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December 19 2009

Last night's Dollhouse ratings. As expected.

Worse than last week, it averaged a 0.7 18-49 and 2.10 million viewers.

The last Friday before Christmas, with Christmas parties galore. Not a surprise that viewership was down for all the networks, nor much of a surprise for a canceled TV show. OTOH, we got two hours of top-notch television, and I, for one, am grateful for the opportunity to see them. At this point, all I care about is that Fox holds to its commitment to show the last three episodes.
And Avatar too probably had an effect. But at the end of the day we know we're facing the firing squad regardless.
When you said OTOH, I was like, did he say OTH? But you didn't, you said OTOH. But with me thinking you said OTH, I had a thought in my mind. That thought was about OTH. I think OTHs (not OTOH) first four seasons are like Buffy, but vampireless. Thanks my two cents (even though there is no possibility that I could use cents over here, as we don't use cents, and they'd reject them). But yes, OTOH reminded me of OTH, and that made me think of Buffy being the same sort of thing as it, but not exactly it.

Anyone agree?

P.S., sorry if that's confusing. D:

[ edited by Frick on 2009-12-19 19:12 ]
The entire night for all networks was horrible. These numbers always have to be seen in context and to get that context you can click on the link provided and see how poorly everything did. That being said, none of it matters.
7 for the 7 seasons we're totally gonna get with ratings like this. Totally true. Don't believe that Joss guy saying it's cancelled, it's totally gonna live forever.
I just read that not knowing what OTH and OTOH meant. I even read OTH as One Tree Hill several times. OTOH comes up on Google as 'On The Other Hand' whilst OTH does indeed come up with a load of One Tree Hill stuff. I'm confused.

I'm not up-to-date on the D-House, so that might have something to do with the state I seem to have gotten myself into.

Also, I could have guessed 0.7. I'm still more than pleased with these. Some shows that are burnt off get 0.5's and we're not there yet!
I got OTOH, but had to google OTH as well. Made me think "Over The Hedge" but that didn't seem right...
OTH = One Tree Hill. ;o
So you actually compared the brilliance of Buffy to One Tree Hill? Don't get me wrong, I used to semi-like OTH (One Tree Hill) for all its sappy melodrama, so this comparison has intrigued me. There is literally no similarities, I swear, even with a vein criticism, by season 4, the Tree Hill kids are still in HS and Buffy is in Uni.

After sitting here for several minutes trying to think of some real similarities, I've come to the conclusion that you simply need to watch Veronica Mars if you haven't done so.
These ratings are actually the best of the season. That's kinda good, I guess, not that it matters at this point.
Uhm, they're the worst in the season, in the demo. 0.7 = baaaaaaaaad.

But it's to be expected. Avatar was aimed at the same demo and had the biggest marketing spend for a motion picture in history.
This is why Joss needs to be on cable. The Dexter finale broke records... with 2.6 million.
Chris, if he took Dollhouse to - say - Syfy, they would give enough budget to build a shed. Shedhouse.

[ edited by gossi on 2009-12-19 21:11 ]
I actually trust that Joss would still be able to do a good show in a shed. Even if Joss made a show called 'Return of the Vamp Cramps' and had a budget of one shiny nickel, I'd still trust him enough to give it a chance.
gossi, any idea why that guy from SyFy said Dollhouse was too expensive for them? Battlestar and Caprica don't look like cheap productions to me.
They're shot outside of LA, they don't have $2m sets, Battlestar was cofinanced by Sky One in the UK etc.

I'm not saying Joss couldn't (or shouldn't) do cable, he just couldn't do something with Firefly budget on cable.

Personally, I think he'll do movies now. And possibly some internet stuff. Which, of course, I'll be there for to check out.
Dollhouse is in the top ten downloads at Itunes, that has been that way in a while right?
Battlestar was shot in Vancouver, BC at Simon Frazier University.
Well, Dr. Horrible was good (though I like it more for the music than for the characters and the story) and I doubt it had more budget than a regular cable tv episode. I think Joss could definitely make it work, if he was invested in the story and had any contacts in cable.

On network television though I don't think he will ever be that successful, unless he decides to do a sitcom without anything sci-fi to it and while Joss shows have had their amount of humour, a sitcom by Joss would be something out of his comfort zone, as there are less heartbreaking painful twists to do (unless he doesn't do conventional sitcoms, but some quirky showtime dramedy-thing).
I might have just missed it all, sorry if I did and I'm rehashing old talk, but there's seemed to be almost no talk about the show going to a different channel. Forgive an englishman with no real knowledge of how networks work, but from what i can gather Dollhouse has gotten ratings that are bad for a broadcast network but would be good for a cable network. When Angel was cancelled there seemed to be a lot of discussion of taking it elsewhere, and many shows have done that successfully. Is there definitely no chance of a pickup from elsewhere? Thinking that the set is already built, with potentially great ratings for a cable network, and the high ratings outside US (did quite well over here, I think, anywhere else?). Also, Buffy and Angel were always able to look fantastic with a fairly hefty amount of effects, more than I would expect would be required for Dollhouse.

I'm probably clinging onto false hope, but I don't want to see such an incredible show go. Is there definitely no hope?

[ edited by Coleberg on 2009-12-19 22:57 ]
Yay! So it's getting renewed right?

Cloeberg, there is absolutely no chance of Dollhouse going to another network (cable or broadcast). You can take that to the bank. Won't happen.

People should also keep in mind that Tim Minear's Alien Nation (ordered to development for Syfy, a cable network) is being made at the same studio (for all intents and purposes) as Dollhouse. So are Sons of Anarchy (FX), Burn Notice (USA), White Collar (USA), and others soon to be seen on cable.

Joss could do sci-fi on cable without moving offices and I doubt you or I could tell the difference.
Personally, I wouldn't mind seeing Joss give network television, perhaps even Fox, another try.
Until Fox the network gives up the dream of another X-Files on
Friday I see nothing but a lot of fail from them. But at least
they are willing to give new things a try and frankly there is not
a whole lot of that on the original 3 broadcast networks.

So here's a toast to glorious failures. Salute!
I'm sorry, but as an Australian looking in, the American ratings system is ridiculous. Dexter gets 2.5 million viewers, and it's an all time high - while Dollhouse gets 2.5 million viewers, and it gets cancelled. I understand the difference between cable and network, but seriously, that's insane.
Showtime gets serious subscriber fees as revenue. Way more than Fox gets in ad revenue for Dollhouse. Fox doesn't get any subscriber fees (unlike every single cable channel even the ad supported channels). The economics between Showtime and Fox are night and day. Fox needs 3,4, 10 time the viewers of Showtime to make money. You don't understand the difference between cable and network, Matt. Sorry.
I would have loved to watch live, as would my girlfriend and three other friends, but we were all at a party. I think it's that/Avatar/Holiday travling/ spending time with family, and expect the ratings to go up in Jan, especially (but not solely) because of Bones. Now if you excuse me, my internet just started working for the first time today (Curse your sudden but innevitable betrayal, comcast!!) and I have to go Hulu what may be the greatest 88 minutes of my life, if my friends can be trusted (they normally can't, but here goes nothing...)
I personally think cable is the future of American tv anyway, so it would be smart if Joss moved to cable. I mean ratings on network television have been going drastically for the last few years. Even the big shows like "Desperate Housewives", "CSI" or "Grey's Anatomy" have lost half of their audience. At the beginning of the decade "Friends" was getting over 30 million viewers, now the biggest shows only attract half of that audience (at least without including DVR and stuff like that, but as broadcast network make their money with ads, those numbers don't mean as much).
@TamaraC - given that's one of the main differences between cable and network, I would think my saying 'I understand the difference' tends to encompass that thankyou. I'm well aware of everything you just said; I'm pointing out that the way America constructs their ratings system is ludicrous. Regardless of ad/suscribing revenue, if you swapped Dexter and Dollhouse with their respective numbers, Dexter would have been cancelled years ago and Dollhouse would be Showtime's darling.
@TamaraC: I think science fiction is inherently more expensive than cop shows, spy shows, medical shows, Westerns, and so forth. Science fiction tends to require more spending on sets and FX to get the look right. If you repurpose off the shelf props and don't take care of the details, it looks cheesy and unconvincing (unless it's a time travel theme like Life on Mars, in which case you can use objects and clothing that have already been designed.)

One of my favorite shows ever was the first season of Forever Night, late night on CBS; it was very low budget and the FX were laughable, but it had good actors, good writers and beautiful camera work.

Sons of Anarchy is one of my current favorites; simple sets and locations and not much in the way of special effects other than your standard explosions and gunfights. The value is all in the writing and acting.

Many genres of TV shows can be good with small budgets and creative intelligence, but a low budget science fiction series would have to be very carefully thought out, IMHO.

[ edited by janef on 2009-12-20 10:06 ]
I've tried. I really have. But I still can't get my head round the network/cable system in the U.S. I get where Battlestar was shot/how it was financed etc, but I just can't understand how Dollhouse or something similar could be so expensive. *tears hair out*
And honestly, I think Joss of all people could make a lower budget go far.
I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who read OTH as One Tree Hill (My SECRET guilty pleasure. Sue me. Everyone is allowed at least one, right? Come on, I gave up smoking...)

I would REALLY hate for Joss to give up on television - that is where he shines the most, in my humble opinion. (Yes, I just watched a My So Called Life marathon last week while I was sick). That said, I think Joss belongs on cable - he would have more creative freedom and wouldn't have to worry so much about ratings (I hope). I'm pretty sure I remember reading that Dollhouse can't move to another network because of some sort of contract with Eliza, which breaks my heart, as I would love to have seen Dollhouse last 7 seasons like Buffy.
CSI has not lost half its audience. Last 2 episodes averaged about 17 million viewers. While it is down from the days of Gil Grissom, it is not down that much by far. And if William Petersen shows up for a guest shot, you will see 26 million tune in, since that is how many watched Sara Sidle get saved at the beginning of S8.

I disagree that the future of TV in on cable; instead, I believe the future of TV is on the internet.

[ edited by Dana5140 on 2009-12-20 17:46 ]
I am going to take a stab at the questions concerning cable vs.
broadcast networks. One reason cable shows tend to be shot in
places like Vancouver is that production costs are much less.
Also the union contracts for the actors and writers (maybe
directors as well) on cable shows provide that those people are
paid a good deal less than on broadcast.

And I agree with the Dexter/Dollhouse comparison. I have been
wanting to make that point myself for some time. It may well
be that the future for Joss like programming lies on places
like Showtime but to date the man has shown no desire to work

Finally could we please clarify our terminology? At the very
least we need to distinguish between cable in the sense of
HBO, and cable in the sense of USA, SfFy, TBS, et al. These
entities for our non-USA readers are very, very, different.

The former lets call Pay Cable and the latter lets call Basic
Cable. Those terms are not 100% accurate but they seem to be
the ones I have seen in actual use the most.
janef, you make a good point about scifi which is why I led with the Alien Nation remake that Tim Minear is working on for Syfy.

Thanks for pointing that out, JDL. It is easy to forget that people outside the US (and maybe a few in the US) might not know that HBO, Showtime and Starz operate on very different business models than USA, FX, and Syfy, and that those are very different models from ABC, CBS and FOX.

I would see Joss do post apocalyptic scifi on FX or Syfy before HBO or Showtime. Maybe Starz depending on how Spartacus turns out. HBO has the big (and sure to be expensive) Game of Thrones coming next year. Does anyone know if Showtime is working on something ambitious or are they just going to run Dexter way past its expiration date?
Interesting in this discussion is the show In Treatment, on HBO. It has never come close to approaching the numbers that DH has, not by far, but it is now going to have its third season. Its normal numbers are around 1 million viewers per ep, maybe. And yet HBO knows it is quality television and someone finds a way to fund it and make money. While I do think the future of TV is on the net, in the short term cable remains a viable option for someone like Joss Whedon, who should attempt to work in that medium rather than under the strictures that network TV requires.
Also, "In Treatment" is two, talking heads, basically. So, cheap. HBO has had quality television it's canceled before (*cough*Deadwood*cough*). Difference? Not cheap.
I understand why the comparison between Dexter and Dollhouse would be made, but are we certain that all 2.5 million of Dollhouse viewers would pay to watch? I feel that Dexter has way more viewers than Dollhouse, but only the same amount of viewers in the way of ones who can/are willing to pay. I love the show but have to torrent the next morning.

I don't know about anything else they might be working on, but I imagine that Dexter will end after season 5.
You're absolutely right almost cookies. The simple fact that, when Dexter repeats aired on CBS, it was watched by about 8 million viewers proves a lot more people would watch Dexter if it was aired for free.

Also agree with MattManic7325 that the American tv-system can seem pretty ridiculous to outsiders. On the face of it, Dollhouse seems like a ridicously expensive show, considering how tiny the audience is for something that is made available for free viewing and has to make it's money based on the sale of advertisements. Here in the Netherlands (which have about one twentieth of the US population) cheap daily talkshows and reality crap manage to pull in similar audiences and they are made for a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of the money that goes into Dollhouse.

I guess it must be the sale to foreign networks and expected DVD/merchandising sales that can make something like Dollhouse appear viable option. Whatever way it works, I'm gratefull :).
FOX (the network) only gets money from advertising which is why the show is in no way profitable for them. I'm still surprised that they are airing all the episodes since I don't know how they are not losing money.
TamaraC wrote:
FOX (the network) only gets money from advertising which is why the show is in no way profitable for them.

But the fact that there are more foreign sales, DVD and merchandising sales to be considered from a English-language Joss Whedon show (or atleast that would have been suspected after Buffy, Angel & Firefly, I'm not sure how well Dollhouse is actually doing in those departements now) than from a typical Dutch show could still be a reason why the network would have to bare less of the burden of the much higher production costs - a typical Dutch drama is way cheaper than Dollhouse and still pulls in the same numbers. Reality shows, talkshows and the like are much cheaper still. One example is the Dutch drama 't Vrije Schaep which averaged similar numbers to Dollhouse (just bellow 2 million viewers) and reportedly cost 262.500 per episode.

BTW I'm not suggesting the show is profitable now, which is why it's cancelled, but there must at a time have been some way it seemed likely it could possibly become profitable, even after the terrible ratings for the first few episodes (why else would it have been renewed?), and that reasoning is the thing I'm searching for.

I love the fact that so much money is spent on American TV, but you'd expect larger audiences to go along with the larger budgets and increased availability.

[ edited by the Groosalugg on 2009-12-20 21:55 ]
I said that it probably isn't profitable for FOX, the network. I didn't say that it wasn't profitable for 20th Century Fox Television Studios. These are technically separate companies under Newscorp.

20th will get revenue from many different streams including, iTunes, international sales, DVD&BD, L&M, and the licensing fee that Fox paid them.
@the Groosalugg There was a time when Dollhouse was profitable, if only slightly, back when they were averaging 3 million viewers. This was one of the reasons why the show was renewed for a second season. All it was required to do was maintain those numbers on Friday nights to avoid cancellation. It failed, sometimes not by much, but enough to result in not being renewed for a third season. Right now, as these last episodes are being broadcast, Fox can afford to air them because it would cost way too much to try and campaign for something new in its place. Near as I can tell, Human Target looks to take Dollhouse's spot, once the episodes have all aired.

You're probably asking, "But John, why doesn't Fox just run repeats of their highest rated, scripted shows like Bones? They did it during the November hiatus!" It's a valid point, but I think Fox is making a point to keep a promise for a couple reasons.

1) It's good public relations. Last month, the cast of Glee were scheduled to appear in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. But, since it was to air on NBC, the idea was canceled because NBC didn't want to help promote a FOX show. This move makes NBC look bad. Just another in a history of bad ideas, which is why that network is doing so poorly. 2) Fox ordered 13 episodes of Dollhouse, so they're going to air those episodes. Doing this is also beneficial for syndication in the foreign markets. Those who are quick to shout "Epitaph One!" need not bother. I have my own separate theory on why that was not aired.

In unrelated news, I just found out that Brittany Murphy died this morning. I'm very sad and don't feel like talking about something so insignificant as TV ratings right now. :(
One further clarification. Fox the studio and Fox the network
have to treat each other as separate entities because of anti-
trust laws and iirc a pertinent Supreme court decision back in
the 1920's concerning owning both the theater's and movie
Presumably you mean this case decided in 1948, although I'm unsure how a case pertaining to movie studios and movie theaters becomes applicable to television studios and television networks, barring some authority expressly extending the decision to cover them. (Which maybe happened, I have no earthly idea.)
That's the one b!x. The principle involved with Television is
the same even if there is a minor difference in the underlying
facts and it's that principle which controls here.

Mea Culpa on the date. :)
Have to chime in for a sec:

Its normal numbers are around 1 million viewers per ep, maybe. And yet HBO knows it is quality television and someone finds a way to fund it and make money.

But 1M isn't HORRIBLE on HBO where the best ratings in the past 2 years came in at about 3.7M. It's not necessarily that HBO knows quality, but that they know quality and don't consider 1M a failure as a percentage of total potential audience. I have to say that I think Mr. Reilly & co's airing of the full season one and an order for a full season two which they will now air (quibbling with adverts aside) completely, is an indicator that they know quality as well. Just wanted to delve into that a sec - I don't disagree that Joss should be (and I have heard, IS...) talking to cable networks (c'mon, FX...) if not asking us how to help us work on his new interwebz superstatsion, MutantEnemy.TV.
@ gossi
I would be sorely disappointed if Joss
goes the way of feature films. What i like best about
his projects is the character development that takes place
in episodic TV, even over 'just' 13 episodes.

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