From interview with Peter Liguori, entertainment chair at Fox:
Is Dollhouse as bad as we are hearing?
Joss Whedon has an unbelievably loyal fan base, and he really knows how to write to that fan base. I expect that they’re going to be there. They’re going to enjoy his show. One of the things about airing on Friday night, a show is not expected to have those boffo ratings.
So you’re not burying him in the Friday graveyard?
No, I’m not burying him in the Friday graveyard. I’m giving him a little bit of a reprieve by being on Friday.
Whew. Nothing like praising a show with faint damns, as Dorothy Sayers would say (yes, it’s Sayers Week here at Chez Anwyn). I’m giving him a little reprieve, to see if there’s any snowball’s chance in hell he can draw in anybody who’s not already in love with either Captain Mal or Eliza Dushku. And if not, then we’ll dump it.
Are people who like Buffy and Firefly completely unreliable indicators of a large enough demographic to keep a show alive? Given the fifth-network treatment of Buffy and Angel and the quick death of Firefly, I’d have to say it seems so. The question would seem to be why? Joss’s shows are about people with somewhat fantastic powers or circumstances (but ultimately still about the human interest), but so are Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings. Is the lesson that if it can’t be marketed to children, as well, then the adults of our stripe aren’t enough? Where does that leave Star Wars? I was three when A New Hope came to theaters–I wasn’t buying a ticket.
The only shows I can think of with a Joss vibe lately are Veronica Mars and Chuck. Veronica survived three years in the fifth-network dimension and suffered from a lack of a coherent vision from her creator. Chuck, however, has spent a season and a half on Monday nights, and while not exactly “boffo,” got itself bought for a full-season renewal this year. It’s holding its own. Despite Liguori’s positive spin about the base and Friday night not holding much expectation, let’s not forget what happened to vampire tale Moonlight on Friday nights. No matter what he says, Friday night is a graveyard for ordinary viewers (i.e. anybody not already frantically devoted to a show plus people who don’t like The Ghost Whisperer). It takes a lot of doing and some blind luck to get a show that does well on Fridays. The question is, what will Fox settle for with Dollhouse? Are they okay with it if it comes in a perennial second behind Ghost Whisperer? And if not, look out for the half-season cancellation, Joss fans.
The folks at Whedonesque, of course, have much, much more to say.