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History Repeats Between Whedon and FOX

July 23, 2008

Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse will air the second episode in place of the intended pilot. You know another Fox show created by Joss Whedon that pushed the pilot back and aired another episode in its place? It was called Firefly. Not a good sign.

Yes, it’s different because Whedon says it’s his decision, and because Dollhouse doesn’t have (according to him) a “premise” pilot that sets up the whole show, so unlike Firefly’s pilot, the first episode can be aired second without a lot of fuss. Apparently Fox found the pilot too confusing and dark, and Whedon says he responded by offering to shoot a new pilot. He will turn the old pilot into the first episode.

But this shows the downside of ordering a show “direct to series” without a pilot episode being produced beforehand. With no pilot, nobody can really know what the first episode is going to be like, and when production begins, a lot of re-tooling may have to be done after scripts have already been written, casting done, locations scouted, etc.

If network executives demand a cooler premiere episode, they’re not necessarily wrong. This doesn’t seem to be a big deal, and is pretty much par for the course, even with shows that wind up having many successful seasons like Buffy. Honestly, Dollhouse needs a pilot that does pop and give audiences the right amount of backstory. There’s plenty of time to get noir and gloomy later. When you want to draw in an audience that’s larger than the Whedon Fan Club, you have to make sure that everybody understands the concept before jumping on a bullet train with it.


Photo: via ravenu, CC License.

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