Dollhouse and Chuck live to thrill another season

18 May

 

dollhouseMay 18th, 2009

Due to being away most of the weekend I missed these little tidbits,  but it appears both NBC’s action comedy Chuck and Fox’s sci-fi thriller Dollhouse have been picked up for one more season. Major budgetary concessions are being made for both shows, and in Chuck’s case this means a shortened 13 episode run and cutting back the number of episodes certain cast members appear in. It’s currently speculated that this might mean ditching cast member Anna Wu altogether. Either way, fans will have Chuck back in the NBC line-up next fall for its third season.

 With Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse I’m a little more surprised. Its getting a similar deal with a 13 episode season and sizable budget cuts but it’s performance seemed questionable. Chuck has had two years of airtime, a strong start, and a loyal following for its early run. Dollhouse, on the other hand, has not had strong viewer numbers since it’s debut on Fox in February where it followed the now cancelled Sarah Connor Chronicles in the Friday night “death slot”. Boasting some of the lowest numbers for a show being renewed for a second season, Dollhouse seems to have evaded death due to other factors.

In addition to the eventual DVD release and it’s selling potential in those markets, Dollhouse had very strong DVR and online streaming numbers. Whedon, whose Firefly was famously trashed by Fox back in 2002 looked to experience similar tribulations with the fate of Dollhouse. It was pushed to a mid-season release, had 12 episodes in which to establish itself and was dumped in the ratings wasteland that was Friday night. In addition, the show did little in it’s early episodes to instill the kind of confidence or passion Whedon’s other projects like Buffy, Angel and Firefly had.

I watched the shows first few episodes, but due to some personal craziness going on at the time, never really got back to it. I wasn’t blown away by what I was seeing, and as someone who just recently finally caved and started watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer with his wife, I was disappointed to see that the latter’s strong sense of community wasn’t present anywhere in Dollhouse.  Buffy and Firefly both had a compelling and interesting collection of characters from day one, and Dollhouse’s little team were just a ‘team’ and not the kind of surrogate families that make genre TV watching interesting. It didn’t help that the idea at the center of the series causes Dushku’s character to essentially be a different identity every episode. Hard to build a strong, immediate connection that way.

Still, I’ve heard good things about the way the season has wrapped up, and my doubting of Whedon in the past resulted in me missing one of the best TV shows ever during it’s initial run. Even Buffy got significantly better after it’s original 12 episode run and delivered probably one of the strongest seasons of the entire series during that second year. So, I’m awaiting the DVD release of Dollhouse on July 28th and if I get the opportunity to check out the rest of the series before then, I’ll be back with a review.

With any luck, this hair’s breadth rescue will go down as a triumphant footnote in a successful series history. Or, it will go the way of Firefly. In the end though, it’s getting much more of a fighting chance than that show ever had. So kudos to Whedon and the gang there. Best of luck.

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