But possibly not brains. And I mean that lovingly, I really do, because I want them to succeed. I want Joss Whedon's Dollhouse to succeed. It's all one big misunderstanding you see, fans don't understand the business -- and frankly often times neither do I -- and end up wasting their efforts in vain with nothing to show for it. Take for instance this story on Underwire from last Friday about Dollhouse fans preemptively trying to "save the show" from cancellation a full season before really before it has even aired, even though Fox has committed to producing a full season -- something that basically never happens anymore.
They don't want Dollhouse to share Firefly's fate, and I can't blame them, but this isn't going to help at all.
Led by DollhouseForums.com, the campaign urges followers to organize viewing parties, watch the trailers online, buy Dollhouse-endorsed merch and create more fan sites.
DollhouseForums' trailblazing leader Nathan posted the following as a call to arms: "After seeing some of my favorite television shows get canceled in the past -- as well as the 'save this show' campaigns that followed -- I had the idea that a fan campaign BEFORE the show begins may be the best thing to do."
A Facebook fan page dedicated to the online campaign already has nearly 1,500 members.
The problem here is that Fox doesn't care about Facebook pages, fan forums and websites, or DVD sales. First of all, Fox is a network and doesn't "own" the show per se so they don't get the DVD revenue, the studio that owns and produces the show does, so they could really couldn't care less about any of that. Fan sites and forums likewise don't generate the revenue they need to keep paying their license fee, so the network simply doesn't care. In their world, ratings are king. High ratings mean higher fees for commercial spots and a show that gets some leeway. Low ratings mean more money going out than coming in, and that's the end of the road.
We all appreciate fans that like to get involved. I was one of the beneficiaries of the Jericho bunch that squeezed another third of a season out of CBS and was really very grateful for it, even though they didn't hold up their part of the bargain. Like it or not, Jericho was brought back on the condition that the ratings would go up, but they didn't. In fact they actually explored new lows for the series. Fans did their "nuts" campaign, got lots of signatures, but in the end they didn't do what really needed to be done.
They didn't help to pull in new viewers.
That lack of understanding or simply their inability to bring in new viewers, be it family and friends, co-workers, or even complete strangers, is what killed Jericho for a second time and kills every show ever produced. Dollhouse won't be better off because of fan forums and DVD sales, it'll only stick around if enough people sit their butts on the sofa and watch the show (in a Neilsen-enabled home of course.)
Firefly could have done that if it had been given more than half a season to work with, and I think Fox recognized that when they decided to give Dollhouse and J. J. Abrams' Fringe full season orders before the first episode aired. And even if they didn't realize that, they certainly are in a position of strength against the other networks such that they can do pretty much anything they want regardless, but I do hold out hope for a sign of sanity.
I like the spirit here, but not the game plan. Above all else the only effort should be to recruit people to watch the pilot, people who will also stick with it for a majority of the season so that the ratings make it worthwhile to the network to keep it going. In the end, that's all that really matters to the suits so that's all that should matter to fans that want to help keep a good show on the air.
Doing "your part" means spending five minutes of your day to explain to someone who has never seen a Joss Whedon show what an amazing treat they are in for if they spend some time with his work. If you can't do that, then how much do you really care?
Update I thought I had read that both Dollhouse and Fringe got a full season pickup, but apparently Dollhouse only got a 6-episode order with a possible bump to 13. Way to give the full order to the wrong series, Fox.