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Whedonesque - a community weblog about Joss Whedon
"I miss my home. I miss my mom. I miss the gang. And churros. And sex. Great Muppety Odin, I miss that sex."
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November 17 2009

NYMag says goodbye to Dollhouse. Among other things the show is described as "an interesting failure" with "moments, even whole episodes, of brilliance." Also says Whedon belongs online.

That article was all over the place. And there is still more than half a season to go. Jump the gun much? How can anyone have a fully informed essay about the show capsulating it in its entirety that still has nine episodes to go?
I edited a bit for clarity / including my favorite quote from any of these post mortem articles. This is from the same author who wrote the previous article comparing the consent issues in "Belonging" and a recent episode of Mad Men. Both of which I've really enjoyed reading.
I'd say that by the end of the 2nd series people will be calling it a brilliant series with moments, even whole episodes of failure.
"Whedon belongs online" is a sweeping statement that I just don't agree with at all. I love when Joss does stuff in different mediums, and I hope he does more, but to say he belongs there is crazy. He is the best television writer out there, because he is at his strongest when crafting long character arcs.
I really liked the Mad Men/Belonging article when it came out; I think I bookmarked it. (Checks: Yup) But I guess I just don't get the tone of finality in a lot of these pieces. It's not like they don't know more episodes are scheduled. My perceptions of the show have changed from episode to episode, layer by layer (like with torte?) & I don't expect that to stop for me until it stops airing.
To each, their opinon. Think I understand the point. The thing is, Joss tells long story arcs and few people seem interested in watching the story unfold. It pains me to say this, but I'm starting to wonder if it's true. Please someone, prove I'm wrong! I promise, there be chocolate chips involved.

Damn, that post kinda' got me down. Where are those golden star cheerleaders I've been hearing about?
I think it’s a bit premature to make final statements on the series right now (with 9 lovely episodes left to air!) but if he feels everything so far has been an “interesting failure” then I think he’s pretty justified to express that. He’s sat through the first 4 episodes of s2 and the entirety of s1 so it’d be a bit rich to say he shouldn’t form an opinion yet.

DH is challenging and quite a tough show to crack. One minute it can be mind-blowingly brilliant and the next it can be a tad monotonous. It takes a truly skilled writer to craft the premise into something truly engaging and some have achieved this and others fell a bit short. Regardless, the show’s high points make everything worth it and I’m very in love with the show and sad to see it gone. I feel s2 was really beginning to smooth out the kinks and expected the series to only get better in the following seasons but I guess that'll never happen now. I just hope that I'm blown away be the rest of the season and that the series ends with a bang.
I was more interested, and surprised that someone from a "reputed" newspaper thought that Joss went with Fox for the "big bucks" (it is referenced and hyperlinked in this article) when it is very common knowledge he did it because of and for Eliza. No wonder no one reads newspapers (online or otherwise) anymore.
Whedon might well belong online but how would we upload him? I'm pretty sure that can only be done to Italian demons from the 1400s

As far as the article goes, at least the writer has done some basic research unlike most of the garbage written about Dollhouse. I disagree completely that Dollhouse has been a failure but, of course, that just comes down to taste
I hate the "Joss belongs online" thing.

It's almost like his career has been going in reverse -- his first decade in Hollywood saw him writing for a top ten show (Roseanne), selling scripts for millions of dollars, working as a script doctor on huge movies, and working with Pixar, while the second decade has seen him making cult TV, writing comic books, and doing things online (okay, and making his theatrical directing debut). In fairness, he's had far more creative control over the stuff he's done this decade, and it probably has made him happier overall (except for the cancellations).

But while I love Dr. Horrible, it feels like what it is: Joss having some fun with friends. It doesn't feel (to me) like his sole creative future.

I think Joss has a gift for big-budget action/adventure with humor and heart, yet he keeps getting painted as a cult creator with a niche audience. Which was pretty much what JJ Abrams was painted as pre-Lost (and pre Star Trek), and what Judd Apatow was painted as pre-40 Year Old Virgin (and pre every comedy of the last five years).

I believe Joss has that big breakthrough in him still. Heck, if I was running the world, he would have already had about ten breakthroughs -- for all his success, guy's had some tough breaks.

To wit: Buffy and Alien 4 would have been shot with different directors and would have been WAY better movies.

His awesome specs Suspension and Afterlife would have been made with A-list talent.

Wonder Woman would be challenging Dark Knight for the "best superhero movie ever" crown, along with Joss' take on X3, of course (in this universe, Ratner is waiting tables somewhere).

Oh, and what's that? They agreed to sell him Terminator for ten grand? YAY! Man, this alternate universe is AWESOME.

Anyway, I think Cabin In The Woods will be a hit (except it's been delayed a year, ARGH). Hopefully that will lead to another big-budget writing/directing gig for Joss. That's what I'd like to see him do. If he wants to fool around online in his spare time? That's cool as well.
bonzob I think we're see Joss on the big screen for the next few years. Cabin In The Woods is just the beginning.
I'm half with you bonzob. My preference would be for Joss to be able to do both huge, mainstream Hollywood movies and smaller, stranger niche stuff (whether on the internet, cable tv or anywhere else). I find it a bit depressing that Joss seems to have given up on mainstream success, though it's damn hard to blame him. Go back two or three years and he seemed to be still hoping that Wonder Woman and Goners would be big successes. But after the disasters there his whole tone changed and he started talking about how he realised his stuff was more appropriate for cult audiences. And while I do love the idea of him pumping out odd little internet films, I also still hope his big breakthrough is still coming. Maybe Cabin in the Woods is it
Simon, I think it partly depends on the financial success of Cabin in the Woods. I've got my fingers crossed
I wouldn't be surprised if we hear news about Joss signing on for a couple of films next year (I'd still love to see Goners get made).
The news of the cancellation is fresh, so it's not surprising that people are writing epitaphs now. If you were a newspaper columnist and wanted to write an article about Dollhouse, now would be the time to do it-- there's no guarantee it'll be news later.

And although they've promised to air the rest of the episodes-- I don't know, maybe I'm the only one that took that with a grain of salt. Aren't there a lot of shows where the network said they'd air the rest and then didn't? Or burned them off in the summertime or something? If I was a columnist, I'd want to get my article out now too.
I for one hope Joss does more of EVERYthing: print, online, TV, movies, you name it: I will shell out $$ for it! I also know someone posted on another thread that since they're doing the death knell cancellation articles now that people will forget the remaining eps, which seals the deal for ratings gloom. I understand the need to discuss a recent topic, and that makes me a bit angry with FOX for announcing the news just before we (hopefully) get the rest of our 13 eps.

[ edited by hopitopia on 2009-11-18 11:04 ]
I don't see Joss consciously limiting his options BUT I think if he makes a TV show in the near future it'll be on his own terms, with a lot of provisos and guarantees from the studio. And since those're unlikely to be forthcoming, that makes it less likely (mini-series and one-offs might be more likely). Still, i've been interested in every universe he's created so from my own selfish perspective, the more new universes he creates the better (i.e. lots of different ideas interest me more than waiting 2 years for another to be developed and then on tenterhooks afterwards to see if this is going to be the one that catches fire in the mainstream. Feels like we have 3 and a bit amazing long form stories from him already, wouldn't hate some short-form stuff for a while).

If you were a newspaper columnist and wanted to write an article about Dollhouse, now would be the time to do it-- there's no guarantee it'll be news later.

Sure but that's a commercial consideration and has nothing to do with whether it's worthwhile to summarise a show with over a third of its content still unseen (if an article is, for instance, flabby and overlong I could care less that it's because the journalist got paid by the word - it's still a fault of the article). Likewise, whether they air or not is irrelevant (i'm also not counting those chickens FWIW).

Still, I guess the "journalist" saying that Joss killed the show by money-grabbing is at least making an original claim (I mean, it's original because it's bullshit but still ... ;).
I really liked the Mad Men/Belonging article when it came out; I think I bookmarked it.
buffywrestling | November 18, 05:54 CET

I did the same. It's worth noting, if anyone has missed it, that both the "Joss belongs online" and the "he's only in it for the money" quotes are not from the author of this article (Emily Nussbaum of New York magazine), but are in links to articles by others.

As for the Dollhouse/Mad Men comparison in the context of feminism, I completely agree. Mad Men is one reason that my personal fantasy is that the next time Joss has a brainstorm about a possible series that doesn't fit the narrow network mold, he takes it to AMC.

I agree with everyone who would hate to see Joss limit himself to the short form, low budget world of online content. Although I love the idea of web side projects, the format plays directly against Joss's major strength, long-arc storylines and in-depth character development.
Unless that web series in low fi and ongoing. I'm thinking subscription based. 40$ buys you a (short) season of downloadable 1080p files. If you could get 1 million subscribers worldwide(which i don't think is impossible since Whedon's shows are very popular with a highly devoted audience across the globe), this would equal the budget of a major Hollywood feature. I think Joss would be able to produce maybe 10 20 minute episodes of scripted programming if he ditches some tech and shoots on HD-CAM/Red One. which is really the pioneer in online content charged 10$ a month for access and there seemed to be a lot of interest when it launched but the number of subscribers quickly plummeted when the promised content didn't materialize (the footage was eventually edited into the feature film "INLAND EMPIRE" instead og appearing on the website as a the series "Axxon NN" which is what people had subscribed to see.)
Basically people showed up, and if the content producers gambles a bit upfront and actually delivers with something great a long form online show doesn't have to be a pipe dream.
Well, I am not sure I agree with the analysis, but I love the snark in this comment:

"Carrie Prejean's next job: Performing in a televised version of the Vagina Monologues?

Lisa de Moraes: I think she already did that in her video. So I've been told..."
I think Joss should do whatever he feels creatively inspired to do, and has the opportunity to do. I doubt even he can see the future, so whatever that is has yet to be known.
Internet-based distribution is one thing, but I personally am not hoping to see Joss get serious about making direct-to-disc fare.
This whole "beautiful mistake" angle seems to be the prevailing course for Dollhouse post-mortems. And I couldn't disagree more. As has already been pointed out, it's a bit early to be issuing final judgments on this show, since we've still got nine episodes to go (and tweets from insiders indicate at least some of them are going to be amazing).

The premise is a tough nut to crack, but is not fundamentally flawed. It is open-ended enough to sustain countless variations and explorations. A decade from now, they'll be offering university classes on Dollhouse, just as they do on Buffy and Firefly now -- and we'll be missing it just as we do those amazing shows, lamenting What Might Have Been.
The very fact people keep saying Joss belongs online makes me want him to stay in all different mediums. Joss is different than other writers in a lot of ways and diversity is what makes the world interesting. Soon as you start treating people like square pegs and saying where they belong it just rings false for me. I hope Joss has a long career to come in tv, movies and the internet.
I emailed Tim when I heard the news about the cancellation, expressing how down the news made me. He responded: "thanks - i think you'll like what's left."

Why are so many people here quick to assume that if Joss does web-based content, it has to be short-form? He could make an online series with story arcs and character development, much in the way Felicia Day has with The Guild. Plus, just because it's online does not mean it has to be small. Even if so, these internet ventures could very well lead to bigger, theatrically released material. It wouldn't be the first time. Just look at and the new film, Mystery Team. Or, just think back to Neill Blomkamp's humble beginnings.
It doesn't have to be short-form but so far there've been no successful long-form web dramas. It'd be great if Joss broke that trend but i'd also be happy if he just wanted to create lots of different stories for a while (say 12-18 months) to get his "web-chops" in a fairly low-risk way before diving back into serials (assuming his comments about a web studio apply to the near future).

Ultimately, whatever he creates, i'll be checking out and he should obviously do whatever takes his fancy (for me that's so obvious it kind of goes without saying, it's axiomatic. Mileage varies of course ;) this is all just speculation.
Would Sanctuary count as a successful long-form web drama?
Not sure on a few counts Simon. Setting aside what we might think of the show itself, 1) was it successful in its web incarnation ? They seemed to stall, the creators went a bit quiet for a few months (one of the areas it was least successful IMO was its stated intention of creating a community where the fans and creators would regularly, almost casually interact) and then it got the TV pickup. 2) Was it long-form ? They only produced 8 web episodes of 15 (ish) minutes each. It was serial story-telling and it was drama (by intent at least) but by "long-form" in this context I assume most people mean something running for more than a few months, producing at least 50-100 episodes (even if they're shorter than TV episodes). By that definition, no, it doesn't.
Sanctuary was a web series? I just thought it was a TV show.
It started as a web series.

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