Has ‘The System’ Driven Joss Whedon To Quit TV?

Published 6 years ago by , Updated August 14th, 2013 at 5:44 pm,

In one of the articles I was reading, a line in the opening paragraph said:

“…Dollhouse, has convinced him to abandon TV for good. His alternative medium: Web serials.”

Wow. Is that for real?

Wharton University of Pennsylvania was talking about how Joss Whedon wants to change the way Hollywood does business. As I’ve said before, he’s working within the system when he doesn’t balk at things like getting his new show shoved to Friday nights. Then again, maybe collectively FOX and Whedon knew something was up.

But it’s hard to ignore the success of Dr Horrible’s Sing Along Blog on the internet. From the initial free release, to iTunes, to Hulu and then to DVD, the skit did well and Wharton Univ. called it “something of a case study for marketing independently produced content.” Basically, Whedon spent $200k on the production and despite all the free avenues of release, he doubled his money… so far. But he also did it right. Unlike The Dark Knight, Whedon added a ton of extras to the DVD release, as it should be.

This success must be a real thorn in the side of the likes of Sony, Disney and Warner Brothers just to name a few. A few what? A few companies trying to make a go at it on the internet too.

In my mind, and I am seriously reading between the lines, Joss is tired of getting the runaround by the networks and he knows his content can be successful. I’m trying to ignore the Dollhouse premiere when I say that. Yet I can’t help but note how he had to rewrite the premiere episode and he was quick to say it was his doing… but was he just playing within the system? Are the miserable ratings really the fault of FOX yet one more time? I feel your pain Joss.

With the Dr Horrible project he laid down a gross participation scheme for the key actors and writers. All the while the writers guild was negotiating for what he called “one-tenth of a yen.”

I don’t want to paraphrase his take, so let me put a quote out there:

“When the studios talk about the difficulty of monetizing the Internet, they’re not lying. There are a lot of paradigms wherein you aren’t making that much money. But it’s all pure money for them because they have these libraries they can just put on. They’re really not interested in putting on original stuff because they can just throw the libraries on and make free money off of that. None of us is in that position.”

“For [the studios] not to offer the creative community a percentage of what they make — they say, “oh, it’s too difficult” and “we’re not going to make any money” — is disingenuous to the point of criminality. What they’re making is pure profit. For them to shut out the people who actually created the content is something that should be looked into by a federal investigatory committee.”

And right now, with Dr Horrible, he realizes it’s a model he can build on. I had pointed out back in July of ’08, that Joss said he’s not trying to bring down the studios but things are changing and they need to look at that evolution and not ignore it. As he puts it, if you’ve seen it on a movie screen, you’ll see it on your phone. But he wants to see a system were independent production can thrive in this kind of environment which breeds creativity.

What does he really like about the internet? The idea that you can make things cheap with people you trust where you can do what you think is right and not have to worry. (Is it me, or am is there something to seriously read between the lines there?)

In a sidebar of a note, he reflected on his trying to write the script for a proposed Wonder Woman movie, Warner Brothers never told him exactly what they wanted in detail. By the time he rewrote a script, they told him not to.

In his unique and funny way of putting things, he said, “They didn’t tell me to leave, but they showed me the door and how pretty it was. Would I like to touch the knob and maybe make it swing?

I added this because I think it contributes to my suspicions.

But right now, he’s got a deal going with a nameless Silicon Valley company to create more content for the internet… and I can’t wait. Joss, being able to create his own vision without interference can be a wonderful thing.

When he did Dr. Horrible, he had a few other ideas. But he won’t fess on those because he says he still might do them too.

You, the reader, may have found it apropos that I used the shot of the Firefly to head this article.  That’s about when things started to go south in network land for Joss and all of his fans.   So to answer my opening question, is this for real?  Is he looking at Web serials rather than TV series?

I didn’t find anything saying otherwise.  He may very well have given up on the standard restrictive nature of advertiser-run network situations.

When asked what he thinks the media landscape will look like in 5 years, he said “he’s so brilliant, he doesn’t dare say… or that he has no idea.

For you wanna be hopeful executive producers out there, here’s a parting bit of wisdom or guidance from Joss Whedon himself:

“I can’t stress enough that I believe the best thing in the world is for everybody who feels like they have a story to tell, to tell it.”

Sources: Wharton.edu, LA Times, Rolling Stone, Digital Spy, Image: IMDB

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  1. So if this is all true Dollhouse is without a doubt cancelled. I can see where Joss is coming from, though– the fame one can get from a simple YouTube video is more than a lot of movies get in this country.

    Ah, I would’ve loved to see his take on Wonderwoman– oh well, hopefully if he does commit himself to this route we’ll get to see the writing we all know and love ( excluding Dollhouse premiere ).

    Great article Bruce!


  2. You know, even with his track record, I’m surprised at Dollhouse. It seems off kilter, even for him. But then again, he always has a direction in mind when he creates something. With Echo, she will be starting to become self aware of who she may really be. So this could become interesting.

    Yea, he likes strong female characters and Wonder Woman fit that bill indeed.

    Thanks for the kudos Reverend… Oh, and tune in tomorrow for my weekly TV report. I’ve got just a little bit more on Dollhouse to fill everyone in on!

  3. Maybe Joss should have tried to pitch Dollhouse to a Cable station like Showtime or FX, yeah, have FX carry Dollhouse where the numbers it got on Friday would be huge for a cable provider!

  4. I really doubt this means JW already thinks his new TV series is a goner.

    What it DOES mean is that a talented, world-wise TV creator, who has a dedicated and well-established fandom eyeing his every move, is comparing the back-to-back experiences of producing DOC HORRIBLE and DOLLHOUSE.

    And, no real surprise, guess which one is the more satisfying creative endeavor?

    Any fan who got their hands on the original DOLLHOUSE pilot script last summer… And then heard all the behind-the-scenes news about Fox requesting tweaks and retoolings… can easily see, watching the DH pilot ep, why JW might feel the way he does.

    As one of his fan base, I will follow him. ANYWHERE.

  5. Joss Whedon sucks the best thing was Firefly & Serenity

  6. @undead

    How can Joss Whedon suck if he brought us Firefly and Serenity?


  7. Its hard for me to believe Dollhouse is already dead but we shall see .

  8. look, movies make a profit that cover the costs of production.So the issue with this Internet idea of Whedon is whether we trust his creativity or not.The same applies to JJ Abrams and a few other. If the answer is yes, then we can pay it forward and buy our tickets to whatever he has in mind in advance. I’d pay something like fifteen dollars if it means I can get a pure Whedon movie or serial.If there are twenty million other people out there like me, we’re in business. Also, the production is high because it pays all these executive’s salaries; so it might be less than fifteen dollars anyway.
    In France, you have the Marianne magazine which is entirely paid by subscribers and it does not rely on advertising and is extremely free in its articles. So this can be a viable solution.

  9. I trust in the Whedon. I’ll watch whatever he does. I can’t have that kind of trust in anyone else in entertainment.

  10. I was unimpressed with the pilot for Dollhouse, which is odd for a Whedon show, even the second pilot for Firefly wasn’t that bad. I wasn’t put off by the concept or the creepy nature of the show… it’s just… without those concepts, the show seemed very… ordinary. Very run of the mill, even the dialogue was seriously lacking and it’s hard to say that for a Whedon show, even when he’s not the one writing (and he tends to do the pilots).

    I’m going to wait for a few more episodes before I blame it entirely on Fox forcing him to reshoot, but it was disappointing.

    Dr Horrible on the other hand… pure genius. If he continues to do stuff like that I’ll be very happy.

  11. lets hope he does another firefly movie its the best thing he did and then we will get firefly TNG and maybe firefly DSBC (deep Space Brown Coats)

  12. I’m still willing to give Dollhouse a chance. Though the first episode was really 24-ish, the show has potential.

  13. I have seen 2 episodes now and am starting to really like it. Why, though, is it on FRIDAYS? Give it a chance, you network a$$ holes!

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