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October 25 2009

Would Airing "Epitaph One" Bring More Viewers to Fox? Joanna Weiss of the Boston Globe thinks viewers have demonstrated a fondness for dark dystopian delights.

'course. Running up to Christmas you basically have two ways to advertise something: dark, or LIGHTY FLUFFY! Dollhouse has the best possible advertisement material and episode itself: Epitaph One. The freakin' world ends - it's event TV and it should air.

Of course, they won't actually air it.

[ edited by gossi on 2009-10-25 15:00 ]
Yeah, I've been thinking about that all season. It was probably the biggest mistake that Fox has made and could have been the number one method for bringing in new viewers (although appropriate advertising would have been nice). After watching Epitaph One, even the smallest developments in season two resonate.

I know people who watched all of season one and liked it who still have not seen Epitaph One. They don't buy dvd's and they don't have Netflix. So they need to rent it or buy it from I-tunes if they want to see it. Is Dollhouse even available for rent at places like Blockbuster?
Hrm, I thought this summer they came to the exact opposite conclusion in movie theaters?

Erm, now that I think about it though I can't really remember what did happen. Up and Star Trek fell on the side of optimistic romps and did pretty well whereas Terminator was the only grim and gritty thing to utterly bomb in the US. Yet I suppose District 9 is sort of those descriptors but I heard it did really well? (500) Days of Summer was sort of a middle-ground? Oh right, and then there was like GI Joe and the second Transformers movie which both seem to be sort of gleeful romps into death and destruction so I'm not sure how that plays out.

I'm not really sure that some of the arguments in the article hold up for sci-fi TV though. While that Bjork montage does sound intriguing, I'm not exactly sure where this magical intersection of ratings, quality, and content is supposed to fall.
Epitaph 1 may also have been an intriquing pilot, leading viewers to ask, "How did the world get so screwed up?" Then the rest of the series would have progressively answered that question.
I think the episode should air. I am just not sure you'd connect it to this season. You'd probably have to add some clips to this season, or even from the original pilot. If you could do that, you'd have something closer t otw ohours. It may look like a "clip show", but it could also be a cautionary tale as well.
Otherwise, SteveP may be right. It could be better as a pilot for a possible temporary spin-off, maybe a mini-series. Wouldn't it be interesting if an "Epitaph One" mini-series could be dreams from Adelle, Echo or Topher? They see it as a warning, but not one they'd follow.
Being one of the dissenters who thought Epitaph One was just okay, I guess I'd rain on this parade just a little. Showing Epitaph One probably wouldn't hurt, but I doubt it would bring a lot of new viewers in. First, Epitaph One is a fine episode, but it's not like the rest of the series. Viewers tuning in to Epitaph One might get the wrong impression of what the show is, and be disappointed when regular Dollhouse episodes aren't similar at all to it.

Second, understanding Epitaph One depends a great deal on information that can only be gleaned by watching the first season of the show. While it was a great morale booster for people who watched the first season and weren't completely sold on it, I'm not convinced its the best show to bring in new viewers. Sure, people like dark dystopian fantasies, and Epitaph One is that. But the rest of Dollhouse isn't. At least not yet. I'd imagine a lot of new viewers would feel that Epitaph One was part of some bait and switch scam.

The best way to bring in new viewers, though, is to keep creating episodes as good as last week's.
Do we care if viewers are mislead by "Epitaph 1" into thinking the rest of the series will be like that though ? The show's hanging by a thread. At this point I doubt it could possibly hurt ratings to air "Epitaph 1" before the next string of episodes (or make it part of the December event Fridays somewhere).

Lotsa folks love post-apocalyptic. "Epitaph 1" is more balls-to-the-wall sci-fi than most other eps of Dollhouse (I mean sure, the tech and dolls are there in every ep and remote-wiping has shown up a few times and all that, but a viewer tuning in for a few minutes might not catch anything sci-fi to hold their interest, if that's what they're looking for). It has more guns, lots of action, and new characters so newbies can safely enter. Yes, the flashbacks/memories might be confusing, but so are a lot of shows when you're jumping in mid-way.

Show "Epitaph 1", build some buzz (you would have the nerd vote more solidly on this show if more of 'em had the opportunity to see it--felt very strongly about that after watching the ep on blu-ray in August). Draw some folks in. So what if they're disappointed the next few weeks because it's more present day and possibly pedestrian material to their eyes (complete with office drama--which I personally love, but some sci-fi fans might hate), we'll have gotten the ratings/DVR spike at least. In theory. And that spike might be enough to get Fox re-considering.

Bah, whatever the fate of the show, I just want the ep to air. It's a huge shame that it hasn't.

[ edited by Kris on 2009-10-25 18:23 ]
All the best Dollhouse episodes have been very distinct from one another. Even the two-parter. "Briar Rose" was nothing like "Omega." In the alternate reality where I am Lord High Commissar of All Television, I would emphasize the special event nature of "Epitaph One" and then invite viewers to come back and see How It All Went Horribly Wrong. The arc of the rest of the season is, if I understand it correctly (although I don't understand it entirely) . In other words, the arc of season two .

ETA my point: I don't think it would be misleading to show "Epitaph One," I think it would be a (ahem) flash forward that gives extra dramatic impact to what happens in the rest of this season.

[ edited by Pointy on 2009-10-25 19:23 ]
I think a ratings spike for Epitaph One followed by lower ratings for regular episodes would have the opposite effect on Fox executives, as it would seem to demonstrate that the show hasn't lived up to Epitaph One's level. But arguments can be made either way.

There also seems to be this expectation that the show would produce a ratings bump. I rather suspect that the show would bring in a modest but average set of ratings compared to regular Dollhouse episodes, primarily because the die-hard fans have already seen it. If Epitaph One drew in fewer viewers than a regular episode (possible, given that the episode has been available for viewing for some time now, making it an effective repeat), the results could be disastrous for Dollhouse renewal. COULD be.

I think airing Epitaph One during the summer would have been best, but I think the window has closed. Fox should have aired it. But it didn't. Airing it now is too little, too late to have any benefit for Dollhouse. Still, I think it would be best to just air the thing to see what happens.
<rant>I think FOX should have gotten back to me prior to the season two premiere when I asked about licensing Epitaph One to let fans hold theatrical screenings of it as a publicity stunt for the new season.</rant>
Well look at BSG, that was bone depressing. And apparently some people liked that.

Epitaph isn't depressing though, its a good clever lowbudget romp.
(Perhaps the absence of certain characters helped it...)
Dollhouse was doomed the moment the execs made them reboot. The pilot was fine the way it was instead of spooled out across six or seven episodes. They lost huge numbers those first few weeks. The darker, more socially challenging episodes are my favorites. That's not to say an occasional romp isn't a good thing. I enjoyed seeing Adele and Topher devolve into giggling idiots.

Sadly, those first few weeks set the tone for the series. "Epitaph One" may be just what is needed to restart the series.
Sure it's a good episode, but I doubt it would bring in more viewers.
Using Epitaph One to "restart" Dollhouse would be like using "Once More With Feeling" to get someone who hadn't watched Buffy to start watching it. It doesn't work. If you don't know what's going on in the show, nothing that appears in the episode makes sense. That's been the response by the few people I know who went out of their way to watch Epitaph One because they heard it was game-changing. They all thought it was incomprehensible. Like "Once More With Feeling," it's only a good episode if you're already inclined to like the show. Otherwise, you've got to sit next to the person watching it, pausing every five seconds to explain what the hell is going on.

I expect that Fox will air it eventually, but this belief that it will somehow restart the series or give it extra momentum is wishful thinking. If people weren't buying into the show's premise before, Epitaph One won't change their minds.

[ edited by ern on 2009-10-25 23:46 ]
Yeah, I agree - as great as Epitaph One is, without seeing at least some of season one you're going to be pretty lost. But maybe also intrigued. Just a shame it wasn't shown before season two - there I think it may have had an impact on the ratings. Really looking forward to seeing some of that future in season two. I thought it was going to be in one of the early episodes, but nothing so far (not that I'd change the wonderful latest episode one little bit).
Epitaph One could be my favorite Dollhouse episode. That being said outside this community it is not going to light the world on fire ratings wise, in fact it's longer and more incomprehensible because they reference so much that a non-Dollhouse fan would believe they missed in other episodes when in fact we all missed what happened in between. Airing it now would seem like a death blow because the perception to an outsider would be oh the show is ending already with it's finale good thing i didn't get invested in that. I would like to see it on the air at some time, say i dunno last summer!
The problem is, I think, that a lot of what makes E1 awesome doesn't seem as awesome without the build-up of Season 1. Paul in the elevator with Echo and as her handler? That resonates because of everything what happened in Season 1. Not despite of it. At least that's how it seems to me, knowing everything that happened in Season 1. :)

[ edited by wiesengrund on 2009-10-26 00:31 ]
Using Epitaph One to "restart" Dollhouse would be like using "Once More With Feeling" to get someone who hadn't watched Buffy to start watching it. It doesn't work.

Worked with my brother. And a few friends.
For the first time, Dallas has a Dollhouse cover on its TV guide section of the paper. Along with an extensive write-up of The Public Eye. The catch? Their first cover story didn't notice that Fox had reshuffled their schedule so their Friday best bet will be a 2-hour episode of House.

What does this have to do with the premise of running Epitaph 1? Only I that I don't think Fox would know how to leverage anything out of an Epitaph 1 showing. They just had two of perhaps the best episodes of Dollhouse and had them broken up by baseball and then put the show on hiatus before anyone could hear about them and see what they're missing. What is a showing of Epitaph 1 going to provide at this point?

You have critical buzz now. If you're not going to capitalize on that I wouldn't waste my time thinking of clever promotions.

[ edited by azzers on 2009-10-26 01:40 ]
I think in general fan favorite episodes tend to be the ones where the arc payoffs happen, which means they also tend to be generally harder for new viewers to get into. Not always, but often. If I was going to try to get new people to watch the show, I'd show them "Echo."

And the pessimist in me doesn't think airing "Epitaph One" would do anything at this point. I like to think decent marketing for December could help. Not sure how much though. The show is just not gaining an audience.
Joss whedon shows have to be watched from start to finish in my opinion... he is constantly developing characters and paying off old storylines... that's why it's so frustrating to me that his shows tend to start reasonably slowly... hell, Even the first 5 minutes of dr horrible aren't that great (Dr Horrible's monologue was too long and made the show look like it was going to be some guy in a room reading and respoding to people's emails on his blog).
I say, air it for sure...if Dollhouse is to be canceled, air it as the series finale. OR air it as episode 12 then air a brand new 13 that will give us some closure. But no matter what...air the episode because it's fraking brilliant.
I agree that airing Epitaph One now wouldn't necessarily help. Fox missed that window of opportunity. The best thing would have been to air it either at the end of last season or even at the beginning of season 2. No one would have mistaken it for a series finale if it was the hyped season 2 premiere.

And I refused to watch Buffy for years despite the recommendations of many friends. Then one day I was flipping channels and came across "Once More, With Feeling". And I was instantly hooked because, although I didn't follow everything, I recognized the quality of the show. So I gave Buffy a shot and here I am eight years later. One doesn't have to understand completely to be intrigued enough to continue watching.
Joss whedon shows have to be watched from start to finish in my opinion... he is constantly developing characters and paying off old storylines

This is exactly the reason why every previous episode of Dollhouse needs to be made available Online rather than just the last five original episodes aired. This is what ABC did with Lost. Every single episode of Lost is available for viewing, not only at ABC.com but at Hulu.com as well. And with the next month being void of new Dollhouse episodes, that's a full month for folks to play catchup...but only if they had some ready means to do so.
"Epitaph 1" could help if Fox decided to finally start marketing the show smartly and talked it up in their ads as must-see, event TV. It would help ratings, if only for that night possibly and the next episode after (aired right after or the next Friday), if it was advertised widely and properly. I feel pretty sure of this. They just need to get people's attention somehow. Not holding my breath for that to happen, but it'd be cool.

I also think "Epitaph 1" could be enjoyed by a lot of newbie viewers, especially the kind Fox tried to draw in with the "gun/action" ads.
I don't think it'd necessarily bring in *new* viewers. I think it might help keep old, more casual viewers though, given that the show has been losing viewers. It's a small sample size but I know of at least two people who watch Dollhouse but never saw Epitaph One, who have thought season 2 has been too standalone and don't think the show is going anywhere or building up to anything. Whereas the people I know who have seen Epitaph One are picking up on the hints of how things get to the point where they were in Epitaph One. I'm trying to convince the people who haven't seen it to see it, since I think it'll help to keep them from giving up on the show...
I just heard it's airing here in Latin America on FX tomorrow so I'm trying to convince people to watch.

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