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"Dollhouse" Tv Series - Why FOX wants season 2 ?

Saturday 23 May 2009, by Webmaster

Ever since I made a statement on TV BY THE NUMBERS of “FOX is in negotiations on DOLLHOUSE,” and I said it was real negotiations they were leaning towards renewal if their requests could be met I’ve heard a lot of comments. Everything from I was full of it to FOX is insane and the most popular response “I’ll believe it when I see it.” Just days later it was official: DOLLHOUSE was renewed for Season 2. I won some bets, and even made the Live Strong Foundation some money. After the renewal the question became “Why Fox?”

DOLLHOUSE is the least watched scripted drama to ever be renewed by a major network in the last 20 years. At least that is what I read some where. It dropped to a 1.0 in the 18-49 Nielsen Ratings Demographic. At the time I said (I’m paraphrasing here) “If FOX renews DOLLHOUSE now, everyone should be fired that had anything to do with the decision.” Why? Because it got a 1.0 in the 18-49 demo! That is inexcusable for a scripted show on a major network whether it is Friday or not. If the show is renewed that means it had to be renewed for a good reason. That reason is they believe it should be doing better. Which means the people who chose to renew it didn’t do their job right in the first place (thus my reasoning for firing them).

The good news is that technically someone was fired over it. FOX Broadcasting has changed their Peters. Pete 1.0 was recently replaced by Pete 2.0. Pete 2.0 believes that DOLLHOUSE should be doing better. He was a large part of why the show was renewed.

If they ever teach a class on how not to nurture a drama, the primary example will likely be Joss Whedon’s FIREFLY. There was a show that was well written, well acted, and extremely entertaining. It had Studio fingers in the pie, but the final baked product still impressed. So FOX gets worried about what people want to see, so they decide to air the episodes of a semi-serial program out of order. In fact the last episode aired was the 1st episode! A secondary example would likely be DOLLHOUSE.

DOLLHOUSE had its pilot rewritten and reshot. The studio forced the storylines down some rather absurd paths. The result was a pilot that wasn’t entertaining and wasn’t quite engaging enough to substantiate repeat viewing. If Whedon didn’t have a good reputation I argue that the show would have flopped immediately. However to make matters worse FOX let their dissatisfaction with the first scripts and pilot to go public. They also changed their scheduling plans. Instead of the show airing in a cushy Monday evening timeslot with 24 it was pushed to Fridays where they’d already sent TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNER CHRONICLES (TSCC) to die.

In FOX’s defense they promoted the hell out of the pilot. This was around the time when Pete 1.0 was starting to get in trouble, and Kevin Reilly gave the ok for Whedon to allow the show to be more conspiracy heavy. They knew they had some episodes that were down right awful but by midseason the show would do a massive turn around in quality. All they needed to do was keep the audience around.

That never happened. The show debuted well for FOX on a Friday and even did a decent job of holding on to its audience for the 2nd episode. The 2nd episode was no better than the first and the audience numbers continued to bleed out. By the time the shows aired that were good it was too late. The show had faced bad PR before it ever aired. The media’s response to the show was “bad show, won’t live long.” In fact many articles predicted a short life for DOLLHOUSE.

Pete 1.0 was fired and replaced by Pete 2.0. Pete 2.0 liked what he saw in DOLLHOUSE but didn’t like what he saw in the C3 ratings. Whedon had provided much better product, but the ratings were horrible. The DOLLHOUSE brand was tarnished. Pete 2.0 wanted to keep working with Whedon. So they invited him to pitch season 2. They loved the pitch. So the problem arose. How can they justify renewing a show nobody was watching and the media had labeled a failure?

Simple: Lower costs to make it financially viable. Scripted shows demand higher premiums than game shows, etc. So by lowering the cost of the show they could make more money off renewal. This would take some serious budget trimming. However Whedon had toyed with internet properties and had a good handle on how to do things for less money. So the show got renewed. It was profitable.

It’s now up to FOX to polish the Brand. Comic Con is going to be a big event for DOLLHOUSE. Fans need to give copies of the DVD sets to friends and especially to friends who might have given up on the show. You may want to tell friends to skip certain episodes (the one where Echo protects the singer immediately comes to mind). They also need to air some of the better episodes over the summer.

I think FOX made the right decision. Whedon seems to have an entertaining vision of the future of DOLLHOUSE and since they seem more likely to give him free reign with this lowered budget then that can only mean the better. Keep their fingers out of the pie, and perhaps Whedon can deliver us something special. His shows generally improve greatly in their 2nd seasons (too bad FIREFLY never saw one).

Still this is a major gamble, and FOX is going to have to do their best to get interest back in the show. If the show can rebound and pull 1.5 in the 18-49 demo and slowly grow then they made the right decision.