''Dollhouse,'' Kanye West, and Matthew Mcconaughey made news this week

Staging a much-anticipated comeback to television hasn’t been that easy for TV producer Joss Whedon, creator of longtime cult fave Buffy the Vampire Slayer. First came the disconcerting news in July that he’ll be creating an entirely new pilot for Dollhouse, his midseason drama for Fox about a creepy organization that strips employees of their personalities and assigns them new ones. (”I’m not going to sugarcoat it,” he told fans at Comic-Con in July. ”I did some things that weren’t right for the network.”) Then Whedon halted production on Dollhouse last week so he can write the script for its fourth episode — one of seven that he’s contractually obligated to deliver. The shutdown comes amid press reports that Fox isn’t happy with the drama’s creative direction, which likely demands a lot from lead actress Eliza Dushku (also a Buffy alum). And after the bow of Fringe (9.1 million viewers), there’s a growing fear that shows with dense mythologies may have a hard time succeeding. (Bear in mind that very few of Fox’s sci-fi series from the past decade have lasted beyond one full season.) According to multiple sources, Fox remains committed to airing the high-concept series and believes the work stoppage will allow an already busy Whedon (he’s working on a horror movie with Buffy alum Drew Goddard) to fully flesh out his characters. ”With months before our broadcast premiere, we have the rare luxury of extra time,” says a 20th Century Fox TV spokesman of the show’s planned January debut. ”We believe in this show and want to give it every opportunity to succeed.” — Lynette Rice

If you thought the MTV Video Music Awards felt a little low-rent, you’d better get used to it. Major labels like Universal are rolling out new policies that cap expenses for artists’ TV performances at $50,000. According to one label exec, the days of spending $250,000 on travel, hair, makeup, and wardrobe vendors are over. (The companies have shelled out large sums in hopes of a sales bump or heightened awareness for a new project.) That could mean less ”spectacle” showings this awards season and might also explain stripped-down VMA sets by artists like Kanye West. ”Whether it’s on Jay Leno or the Grammys, artists are going to have to make do with less.” — Shirley Halperin

How is it possible that Matthew McConaughey just starred in a movie about a pot-smoking wave rider — called Surfer, Dude, no less — and no one knew about it? Two weeks ago, Dude bowed in an Austin theater to a dismal $6,000 before expanding to 69 screens, including a bunch of seaside locales. Its total gross at press time: $36,497. What happened? Seems Dude was little more than a $6 million passion project for the actor, and even the promise of his shirtless surfing couldn’t entice studios to release it — especially since we all see the same thing on the Internet every day. So he turned to Anchor Bay, a direct-to-DVD company that gave it a limited theatrical run with no TV ads to support it. That was probably a good idea: Its Metacritic score is a depressing 16 out of 100, which proves that no amount of pecs appeal could have saved this wipeout. — Nicole Sperling

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