It seems that the cancellation of Dollhouse is drawing closer and closer.
While it is not a certainity yet, and there is still a glimmer of hope that we’ll see a second season, that glimmer seems to be fading pretty darn fast at this point. Series creator Joss Whedon has made two public appearances this week, one to receive the 2009 Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism at Harvard and the other to speak at the Paley Festival, and at both events he did not sound exactly update about the future of the show. Speaking to Sci Fi Wire, Mr. Whedon gave some of his thoughts:
[The chances are] not very good but in limbo. Obviously our numbers are pretty soft, and there it is, but we live in hope. I’m really proud of the episodes that are coming out. More than that, I can’t really ask.
He also cleared up some of the rampant speculation circulating about the mysterious thirteenth episode, “Epitaph One”:
“The decision had to do with the studio saying, ‘We need another episode for our package, and we can’t afford one,'” Whedon said. “‘Can you do a clip show? Can we show the unaired pilot?’ I’m like, ‘No, you can’t. It wouldn’t make any sense. Besides, we cannibalized it for parts. Most of it’s in other episodes.’ And they were like, ‘Well, we really have to have 13 for foreign.’ And I said, ‘I’ll tell you what. I’ll shoot a post-apocalyptic thriller that’s all on our sets in six days with a cast of four other people, then we’ll pepper it with different bits from our regular cast, and we can do it all during the schedule. It’ll cost you half. I can do this.’ And I was so in love with the idea that I just came up with off the top of my head, and that’s what it turned into. It’s one of the best episodes we’ve ever made.”
This still doesn’t clear up for us when, if ever, we’ll get to see the episode. It sounds like the foreign markets will see it for sure, which means it should show up online, albeit illegally, but hopefully they would use it as a selling point for the DVD release in the United States also.
With USA Today saying the show is “Gone or nearly dead”, it’s looking more and more likely that the show is a goner. Unlike Firefly, though, which I loved, I think Dollhouse was just a bit harder to connect with. In both instances, Fox fiddled with the show: in the case of Firefly they showed the series out of order, and with Dollhouse they put a lot of restraints on what Mr. Whedon could do in the first five episodes. It wasn’t until the sixth episode that he could get the network to stop meddling with him, but I think by then it was just too late. He had been set down a path it was hard to get off of, and a lot of viewers had already given up on the show hooking them.
I also just can’t help but thinking that Eliza Dushku’s acting was partially to blame. While the other “dolls” showed very different characters with each imprint, I had hard time each episode of thinking anything, but “Oh, it’s Eliza… just in a different outfit.” I thought her most effective acting came out of when she played Echo in her wiped Doll state. What can I say, she plays “blank” well.
The concept was an intriguing one, but it just took the ball too long to get rolling. With Buffy, the Vampire Slayer you knew the concept just from the opening monolgue over the credits. With Firefly you got the gist of things fairly quickly about them being rag tag hoodlums that wander the spaceways under the own rules in pretty much every episode. Dollhouse was just too complex of a concept for anyone to easily jump into. Was it about the evils of the Dollhouse? Was it about the FBI agent? Was it about Alpha, the rogue doll? Why was Echo in the program? While I have every faith that Mr. Whedon would have gotten to where everything tied together, but to draw new viewers in and hook them on the series, I think it was just too much all at once.
Like I said, the cancellation isn’t a done deal as of yet, but all of the signs point to it happening. Hopefully the answers will be spelled out online or in a comic book for those of us who watched every episode if the series does indeed get cancelled, but for now, hopefully this will scare Joss Whedon away from every trusting the Fox network again with one of his properties. After the disaster of Firefly, you would have thought he would have learned his lesson, but they promised him it would be different… you know, kind of like battered wife syndrome. Hopefully this time Joss will sign the divorce papers and find a healthier, happier relationship, not just for his sake, but also the sake of his fans.