An Open Letter to Joss Whedon

With Michael Ausiello breaking the somewhat expected news that FOX is benching DOLLHOUSE for November Sweeps and in the process, virtually guaranteeing your availability to direct that episode of GLEE, I couldn’t help but wonder….

Is it not time to take a page from Felicia Day and her GUILD by cutting the network out of the equation?

After-all, If DOLLHOUSE’s consistently low ratings are any indication, you’ve got at the very least, two million loyal fans devouring everything you touch. Which means, should you ever decide to go THE GUILD route and distribute your own series online for a a mere 99¢ per download, one might expect you to net somewhere in the range of 1.5 to 2 million dollars per episode of [say, for argument sake] FIREFLY: THE ADVENTURE CONTINUES. Which, if we’re to believe TV By The Numbers, is a healthy profit considering the average episode of DOLLHOUSE is said to have cost somewhere in the range of 650,000 to 1.3 million per.

Add to those profits, DVD sales, foreign distribution, product placement, online streaming, merchandising and the one thing money can’t buy — actual ownership of the show affording you the creative freedom to do whatever you choose — and once again, I have to ask, what are you waiting for?

I think you’d agree that FOX tried. The network put their money and marketing muscle behind the show, even going as far as to renew it for an unexpected second season. Unfortunately, the reality of the current television landscape seems to be that if you really want to stick to your own dark and gritty vision, one that asks the difficult questions and challenges viewers with something other than the procedural-of-the-week, you’re probably not going to be able to do it on any of the major networks (just ask the creators of SOUTHLAND). Well, that, or either start sending Echo on more missions that involve either (a) Vampires or (b) Glee Clubs.

DOLLHOUSE’s inevitable cancellation is a sign. A sign that it’s time to continue the pioneering journey you started with DR. HORRIBLE’S SING-A-LONG BLOG by putting your money (or at the very least, some savvy investor’s money) where your mouth is and see what happens.

Rest assured, this TV Addict will be first in line to press ‘Buy it Now’ when you do.

[Update] Read Joss’ response to our Open Letter here!

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  • Todd W in NC

    I could have sworn I read somewhere a few months ago that Joss Whedon had already decided this, that if Dollhouse didn’t make it, he’d give up on TV and do only movies and/or internet content.

    I do have to give Fox some credit for giving the show a 2nd try, plus guaranteeing it a full 13-episode run during that season. In fact, networks seem to be doing a much better job this season giving shows a chance by giving them full season orders after only a few episodes. Either networks finally realized that even the threat of early cancellation was keeping people from watching shows in the first place, *or* they’re just really desperate for content.

    On the other hand, I don’t think Fox kept the right show. I don’t know if it’s a case of only one of the two being allowed to survive, but Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles was the better show with more potential, at least in my opinion.

    Maybe Fox felt they owed Joss Whedon after the Firefly debacle, maybe T:tSCC was more expensive or had even worse ratings, maybe the two shows’ fates were mutually exclusive after all. But, I wasn’t overly impressed with Dollhouse in its first season, and this season seems even worse. I’m more surprised it got the full 13 ep pickup than I am surprised its being shelved for sweeps.

  • ProgGrrl

    I am so with you on this, dear TV Addict. ::runs off to post it on Whedonesque::

  • John

    I’ve enjoyed Dollhouse, but unfortunately, six years has not been kind to fans’ expectations of his work. Let’s review:

    1) Joss makes a career out of shocking his audience by doing things they not only don’t expect, but outright don’t want. In time these things make him a highly respectable storyteller, but with ratings life/death on the line it ain’t great. He took a season and a half on Buffy before he did anything truly shocking (turning Angel evil and having him kill Jenny and fetishistically torture Giles with her body).

    2) Since WHEN do Joss fans not like stand-alone episodes? If I recall they’re the only things that Joss really writes for his own stuff. It’s amazing how a Whedon fan will bitch about not enough mythology on Dollhouse on one message board before IMMEDIATELY moving to a different one to talk about how great “Hush”/”Waiting in the Wings”/”Once More With Feeling” is on a different board.

    3) Firefly broke the curve. Believe it or not, “Buffy” and “Angel” both took a lot of time to grow, and their concept helped (Buffy was really unique at the time, and Angel was a spinoff, at least). But “Firefly”, I’ve never seen a show take off, establish characters/concepts/relationships/etc so FAST. And guess what folks? They were ALL stand-alone episodes.

  • j

    The show would have been so different had they stuck with the unaired pilot. Echo was already aware of Caroline’s existence by the conclusion of the unaired pilot yet that ended up taking until the end of the first season! One of the major complaints is that viewers can’t relate to Echo but she was on the fast track to being a real character and they totally messed with it. Such a shame this show wasn’t what they originally intended for it to be!

  • Margaret

    Joss stated before that the only reason he went with the network was due to Eliza already having a deal with them. Otherwise he’d go cable. That said much as I love ‘Dollhouse’ they should have kept ‘T:SCC’ on.

  • Talking Monkey 1

    Good article, I’ll be second in line to press ‘Buy’, especially if it continues Firefly! Just don’t restrict the ‘Buy’ to US alone (like Dr. Horrible was restricted). Put it online, make it international, and open the floodgates. I’m sure Whedon would become a rich, rich man as a result of cutting the suits out of the fan picture.

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  • Fergus

    What Joss needs to do his take his next show to HBO or Showtime, just imagine the possibility’s!

  • hjermsted

    The ‘net idea would be a bold move for sure but I STILL want Joss to make a deal with HBO or Showtime (heck, AMC?). Those networks seems ready-made for long-lasting relationship with Joss Whedon and his millions of built-in viewers.

  • ctofine

    I’m very confused at the folks who keep saying that FOX chose Dollhouse OVER T:tSCC. Has this been quoted or posted *anywhere*, or is it something that people are just assuming?

    I get a weary of folks assuming without proof, I must say. I never thought this was two fandoms competing. I’m always sad when a well-crafted show goes (even though I tried but couldn’t get into T:tSCC).

    I agree Joss should head to cable or internet only…I keep reminding folks of Eliza’s deal with FOX (thus the FOX route). Imagine a Whedon show on the level of Ball’s “True Blood”!

    Dollhouse is getting better and better imho, and I’m in for whatever ride the teams wants to take us on–if the script stay fresh and well-written, like they’ve been this season thusfar.

  • MindyC

    I tend to agree that niche shows do better on the interwebs than on network television. I’m a huge Joss supporter (even followed his X-Men comic run) – but have struggled wtih Dollhouse right along with everyone else. I too like Echo better than Caroline, and am not sure I want Caroline to come back at all. Echo – with her subdued personality – seems far less one-note than Caroline. But I feel like we haven’t seen much of Caroline either – perhaps she becomes much more interesting after the brief flashbacks we saw of her? I would like to know more about Caroline – to make sure that she is someone worth coming back to.

    And the supporting cast is outstanding! Whedon does ensemble better than most television programs out there. I’m glad to see he’s utilizing the Tophers, Dr. Saunders, and Sierras more – the scene between Topher and Dr. Saunders from 2.1 was brilliant.

    I’m bummed that Dollhouse is taking a month-long hiatus – it smells like death for the series on the winds – which is highly distressing. Whatever the case may be, I’m glad to see that Fox plans on running the whole 13 episodes of the second season. I’m going to do my part and bump the numbers as best I can…but if the public doesn’t want this show in this venue, what else can we do?

  • Chelley

    @John Joss works best when he has small stories that contribute to the overall arch of the season. Hush gave us a incredibly clever way of letting Buffy and Riley learn each others secrets and introduced us to Tara. Once More with Feeling dealt completely with the arch (ie Buffy not knowing what she’s living for, Willow’s overuse of magic, Xander and Anya’s fear of their wedding, Giles leaving, Spike’s love for Buffy) I would venture to say that Waiting in the Wings is the most episodic of those episodes you mentioned but it still had a connection to the rest of the season.

    While Firefly was quite episodic it was still going to have a storytelling arch about River and her captives. (Two by two, hands of blue anyone?)

    @Margaret They chose Dollhouse over Terminator because it was cheaper to make.

  • Sean Coffee

    You’re forgetting how much infrastructure working with a studio brings. When you have to hire an entire crew, rent a soundstage and equipment, and make deals with post houses and effects places on your own, you’re talking about a lot more than $1 million an episode.

    I agree, though, that Joss would be well served by creating a series somewhere more forgiving than one of the big 4. Dollhouse at HBO? Now THAT would be a dark and challenging show.

    One place I always think of when this kind of thing comes up with Joss is BBC America. I wonder if they would (or even could, given their charter) finance an original American series. A Joss show (cough*Ripper*cough) would be a natural fit for a network that seems to love heady, emotional science fiction.

  • blueberry

    Wow, I have to disagree with about 90% of what everyone is saying.

    First, the only thing groundbreaking about Southland was that it would have been a more intense show for networks to air on primetime. The Shield did it better, but for NBC and its dearth of quality, I guess Southland may be considered a gem to some people.

    I loved Firefly. I regret that I didn’t catch it the first time it aired. Having said that, I tried to at the very least enjoy Dollhouse. The last few episodes of the first season really picked up and I did enjoy them. But that probably had more to do with the fact that Alan Tudyk and Amy Acker were showcased.

    It’s hard to relate to Echo/Eliza Dushku. It can’t be done. It’ easier for humans to relate to Summer Glau’s always-robotic-emotionless acting (Sorry, Glau, I still love you).

    So you know what, I’m glad that I’m not bawling over Dollhouse’s all but announced cancellation. I used up my anger on Kings cancellation (I’m still so upset that I never watched another episode after they moved it to the summer. I’m going to pretend the King Solomon/David story lives on).

  • SimplyKimberly

    I wholeheartedly agree that the internet was made for Joss Whedon. It is the best fit for him, and his style of storytelling, because there are no suits with ad dollars in their eyes (not an altogether bad thing, mind you). He would have complete control of his productions and that would be a truly beautiful thing!

    JW has me ready to click Buy on anything he creates. He has shown he has what it takes to utilize the internet to its best potential with Dr. Horrible. I’m all on board for the Whedon Channel.

  • fh99

    John – The majority of the complaints over the stand-alone epsiodes aren’t over the fact that they’re stand-alone, it’s that they’re poor stand-alone episodes.

  • Me

    Although I agree that Joss Whedon is probably the one person who can virtually guarantee a return on Internet content, I don’t know how Dollhouse or Firefly would have fared story-wise on the Internet. Dollhouse/Firefly, et al. would have been completely different ventures in 10 – 15 minute increments. Likewise, Dr. Horrible was well suited to its format–how would it work as a half hour or hour weekly? I’m not saying webisodes don’t work for ensemble and/or mythology shows, but for as rich (character, story and visually) as the worlds those were, they just worked better on TV (or movies…) I think if we’re talking about letting audiences build and creative content, I would have liked to see any Whedon show on FX instead of Fox.

  • shannon

    You know what annoys me about Television? It’s that the pirates provide a better product for free. Don’t have to watch commercials, don’t have to tune in at a different time, don’t have to buy and program a pvr to grab the show for me… I can set up an RSS feed to automagically grab the torrent and download the show to my pc, and I can watch it whenever I want – commercial free.

    TV is dead. Bad distribution model, bad renumeration model (really, who watches commercials anymore anyway?) and unnecessary overhead, simply to live and die by the whims of a network.

    You really want to make this work? Make it Fan-Funded… Have Joss post his idea on a website somewhere, fans buy into the concept by paying in advance. Hell, make it profit sharing – I toss $10 towards an idea for a show – if it makes a crapload of money from post production sales, then maybe I get to pocket $15 for having some faith, PLUS I get to decide what to watch, instead of having Fox do my thinking for me.

  • Darb07

    Please oh god may he bring back Firefly! If there was any way he could, internet, cable, HBO I’d be there as well as Millions of others. As far as Dollhouse, it’s good enough to keep me watching. It has it’s ups and downs but comes threw very well in places. And if “Epitaph One” is where the show is heading then I want to stay on this ride and just enjoy it.

  • Mireille

    John, about standalones: The Buffy/Angel/Firefly standalones were awesome because we loved the characters and they were allowed to evolve, and be their awesome selves with each other when killing whatever monster was up that week. The trouble with Dollhouse is that we want to see the characters being their awesome selves, but they have no awesome selves! We need to care way more about a new client than about a new monster (or a new job in Firefly I guess). And even with Echo remembering more, she’s still someone else every week. So that’s why I think standalones are less liked in Dollhouse than in the other shows.

  • Helen Sarah

    Just to add to the Joss love-in, I want to say that I’d pay to buy your shows online in a second. Not least because then we could get them in the UK at the same time as the US and not have to waaaaaaaaiiit.

    We love you Joss.

  • Hil

    >>>@Margaret They chose Dollhouse over Terminator because it was cheaper to make.

    They also get profits from Dollhouse’s DVD sales while they didn’t with T:SCC. Since they only partially owned T:SCC they were not getting as much return for it.

  • IanG

    I agree with others saying why doesn’t Joss make a big play to get a series on cable TV before going the online route.

  • Kel


    The ground breaking quality for Southland was in how it was shot. If you disagree. you must not have watched. I you watched and still disagree, you are entitled to your opinion.

  • Pat

    I agree with the Joss should go exclusively cable route. SyFy for example should stop financing those god awful movie of the week thrash and divert that money to an exclusive retainer contract with Joss. Just have him be craft shows for them exclusively for like 10 years or something.

  • KateTheGreat

    People, Joss will not leave FOX with Dollhouse. The ONLY reason Dollhouse was ever created on that network was because it was Eliza Dushku’s thing and she wanted to work with Joss again. Eliza has a CONTRACT with Fox, which would mean Dollhouse won’t go anywhere without Eliza and Fox wouldn’t allow Dollhouse to leave and take her with it, so no on the leaving the network thing.

    He already plans on using the NET to his advantage. And with this devastation of COURSE he will. He will ride out Dollhouse and then move on. Oh, and FOX never tried. They BARELY promoted it and, granted they gave it a shot to be on television, they don’t actually care about it. They could have tried HARDER but, your right, its not vampires or Glee Club.

    He will survive, and his fans will follow him, like always. Its just so sad that he most likely will never be on TV again unless a miracle happens on another station, but us fans should be glad we have the WEB for this of this nature.

    GO JOSS.

  • Jen

    FOX is not to blame for Dollhouse’s low ratings-they promoted the hell out of it. I’m a big Buffy/Angel/Firefly fan, and I hate Dollhouse. I really tried, but it is NOT a well-written, well-acted, coherent show. Fox should cancel it-nobody except a few die-hard Whedon-can-do-no-wrong fanatics are watching it.

  • rehabber

    I would even subscribe to HBO or Showtime if Joss would make a series with Spike or even one with James as not a vampire. Would prefer if it was on SyFy so would not have to pay extra. But even at that I do buy the DVDs when they come out. I just want to see James back in a series with Joss and would love it to be Spike. I am watching Dollhouse but just can’t get excited about any of the characters, Eliza is just not strong enough to pull off a different character each week. To bad Amy Acker was not the lead.

  • latrece

    I’m so tired of people talking about Eliza’s acting or how somebody else should have been the lead. It is her show, her deal. If it wasn’t for her the actors on the show wouldn’t even had a job. nobody even knew who half of them were until Dollhouse. If people hate or dislike Eliza so much they can choose to grow up and not watch her on tv so they don’t feel like they have to bash her.

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  • Travelista007


    FIREFLY was also brilliant, and this is just outrageous. They put Firefly on at an obscure time in my area and they didn’t give it a chance. Everyone we bought the DVD’s for loves that show…. BONES BORES ME TO TEARS. Bumped for Bones? You’re joking.

    Why should we trust these Nielsen ratings when they can be so tailored demographically to whatever the networks really want, frankly. I don’t trust 5000 households, that could possibly have a majority of which related to those in the film IDIOCRACY, to speak for me.

    Nielsen Ratings:

    “To find out who is watching TV and what they are watching, the company gets around 5,000 households to agree to be a part of the representative sample for the national ratings estimates. Nielsen’s statistics show that 99 million households have TVs in the United States, so Nielsen’s sample is not very large. The key, therefore, is to be sure the sample is representative. Then TVs, homes, programs, and people are measured in a variety of ways.”

    That’s a B.S. sampling to base whether or not to kill a show. If that were the case, companies like PIXAR would never be in business creating films about geriatric old men and mice who can cook. At least Disney respects that they are artists and brilliant.

    Forgive my venting by I must:

    I thought they (Fox) were IDIOTS when they pulled Firefly, and now to hear Dollhouse is getting pre-empted or possibly snuffed is really freaking upsetting. What is WRONG with whoever is calling the shots there? I enjoy House, but I don’t anxiously await it like we do Dollhouse – it’s actually keeping us home on a friday night those MORONS.

    Everyone should really fraaaaaking protest this or they’ll do the same as they did with Firefly. Frankly, I’m shocked Fox has even had quality sci-fi like this on their network considering how over the top conservative they are.


    JOSS WHEDON IS BRILLIANT you freaking IDIOTS (at FOX)!!! ALL of the other shows on tv, SUCK with these few exceptions: The Closer, House (though that gives you NO excuse to bump Dollhouse for it!!!), Lie to Me, Leverage. That’s IT.

    HEY TNT NETWORK – GO SIGN JOSS WHEDON WHILE YOU CAN!!!! His work is more creative & probably better belongs on TNT….Fox can be the network of the ULTRA LAME REALITY SHOWS.


    I miss Mal. Enough of Summer G. already, where’s Mal? And dang it all, Eliza is just fabulous, as pretty much every character is on DH. Don’t let them cancel it people, spead the word, and make your voices heard.

  • tamara

    to the guy above who said: quit harping on Eliza Dushku’s acting inadequacies. Dollhouse could NEVER succeed with an actress who can’t become someone new every week. Dushku doesn’t have those chops. The show is hopeless.

    Spike is the single best character i’ve ever seen on TV. James Marsters is an amazingly talented actor. I think it’s utterly mystifying that Whedon appears to so underappreciate both Spike and Marsters.

    A Spike show would cause me and zillions of other fans to sign up for whatever, cable, internet to see it, and pay what you will, interminably. Zillions of hard core Spike fans after seven years? that should tell you something, Whedon.

  • lbk

    Dollhouse sucks and should die a rapid death so Whedon could concentrate his efforts to something better. Like Firefly.

    Little wonder Dollhouse is attracting less and less fans. It’s not good and that’s Whedon’s fault, not Fox’s.

  • yellowdingo

    Frankly i think it is lazy of Whedon to not get the picture…

    If you want Terminator and the big money franchises then go public.

    A billion shares at a dollar a share to get ordinary People investing in their Movie/TV Corporation to finance the next Firefly film: SERENITY 2 – BLUE SUN, or DOOM: MAELSTROM – A Scifi horror flick where Giant Spaceships with Gargantuan Demons shackled to their Prows make Earthfall during Barrak Obama’s first term, or PREDATOR VS ALIEN: PRELUDE where a Catholic Priest discovers an Alien Egg in a Mayan Temple and ships it back to 1640 Spain where it is stolen again and winds up in a Huge Wooden – eight floor Monastary stalking and killing Priests. And the Knight who comes to the Rescue is more than he seems. Or TERMINATOR: ATLANTIS When the Terminators travel so far back they wind up in the Antarctic passing themselves off as Atlanteans.