heavy episode. So I think the idea that decreasing or lower ratings must indicate poorer quality is a false one. I think most TV viewers, including Dollhouse viewers, are not loyal fans but just general TV watchers who'll turn on the TV if they're not too busy with something else. So even if Joss made the best show ever and all of us here are happy with the show, it doesn't mean the ratings wouldn't be the same or maybe even lower. I agree with those who've said that the premise of Dollhouse just makes the show too hard a sell for mainstream viewers.
Could Firefly be what happened to Dollhouse? Fox started network involvement and Joss remembered what happened on the earlier show and "panicked" or gave to much to the network when there should have been more pull on Joss's side for his ideas.

I really loved the early episodes but 3 of the 4 last episodes were Joss good not just good tv good.
If Dollhouse fails to get renewed, to me, it's because the show wasn't good enough to live on FOX. I'm pretty sure I'll be alone in that opinion. And I'm fine with that.

I don't know that you'd be alone. In all the discussions, I often feel yours is the opinion closest to mine on the series.

That being said, I have my daughter and her boyfriend watching now, and they a pretty much enjoying it (though not as much as Joss' other shows). My son and his wife seem to like it even more. They think I'm wrong about the gratuitious nature of the dominatrix costume, btw. :)

I think the comments on the lack of personal interest in the characters rings true for me. I might have cared about Mellie, but I have no idea who she really is or if I like her. For all I know she's there because she murdered her child. Or not. Or might not really have had a child.

Roger was kind of cool, but he's not who Victor is. I don't know who Victor is.

I know I don't like Topher. I think I might like Dr. Saunders, but I might not, depending on how loyal she actually is to the Dollhouse. I certainly don't like it (as an institution).

It's certainly a show that inspires discussion. That's something, anyway.
beckyboo, I've wondered myself whether or not someone could in a sense concede too much territory to a network in advance of the network even making their suggestions or demands. But I've ended up leaving it as an intriguing hypothetical, since barring anyone (in this show's context or that of some other) telling us directly, there's no real way to know.
I'm with Spiralout9. Even the weakest episode (Stage Fright) had some good moments, and each episode gave us more to appreciate. Overall, I'm really enjoying this series.
Heh, if anything, Stage Fright proved to me that it was a Joss show (er, not literally, of course). Because even in Buffy's weakest episodes, I found rewatch value simply in my enjoyment of watching the characters interact and talk. And I felt similarly about Stage Fright.
Yup. went to a 1.5 last week in the finals.
I agree that all the episodes improve on rewatching, as you find important themes reinforced by the seeming 'engagement of the week'. But it is even truer now that we are more deeply into the story arc, those early episodes did give us early clues and information which are beginning to pay off now.

I think I already love Dollhouse as much as anything Joss has ever made. It is a complex and dark story, and also it may be too demanding for most viewers who just want to relax in front of the TV without needing to figure anything out, but lacking mass appeal does NOT make it a bad show.
As unfortunate as it IS to have your work picked apart, that's the nature of the biz, I'm afraid. Joss has been in the industry long enough to know that working within the confines of a network means opening himself up to all kinds of criticism and interference from the higher-ups.

I'm wondering, though, if the 'impromptu lunch' genesis of the 'Dollhouse' tale is actually just spin. Given, the early set shutdown may well have been needed for plot refinement, but IMHO this is far too convoluted/epic a tale to have been dreamed up so impulsively.

It appears that the ratings are holding relatively steady, though, so I guess it's just a waiting game now to see if FOX are willing to gamble on another season.
More viewers this week than last = good.
If I had to guess, when he says he came up with the idea at lunch, he means more he came up with, "Girl in a secret organization programmed to be different people so that Eliza can play many different parts and have fun." And the name, of course. I'm thinking the rest came later.
I actually loved Stage Fright; it was when I got hooked. The main plot was pretty lame but I thought the dialogue crackled, the jokes were funny, the happenings at the Dollhouse started to get interesting and the reveal of Victor as an active rocked.

Actually, for whatever reason my opinions on the first five episodes seemed to be the opposite of everyone else's. Loved 'Ghost', really didn't enjoy 'The Target', loved 'Stage Fright', had no particularly strong feelings about 'Gray Hour' and didn't care much for 'True Believer'
I wish Joss goes public and says something constructive, all this drama is hurting me (and yeah, I know, it's all about the pain, so send me Eliza with a whip ;)) I'm rooting for your and Eliza's show big purple one!
I also found the Dollhouse origin lunch story believable too. I'm pretty sure he came up with the idea so Eliza could play multiple chracters. I don't think he originally set out to do a story about human trafficking and all its complications.

Add another 'me, too' on loving Stage Fright. I love the singing and both Eliza and Dichen's characters were a hoot. I didn't even mind the hokey plot that much; I just liked the twist in the story that the stalkee wanted to be killed by the stalker. Plot-wise, I actually found the weakest episode to be True Believer. I didn't find it believable that, 1) they could put in a camera in her eyes or brain without permanently damaging her eyes or brain, 2) the cult would accept a stranger in so easily. Target is a little iffy too on how the "client" in the story came to be but I think once the Alpha story plays out, it might shed a light on the story in Target.
Actually Joss had an idea very similar to "Dollhouse" (and the TV show Now And Again, which his script predates). Check out the review of "Afterlife". It's about an elderly scientist who dies and his mind gets imprinted into a serial killer's body by a secret government operation. He escapes to reunite with his wife but complications arise when his imprint starts to fade as the original occupant of the body emerges.

Edit: Thanks.

[ edited by Barry Woodward on 2009-04-12 10:36 ]
I've read those reviews before, Barry, and I didn't even think about the similarity to Dollhouse. Very interesting. And yeah, if anyone has either of these scripts, I'd like to read 'em too. Although these are really old by now, I think Joss wrote them during his script doctor days, so mid-90s.
I liked "Stage Fright" too: it was a MOTW with the perfect amount of cheese. When Echo whammed the pop star with a folding chair, I just about died. You know how you watch some BtVS episodes and just sit back and enjoy the Hammer Horror cheesiness of it all? That's why "Stage Fright" appealed to me. I was more 'meh' the episodes that took themselves too seriously, like "Ghost" and "True Believer", though the latter has the delightful sub-plot involving Victor's man reactions, so all is forgiven.

And Joss has experimented with this idea a lot. On AtS, Fred's soul was destroyed by Illyria, yet fragments of her personality remained to haunt Illyria -- and, by extension, Wes. The vamps on BtVS were supposed to be full monsters; according to Watcher lore, once vamped, a person's soul was ripped away to the ether, and his body animated by the evil vampire soul. Yet it became increasingly obvious that vampires weren't entirely separate from the former inhabitants of their bodies, that what Angelus did affected Angel, and vice versa. When Spike was vamped, he retained to a large degree his former personality. Joss seems fascinated by the idea of what constitutes a soul, and how a person lives with a literally conflicted soul.
I have the script to "Afterlife" by Joss here somewhere, I'll dig it out. It's set in a secret probably-not-legal underground facility called T.A.N.K. That's why the header for Dollverse said "It's not T.A.N.K., it's better" for half of 2008.
I agree with everything bonzob said here.

I believe 20th refused to pay for reshoots on Echo which lead to it being abandoned.

I think we had info from people on the set (and Joss) that they reshot 4 out of 7 days of "Echo", trying to make it work.
Ah. Somebody told me at some stage (it's all starting to become a blur already) 20th wouldn't pay, so if that's either wrong or it comes in a different context.
It's that blurriness that makes it important to get the facts straight now and keep them separate from our own feelings and interpretations i.e. while it's a bit less blurry than it's going to become so that in 5 years time we're not talking about how the Dollhouse DVDs led to the fourth season of 'Big Bang Theory'.

Joss seems fascinated by the idea of what constitutes a soul, and how a person lives with a literally conflicted soul.

He also seemed interested in guilt and consent at least as far back as Angel and Spike. To me there's the same ambiguity around how guilty Spike and Angel should feel about what their pre-soul vampires did as there is around e.g. Echo's moral culpability for what she does.

There's also an element of borderline consent to both Angel and Spike becoming vampires - they kinda sorta volunteer for it. Does that make them kinda sorta responsible ?
I do wonder whether all the talk about the stand-alone aspect of the now near mythical First Five will stop, after the season is over. Because assuming the two-parter wrapping up the season deals in some capacity with Alpha, and assuming that Alpha is kind of the season arc, we had 3 episodes out of the First Five dealing with Alpha, and 0 out of the Great Pure Awesomeness that followed MotS. I think those early episodes will reveal themselves to be more arcy than we think.
So "The show was ruined by Flim Flinear" turns out to not be a lie after all :).

For me the problem with the first few episodes wasn't a lack of arc, there was much more than I had expected (especially with the whole Alpha bit in the second episode and with Paul and Victor) but the terrible quality of the Engagements of the Week (except of the second one in "Ghost" and the one in "True Believer".)

Must say I wouldn't really be surprised if Joss is ashamed of the first 4/5 episodes. Pretty bad TV, certainly by his standards (also by mine, with "Ghost" and "True Believer" againg being the exceptions that made me stay on board for the show).

On the other hand, previously Joss did descripe "The Target" as an "ep so cool it helped not only define the show but save its ass", so either he is shifting a bit or he just things that ep (which IMO happens to be the worst hour of Whedon TV and by far the weakest ep of Dollhouse) is a positive exception. Could very well be possible of course, since Joss also singles out one of the two episodes I did really like for critique.

This thread really made me curious about "Echo". Like Gossi wrote on the one hand it sounds totally amazing on paper (or a computer screen). Especially the multiple short engagements structure, a direction I have been hoping the show would take since the first episode sounds appealing and it also seems "Echo" contained most of the strong twist in the whole series so far. On the other hand it does sound like it could be very confusing and I already was confused by the begining of "Ghost". Anyway, I'm really looking forward to the DVD so I can decide for myself if I also agree with either Gossi, that doesn't work on tv or with those that think it's the real deal Whedon should have went with.

[ edited by the Groosalugg on 2009-04-12 12:07 ]
Well that's the thing - plot wise the early episodes were fairly arcy (I even say in a couple of the discussion threads that i'm surprised how arcy they are).

So then people complain about the characters being non-arcy BUT we see bits of Boyd arriving at the dollhouse as early as 'The Target'. We don't see much for Echo's arc BUT wasn't that always going to be the case ? Echo doesn't even exist at that point, she has no character arc because she has no character.

So to me a lot of the complaints stem from the way the characters are written and the way they've been more gradually revealed than is usual for a Joss show (for instance I think it's fair to say we knew Buffy, Willow and Xander pretty well by the end of 'Welcome to the Hellmouth') partly in my view because he was going for a more realistic depiction of an actual workplace and partly just because the sorts of characters we see in 'Dollhouse' require a slow build. I.e. it seemed deliberate to me, part of the premise even and has done all along and I haven't shared the complaints that most people seem to have with the earlier episodes (or rather i've shared some of the complaints some of the time but can't squeeze them all under the umbrella of "too standalone" - the truth is they did seem very "engagement of the week" BUT no more than early Buffy seemed "monster of the week" and I also, largely, liked those).
The other thing with the characters seems to me -- Joss is trying to do a noir here. A sci-fi noir. Angel had noir trappings but wasn't noir. Dollhouse is - no good guys or bad guys, no winners or losers, everyone's corrupt or corruptible or shades of gray. That doesn't lend to likeability.
Anyone else thinks a lot of the devices used in episode 6-9, say for example the street interviews, the Dolls 'regaining' their consiousness in "Needs" and the interrogations by Echo in "Spy in the house of love" would have worked really well in the first few introductionary episodes?

[ edited by the Groosalugg on 2009-04-12 12:07 ]
On the other hand, previously Joss did descripe "The Target" as an "ep so cool it helped not only define the show but save its ass", so either he is shifting a bit or he just things that ep (which IMO happens to be the worst hour of Whedon TV and by far the weakest ep of Dollhouse) is a positive exception. Could very well be possible of course, since Joss also singles out one of the two episodes I did really like for critique.

Well, we know that 'The Target' was supposed to be an episode later in the seasons (episode 8, I believe) and that they had to do a lot of work on it to make it episode 2. Could it be that when Joss wrote how great it was it was a (better) pre-changed version? Then again the more likely explanation is that Joss just disagrees with us on that episode (I guess I didn't hate it but it was my least favourite by a long way) - his choice of top Buffy episodes basically matches my own, but his choice of top Angel episodes baffles me.
By the way Groosalug, what was the second ep Joss singled out for criticism? I'm guessing 'Ghost' by the context of your comment.
Also, bonzob said:

And here's the other thing the network kept asking: well, how does the Dollhouse actually work? How does it stay secret? Who uses it? Why? And these are questions some fans are still asking.

I know of examples of new fans that came in after MotS, love the show, but basically don't understand some parts of the premise. Are the dolls being rented? Do they sign up voluntarily? Do they know they will be pimped out when they sign up? And when did that spy try to kill Echo?

So, imo, those First Five did a pretty good job. None of us that have been reading about the show a year in advance might appreciate it, but this premise doesn't explain itself that easily. It surely didn't explain itself in any way in "Echo". I think the First Five did it pretty damn good, though.

And Groosalugg, I can't see this stuff working early on, to be honest. Boyd's interview has resonance because it is Boyd, because of "The Target" and because of his relation to Echo. The moral implications of the interviews are astonishing because we have seen 5 eps of pimping and killing. And "Needs" is plotwise very well placed: You can't have them do this exercise without having shown some glitches beforehand.

And I do wonder where the big "The Target"-hate now comes from. Didn't we leave February in a big ball of "critics and fans finally love the show" after that ep? Did I sleepwalk through the threads? :)
Wiesengrund, Firefly used the interview technique in an early episode (Bushwhacked) to good effect. I guess I agree with you both. Those devices would have been a great way to introduce the concept but they also take on more resonance when left til later.

I'm not sure there is a lot of 'The Target' hate. There's just a few of us here being not so enthusiastic. That said, there were some pretty harsh reviews of it at the time (I think UGO was scatching)
Gossi sez-
That's why the header for Dollverse said "It's not T.A.N.K., it's better" for half of 2008.

Hey, I thought that was just a weirdly punctuated reference to 'Tank Girl'!
Yeah, The Target is great, easily the best of the first five to me. I also liked Grey Hour a whole lot, which no one seems to be mentioning.

But yes, the Echo/Boyd stuff in Target was phenomenal, the flashbacks to Alpha's rampage werw creepy and compelling, and the main plot, while a cliche in its basic form, had some very cool twists. And let us not forget: Drugged Echo seeing her other personalities! A bow/gun standoff! The fake park ranger twist and the ensuing brutal beating Boyd gives that guy! Alpha secretly set the whole thing up! Echo remembering the shoulder to the wheel thing! Dom wants her sent to the attic (oh, irony)! Target was a great ep.

And from a directing/composition standpoint, that shot of Boyd from below through the head of the imprint chair is probably my favorite of the whole series (although Needs and MOTS had some great ones too). And the slow mo bullet stuff was DeKnight bringing some Angel-style to the show. DeKnight is the best pure action writer Joss has discovered. Don't they mention on one of the Angel commentaries how good he is at action?
I don't hate 'The Target' but I didn't actually like it as much as 'Ghost' (the plot was a bit clichéd and the baddie was slightly cookie-cutter though again I was wondering if that was deliberate. And some of the Boyd/Echo stuff was a bit heavy-handed IMO - though some of it was brilliant too).

Plot holes aside, 'Gray Hour' was the first episode I thought barely missed a step, the first time we really see Echo, the first genuinely emotive moment for me ("I'm not broken" and it's all in Eliza's amazing, subtle delivery for that line).

MotS would've worked pretty well as an early episode IMO (or the general gist of it at least) though not second because then we'd have two positive engagements back to back - I think it's a really critical part of the show to portray a mix of the good and bad side in order to avoid seeming to make a judgment. Apart from that I largely agree with the order we see them in (maybe 'Echoes' could've been later but how could you possibly have a funny episode after what they do to Dominick, even taking him out of it ?).

Do they sign up voluntarily? Do they know they will be pimped out when they sign up?

In fairness, i'm not sure about that stuff yet either ;).

By the way Groosalug, what was the second ep Joss singled out for criticism? I'm guessing 'Ghost' by the context of your comment.

Well, what's the first ? ;) 'True Believer' is the episode he feels doesn't address the relationship between joining a cult and joining the dollhouse (to me and others on the thread it was as clear as day so i'm still not convinced he isn't being sarcastic there). Does he dislike 'The Target' too now ?
In fairness, i'm not sure about that stuff yet either ;).

Yeah, I didn't mean to imply that the show has actually answered all of that stuff, but it offered at least possibilities to interpret that situation. The very first shot of the show deals with that question.
I guess one reason I had problems with it was that it felt like a later episode. For example, when the 'do you trust me' / 'with my life' exchange was reversed my thought was 'that would have been a very powerful scene later in the season'. And then there was the line 'I always try to be my best' line two episodes before we see any active say that. That made me think it was Caroline we were seeing. (Someone might argue that we weren't supposed to know what that line was a reference to at that stage but I'm not convinced - it seems to me more like a leftover from when it made sense).

These things combined with the cliched plot, some clunky dialogue ('one thing I know for sure - it all leads back to Echo') and two things that I found to be insulting to our intelligence (Boyd not remembering who did the cuts like that; and those glasses being left on the floor) led to me not enjoying the episode very much at all

That said, Steven DeKnight is still one of my absolute favourite ME writers
Well, what's the first ? ;) 'True Believer' is the episode he feels doesn't address the relationship between joining a cult and joining the dollhouse (to me and others on the thread it was as clear as day so i'm still not convinced he isn't being sarcastic there). Does he dislike 'The Target' too now ?

Yeah, I was referring to 'True Believer' as the first. As far as I know, he hasn't criticised 'The Target'
The Target is easily the best of the first bunch of episodes for me. If you take that episode out of the equation, Boyd hasn't actually done much of anything. The reason fans love Boyd is that episode. Any time you have a singular episode which cements love or hate of a character, you've done something very right.
There's no arguing subjective things like this. But for me there aer countless other moments that cemented my love for Boyd. Most recently the look on his face in 'ASITHOL' when he said he needed to protect Echo; if that wasn't love it was very close
Boyd is the only character i've actually liked from the pilot, for me it was when he went to bat for the little girl in 'Ghost' that I was for him. OK, you can make a case, a la Chris Rock, that that's what he's supposed to do but in the dollhouse I don't think that kind of moral behaviour can be taken for granted.

And i'm still waiting to see him shown to be a baddie somehow, he's the only character on the show that's an unalloyed goodie and that just makes me suspicious ;).

(as has been said many times before, why's he there if he's such a great guy ?)

(Someone might argue that we weren't supposed to know what that line was a reference to at that stage but I'm not convinced - it seems to me more like a leftover from when it made sense)

And thereby hangs the tale I think ;). I've been seeing that as a nice bit of foreshadowing, of laying the groundwork for Echo before we even see Echo fully (the sort of thing, for instance, that Joss et al did all the time in Buffy to such great effect). But to someone that doesn't, on balance, like the early episodes all those moments are either mistakes or signs of interference - and that's nothing to do with whether the episode is standalone or not (I agree about the glasses though - pretty lazy - and the odd clunky line).
Except I actually do like the early episodes, Saje. Like I said above, I loved 'Ghost' and 'Stage Fright' and enjoyed 'Gray Hour' (actually one reason I think I didn't get as much from that is that I was streaming it and it kept pausing to buffer. Not the best way to watch). It was only 'True Believer' and 'The Target' that I didn't like all that much and out of those only 'The Target' that I had strong(ish) negative feelings towards

You might be right that's it's foreshadowing. But it does seem like an odd thing to foreshadow to me. It's not like it was a 'reveal' as such and at least for me when I heard the actives say 'I try to be my best' for the first time it wasn't a cool moment of understanding it was an 'oh, that's what they were going for'. And adding to my opinion that it was a leftover is that the scenes where we first see the actives say that line comes (I think) from the original pilot. Anyway, I guess we can't know for sure until Joss or someone else in the know lets us know
I've been thinking about that actually - can foreshadowing be unintended ? Starting to think it maybe can (not saying that's true in this case, just wondering about it in general). If you know what's coming up in future episodes (in fact, thanks to the vagaries of TV production may even have written future episodes) might something slip in unconsciously ?

But yeah, if he weighs in and says (as he did with "the great shoe debacle" ;) "Oh, yeah we wanted to cut that line, it just doesn't make sense at that point but couldn't reshoot" then we'll know. Foreshadowing may sometimes be unintentional but if he actively wanted it out then it's clearly not even subconscious foreshadowing.

My point stands though I think - the more positive you feel about the early episodes in general the more likely you'll be to assume something is deliberate (and Joss' idea). The more you dislike the early episodes the more you'll see the "hand of Fox" behind what you don't like.

It's subjective though agreed (you love frikkin' 'Stage Fright' but dislike 'True Believer' ?? ;-).
On the glasses: I'll happily eat my words if it turns out they were left there by the person programming Echo and Novemeber to give Paul messages. Someone suggested this possibility to me and it's a good theory. Even if it wasn't the writers' intention, they could go back and insert that in
Double post

[ edited by Let Down on 2009-04-12 13:45 ]
It's subjective though agreed (you love frikkin' 'Stage Fright' but dislike 'True Believer' ?? ;-).

Though it's generally subjective, in this case I'm objectively correct :). Basically, I found 'Stage Fright' a bit B-grade but really fun. By contrast, I found 'True Believer' much less B-grade but really tedious (with the exception of the cool 'man-reaction' sub plot). Of course, everything I liked about 'Stage Fright' was removed from the main plot eg. I thought the Ballard / Lubov rooftop conversation was flawless (and I liked that it introduced the idea of someone wanting to become an active; I found the Ballard fight scene in the basement gritty and exciting; I loved when Topher dressed down Dominic (the genius vs the guy in the nice suit) etc.

Interesting thoughts about intention in foreshadowing. Unfortunately, I'm sick and sleepy so I'll let someone else take that up
By the way Groosalug, what was the second ep Joss singled out for criticism? I'm guessing 'Ghost' by the context of your comment.

I was talking about Joss' comments regarding "True Believer" (which, now that I think of it could indeed be taken as a joke). I never meant to say Joss criticized two episodes. I just meant to say the supposed critisism was directed at one of the two eps (out of the first five) I really liked ("Ghost" & "True Believer"): since Joss also singles out one of the two episodes I did really like for critique.
I fail at reading. Thanks Groo
Interesting thoughts about intention in foreshadowing. Unfortunately, I'm sick and sleepy so I'll let someone else take that up.

Yeah i'm off to consume too much beer and animal proteins, not necessarily in that order (BBQs at Easter ?? Global warming writ small) so it'll have to be someone else else ;).

Someone suggested this possibility to me and it's a good theory. Even if it wasn't the writers' intention, they could go back and insert that in

Yeah, I see quite a lot of it in that slightly guarded way. Topher, for instance, is basically kind of an idiot and yet it's only the viewers that apparently see it (everyone around him thinks he's at least competent - why else would someone like Adelle put up with him ?). If it turns out he's playing them (or they're playing him) then great, if not then it seems slightly lazy writing, a "technical" straw to add to the camel's back, enough of which will, as per, be bad news for said desert dweller.

Even then i've been considering the possibility that the whole show is partly playing with how shows are made and critiquing the very system it's being made within. Only trouble with that is, doing that could look a lot like making less than spectacular TV and there's no guaranteed way to tell the difference so that half the time I don't even believe it myself. Twisty turny.
Wow. It just gets better and better. Just when it starts to really get good, Fox goes and screws it up. What made the episode so great for me was the look on Tahmoh's face when he found out Millie was a doll. He was in so much pain, it was really apparent. The whole episode was a A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. Dominic had it coming. It was interesting to find out what the Attic was exactly. Damn Fox better not ruin this show.
It's a done deal. It is a shame to say it, but the realist in me knows we're only getting 12 episodes. Lets be happy for that much and look forward to what Joss is going to do without the constraints of network television.

That, or sell our organs to help fund season 2.
Spike becoming vampires - they kinda sorta volunteer for it.

I think Spike thought he was volunteering for some cheap thrills in a back alley with a prostitute. Liam probably thought the same. I doubt either had much idea of what a vampire was, since Dracula hadn't been published yet.

Similarly, I doubt anyone who is a doll had any idea what they were volunteering for (if they in fact volunteered). So perhaps there is a metaphor there in rising above your circumstances even when your free will has been compromised or taken away.

The other thing with the characters seems to me -- Joss is trying to do a noir here. A sci-fi noir. Angel had noir trappings but wasn't noir. Dollhouse is - no good guys or bad guys, no winners or losers, everyone's corrupt or corruptible or shades of gray. That doesn't lend to likeability.

I love noir. I may not like Welles' sheriff in Touch of Evil, but I do find him fascinating. Bogart's Marlowe or Spade may not be saints, but in the end they follow their own moral code, grey as they sometimes may be, and I care about them.

With the dolls, one doesn't know whether they like the characters or not, because we don't really know who they are.

I'm not sure if I dislike Topher because of the character or the actor. I'm seeing him in Shades of Ray next week, and that may make it clearer. I know that in Dollhouse I find him irritating.
I've missed something, what's all this about glasses?
I wholeheartedly agree with bonzo on his like of "The Target." While I did not like the engagement (it was rather cheesy and the actor was lame) I loved how it forwarded the story and it made me happy about Boyd/Echo. I can't wait to see where they take Boyd's character with his new position. Love it!
The ratings are not really that bad considering it is on Friday night and competing against an established CBS lineup. I did some research into the ratings of some other "popular" shows produced by Fox (Nip/Tuck, Damages, Dirt, Rescue Me). Dollhouse's ratings are very similar to Nip/Tuck (except for a handful of episodes) and better that the others (considerably better than all three). I think Fox has to decide what it wants from Dollhouse and be patient. It's obvious the show will not attract 10 million viewers but a steady 3.5 to 4 million is very good. Also, as popular as Buffy was it only drew between 3.7 and 5.2 million viewers. Dollhouse deserves a chance.
I'd really like it if Dollhouse survived long enough to flesh out the characters. Part of what bothered me about the demise of Firefly was that you never got to find out the background on some of the characters. There were so many directions it could have gone in. I feel the same way about Dollhouse. There is a lot of potential in the series, and I'd hate to see Fox squander what could be a lucrative long-term investment for them simply because it's not taking off right away.
Just remembered that Alien 4 dealt with the identity issue discussed earlier as well. Ripley has Alien DNA inside her -- she's almost like a model for an Angel or Spike type "good" vampire. Dangerous, strong, deadly, on the side of good, but with a connection to the dark side.

She doesn't really get "more" Alien-like as the film progresses, but you are led to question where her loyalties lie, how much of her is Alien, how much of her is Ripley. Also interesting is that she's not supposed to have Ripley's memories, because Ripley has been dead for 200 years. But she does have them. Memories of a dead person in a new body? Sounds like the next new Dollhouse.
Actually that's the wrong way of looking at it, its more like:

"US TV only cares about profit, and since the odds of my affecting their choice is almost nil I'm not going to get attached to something until i know there is a lot of it."
Most people are not counted in the ratings and as such as are not really relevant for the statistical ratings game.
I did some research into the ratings of some other "popular" shows produced by Fox (Nip/Tuck, Damages, Dirt, Rescue Me). Dollhouse's ratings are very similar to Nip/Tuck (except for a handful of episodes) and better that the others (considerably better than all three).

You were comparing Dollhouse to shows that air on cable networks which almost always have lower viewing figures compared to network shows. As a result you need lower viewing figures on cable to be deemed a success. So Dollhouse beating cable shows in the ratings really doesn't mean anything because Dollhouse is on a broadcast network.
I think Dollhouse might get better ratings if Fox actually advertised it more and differently.
IMO, Joss knows what to do, they just need to let him do it.
I love this series and have since Joss's last ep aired. It has been unfreaking believable story telling from that moment on. If we went back to the earlier format now, I would be disappointed.
It didn't feel much like a Joss series at all.

There was a comment earlier on about Buffy having pretty grey characters, rather than being black and white. I think that's only true of the later seasons. In the beginning, say the first 4 seasons, the characters were very black and white. It was good guys verses bad guys. That's IMHO.
Nip/Tuck, Damages, Dirt, and Rescue Me are all NOT produced by Fox anyway. There is absolutely no common ground between those shows and Dollhouse.
Well they do have some common ground in the F and the X but the O is probably important ? ( and missing in FX ) :)

Could the fact that a lot of people doesn't see the difference between cable shows and network shows anymore be a contributing factor to the problems of the networks ? A show is a show after all.
I love how people here all seem to love boyd.. it's gonna be great when echo becomes self aware enough to realize that boyd has been complicit in the using of her... she'll probably hate him the most since she will still feel an unnatural in-built trust for him and will therefore be hurt more by his betrayal of her... it will be like when Buffy finds out that Giles drugged her and took away her strength so that she could be tested by a bunch of british beaurocrats.
jpr, I think that is exactly what is going on. I know that I don't see any difference other than the higher quality shows tend to not be on Fox, NBC, CBS, or ABC.
These discussions worry me about what they'll ask Joss in person this week.
The issue is this:
Fox wants the show to be viewed by a majority
The majority like stand-alone turn-off-brain TV
The network will mess with the show so it appeals to them.
The network cares about the numbers primarily and the quality less so unless it's likely to win them awards/major praise in the press.

There we have the issue... ;)
Sitcomsonline has the finals for the episode.

3.5 million viewers and a 1.4/4 in the 18-49 demo.

So it slipped marginally in overall viewers from its lead in but gained 0.1 in the demo from its lead in.

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