Learning lessons from Dollhouse

Missed opportunity? Well, yes.

dollhouse440Season two of Dollhouse is out on DVD in September. At the time the show was renewed for a second season, it defied the usual logic applied to ratings-challenged TV dramas, riding on for another 13 episodes in its lousy Friday night timeslot on Fox. Still, while the show had a reasonable share of fans, the by-product of having an in-built audience retained from Joss Whedon’s work on Buffy, Angel and Firefly, I do wonder if the show, overall, was a missed opportunity.

Early missteps in its production cost Dollhouse dearly. Though I enjoyed the original pilot, ‘Echo’, the more audience-friendly ‘Ghost’ was a weaker piece of work, with subsequent episodes disappointing up until the rather excellent ‘Man In The Street’. From there, while the show was a little more consistent in the later half of its first season, even the much-fabled ‘Epitaph One’ didn’t make the show explode as it should’ve done.

In comparison, take a look at Firefly and tell me that didn’t take off in its pilot episode. While the circumstances surrounding the production of the two shows was, of course, different, these are still two pieces of Joss Whedon television, and one is almost certainly stronger than the other.

While the second season is an improvement in many regards, these early episodes, married with an uncommercial title and concept were always going to set Dollhouse back.

As a viewer and huge fan of Whedon’s work, I couldn’t help but see it as a missed opportunity. The most interesting test of Dollhouse’s success, however, will be if it’s able to replicate the long burn cult growth that Firefly saw after its release on DVD – hopefully, we’ll one day have a Whedon show in our midst that’s both a ratings smash and a superb piece of television.