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May 18 2009

Fox execs keep playing with Dollhouse. Why Dollhouse was saved when other low-ranked shows were not.

I think a varible in the choice to renew that isn't discussed in the article was fear of backlash at another FOX cancelation. After the years of black press about Firefly, there was most likely some mention made in a meeting room of reprecussions for making the same call again. No matter the reasons though, I'm happy.

[ edited by bluesuncompanyman on 2009-05-18 14:57 ]
"Why Dollhouse was saved when other low-ranked shows were not?"

Because Dollhouse is freakin awesome.
[S]ome of those people who couldn't be bothered watching "Dollhouse" on Friday nights were instead watching on Hulu -- which, in one of those astounding coincidences which makes you feel certain life is just one darned unfathomable mystery after another, just happens to be co-owned by NewsCorporation.


I'm not sure what the coincidence is here...Dollhouse is available on Hulu because Hulu is owned in part by NewsCorp.

Aside from that, good article and explains fairly well why Fox is taking a chance with this.
That article had far too much attitude for my own good. And its comment about Dollhouse being renewed partly because Hulu made it look like a success is pretty silly (the execs would have known exactly how much or how little money Dollhouse was bringing in through Hulu)
I think a varible in the choice to renew that isn't discussed in the article was fear of backlash at another FOX cancelation.


I don't think the execs would care one jot about a backlash. Cancellations are pretty much part and parcel of the US tv network system.
Just curious -- furious as little fan nests like us can get about something like Firefly, is there any evidence to suggest networks are really much concerned about pissing off a specific fanbase? My suspicion is that the number of viewers whose habits of watching actually shift away from a network because of anger over various cancellations is miniscule.

Perhaps there is an overall risk of spooking creators away from your network if seeming too cavalier in treatment of shows, but, even there (1) as detailed many times in other threads, it's hard to make a serious argument that Dollhouse was treated particularly cavalierly, even if it had not been renewed and (2) Isn't TV still such a buyer's market due to the ratio of pilots, etc. to air slots that (with the rare exception of a currently hot showrunner presenting a new project)?

ETA: and simon beat me to the thought.

[ edited by doubtful guest on 2009-05-18 15:18 ]
Indeed, they wouldn't care about bothering fans. And if they did, sack them.

Dollhouse got renewed because, all said and done, it was profitable for both the network and the studio. It didn't have a $10m pilot (I'm looking at you, Firefly) so renewal comes much easier. Plus, key execs at Fox liked the show (in the end) and Joss.
Yeah, when millions of dollars are at stake I don't think executives are all that worried about a nasty comment about them at Whedonesque
Well, then clearly we're not being nasty enough. ;)

I agree. I doubt they'd care about fan backlash when it comes to the bottom dollar. And here's to Whedon being able to make Dollhouse on the cheap.

I wonder if the budgetary strictures will somehow affect the direction of the Buffy comic where no such limitations exist. Will the contrast of freedom to do anything in comparison to turning a story on a dime manifest in how Whedon lays out the story?
So Fox ordered a second season of "Dollhouse" which, some industry navel-gazers note, may be the lowest-rated series ever to get a renewal in the history of broadcast TV. They're probably right.


I guess that depends on your definition of "broadcast". Are we only counting Fox, NBC, ABC, and CBS? I am also sure there are non-prime time shows that got far lower ratings and were renewed as well. Plus they need to start counting webcasts and get a better ratings system than the Nielson ratings which gets it's data from people that sometimes don't even watch TV more than twice a week.

Therefore this should read that Dollhouse was one of the lowest Nielson rated shows of a scripted prime time series on one of the major 4 broadcast networks to ever be renewed.

I also just don't understand how a karaoke show with plucky judges can do so well in the ratings. Does American Idol get their ratings the same way they get their viewer votes or something?
Vote early vote often?
"American Idol" is extremely accessible family viewing which can provoke an emotional reaction in people. That's why it's so popular. It's manufactured, but I've no problem with talent shows.
I don't know but part of it may be because FOX finally gets how Whedon fans are after market marketing pros by now. Just look at Firefly/Serenity, Buffy, and Angel DVD/iTunes sales.Whedon fans build more fans overtime, the Dollhouse DVD will come out and we will have viewing parties, loan the set out to friends, get extra sets to donate to libraries, or hospitals. That way we may convince more people to watch season two this fall. Some of us may even take our ipods to public places to watch it. In hopes of interesting strangers in it.
RavenU, all I'm gonna say is 1.0 in the 18-49 demo. If we're marketing pros, we need sacking too.

DVDs, new media, licensing and international sales. That's ultimately a big part of the equation. Joss Whedon's name gives you all that. Joss says there's no such thing as a name in television, and in a creative sense he's right. In a business sense, he's wrong.
Hey does anyone think they brought back Dollhouse cause it might have potential to get a bigger audience?
That Simon and his radical ideas.
"Because Dollhouse is freakin awesome." Nope. This is not why they brought the show back. They could care less about what is awesome. They care only about what makes money. This article is pretty savvy in its analysis; if you own the show and the network, you have a leg up on shows from outside the network. I do not think the fandom has anything to do with this decision- every show has a fandom, and we are not unique. And this is not a decision that is designed to make amends for Firefly either; they are all big boys over there in TV decision land and know how the game is played.

[ edited by Dana5140 on 2009-05-18 16:13 ]
I basically agree Dana5140. But I suspect that the personal like or dislike of a show by senior FOX executives would play some part. More importantly, they do want to know how the second season will do in the ratings and that partly depends on whether or not the show is - in executive-speak - 'awesome'. Kevin Reilly from what people say has a reputation for bringing back badly rating shows (like 30 Rock) precisely because of their quality. So, basically yes it's ultimately a decision based on whether it will make money but whether or not it will make money depends partly on how good it is
I reckon if a show was on the verge of being cancelled it wouldn't help if execs *hated* it or the people making it.
I'm so glad the show is back, and Simon is right, they expect more viewers. Also, no one at FBC cares about supposed fan backlash. We are much less mighty than we like to think we are.
I'm going to put a completely wild theory out there. Maybe the Fox execs do care about this show, and like it, and like Joss, and are interested in the premise. Maybe their meddling in season 1 was done with the show's best interests at heart, because they wanted it to do well and knew it would struggle. Maybe some of those people got into television because they love good TV, and they KNOW this is good TV. Maybe, just maybe, they want it to do better because they care.

Of course, this is Fox and there's Firefly against the company name. I'm not saying this is definitely the case. There's a lot of cynicism going on in this post, though, given that the show's been renewed, and I feel like showing some gratitude.
alexreager - "Because Dollhouse is freakin awesome."

Dana5140 - "Nope. This is not why they brought the show back."

Could be wrong here but I'm pretty sure alexreager didn't really think that it was.

Obviously this was a decision made based on potential profit and, as Simon suggested, the hope that Dollhouse will be able to grow a larger audience leading to more of that potential profit. Pretty much every decision FOX has made is largely financial. Goes without saying. Doesn't mean you need to keep pointing that out all the time, Dana5140. Most of us Whedonesquers are old, wise and jaded enough to know the reality of the situation. On the other hand, for the first time in a long time FOX is bringing out the happy in the Whedon fandom. No need to jump on people for being overly positive about FOX's motivations, accurate or not. Nobody likes a party pooper. ;)
All else being equal, executive love for a show can help a bit. "Arrested Development" would have gone down much faster otherwise. And occasionally you will get an exec who kinda sorta might like to be a bit proud of what gets on the air. Maybe.

But sentiment won't make up for lost money.
A lot of people on other sites have suggested that Fox renewed Dollhouse because they want some semblance of stability on Friday nights. However, I have a feeling that after seeing Epitaph One they knew the show had the potential to appeal to more people.
And its comment about Dollhouse being renewed partly because Hulu made it look like a success is pretty silly.
Think you might want to look at what the author said a bit more closely:
And, of course, what with the threshhold for Brilliant Success Status on Hulu being so much lower than it is on broadcast TV, these "Dollhouse" viewers help made Hulu look like a success.
Seems to me that, according to the author, Hulu didn't make Dollhouse look like a success. Rather, that Dollhouse made Hulu look like a success.
gossi - I never said we could get people to watch Whedon show while it is actually on ... but after the fact is another matter. I go to places with wifi like resteraunts and watch it. I have some people who were originally interested in my notebook, ask what I was doing and I told them I was watching Dollhouse on Hulu. It may not be the best overall marketing plan but hey it's the word of mouth and watch marketing that seems to get people to at least give it a look.
Or we could have some Whedonesque buttons made up that say, "Like A Treatment? Ask Me How"

And yes, I was just making an off-hand comment about the reason for the show being renewed. Despite it being freakin awesome, it was renewed. Good on you Fox.
Nah, Fox isn't worried about fan backlash on the boards at Whedonesque.

I've wondered throughout the season, however, if some folks at Fox were making a sincere effort to successfully work with Whedon. Cancellation after interference, while not as severe as Firefly, might have forever burned their Whedon bridge.

It just seems like the current Fox is trying harder to work with Whedon this time. And there are probably a couple/few there who indeed appreciate his work and might even take a few extra measures to avoid a Firefly-type debacle this go round.
I wonder if gender politics was at all an issue. DH has a female lead (and co-producer) while TSCC also has a female lead. I think I also read that all the new shows FOX has picked up have male leads. How many other female-lead shows does FOX have? Maybe cancelling both DH and TSCC would have been too disadvantageous on the gender equality front.
I don't think Fox cares much about the gender that their shows attract. They focus (specialize) on 18-49 men anyway.
"They focus (specialize) on 18-49 men anyway."

Which is a damn fine reason to keep a show around that stars Eliza Dushku, in the opinion of this particular 33 year old guy. ;)
I don't mean in term of attracting fans. I mean affirmative action in terms of hiring practices and job equity.
The writer of this comes off as being kinda pissed that Dollhouse got renewed. I think that's weird.

Also, reading the words "NewsCorp" over and over makes my stomach do the not-so-goods.
The writer of this comes off as being kinda pissed that Dollhouse got renewed. I think that's weird.


Yeah, but I have the feeling there are a few other people that took the news the same way.
Should Dollhouse have been renewed? From a business standpoint of make money, lose money, it shouldn't have been, no. But from a business standpoint that examines growth potential, risk, and reward, then yes, I think there were significant reasons.
So do I, but it seems to me there was quite a lot of hoping-for-failure going on hither and yon.
Rowan, I agree. There were plenty of folks hoping that their original negative impressions of the show (after which they never gave it an impartial chance) would somehow magically make Fox cancel the show and prove that they are/were smarter than everyone else and had better taste. Ha!

And then there are the angry and upset TSCC fans who blame Dollhouse. Seems a lot like the Dark Angel folk who blamed Firefly for its cancellation.
From a business standpoint of make money, lose money, it shouldn't have been, no.

Without knowing the exact figures for the cost of the show, the advertising they got, the Hulu and iTunes figures etc we will never know.
Don't forget that TV shows are sold at a loss to the network, the studio gambling that they will make money in overseas, DVD and syndication down the line. Expecting Fox studio to make a profit from the first episode is like expecting Ford to make a profit after selling the very first Focus off the line.

So all shows involve a gamble on future growth potential. And it looks like 20th have enough faith in the future of Dollhouse that they gave Fox network a very good price, that may well make it profitable for them.
I still blame Legend for Brisco County's cancellation. Ah, fandom.
Random point that struck me as interesting: While it was dripping with sassy attitude, I'm fuzzy by where exactly the jab "episodes on the cheap --cheap for Whedon anyway" came from.

I'm not sure if this is just since I'm such a fan that I'm blinded by his own self-aggrandizement, but I hear from him way more than any other directors/showrunners/whateverers that I follow that he's proud of turning in work under budget or doing seemingly expensive things for less.

While I think I remember hearing that the original Firefly pilot was fairly lavish in terms of budget, the movie-Serenity's budget was pretty cheap as space/sci-fi goes and particularly there's Dr. Horrible.

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