Clearing up the F.U.D. about Dollhouse

Right off of the high of learning Felicia Day would be on Dollhouse (here), the F.U.D. (Fear Uncertainty Doubt) about Dollhouse's future began:  We learned that episode 13, "Epitaph One" will not air on Fox (here).  Now, we have a little more information.

"Epitaph One" has Felicia Day in it


feliciadayMan, 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. :( (see tweet)


So now we know that "Epitaph One" is the episode that Felicia Day is on, and that this is the episode that is not getting aired.

The furor over this announcement surrounds what Kevin Reilly, Fox entertainment president, said on January 13, 2009:


we’re going to let the show play out for 13 episodes and hopefully it will catch on ... if we can do some business there, that would be a great thing for the future (The Hollywood Reporter).



What is Episode 13 anyway?



Sites like Wikipedia and EpGuides list "Omega" as Episode 12, which is technically accurate as it will, in fact, be the show's 12th episode to air. Said sites also, however, list an Episode 13, titled "Epitaph One (Hitfix)."



So, let's step back for a moment.  On Speculative Fiction Today this afternoon, I mentioned that this might be a fight between two Foxes (here).  It is looking more and more like this is the case.



Epitaph One



The "Omega" episode is the 13th episode of that original order. It is the second part of a heavily-arced two-part closure to the season and it was written, produced and directed as the season finale. It brings the slow-developing Alpha storyline to a climax and answers a number of questions about the Dollhouse and its inhabitants. It also raises possible questions setting up a possible Season Two, but it isn't a shocking cliffhanger.


...


"Epitaph One" was ordered by 20th Century Fox TV, the show's production company, but not by the network and the network had no commitment to air that episode (Hitfix).



This is Fox Television's official story, and it is a strange story.



Why would 20th Century Fox TV order an episode they had not sold?


That is really the question.  If, in fact, 20th Century Fox TV produced 14 episodes of a series that was only picked up for a 13 episode run, that would be exceedingly odd.  Media companies guarantee income from the series they make by selling them to the companies that air them, but it isn't the only way they make money.  Media producers also have DVD, digital sales, and digital streaming to fiance their product.


So why would 20th Century Fox TV produce more episodes than they sold?



Clerical Error



20th Century Fox
Image via Wikipedia



Don't laugh, this is the most likely answer.




  • Fox TV says they ordered 13 episodes starting at the pilot.

  • 20th Century Fox TV produced 13 episodes staring at The Pilot through "Epitaph One"

  • Fox TV made them re-shoot The Pilot

  • Fox TV counts the pilot as 2 episodes: "The Unaired Pilot" and "Ghost"

  • 20th Century Fox TV counts the pilot as 1 episode


What seems to be at work here are two different methods of accounting the number of episodes produced.

Safety Net


I think there is a good change that Joss Wheadon wrote and produced "Epitaph One" to ensure that if the show only got one season, there would be a sense of closure.  He made this series like he did Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it is a contained story in and of itself.

Remember, the plot arc was set prior to the re-shoots for the pilot.

My Tin Foil Hat Theory


I doubt this is true, but I love to get a little conspiratorial from time to time.


  • What if Joss talked 20th Century Fox TV into producing an episode that could not be aired on television for contractual reasons.

  • The episode would only be available via digital download and streaming.

  • To hype interest in the episode, they cast Felicia Day in that episode.

  • What if this is a test to see if Dollhouse requires a television network to make the production company money?


I know this is not very likely, and if it is true, he should have told Felicia (or she is playing us all), but it would be a perfect way to test a large production like this.

We know that Joss is tired of dealing with the networks.  We know he really enjoyed making Dr Horrible's Sing-along Blog.  This could be a bridge from old media to new media.

(sigh) I know it is not very likely.  It would be cool to see Joss free from the network.

Dollhouse is not Canceled


wheadonesque-twitterTo clear up any confusion: Dollhouse has not been cancelled. It's just that Fox will not air the last episode of season one. (see tweet)


Will "Dollhouse" eventually be cancelled? I can't tell you that today. I can tell you to look at the show's ratings. If you just look at overnight and Fast National figures, that will probably tell you that hopes are bleak for a second "Dollhouse" season. If you look at DVR and iTunes and other ancillary numbers, it might offer hope (Hitfix).


We really don't know what the future of the series will be.

This is a series that has shown rabid fan support on a network that doesn't understand how to treat it's audience  right.

The nature of media is changing.  Dollhouse has an audience in new media, and should be produced for us.  It is designed to be watched over and over again without commercial interruption.  I think it would be great if Dollhouse became the first Hulu exclusive show.

Is the news about "Epitaph One" Good?


Not at the moment.  If fans have to wait to see the episode until the DVD box set comes out, that is obnoxious, but if Fox TV doesn't want to give the series a sense of finality, that does raise hopes for a second season.

If they post the episode to Hulu, make it available at iTunes and Amazon, and use it to show how the series doesn't need the network,  I would pleased.

UPDATE: Preorders open on the DVD


The DVD and Blu-ray release of Dollhouse drops on July 28, TVShowsonDVD.com reported. The discs will contain all 13 episodes—"Ghost," "The Target," "Stage Fright," "Gray Hour," "True Believer," "Man on the Street," "Echoes," "Needs," "A Spy in the House," "Haunted," "Briar Rose," "Omega" and "Epitaph One"—as well as the original unaired pilot episode, "Echo," the site reported. (Amazon.com is already taking pre-orders for the DVD.) (Scifi Wire)


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