Tonight begins the final run of Fox’s sci-fi human slavery action drama, Dollhouse. I think I like this show, I know I want to, but it hasn’t been easy. There’s always been something really cool and really creepy going on, but it’s been a slow build to where the show’s finale seems to be heading.
I think a big part of this has come from attempts to broaden the appeal and ultimately generate ratings. Creator Joss Whedon has a very loyal fanbase going back to his Buffy the Vampire Slayer days, but his most recent TV series Firefly and Dollhouse have struggled to put up big enough numbers to survive. Part of the blame falls squarely on Fox for airing the show on Friday nights, but I think just as much has to go to the writers.
If you look at some successful Fox dramas (any network really) there’s a definite single episode done-in-one production ethic behind the series. House, Bones, Fringe, and Lie to Me all seem to fit this mold. Sure we learn something about the characters along the way, and there are some threats that loom for a few episodes, but mostly you get everything in that hour. A notable exception to this is 24, but Fox has made every effort to compress the timeline on how things play out for the viewers by only running from January to May. I think Dollhouse tried to use this approach, but given the morally questionable nature of the weekly “adventures” it did little to get viewers invested. Once they came in with the big threat that was building (which happened in the DVD/digital only final episode of season one) it was too late.
After a hiatus 4 episodes into this season, Fox churned out 3 2-hour blocks in December and are dumping the rest in January starting tonight at 9PM. I will be watching. The 6 episodes in December were great. In many ways the show is great, but in other more accurate ways the show is cancelled.