The news came down today that FOX has officially canceled “Dollhouse”. The network will allow the show to continue production to finish the 13-episode order and has committed to air the remaining episodes.
This move shouldn’t be a surprise, and in fact, I warned this may be coming back when I reviewed the most recent episode of “Dollhouse” back in October. However, it’s still disappointing, because of the general trend it signals in television.
Currently, “Dollhouse” is on hiatus for November sweeps, mostly because of the incredibly low ratings its been pulling in this season (which are even worse than the low ratings it got in Season 1). Sadly, repeats of “Bones” and “House” drew higher numbers than new episodes of “Dollhouse” on Friday nights, pretty much sealing the show’s fate. Repeats are free programming, and if they’re going to draw higher numbers than new programming, it’s a no-brainer for any TV exec.
Of course, this is the same logic that led to NBC deciding to go with 5 hours a week of Leno at 10pm, rather than invest in new scripted programming. Leno is chapter, and even though his ratings are horrible this year (still way better than “Dollhouse”), NBC can afford to stick with him, because he’s more profitable at the low ratings spot than new scripted programming would be with higher ratings.
Sometimes what fans fail to remember is that TV networks are business. Yes, it is in their interest to develop new, interesting programming, but only to the point that it serves the business. As critically acclaimed as “Dollhouse” may have been (and there are still doubts about that), and as rabid as its small fan base may have been, there simply weren’t enough people tuning in at the end of the day to justify ordering more episodes of the show.
As for the show itself, I’m going to enjoy watching these last nine episodes. Just because a show has been cancelled, that’s no reason for the fans who have been supporting it to suddenly stop (on the flip side, don’t think a sudden surge in ratings will reverse this decision). It’s not Joss Whedon’s fault or Eliza Dushku’s fault or Dichen Lachman’s fault that the show is canceled, so I’m going to supporting the work they’ve done.
Also, unlike a show like “The Nine” from a couple years ago, there aren’t any concerns that “Dollhouse” isn’t going to have a satisfying ending -- because “Dollhouse” already had its ending. “Epitaph One” was the perfect end for the series, it just so happens that it was made at the end of Season 1 and didn’t air in the United States. Still, if Whedon sticks to his plan (which I believe he will), then the big things that happen this season will build toward “Epitaph One” in some way. So there’s no reason not to sit back, enjoy the last nine episodes, and let the show live on in Blu-ray form for years to come.