So… what, exactly, is the deal with Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse?

Thursday and Friday, the Internet went nuts with worry that the number of episodes the Fox Television Network is said to be airing for Dollhouse was being short changed. The info distilled into a hyperbole of rumors saying Dollhouse was canceled because the season was being cut short. The truth of the matter is that Fox paid for 13 episodes, but only planned on airing 12.

Which makes us wonder: What’s up with that?

The Dollhouse History

June 4th 2008, Screen Rant reported that Fox was going to give Whedon a 7 episode run of Dollhouse, without airing a pilot for the show. They also gave it a Monday time slot, being the lead-in show for 24.

June 15th 2008, we reported that Fox “asked” for the first episode of Dollhouse to be reshot. It’s here that we felt something was up.

Late July of 2008, fans were starting “Save Dollhouse” websites (before the show even started airing). Joss addressed the re-shoot at Comic-Con, saying that the show jumped right into the story line and reshooting Dollhouse created more background to understand, emphasizing that nothing was removed from the show, just rearranged.

He also noted that they had 13 webisodes planned to accent all the network episodes.

September of ’08, the production for Dollhouse was shutdown. They said that Joss had to take a break from production and get back into writing the show. Joss himself said he asked for the stall.

November 8th, 2008 it was announced that Dollhouse was being moved to Friday nights. It went from a lead-in for a popular show to a Friday night slot following a show that already had ratings issues. November 8th is thereabouts when the fanbase of Whedon went into a tizzy of sorts, and I was right there with you.

The move to Fridays left Whedon feeling mixed, as he said “I’ve had a bad experience on a Friday; you may have heard about it.” (Referring to the prior cancellation of Firefly) But he also expressed supportive thoughts on the issue, like being paired with The Sarah Connor Chronicles was good.

As the series premiere approached air time, we started seeing something we’re not used to seeing from Whedon: Sex-laced ads and then episodes that weren’t what I felt were Whedon creations. Despite his saying at one point that he wanted to go in a different direction with this show, I’ve never seen any of his work demonstrate such an overt air of suggestive sexuality from women in any of his shows. He writes strong, commanding female roles, not objects.

Present Day

Starting back on March 20th and April 3rd, the show started representing a stronger vision of what Whedon considers Dollhouse to be about. It comes back to the first 5 episodes being altered by Fox. Why, I don’t know. This stronger vision is what I presume to be more of how Whedon envisioned the flow of the story.

We were apprehensive when Dollhouse got stuffed into Friday nights with an already ratings-weak show in The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Hence why we feel like Dollhouse is an endangered species.

Or more to the point, the show looks like it was handled exactly as Fox has handled Joss Whedon franchises before – with curious and interesting logic (for lack of a more polite way to say it).

The ratings have been dwindling from week to week, despite strong DVR numbers.  That’s not the key demographic to getting a show a repeat season.

So What Is Up?

So is Fox shorting us an episode? It would seem so, but it’s not. Fox ordered 13 episodes, but is only airing 12. One of the 13 episodes was considered to be un-airable by Fox execs, and the season was subsequently planned out with 12 episodes.

But when Felicia Day tweeted that her episode, the 13th episode, wasn’t going to air, folks went nuts. At this point not too many people had seen the TV By The Numbers info or our own info yet, so the Internet did what it does best, and most expeditiously: It lashed out at Fox.

What we were missing was that the 13 episodes ordered also included that un-airable pilot episode. That’s the episode that had been shot, “reconceived,” and was still never was considered for airing.

The last two episodes that are scheduled to air are a two-part closure to the season. The two episodes together were created as the season finale. They answer a number of questions about the Dollhouse and the actives. Though it’s not being treated as a cliffhanger, it will raise some questions that can lead us into that potential second season, should that happen.

So there you have it as far as the conspiracy issues that were ablaze over the last few days.

It still falls back on how Fox has handled Dollhouse and this furor is just something they only have themselves to blame. All the while, Minear and Whedon had to continually step in to defend the network’s behavior.

I get Fox being worried about creating a viable product. But I also think they needed to trust Whedon to create a decent product and treat the product in the way he envisioned it.

I’m not defending Fox in any way. Trust me. Yes, this is not the first time a Dollhouse scenario had to be explained away by its creators. Sure, moving the show to Fridays seemed self destructive on Fox’s side. Sure, rearranging episode order was an unpopular management choice.  So no, I’m not defending them. But I think this was just a simple misunderstanding and the misguided beast called Fox gets to skate this once… again.

I’m sure we don’t have to wait long to find another mishap on the horizon. Though I’d love to see Dollhouse pop back in for a 2nd season on a night that might carry it further, I’m not holding my breath on whatever decision Fox makes. Heck, at this point, I’d suggest Whedon take it to a cable network or even go viral and turn to the faithful medium that’s always here for him. The Internet.

Amongst The Despair, Good News

Me, I’m still waiting for Universal to exercise the rights they bought to Whedon’s Goners, if that’s ever going to happen. That and the other good news we can focus on is that Joss Whedon has come up with a title for the 2nd installment in the tale of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. And yes, as Nathan Fillion says, “Color me in!”

Sources: E Online, HitFix, TV Squad,