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Elliott Serrano Presents:

Before I get into it here, let me say up front that I am a fan of Joss Whedon’s.

I’ve faithfully followed Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. (Ok, I’ll admit that I gave Firefly a try in the beginning but didn’t really fall in love with the show until it was on released on DVD.) I enjoyed his Buffy ‘spin-off’ comic book Fray and simply devoured his Astonishing X-Men run. And yes, I’ve bought ALL of the Buffy Season Eight comics from Dark Horse.

Now we have his new show Dollhouse, with uber-babe Eliza Dushku starring as ‘Echo,’ an operative for a secret organization that has her memories wiped after each assignment. The show is daring, compelling and smartly written. It deals with issues of sexuality and self-awareness in the ways that only Joss Whedon can. It has humor and pathos and a more than a fair share of Dushku in seductive outfits.

So why is the show tanking in the ratings?

At the onset of Dollhouse’s first season, many within the television industry where under whelmed. Not only did the show not perform in the ratings department, it left many people scratching their heads, bewildered that they weren’t getting what most people recognized as a ‘Joss Whedon’ show. For the first couple episodes the show was devoid of the humor and whimsy that his other shows were known for. Eliza Dushku, for all her sex appeal, was no more than a cipher and viewers found it difficult to form an attachment to her character. And almost none of the show’s personalities were very sympathetic.

At season’s end, many assumed that Dollhouse would go the way of Firefly, getting the axe at the hands of a Fox executive.

‘But the show has so much potential! ‘some fans would exclaim. ‘It just needs more time to find itself!’ the Whedonites would insist.

So imagine everyone’s surprise when the execs at Fox decide to grant Echo a stay of execution and renew the show for a second season. Joss and Co. did the rounds, pushing Dollhouse on the convention circuit, appearing before the screaming throng at Comic-Con; Eliza Dushku pushed the show on outlet after media outlet, even Twittering her peeps to give them the heads up that the show was soon airing. The collective will of Whedon and his Whedonites was being put in full force all in support of this show.

The first episode of the second season was more in line with what Whedon fans have would expect from one of his scripts, with generous dollops of humor, sympathetic characters, a wonderful performance by ‘Angel’ vet Amy Acker and a slam-bang action-packed finale.

And what happened?

The show tanked …again.

According to the Nielsen ratings, the second season premiere of Dollhouse pulled a 1.0 share in the coveted 18-49 demographic, down 41% from the previous season’s premiere but in line with the previous season finale.

After all the outrage, all the letters, all the petitions and online rallies, the viewers just didn’t show.

Which begs the question: Is Joss Whedon’s fan base enough to carry one of his shows? I mean, let’s face it; both Angel and Firefly were canceled for the simple fact that not enough people were watching it. Even the most beloved series in the Whedonverse, Buffy, was lagging there in the end before that giant Hellmouth swallowed Sunnydale.

When the movie studio financing the Serenity put together the marketing campaign behind the film, they openly courted Whedonites in the hopes that word-of-mouth and internet buzz would generate a sleeper hit. And yet the movie pretty much bombed at the box office and dashed any hopes of seeing the Firefly cast together again in a series of films.

Outside of the viral marketing of the Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along-Blog, Whedonites haven’t been able to sustain one of Joss’ projects. And let’s face it; a successful web-series is the equivalent of a big fish in a small pond.

So, is that what Joss is, a big fish in a small pond?

Don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of the man and admire his skill as a storyteller and entertainment craftsman. But is his shows can’t pull in the ratings, and his movies don’t make box-office…

I think the answer is obvious.

Elliott Serrano is a writer/columnist/blogger who was absolutely heartbroken when Angel was canceled. He was also dismayed when The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. met a similar fate. He now refuses to love again, because everything he loves ends up failing in the Neilsens. You can read more of his rants and ramblings on his blog, or see his meager little web show on YouTube. Yes, Elliott is a teeny, tiny minnow in a small pond.

E.R. Serrano

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