Joss Whedon comes clean about why Dollhouse failed

As we ready ourselves for the final episodes of Fox's Dollhouse, starting tomorrow, the Chicago Tribune's excellent TV columnist Maureen Ryan has scored a long interview with creator Joss Whedon, in which he is surprisingly candid about how Fox undercut the show and offers up a bit about the upcoming Dr. Horrible sequel.

Among other things, we learn that the series finale will be called "Epitaph Two: Return," that production begins soon and that it will air on Jan. 22, 2010. "Epitaph One," as we know, was the unaired extra episode from season one that looked into the Dollhouse universe's dystopian future.

Here are some excerpts from Ryan's Whedon Q&A:

"The problems that the show encountered weren't standalone versus mythology [episodes]," Whedon said. "Basically, the show didn't really get off the ground because the network pretty much wanted to back away from the concept five minutes after they bought it. And then ultimately, the show itself is also kind of odd and difficult to market. I actually think they did a good job, but it's just not a slam-dunk concept."

Joss Whedon

"We got the espionage that the network wants, but it's the questions about identity that we want," he noted. "There are other things about the show that never came back, and I didn't really realize it until the second season—[there were] things that we were ultimately sort of dancing around. ... We always found ourselves sort of moving away from what had been part of the original spark of the show and that ultimately just makes it really hard to write these stories."
"People responded to ['Dollhouse' by saying], 'This is trafficking. This is sex for money.' It wasn't just sex," Whedon said. Part of the problem was "the other implications of what was originally supposed to be somewhat more of a fantasy. The real-world version of [this kind of activity] was I think what made the network really twitchy and I can't really fault them for that. I just thought when I went in and pitched it know, it frightened me too [but I thought] we all got that that was what we were doing."
Once he's done making "Dollhouse," he'll continue to work with Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon on a "Dr. Horrible" sequel, the title of which Whedon declined to reveal. He will say that he expects to corral star Neil Patrick Harris and "the rest of the gang" from the first "Dr. Horrible" for the second installment of the Internet musical.

"What we need to do is get enough time to really solidify what we've got, really get the [script] in shape, and then it all becomes about Neil and his availability. We've been basically telling him, 'Do whatever you want,' which he clearly took to mean, 'Do everything there is,'" Whedon said with a laugh. "But we were like, until we have a script, we can't really think of a schedule or a venue or how we're going to do this and what size it will be, if we're going to get any kind of any kind of backing from a studio or an independent."

You can read the entire interview here. Dollhouse returns tomorrow at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Fox. Check back tomorrow for our preview of the final episodes.

What do you think of Whedon's comments? Why do you think Dollhouse failed to find an audience?

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