Thursday, April 09, 2009

Dollhouse 13th/14th episode in limbo

As mentioned before, I'm on Twitter and I'm slowly trying to get the hang of the place -- not just what sorts of things I want to post, but how news gets disseminated in 140 characters or less.

Earlier today, Felicia Day (Penny from "Dr. Horrible") tweeted this:
Man, day getting worse and worse. Found out my Dollhouse ep, #13 isn't gonna air. Only on DVD. Such a great part too. Thx Fox. :(
This set the greater Twitter-verse -- not to mention ancillary Joss Whedon fansites -- ablaze with speculation about what this might mean for the future of "Dollhouse." As I've been able to gather so far, maybe it doesn't mean much, which I'll explain after the jump...

Long story short, because this is convoluted: Fox network ordered 13 episodes of the show. Joss Whedon shot a pilot, and then the pilot was scrapped in favor of a new pilot, but for contractual purposes, that unaired pilot counted as part of the 13-episode order -- which means Fox only had 12 episodes to deal with. Eight of those have aired, and four more are still to come, all of which have been scheduled, with the last of those -- with the very finale-ish title of "Omega" -- set to air May 8.

Day's episode, called "Epitaph One," was apparently filmed by the studio independent of the agreement -- or, at least, independent of what Fox network considers to be in the agreement -- and does not seem to be tied in to the story in "Omega." In other words, if there's a cliffhanger in "Omega" (and I don't know if there is), it's not going to be resolved in "Epitaph One."

Fox network won't decide the fate of "Dollhouse" until Upfront week, near the end of May, and the decision not to air "Epitaph One" has nothing whatsoever to do with renewal. It's unclear whether "Epitaph One" will turn up as a bonus on the season one DVD, or on Hulu, or even if it might be a bonus episode for a hypothetical season two. All I know for now is that it's not going to air on Fox as part of the first season run of "Dollhouse."

Does that all make sense?

UPDATE: Tim Minear concurs with what I've heard elsewhere, and seems confident that "Epitaph One" will be on the DVD.


MCB said...

This is possibly a dumb question, but what happened to the original pilot? Was it aired out of order? Have we seen it yet?

Alan Sepinwall said...

It hasn't aired and likely won't ever air.

Michael said...

The unaired pilot may, however, show up on the Season 1 DVD. That's been known to happen before.

Byron Hauck said...

Isn't there some evidence that some scenes in the aired pilot, and even a later episod or two, might have been from the original pilot? I thought I remembered hearing people talk about that.

Anonymous said...

To eb clear, it's already been released info that both the unaired pilot and the to-be-unaired 13th episode will beon the DVD.

barefootjim said...

This is going to seem awful paranoidy, but if the show is going to be renewed AND there is another episode in the can, why wouldn't FOX air it?

Unless they want to hold it back specifically to goose DVD sales from those of us who have grown to enjoy it after the waters-parting "Man in the Street" ep.

Which just seems evil. And not just on FOX's part.

Rachel said...

@MCB @Michael According to SciFiWire, both the unaired pilot and Epitaph One will appear on the Season 1 DVD.

Unknown said...

I'm still a little confused as to the contractual stuff: who financed this 13th episode? Or I guess the better question is why was this episode even made if it was produced independent of the network agreement? Did they make it hoping that it could somehow be shoehorned into the agreement after the fact? Or did they actually intend for this to be a "lost" episode, which only begs another quizzical "huh?"

Plus, why did they wait until now to announce that this episode wasn't officially part of the season? I'm almost positive that Peter Liguori (who, I know, isn't with the network anymore) said a few weeks ago that all 13 episodes would air (or maybe he used some language like, "The entire first season will air," which just looks...sneaky).

God that's a lotta questions.

Alan Sepinwall said...

This is going to seem awful paranoidy, but if the show is going to be renewed AND there is another episode in the can, why wouldn't FOX air it?

Because it's not part of any deal, it hasn't gone through the traditional network notes process, and a variety of other reasons. If the show is renewed -- still a big "if" -- I suspect something will be worked out to air it as a "lost" episode or something, but right now Fox network isn't airing it because they don't own it, because they haven't paid for it, because they say it's not part of the initial deal.

Vaughn said...

Rocco Passionino, Dollhouse's visual effects supervisor, said about the episode: "The last episode is very interesting. The intention of that episode is bizarre and it's done for half the price of what a normal show is done. They contained their resources and the environments to not make it as expansive as a normal show. For us, I think the concept is phenomenal. I would have hoped that they could have brought the concept in earlier but it opens up everything and allows us to run away with the fact that technology has done more than they intended it to."

Alan's news certainly jives with that previous information. Question is, who exactly financed it?

SupComTabz said...

How does an episode get made that Fox didn't pay for?

barefootjim said...

I guess that after nearly two decades of watching FOX mistreat series after series that I love, I've grown unaccustomed to giving them the benefit of the doubt.

In fact, whenever they air a new series I end up liking, I halfway expect them to come to my house and forcibly stop me from watching it.

Nate said...

Just a little side note to say that this 13th episode has a very different format from the other episodes this season and doesnt have very many ties with anything. It's going to be a very dream sequence heavy episode that will most likely have no impact on much of the show's overall story.

Think Buffy's "Restless episode. Lots of foreshadowing and teasing, but not a big impact on the show or the characters.

And to reaffirm what has already been said, this episode IS slated to be on the first season's DVD release.

worldofhiglet said...

That makes some sort of sense. Except - this is all news to everyone, it seems. Felicia Day might well have been kept out of the loop because she is 'only' an actor and therefore unimportant (not in my world - theirs!), but what about the show's producers?

@DrHorrible tweeted only 2 days ago about 'someone' from Dr Horrible being on Dollhouse. @DrHorrible is not likely to be Joss (since it would involve him having to operate technology) but it is likely to be either Jed or Maurissa, both of whom are writers on the show and have the ear of Joss.

All this makes me think that Fox has just pulled off an extraordinary feat. They are using the power of the internet to boost the DVD sales and alienating people all over again in one fell swoop. Maybe they have finally understood the power of the fans and are using that power to boost sales/potential sales. It was only ever about the money, of course! They are a network and those shareholders have been squeezed....I'm going to stop now, my eye is twitching.

Vegasadelphia said...

That makes a lot of sense, thanks!

Muz said...

When I first heard about this I thought Fox's decided the easy way to make money off of a Whedon show is to cancel it early and slap a lot of unaired stuff on the DVD set.

Alan's explanation with added detail makes it a bit less mendacious. Cheers.
(I don't get this 'schedule is god' stuff really. You'd think with a couple of free episodes of a show you're running you'd find somewhere to put them.
I miss the good old days when TV used to have hours in the day no one knew what to do with so they'd bung on old movies and obscure reruns. That is about where my knowledge of network TV ends.)

Rachel said...

You know what? Screw it. I'm not buying the DVDs to get this episode. I'll rent them on Netflix, eventually, or wait for them to be put illegally on the Internet. But I've like about an episode and a half of this show. I'm not supporting this show, and I'm not supporting the network behind it. I'm done.

On the bright side, Joss Whedon apparently has a title for the sequel to Dr. Horrible. That, I'll be front and center for. Not this.

Anonymous said...

Except it was just earlier this week that Fox pushed back the start date of Mental (which takes over the Dollhouse slot) by a week.

If it wasn't to free a slot for this episode (i.e. Fox was considering "buying" it), then what was that decision for?

One minor caveat: Dollhouse never filmed a "pilot", it was a rejected first episode as they went straight to series.

Unknown said...

The only problem I see here is that FOX (the network) always talked and advertised 13 episodes, which I always meant to mean that 13 episodes will air.

It appears that FOX (the network) is sliming their way out of paying for them 'cos they cannot get enough advertising money with the reduced number of ad slots (I still believe the show will make a good deal with hulu streams and iTunes downloads).

Which all just proves a personal theory of mine: If you have to deal with networks as a show producer, you're screwed.

SupComTabz said...

Tim Minear just clarified it on Whedonesque (and backed up what you're saying Alan).

Anonymous said...

Best decision Fox has made when it comes to this show so far. At least until they cancel it and never hire any of the writers again.

Funny that Jossy is going back to dr. horrible... it's all he has! LOL. Next he'll try and do a Buffy movie. Better get Marti Noxon back. Hack hack hack!

Anonymous said...

"Which all just proves a personal theory of mine: If you have to deal with networks as a show producer, you're screwed."

Go ask Ron Moore and Damon Lindelof and Carton Cuse if they feel the same way, Elgarak.

Joe Beach said...

Eh. This doesn't affect me personally, since I won't be watching Dollhouse after tomorrow's episode anyway (after Terminator is done, I'll have no reason to tune into FOX, period -well, save for The Simpsons), but I am sympathetic to those who are fans of the series. For FOX to screw them over like this is just plain wrong, even if there are "legal justifications" for it.
I find it amusing though, that networks continue to kick viewers in the teeth, and then wonder why viewership is eroding.

Andrew said...

There's a similar situation going on with Prison Break apparently. Fox ordered 22 episodes for the season, but the studio made an additional two episodes to wrap up the series, and those two episodes may not ever air.

Pamela Jaye said...

oh come on, Rachel! you can't Screw it!
*I* wanted to do that first.

I was going to say,
You want me to get hooked into a show where you won't air all the episodes but I'll have to buy the DVDs in order to see them?
Screw it. I'll just stop watching now.
(or two eps ago. I think that's how far behind I am)

It's bad enough that the studios or whoever are continuously rereleasing previously released DVDs of episodes in new and unique configurations - Captains' Favorite Trek Episodes! - but just leaving an ep out?
Well, since I can't outrun Rachel, I'll join her.

btw, what's that #thing on Twitter?

Anonymous said...

You would think Minear would jump for joy that a series on which he worked made it as far as 13 episodes.

Anonymous said...

KINGS is on the way out, too.

Kevin said...

[i]"This is going to seem awful paranoidy, but if the show is going to be renewed AND there is another episode in the can, why wouldn't FOX air it?"[/i]

That's happened with various shows before- I believe several episodes of the first season of Grey's Anatomy were pushed to the second season (making the second season bigger than usual).

I think something similar is happening with Bones- or at least is being considered where they aren't going to air one of the filmed episodes this season.

Abby said...

While you may have been thanked several times for the posting of the picture from Scrubs, I'd like to personally thank you for posting this picture of Tamikoh Penikett.

Other than that TV would be great if it weren't for the networks. blurg

Number Five said...

Interesting...does this normally happen with unaired original pilots?

The key point of this story is that the studio makes the decisions on DVD content, episodes, etc. So this isn't a case of Fox the network leading us on and trying to get us to buy the DVDs, it's the network and the studio disagreeing about airing the extra episode, so the only place to see it will be on the DVD, which the studio controls.

Pamela Jaye said...

That's happened with various shows before- I believe several episodes of the first season of Grey's Anatomy were pushed to the second season (making the second season bigger than usual).

yes, but they did *air* - in fact they aired before they were released on DVD. (and the pushing also rubbed onto Boston Legal, due to the timeslot problem)

It's possible I skipped the middle of the conversation where someone said the episode actually *would* air.

Kevin, I stared at your italic thingies for a whole minute before I figured out that the reason they didn't work was cause they should have been angle brackets. :-/ Wouldn't it be nice if message boards and blogs could standardize like the rest of the web? Or something.

Tracey said...

@Alan: here's how news gets disseminated on Twitter:
(please note the date of the article)

Regarding this 13th/14th ep... hmn... it sounds to me like they planned 13 episodes for broadcast, as the network required, but the network rejected one of them. At the time, everybody was OK with just 12 episodes to air, and they cannibalized the useful parts of the first episode into flashbacks in other episodes. They realized later that they had contracts requiring them to have 13 episodes for DVD, international distribution, etc., and the unaired first episode that was already chopped into other episodes wasn't going to cut it. They slapped together some half-assed epilogue on a minimal budget to meet their contractual obligation for a 13th episode. It's mostly dream sequences, so it doesn't affect continuity, doesn't tell us anything we don't already know. It's filler, like the blank pages you sometimes get at the end of a book to complete the standard 16 page folio. I don't feel particularly deprived that it's not airing.

Alan Sepinwall said...

While you may have been thanked several times for the posting of the picture from Scrubs, I'd like to personally thank you for posting this picture of Tamikoh Penikett.

Seemed only fair, I thought.

Andrew said...

There's precedent for this kind of situation at Fox. With The Simpsons and Futurama, Fox's season and the production seasons got out of sync, with holding back certain episodes for a following broadcast season. For Fox, Futurama was usually pre-empted by football, but also occasionally on the air in 5 seasons, even though only 4 seasons (for production and DVD set purposes) were produced. The Simpson's broadcast season started sometime last fall, but the new production season (when the show converted to HD) only started in the last couple of months.

This sounds like it comes down to a contractual and bargaining issue between the network and the studio, more than a premature cancellation (ala Firefly, Pushing Daisies, etc.) If Fox does renew Dollhouse, I'm sure that "Epitaph One" will air at some point before the start of season 2. Or perhaps the brisk DVD sales of the show (for fans to watch the epitaph) will encourage the network to pick up the show for a second season.

FWIW, I think that single season 13-episode series (longer than a miniseries, shorter than a multi-season 22 episode series) can be great artistically. Lots of room for character building, but not too much time to get sidetracked and diverted from telling a single story. What if Whedon had the opportunity to tell a story every year for a few years in 13-episode chunks, with each year being a completely different story/series? I'd very excited to see what he (or another good TV writer) could do with that type of creative concept.

Anonymous said...

Last nights Episode has been by fare the best one of the entire series.