Why the new drama was given an unfavorable timeslot and what that means for its future

By Lynette Rice
Updated November 14, 2008 at 05:00 AM EST

The trouble continues for Joss Whedon’s latest project, Dollhouse. Plagued by reshoots and a production shutdown last September, the drama — about a creepy organization that strips people of their personalities — got another hit of bad news last week when Fox announced it would air on Friday evenings starting in February. (That’s the equivalent of a football team playing to a half-empty stadium.) The news is particularly alarming to fans of sci-fi mastermind Whedon because his last series, Firefly, aired on that night for just 11 weeks in 2002.

Problem is, Fox had a limited number of time periods to choose from: When 24 returns to its normal Monday slot in January, it’ll be paired with House. The network wants to nurse the fragile (and expensive) Fringe, so it’ll go on Tuesdays after American Idol. Lie to Me, a new drama with Tim Roth as a professional fib detector, was given a Wednesday berth after Idol because of its potential mainstream appeal. (It helps that Lie resembles this season’s lone new hit, CBS’ The Mentalist.) With proven performers Bones and Kitchen Nightmares filling Thursdays, the most lucrative night of television, that left Fridays for Dollhouse. Worse, it will air after the low-rated Sarah Connor Chronicles.

If there’s any upside to living in TV Siberia, it’s the lowered expectations that come with the territory: The night’s highest-rated shows don’t even clear 10 million viewers on a regular basis.