Five ways to ruin a perfectly good sci-fi show

Sci-Fi has a long and proud history of cancellation. Perfectly good shows (and plenty of plain awful shows) have seen the axe for a multitude of different reasons. Let’s take a look at five sure-fire ways to ruin a decent show.

1) Air your show on FOX
As Firefly, The Sarah Connor Chronicles and Dollhouse has shown, quality has no impact on the lifetime of your show if you choose to air it on FOX. In fact, it would seem that longevity in FOX is inversely proportional to quality. Firefly was absolute quality. Just Google “firefly cancelled” to see the outcry. Dollhouse, although still a good show, wasn’t near Firefly’s calibre, and therefore lasted for slightly longer before reaching the same grisly demise. And let’s not even get started on Sliders! That’s it, Fox: create some of the finest science fiction of the last decade before callously shooting it down. Good call!

2) Kill off the lead character (or at least get rid of them unceremoniously)
Once they’re gone, the show can’t be far behind. Although Earth: Final Conflict lasted for some time after the death of William Boone, played by Kevin Kilner. However, when you base your show so firmly around the lead character’s personality and moral conflicts, you have a huge amount of creative rebuilding and restructuring that is not easy to successfully achieve. Even Ben Browder’s introduction to Stargate SG-1 to replace Richard Dean Anderson, although relatively well managed, signalled the beginning of the end for the show (even if it did provide enough energy to delay the inevitable for a year or two)

3) Go on for too long
Star Trek is probably the finest example. You can’t keep producing top quality stories week-in, week-out for fifteen years. Voyager and Enterprise probably didn’t need to happen. Deep Space Nine was tremendous, and after that the franchise should probably have taken three or four years out to refresh and re-energise. Voyager’s premise was strong, but it’s implementation was poor. As soon as the writer’s think creating an incredibly inaccurate Irish village in the holodeck is a good idea, it’s time to panic. Being from Ireland, the whole thing was laughable. And it was never going to be good sci-fi.


4) Sex it up!
Ratings are falling, reviews are mediocre, what do you do? Get your most attractive female cast member to take her clothes off, regardless of the plot making sense. Nudity is always a winner, right? Sadly, it’s not. Enterprise’s attempts to “sex it up” in season three were, frankly, ludicrous. Star Trek, according to Gene Roddenberry, was never adverse to lascivious female aliens: Orion slave girls, anyone? But quite frankly, making Jolene Blalock little more than eye-candy was a poor call. It didn’t fit the character, and was blatantly an attempt to attract an audience of hormonal college boys. Are the same men interested in Jolene Blalock’s “assets” going to care about the ramifications of a temporal anomaly? I doubt. Voyager and Enterprise’s writers made the other cast act like giggling school girls around Jeri Ryan’s Seven of Nine and Blalock’s T’Pol respectively. It wasn’t clever, nor effective.

5) When all else fails, add zombies

Take this:

Note the stirring music, high production values, moral conflict and powerful premise.

Now, take five years later:

Note the alien vampires, poor acting, poor dialogue and little or no moral/emotional conflict whatsoever? Just gunshots and explosions.

The decline still brings a tear to my eye.


Poll: Joss Whedon’s Greatest Show


After last night’s rather wonderful episode of Dollhouse, I think it’s fair to say that Joss Whedon’s latest creation is quickly beginning to find its feet and hit its stride.  Let’s just hope that it’s not too late in the big bad world of television execs.

However, has Dollhouse reached the heights of Whedon’s previous, much-adored shows?

Only you can decide, so vote below and decide definitively which is his greatest creation to date.

Make it definitive: which is the greatest Joss Whedon show?

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And if you feel like your opinions just can’t be summed up in a simple vote, feel free to discuss it by leaving a comment.

Joss Whedon discusses Dollhouse survival

imageMy hero and Dollhouse creator Joss Whedon has shed some light over the future of the show.

Talking to Sci-Fi Wire, he said:

They haven’t said anything about a number, and they haven’t said anything about a date. What they have said is “We get it. We get that the numbers are soft, but it’s not a Nielsen world. The DVR numbers are good, and the show’s getting better, and the demographic is good, and we all have a crush on [star and producer] Eliza [Dushku].” So they’re basically fans.

Obviously, there has to be a number we reach that is viable for them economically, or it would be senseless for them, unless they were insane fans like me. But they get it. They get the show, and they get what works. So they’re anxious for it to stay at a level where they can justify throwing down some more. Hopefully that’ll happen.

FOX certainly seem to be showing some support for this project, so it is perhaps unfair to call  it Firefly 2.0 just yet.  Having said that, FOX can only show real support through an actual renewal.  Which would be welcome.

With the supposedly imminent demise of Terminator, and its replacement with Prison Break, FOX executives are hoping that the latter’s audience will give Dollhouse a much-needed boost.  However, Joss and the team are realistic about the creative and demographic differences between Dollhouse and Prison Break.

No. I mean, Terminator did very poorly. I don’t know why. I love it. That’s why I’m not on that side of the fence, because I’m not a marketer. I don’t know how these things work. It started strong, and it fell off for some reason. I liked it as a lead-in because, artistically, they were just a nice match. They both had a similar sensibility, and I think Terminator was a really interesting show that really plumbed the depths of its premise really well. So I was happy to be with it.

But the fact is it was doing poorly, and we were doing better, but not great. I think, ultimately, nobody blames us. We did build on Terminator and usually on our own half hours most nights. It’s anyone’s guess at this point.

Don’t get us wrong, things are still very, very iffy in the world of popularly-maligned Whedon shows.  Let us all hope that Dollhouse somehow breaks the curse.

Dollhouse: Flop or Trojan Horse, waiting to strike?

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Joss Whedon to ‘leave television forever’?

image Sci-Fi Slice have claimed that ‘once “Dollhouse” is over, Joss Whedon is leaving TV for good…to pursue creating on-line content along the lines of “Dr. Horrible.”’.

Now, there claim has not been sourced, but let’s assume for the moment that it is true:  genre television would surely have lost one of its finest writers, and if ever there was to be a tragedy written about the demise of one of television’s talents at the hands of the executives, surely Joss’s battles with FOX would be right up there.

Those unfamiliar with Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along-Blog should check its Wikipedia entry for further details, as it does strike me as the sort of thing Joss would be interested in moving towards.  Now that he has his fan following, does he really need the pencil-pushing network television executives telling him how to edit his content?  No goram way.

Then again, Sci-Fi Slice might not have a source, and might have just made it up.  In which case, disregard this post.

Joss Whedon: a victim of...

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Tim Minear clarifies Dollhouse situation

image Firefly demi-God Tim Minear (who also works on Dollhouse), today spoke to attempt to clear up the confusion surrounding Dollhouse’s future.

Posting on, the writer explained why there was confusion, and set the story straight.

“Because we scrapped the original pilot — and in fact cannibalized some of its parts for other eps — we really ended up with 12 episodes. But the studio makes DVD and other deals based on the original 13 number. So we created a standalone kind of coda episode. Which is the mythical new episode 13. The network had already paid for 13 episodes, and this included the one they agreed to let us scrap for parts. It does not include the one we made to bring the number back up to 13 for the studio side and its obligations. We always knew it would be for the DVD for sure, but we also think Fox should air it because it’s awesome.”

So there we go.

No cancellation, yet, and that’s the 13th episode explained.

Dollhouse ‘Cancellation’ Mystery Thickens

Dollhouse_logo Just hours after news broke that Dollhouse may well be cancelled, E! Online took steps – possibly the most vague, unhelpful steps imaginable – to clarify the situation.

The official line from E! is as follows:

OK, brace yourself, guys, because there’s going to be math in this story.

Fox the television network will not be airing the "13th episode" of Dollhouse. However, there appears to be some debate about what qualifies as a 13th episode and what qualifies as a season finale.

Fox the television network ordered 13 episodes of Dollhouse. As everybody knows, they scrapped the original pilot, "Echo." So that is 13 less one, which brings us down to 12. The 12th and final episode that Fox the television network ordered and paid for and will air is called "Omega," was written and directed by Tim Minear (who has told us he "can’t wait" for us to see it). Focused on the Alpha storyline, sources say that "Omega" apparently "closes some doors and opens other ones," and was always intended to be and serves effectively as the season one finale.

Now, let’s go back to the equation, and add in a episode called "Epitaph One." "Echo" the original pilot + 12 episodes through "Omega" + "Epitaph One" brings us to a total of 14 episodes.

The 14th episode, "Epitaph One," was produced and paid for by Fox the television studio. It was not ever ordered/requested/paid for by Fox the television network, and Fox the television network will not be airing "Epitaph One." Working on getting you more details about "Epitaph One," but it’s said to be more of a "standalone" episode.

So, to summarize, Fox the television studio made 14 episodes of Dollhouse, and Fox the television studio is airing 12 of them, and paid for the 13 that they originally ordered.

A last, and very important note: According to sources on the network side, them not picking up and airing "Epitaph One" has no bearing whatsoever on whether or not they pick up the series for a second season, a situation which, I’m told, is "100 phase in the decision phase." You can obviously believe them or not as you choose, but I take them at their word. I may be a sucker like that.

Felicia Day has also semi-retracted her claim on Twitter, now posting:

Psh what a can of worms! E Online clarifies:  Dollhouse is NOT cancelled, Ep #13 is confusing, I’m gonna go write now :)

Things are never simple with FOX, are they?  They can’t even cancel something expectedly anymore, they have to do it the hard way.

More heartache for the fans out there.  Clarification is always welcome, if not often forthcoming from the American network.

Time will tell.  Still don’t see it getting picked up for a second season with its current ratings.  This final episode thing is probably merely a technicality.  And besides, I’ve heard some nonsensical mumbo-jumbo in my time, but if anyone can explain to me what "100 phase in the decision phase” means, then you’ll receive a free Sands of Oblivion DVD.

‘Dollhouse’ Probably Cancelled

Dollhouse_logoNothing is yet confirmed or official, but there are murmurings that we’ve seen the last of Dollhouse.

It came to the attention of internet followers that Felicia Day (linked to Joss Whedon through Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog) today wrote on her Twitter account:

Man, day getting worse and worse. Found out my Dollhouse ep. #13 isn’t gonna air. Only on DVD. Such a great part, too. Thx Fox

Whilst this isn’t confirmed, it isn’t surprising, with Dollhouse suffering from mediocre ratings and FOX cancellationitis.  Crucially, the show seems to have failed to capture the support of many Joss Whedon fanatics who have criticised the show as being ‘confused’, and devoid of the trademark Whedonesque humour that made his previous creations so vibrant.

The show premiered less than two months ago.

If true, and I do fear that it is, expect an official announcement soon.

First 24, now Dollhouse halts for tweaks

Earlier this week, we brought you the news that 24 had ceased production temporarily to tweak its direction and refine the production of the show.

Now, according to Variety, 20th Century Fox TV have temporarily shut down production on Joss Whedon’s upcoming series Dollhouse with shooting set to resume on Sept. 25.

Supposedly, Whedon’s involvement in directing the opening episodes of the series had kept him out of the writers’ room, and afterwards the studio, network and Whedon himself agreed that the next script (the fourth episode) needed adjustment.

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Dollhouse: Are the central three characters wearing pyjamas?

Whedon is also said to have requested this delay to get ahead on the show’s next few scripts.

As with 24, since the air date of the show (early 2009) is so far away, these shutdowns are unlikely to affect either show’s schedule.

Coincidentally, this isn’t the first production upheaval carried out on Dollhouse.  Earlier this year, Joss Whedon decided to a new pilot, turning the previous script into the series’ second episode.

‘Dollhouse’ Pilot Becomes Second Episode

Source: Variety

At the request of Joss Whedon, “Dollhouse” will be aired out of sequence.

After Whedon received feedback that his pilot episode wasn’t making sense to audiences, he has decided to use the pilot as the series second episode, and will now reshoot a another episode to act as the series opener.

He alerted fans on his website today of the news about “Dollhouse, which is produced by Twentieth and will air on Fox.

“I showed some scenes to David Lynch and he’s all, ‘Whuh?’ Bad sign,” Whedon wrote. He continued later on in the post, “There were some slight issues with tone. I was in a dark, noir kind of place and didn’t bring the visceral pop the network had expected from the script.

“The network was cool about it, but not sure how to come out of the gate with the ep.”

“Joss came to the realization that there was a better way to start the show,” said a Twentieth spokesman. “After he wrote episode two, he asked the network to use that as episode one.”

Whedon’s Dollhouse Trailer Released

Once again, we’re a few days behind on this one, so apologies for that.

But FOX have issued a trailer for Joss Whedon’s upcoming series, ‘Dollhouse’.  Given Whedon’s track record, this should be pretty good – and I’ll give anything of his a shot after ‘Firefly’.  Let’s just hope FOX give the show more than 13 episodes this time.

Enjoy!  I know I’m looking forward to this one. If you’re looking for more information on the show, the infinite fountain of knowledge that is Wikipedia provides in this article.  Also worth noting that FOX is airing both Dollhouse and JJ Abrams’ “Fringe” with fewer commericial breaks, as part of the new Remote-Free TV initiative.