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"I wanted to do a show about people who are not 'super,' just working-class people, the people history steps on. (Joss on Firefly)"
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January 07 2010

Dollhouse's Australian Neighbours. Brief quotes from Dichen and Enver about it's like living in an L.A. apartment block that's full of ex-Neighbours stars. Enver also comments on the differences between Joss and Fox.

I don't care if we're supposed to be grateful and indebted to Fox for the 2nd season, I hate them. :/
Great to see that Enver & Dichen have become such good friends.
Aw, it's like a Ramsay Street in the sky. Don't recognise most of those names and Dichen herself was on long after my peak 'Neighbours' viewing window (i.e. when I was a student, obviously ;) but it's always good to have some mates around when you're living in a strange land (jokes about how strange a land LA is are left as an exercise for the reader ;).


edited for speeling

[ edited by Saje on 2010-01-07 14:35 ]
I think we all knew from the way Fox promoted (I use that term loosely) the show initially that Joss and Fox were on different pages, so to speak. But any creative differences would have dissolved if the numbers had been there--and they weren't. The numbers are why the show has been canceled, not that Fox got a different show than they expected.
One could argue that because Fox made Joss change what the show was ultimately about, as stated by Joss in his interview with Maureen Ryan and basically repeated here by Enver, that it's very possible the numbers would have been different had Joss done what he originally wanted. So I place the blame on them: if they want to control the show, it's on them when it crashes. Not to mention all other ways FOX mishandled this show (taking it off the air as often as possible for weeks at a time, awful promos that sell the show short, giving out false air dates, etc.) and you've got a show that won't bring in numbers. So I'm not disagreeing that the show was canceled because numbers or anything.
The numbers may have been different, 'may' surely being the key word there. We don't know (I think it's possibly significant that even after "Man on the Street", when the show was meant to become closer to Joss' vision, the numbers continued to trend downwards). Still, it's handy to have a single, clear-cut target to blame it on.

If I were the next executive that offers Joss a TV show i'd leave him entirely alone, air the episodes in order, do a competent job of promotion and then if it dies on its arse the fans can't blame you. They will anyway of course but at least they'll be demonstrably wrong to do so (as it is, it's ambiguous - maybe it's as simple as "Fox killed it", maybe it's more complicated but either way, it'd be nice to have one un-interfered with show to act as a control).
Well, if "Man on the Street" was any indication of how the show should have been from the start, as even Joss said in the DVD commentary that he considers it the real pilot, I do think things would have been different. It was the first episode that really explored the client side, like Joss' original vision, and even then he couldn't go into that as much as he would have liked. Of course we'll never know, but it's the first episode that even got positive buzz, so I think it's fair to say the numbers would have been at least slightly better had Joss had more control. A competent network can provide a lot of positive input for your show but Fox and Joss just don't work.
If there hadn't been the creative differences and we had explored the client side more, maybe the numbers wouldn't have been so anemic at the start.
Of course we'll never know, but it's the first episode that even got positive buzz, so I think it's fair to say the numbers would have been at least slightly better had Joss had more control.

Yes but as I say JAYROCK, the numbers continued to drop even after 'Man on the Street' aired i.e. people watched it and not only did no new people start watching (which is arguably Fox's fault for not promoting the show properly) BUT existing viewers stopped watching.

Here's a graph by Whedonesquer korkster over on the .org that shows the trend (note that IIRC 'Gray Hour' aired the Friday that 'Watchmen' opened which might explain the apparent blip down then back up).
The drop off really started in earnest after the 'network' episodes, to be honest. Food for thought. The 'identity' episodes weren't ratings winners, and the 'sex' episodes almost made me stop watching.

The great thing about 'Man on the Street' is the global network of the different Dollhouses and the thriller element, I thought. Which came from, you know, the network.

But they're bad and evil and out to destroy the show... Right?
I love Joss very much but at some point he needs to take more responsibility, I mean wasn't this the same exact argument that was used for Firefly's cancellation?
Obviously there is no way to know for certain if the show would have been more successful if Joss could have made it like he intended. But I don't think it is unreasonable to assume that the early episodes drove away viewers who would have been interested in the show as Joss wanted to make it. The viewers who continued watching the show were either hardcore Joss fans or people who actually liked the watered down version of Dollhouse. When the show started shifting from engagement of the week with sexy heroine towards more complex and darker stories the show scared away the viewers who liked the early episodes leaving only the hardcore fans. And obviously most (if not all) of the viewers who gave up on the show early on didn't return.

That's not to say that all network input is bad. Some was likely helpful as gossi pointed out. But obviously many great aspects of the show had to be sacrificed because of Fox. Other than Joel Miner we never got a glimpse into the mind of the clients. And obviously there are only drop-dead gorgeous young actives.
Let me be clear - Enver's absolutely right, Fox bought a different show to the one Joss had in mind. And that's gotta be partly Joss' responsibility, as he was doing the pitch. I've no idea if Fox's attempts to make the show work better for them had a negative impact or not overall. Certainly, creatively, it had a price - the episodes during the first season weren't has good as they should have been. But I can understand why FOX got over involved with the show. I can absolutely see why they liked 'Man On The Street' and weren't at all keen on 'Echo'. Because I shared those concerns.
But I don't think it is unreasonable to assume that the early episodes drove away viewers who would have been interested in the show as Joss wanted to make it.

Sure but by the same reasoning it's also not unreasonable to assume that if the network had interfered even more it might have attracted other viewers (or kept those that continued to fall away after 'Man on the Street').

In other words, we can assume whatever we want to assume and speculate whatever we want to speculate, we just can't throw around assumptions and speculations as if they're facts.
Hey Saje I thought you were laying off the speeling.
I tell ya barboo, it's like a munkey on my back.
I never said the network was out to destroy the show, only that they very much mishandled it, maybe even destroyed it, but obviously that was not their intention. I also said that network input can be very helpful for a show, so I'm not knocking any improvements they made. But for as many improvements that they made, they also made just as many, if not more, mistakes.

And I never threw around anything as a fact, as I clearly used words like "maybe", "possibly", etc. Regardless, I'm just glad Joss can be done with Fox for good now.
I thought my ears were burning, Saje. ;)

For me, FOX lost a chunk of potentials at moving Dollhouse from a Fall to a Spring premiere. Critics & fans had four whole months to spread out the negative doom & gloom with all of our picnics and rehashings of Firefly.

No matter what positive reviews came later (in some cases, much later), that initial move always had people wondering when it was going to end, not if. Remember the total shock of the renewal? It was over from the start. I blame us and our crazy hypothesis-rantings of what wrong has been done and will be done again.

That said, I can't see Joss being accepted on another network except FOX. Even without Eliza's contract, his story-telling and themes just fit better with that network verses the others.
It's a handy graph, what can I say ;). Re: early doom and gloom, maybe. But I can't help thinking if the early reviews of 'Ghost' had all been great then those 3-4 months would've been full of positive buzz so not necessarily a bad thing per se. Maybe 'Echo' would've had the critics buzzing, maybe not. And maybe it would've got more eyeballs in week 2, maybe not. It's all highly speculative.

And I never threw around anything as a fact, as I clearly used words like "maybe", "possibly", etc. Regardless, I'm just glad Joss can be done with Fox for good now.

That actually wasn't specifically aimed at you JAYROCK (or anyone else in the thread), it was a general gripe, but it does kind of make me smile that in the very same post you claim not to be throwing assumptions around as facts you say "But for as many improvements that they made, they also made just as many, if not more, mistakes." stated flat-out as if it's, well, a fact ;).

Clearly that's exactly the sort of thing we can't know and i'd submit, can't really even hold a particularly well-informed opinion about (because how can we know exactly which things were Fox improvements and which were mistakes ? A few actual errors aside - with e.g. some of the promotional stuff that had wrong dates etc. - it's hard to know what worked and what didn't since we haven't seen the world where they did it differently to compare).

(no offence, genuinely, it's just a kind of blindness we have as a fandom I think. Probably true of ALL fandoms, in fact it's probably partly what makes them fandoms to begin with)

[ edited by Saje on 2010-01-07 23:29 ]
Oh, it's all just speculation. I agree mistakes - big ones - were made along the way by folks at Fox, which helped cost the show.
And mistakes were made by Mutant Enemy too. We can't forget that the network didn't write the episodes, even if they did meddle with some of the creative aspects. We often say that standalone aren't Whedon's thing, but there are umpteen great standalone episodes of Buffy and Angel, whilst most of Firefly is self-contained. So why were many of the early episodes of Dollhouse not considered by many to be up to his usual standard?

It is interesting to hear Joss talk about it now, particularly the interview he did after a sing along event with Ira Glass, if I remember correctly. There he pretty much flat out said that the interference from the network caused him and his team to under perform; he was never writing the show he wanted to and there was always this struggle between what he wanted and what the network wanted. Playing devil's advocate, Joss has been in the industry for a long time and really should be used to this give and take relationship by now. The basic, single phrase description of Dollhouse (a group of people being whatever you want them to be) has so much mainstream appeal and could make an action show like no other. You can really understand what Fox was expecting before they saw it. But Joss loves to bluff us into a false sense of security and twist our expectations, unfortunately he seems to have done it to the network too.
That's what always struck me about the "too standalone" complaints - Buffy and 'Angel' both had first seasons chock full of standalone episodes as did 'Firefly', they were set against an arc and a mythology but then, so were the supposedly too standalone episodes of 'Dollhouse'.

I agree mistakes - big ones - were made along the way by folks at Fox, which helped cost the show.

Sure. Who knows how it'd have turned out otherwise but it's pretty hard to see e.g. wrong promotional information, pre-empted adverts, not getting out ahead of the "Friday death slot" announcement, not getting out ahead of the "Epitaph One won't air" announcement etc. as having helped the show.

Creative changes are much harder to judge though (whatever our personal preferences. Or rather, because the judgements rely on our personal preferences).
it does kind of make me smile that in the very same post you claim not to be throwing assumptions around as facts you say "But for as many improvements that they made, they also made just as many, if not more, mistakes." stated flat-out as if it's, well, a fact ;).


Well, to be honest with you, I completely believe there is evidence that backs up the fact that FOX made a lot of mistakes with the show, and there is more out to the public of what they did wrong than they did right. Evidence that I'm sure you're already aware of so I don't need to go into what it is. But of course you are not required to agree with me there, which is why they have a group of jurors and not just one, right? What I said in your quote was referring to what would have happened to the show had the creative differences not taken place.


The basic, single phrase description of Dollhouse (a group of people being whatever you want them to be) has so much mainstream appeal and could make an action show like no other. You can really understand what Fox was expecting before they saw it.


It's a very good point, which is evidenced by FOX buying the show without ever seeing it. What you described is probably exactly what they were expecting, and what Joss wanted was something much more original, thought provoking, and dark. And I do think that FOX worked with Joss on the concept, like wanting to make the Dollhouses a global thing. That's a suggestion I'm really thankful for.

[ edited by JAYROCK on 2010-01-08 01:30 ]
That's what always struck me about the "too standalone" complaints - Buffy and 'Angel' both had first seasons chock full of standalone episodes as did 'Firefly', they were set against an arc and a mythology but then, so were the supposedly too standalone episodes of 'Dollhouse'.


I agree with you completely. Looking back, I find the complaints that Dollhouse moved too slowly to be a puzzling one, when we actually got a lot of reveals and progression of a long arc under way within those "pilot" episodes. Compared to his previous shows, the first season of Dollhouse moved like a rocket. Buffy only had very few episodes revolving around the Master. Angel's first season didn't really have any season long plot, outside of the odd Wolfram and Hart moment or character progression, whilst the same was true with Firefly.

I guess this could just reflect the change in television since Whedon was last on our small screens. Then again, I find many American shows nowadays to be very slow, dragging out a plot across 22 episodes when it could be told in around about half the time.

I think it is more likely that people just weren't interested enough in the plots of the individual episodes and found the only elements of merit to be the overall arc.
Playing devil's advocate here, or not, as it's Joss, but as far as the standalone episodes go, as Joss said in his interview with Maureen Ryan:

“The problems that the show encountered weren’t standalone versus mythology [episodes],” Whedon said. “Basically, the show didn’t really get off the ground because the network pretty much wanted to back away from the concept five minutes after they bought it.


Maybe the standalone episodes would have been better received if Fox didn't back away from the concept.
The "too standalone" complaint was from us JAYROCK i.e. the fans thought they were too standalone (and that was partly because news spread, from people involved in the show IIRC, that Fox had asked Joss to make them more standalone - i.e. because Fox asked for it, that was the problem, that was something about the show that they'd screwed up. Even though now, as you say, even Joss doesn't consider it the problem). I can remember people complaining in the thread for episode two that the arc wasn't very good. Episode two ?! How arcy did they expect it to be by that point ?

And as I say, I agree Fox made actual, quantifiable mistakes in their handling of the show (mainly promotional). But if you're talking about mistakes due to their creative input then it becomes much more speculative, fuzzy and a matter of opinion (and as I say, not a very informed one just by the nature of none of us being Fox insiders).

I think it is more likely that people just weren't interested enough in the plots of the individual episodes and found the only elements of merit to be the overall arc.

Which is a perspective I can understand, I thought the plots were often the weakest part of the first few episodes (though I did and do wonder if they were deliberately using well-known plots where the Echo character had originally been a man - 'The Most Dangerous Game', 'The Bodyguard' etc.).
I know where the standalone complaints came from, I had them too. Joss knew that we had complaints about the standalone episodes too, and knew that we thought the mission of the week episodes ruined the show a lot of the show. Which caused him to say that the problems with the show were not in fact the standalone episodes, but the fact that FOX backed away from the concept. Which can only lead me to infer that had FOX not done that, the standalone episodes would have been better and we would have not complained.
Or so you assume at least ;).

No, i'm not talking about complaints about the standalone episodes (of which there were many, some of which I agreed with despite liking all of the first 5 - maybe except 'Stage Fright' - to varying degrees), i'm talking about the complaint that those episodes were "too standalone" (which was quite prevalent at the time) i.e. that that was the main problem with them (and that, therefore, it was Fox's fault).

Then Joss says "It's not because they were standalone" and suddenly we're all onboard with that and it's now NOT because they were too standalone but because Fox backed away from the concept. See, this is my issue with all of these assumptions - they serve what we want to think and they change on an ad hoc basis. If we want to think Fox ruined the show then no-matter what, the problems (as you see them) with the show will be laid at Fox's door (first it was because Fox said "Make them more standalone" and we didn't want "more standalone" then when it couldn't be that because Joss told us so it became "Fox didn't want the show Joss wanted to make").

Ultimately, I think we just have a difference of perspective (whatever I may think about Fox's input to the show i'm reluctant to make claims either way because i'm painfully aware that I just don't know either exactly what their input was OR whether it would have proven better/worse or more/less popular as a result). Still, vive la difference as they say ;).

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