Fox Execs Keep Playing With 'Dollhouse'
The Reporters Who Cover Television were shocked right down to their ganglions late last week when Fox renewed its ratings-starved "Dollhouse" for next season.
"What the heck?!" they said in overwrought features, columns/blogs/tweets. "Joss Whedon's latest exercise in ultra-feminist heinie-kicking-and-tight-tank-top-wearing didn't even cop 3 million viewers the other day! That's not even a decent FX number -- much less an acceptable return for a show airing on the country's No. 1-ranked broadcast network and home of 'American Idol'!"
But, of course, "Dollhouse" is produced by 20th Century Fox TV, which is owned by NewsCorporation, which also owns the Fox broadcast network. While "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles," for instance, is not.
And NewsCorp. expects Dollhouse's first-season DVD sales to be strong, and overseas sales look good and some of those people who couldn't be bothered watching "Dollhouse" on Friday nights were instead watching on Hulu -- which, in one of those astounding coincidences which makes you feel certain life is just one darned unfathomable mystery after another, just happens to be co-owned by NewsCorporation.
And, of course, what with the threshhold for Brilliant Success Status on Hulu being so much lower than it is on broadcast TV (in much the same way that, say, 1 million CD sales takes you platinum but 1 million viewers gets you cancelled on broadcast TV) these "Dollhouse" viewers help made Hulu look like a success.
Oh, and Whedon has reportedly discovered a way to make episodes on the cheap --cheap for Whedon, anyway.
So Fox ordered a second season of "Dollhouse" which, some industry navel-gazers note, may be the lowest-rated series ever to get a renewal in the history of broadcast TV. They're probably right.
A case of the tail wagging the dog you say? (The Reporters Who Cover Television certainly did.)
Not at all. Because, starting this season: Broadcast TV is the new tail.
This season it's all about that "other stuff" that does so much to make a network's parent-company happy. Expect to see more "Dollhouse"-like announcements at the Broadcast Upfront Week presentations over the next few days -- headscratch-worthy show returns.
Of course, this only works if the company that owns the network also owns the series. Those unfortunate shows owned by studios that DON'T own the broadcast network on which they air -- a moment of silence for Warner Bros. and Sony series -- have been offering up pounds of flesh to their networks over the past couple weeks in order to secure renewals for next season. It's gotten pretty tragic in some cases and little rivulets of their blood will be trickling through the aisles at New York City Center, Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall, Carnegie Hall and Madison Square Garden, where the broadcast networks will officially unveil their schedules over the next several days.
On a brighter note: also in store for you this week are announcements of shows that have been running on one network but will move to another. "Medium," for instance, has aired on NBC but CBS had been mulling a pickup -- easily explained once you know NBC talks had stalled and CBS is the company that makes the show. CBS would like to see more episodes made of "Medium" to enhance its viability in off-network syndication. NBC? -- couldn't care less.
Meanwhile, have you long wondered why Fox's fall schedule didn't look more like its January schedule - you know, the schedule with two nights of "American Idol" and millions more viewers?
Well, Fox is announcing its 2009-10 primetime scehdule today and -- turns out -- the very same thing had occurred to Fox suits.
And yet, while those same Fox execs worked so tirelessly this season to gum up "American Idol" -- what with judges vetoing viewer votes, Kara DioGuardi adding nothing but blah-blah-blah and a stage cluttered up with gaudy Stairways to Paradise and Leaning Towers of Idol -- the Fox braintrust is not quite ready yet to make the Ultimate American Idol Mistake and do a second run of the show in the fourth quarter.
So instead , Fox is going to add another edition of its summer reality series "So You Think You Can Dance," which will stand in for "Idol" in its Tuesday/Wednesday peformance show/results show configuration.
Other than that, don't expect to hear about wholesale change to the Fox slate for the 2009-10 TV season because, as Fox suits have been saying for weeks, this is not the year to blow up a primetime schedule -- it throws too many ad dollars into the air.
Skittish advertisers want to know exactly what they're getting next season. And that doesn't just mean plunking their dollars down for returning series they've come to love. It means plunking their dollars down for returning shows they've come to love -- broadcast in the same timeslots in which they've come to love them.
So expect to see grumpy-doc drama "House" to stick at 8 on Mondays; JJ Abrams's paranormal drama "Fringe," to follow "So You Think You Can Dance" Tuesdays; procedural crime dramedy "Bones" to kick off Thursdays; "Dollhouse" back on Fridays; "AMW" and "Cops" on Saturdays; and animation nation on Sundays.
And "Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles"? It's dead -- finally succumbing to a chronic condition of being produced at Warner Bros.
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