Joss Whedon was interviewed last week by the Chicago Tribune's Maureen Ryan, and it's quite a long one--but there was this interesting bit where Joss outlined his thoughts on why Dollhouse was cancelled. In a nutshell, it's this: Fox wanted out the moment they said yes.
"Basically the show didn't really get off the ground because the network pretty much wanted to back away from the concept five minutes after they bought it," he said. "And then ultimately, the show itself is also kind of odd and difficult to market. I actually think they did a good job, but it's just not a slam-dunk concept. It wasn't like our numbers were huge and plummeted. They were tiny and still somehow managed to plummet. We alienated both our viewers."
He felt that the network's hesitation to let him do his thing--how he wanted to tackle issues about the morlaly-ambiguous bit in sexuality and exploitation--affected how Dollhouse went on the air--and, ultimately, its fate. "We got the espionage that the network wants, but it's the questions about identity that we want," he said. "There are other things about the show that never came back and I didn't really realize it until the second season ... when the show turned into a thriller every week, it took something out of it that was kind of basic to what we were trying to do. And then also the fact that it was a thriller every week meant that we couldn't go from genre to genre, which is really what I wanted to do."
"We always found ourselves sort of moving away from what had been part of the original spark of the show and that ultimately just makes it really hard to write these stories," he added. "It makes it twice as hard as usual ... When you're trying to back away from your central premise at the same time as you're making that [show,] it gets complicated."
Still, he believes that he got to tackle the subjects he wanted to tackle on the show, especially in the second season. "The structure and the tone of the show changed, but the basic premise was there and the cast and the writers and everybody did phenomenal work," he said. "Although I definitely felt some frustration at the show having to find itself and America getting to watch while it tried, I'm really proud of where we ended up and in fact was very clear on the way in which this could continue in a new paradigm and work for everybody, should it go on."
But the cancellation means Dollhouse will end on January 22. No other versions anywhere else. The series finale will be called "Epitaph Two: Return", and will tackle the very future that the DVD-only "Epitaph One" tackled. Amy Acker will return in the two episodes before that, and in a couple of weeks, we get to see Victor's past in the military. And this week, Alpha returns, too. But with last Friday's Dollhouse double-header hitting a series low of 2.15 million viewers, well...