A Few More Disjointed Thoughts on Dollhouse

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I’ll post my comments after the jump so I can talk about spoilerish stuff, so if you still haven’t seen the season ender, “Omega,” don’t click to read more… Continue reading

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Joss Whedon Hilariously Accepts the Bradbury Award

Joss, showing yet again how freaking funny he is, as he accepts the Bradbury Award this year from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.It’s heartening that the Story God was so inspired by Ray Bradbury. Bradbury was the guy who made me decide to be a writer.

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How to Save Dollhouse (or whatever show floats your boat)

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An excellent article on “The Big Money,” which is an offshoot of Slate, breaks down the fruitlessness of trying to boost the numbers of people watching a show as it’s televised if those people are not in the microscopic subset of watchers with Nielsen boxes:

Trying to convince more people to watch a struggling show on TV is entirely useless. The television industry is not a democracy; the only votes that count—scratch that, the only people allowed to vote at all—are the 12,000 to 37,000 households that have Nielsen boxes sitting above their TVs. Nielsen boxes are poll stations for the Nielsen company—the organization that reports all of the ratings for the television industry. If Nielsen doesn’t know you exist, then neither do the TV networks. And if the TV networks don’t know you exist, then tuning in to an endangered show is a waste of everyone’s time. If a show is turned on and Nielsen isn’t there to hear it, it most definitely does not make a sound…

…But the country has only somewhere between 12,000 and 37,000 homes reporting back with data. Compare that with the more than 112 million television-equipped households in this country. Now, even if we assume that these Nielsen readings are accurate—and there are many who believe that’s not the case—the huge gap between 12,000 and 112 million means almost everyone is stripped of an actual voice in the process….The “save our show” campaigns are ill-advised because they fail to take into account this all-important gap between the sample size and the size of the sampled audience.

The way to bypass this shitty system is to watch the episodes of your beloved show online:

The alternative is to drive people where they can actually be counted—and these days that’s online. The Internet offers metrics everywhere you turn. The networks can analyze the number of streams, number of ad impressions, number of page views, number of visits, number of visitors, number of comments, etc. It’s a democratic space where the eyes and participation of fans can actually be seen by the network bosses making the decisions. Unlike with analog TV, online fans can actually speak directly to power. So whether it’s through iTunes, Hulu, or one of the networks’ proprietary streams, the smart way to campaign for a show’s renewal is to stream it after the fact…

You can also record the show on your DVR, then watch it within three days. If you do that, it gets counted. If you just watch the show live through that same DVR, you don’t count. Let me say that again, lest you missed it: if you’re watching your favorite show live, your viewing does not count. Unless you’re a Nielsen household.

So if you want to help Dollhouse stay on the air, or The Sarah Connor Chronicles or Chuck or Gene Simmons’s Family Jewels (gods forbid), do your part by either recording your show on DVR and watching it soon after, or by watching (and even rewatching) episodes online.

And, I point out to you again, the last several episodes of Dollhouse are available to watch free, right this minute, on www.hulu.com. Get thee hence.

Hope for Dollhouse

At the Paley Fest event dedicated to Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, Joss Whedon updated folks on the Dollhouse situation with Fox:

We also talked about next season, they called me specifically to say we’ve been hearing you sound a little despondent, being very clear about this, the show is not cancelled. The numbers have been soft, but the demographic is wonderful. DVR is great, they [FOX] are big fans of the show and they’re waiting to see what happens, so now I’ve gone from a place that’s sort of ehhhhhh, they don’t even care, no one loves me, to a place of – God, I can’t believe I’m saying this…hope.

So…fingers crossed. Keep watching the show, or start watching if you’re not, it’s great (remember, you can find the last several episodes online at www.hulu.com).

Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse: Smart as Hell, Kicking Serious Ass

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If you’ve been following my reactions to Joss Whedon’s new show Dollhouse, you know I was luke-warm toward it at first, then really annoyed with it, then after seeing episodes 6 and 7, I really started to like it and said it was good, but not quite Joss good yet.

Well, now I’ve seen episodes 8 and 9, and I’m loving the show.

Since episode 6, “Man on the Street,” they have fixed the anthology-show weakness that plagued the first five episodes, and each episode has focused on the Dollhouse and its people rather than on the misadventures of their clients-of-the-week. The evolution of Echo as a character is fascinating to watch, considering there’s not supposed to be a character there, but there most definitely is. Those are some still waters running very deep. And the development of relationships and character backstory gets more and more compelling; in this latest episode, “A Spy in the House of Love,” we find out the major secrets of a couple of characters, one of which is a complete surprise and leads to a much deeper understanding of that character, leaving incredible potential for the stories ahead.

There are many themes at work here. This latest episode played brilliantly with matters of trust, from the first conversation between Echo and her handler Boyd, to the implications of their final scene. And seeing the Tabula Rasa Echo step forward as an instigator of significant action was a masterstroke of storytelling and character; I literally got goose bumps.

That a character with no agency develops agency through her own innate strength, even while devoid of her past and identity, is an incredible dramatic device. This show is all about how people use people, and issues of power and responsibility and all that, but the most important thing it’s about might just be the re-enfranchisement of the disenfranchised.

Who on earth could be more disenfranchised than the dolls? Their very selves ripped out of them, programmed and reprogrammed to serve the desires of others, they are the ultimate slaves. And here we have one of them somehow growing as a person right before our eyes, and you just know there are big things ahead.

And hopefully we’ll get to see all of the big things Whedon wants to show us. Fox is playing its usual bullshit games with the show, and now for some reason has decided to show this entire season (and a tenuous “kudo” to them for doing that, at least) except the thirteenth and final episode. Apparently the 12th wraps up the season tidily, and the 13th is sort of a coda after the fact…but still. It doesn’t indicate that the network is supporting the show, and doesn’t bode well for a second season.

But, hopefully they’re watching the reviews, which have been excellent since episode 6, and will recognize they have a gem on their hands and will allow it to grow. This is not just a damn good show, after all.

This show is Joss good.

[NOTE: As of this writing, you can watch episodes 5-9 at www.hulu.com. The show started really getting good in ep. 6, but 5 is pretty good and has some impact on events in later episodes. If you haven’t seen them, catch ’em while you can.]

Catching Up With Dollhouse

eliza1Earlier, I was pretty hard on Joss Whedon’s new show Dollhouse, which airs on Fox, the network too stupid to make Firefly a hit.

My basic problem with the show was that, while it had a great premise with huge potential, the active structure of the show shoved the things that were interesting about it into the corners and filled the space with bland stories that had little permanent importance to the history the show was building. In other words, the intriguing people running the dolls, and the intriguing things starting to happen to the dolls (especially Echo), were serving as a framing device for stories that were a hell of a lot less interesting.

I wasn’t alone in my response. Many other Whedon fans (and I am, very very much, a Whedon fan) were finding themselves really not liking a show they’re preconditioned to root for. The ratings started weakly, and dropped. Messages came forth from Whedon headquarters, implying that Fox had been too heavy-handed and interfering at first (easy to believe, all things considered), but had loosened up after a while and allowed Joss and his team to start doing things the way they really wanted to.

Give us till the sixth episode, they pleaded. It’ll start to get good.

Well, the sixth and seventh episodes have aired at this point. Major things happened, game-changers. Echo went off-task a few times, which seems to be her hobby. The banal storylines that were unrelated to the main story arc went away, and the stories that replaced them had significant impact on the characters and the arc.

Know what? It’s getting good. It’s getting real good. It’s not quite Joss good, just yet, but I do see that coming, and I’m now enjoying the journey.

Unfortunately, the show probably won’t get to explore its full potential. It is on Fox, where shit thrives and great shows die young, and the slow crawl out the gate and low ratings won’t help. I read that Fox is committed to showing the full thirteen episode season, then won’t rerun the show during the summer. I’m thinking that also means they won’t be picking it up for the next season.

That’s a shame, as I think it has the makings of a great show. But at least we’ll have the thirteen episode story arc to enjoy…or the latter half of it, at least, since the first half kinda blew. And Joss can move on to other things, and those things will hopefully be Joss good. Maybe someday we’ll get to enjoy one of his creations for a bunch of years again. But it probably won’t be on Fox.