Fox is finally slipping (casting news for Dollhouse too)

by Paul William Tenny

Let's be honest, the only thing holding Fox up lately has been American Idol. House does well but isn't as big as it used to be. Other shows like Bones do well for what they are, but as far as crime shows go, it's just not that big. And what else is there?


J. J. Abrams' X-Files rip-off -- can we please admit it's nothing more than a reboot? -- debuted with 19 million viewers, making it a top rated drama, but quickly shed nine million in its second episode and hasn't really moved off that average ever since (very reminiscent to Terminator: SCC, which lost nearly 10 million viewers in the 24 hours that separated the two parts of the series premier and has now fallen to an average of 5 million and has been banished to Friday nights, beginning tomorrow.)

Idol lost viewers last year (the premier was 33.4 million, down from 37.7) and continues to lose them this year with a bow of "only" 30.4 million. Even with numbers that will easily keep it going for another four or five years, the network almost lost Tuesday night to a rival for the first time in a very, very long time.

The New York Times TV blog noted that Idol's 24.5 million viewers combined with Fringe's 10.5 were barely enough to hold off the 18 million, 19.7 million, and 14.7 million people who watched NCIS, The Mentalist, and Without a Trace on CBS.

Fox has used Idol for years to force rival networks to make erratic changes to their schedules to avoid being crushed, but things are definitely changing. People are still leaving network TV for cable and non-television media (DVD, games, sleep..) and CBS in particular has put together a potent Tuesday lineup to take on the throne. NBC won't be a threat for a while yet, not until Ben Silverman is fired, but they won't bring up the rear forever.

Am I happy about this?

A little bit.

Fox's self-destructive behavior with screeners for the press may not hurt them substantially today, but in the long run, it's definitely not helping them either. If SCC doesn't turn it around in the last half of the current season, it's not coming back. If they don't give Dollhouse a fair shake -- dumping it on Friday is a pretty good indicator that they aren't at all serious about that show -- then I don't think Joss Whedon is ever coming back to that network.

If you think that's inconsequential, ask Warner Brothers or whoever owns the franchise how much money Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel have made for them over the years. If it's anyting short of billions, I'd be very surprised to hear that.

People like myself can't help these shows if we aren't allowed to preview them. What am I expected to write about that will get my readers excited enough to do anything other than go out and get drunk on a Friday night?

"This show might be good, although you've probably never seen anything by this guy before...and Fox might let it run for 16 episodes instead of 13 like they did with his last show..."

Not cool man, not cool.

By all rights, Fox should be in third place right now. They have fallen into a pattern of giving bad shows too much time (Fringe, SCC) while cutting critically acclaimed winners off at the knees before they can even find their pants (Firefly, probably Dollhouse, arguably Drive, Millennium to a lesser degree, Strange Luck, the list of victims is endless.)

I wouldn't be surprised if CBS takes over as the top network over the next 3-4 years if Idol keeps deflating, and if NBC gets its shit together, Fox could be sitting in second place with two hungry networks nipping at its heels.

And they'll have done it to themselves, per usual.

Felicia DayNote: I got a Tweet while I was writing this story from Felicia Day, saying that she is going to be guest starring in an episode of Dollhouse "later this season". She's a great actress and this is wonderful news for what I think will be a sweet show. Congratulations, many people are now supremely jealous.
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