In case you haven’t noticed, Dollhouse is tanking. It’s second season premiere didn’t perform well in the ratings, and last Friday’s episode did even worse — Stargate Universe kicked it in the cortex. Dollhouse is in very real danger of being canceled. Why isn’t it doing better? Where did Joss Whedon and company go wrong?

Perhaps that isn’t fair — the blame can’t be put on Whedon’s shoulders alone. There is Fox’s decision to leave Dollhouse on Friday nights, bereft of any real advertising support — a programming block of one. If Fox really wanted to give Dollhouse a chance, they’d have paired it with Bones or Fringe, and not after a pair of sitcoms (one of which stars Michael Strahan) that no one is watching. Stargate Universe did well because Syfy Channel has been pushing it relentlessly, hammering it into their audience that something new is coming down the pike.

But the thing you can level at the Dollhouse writers and producers is the middling way the show came out of the gate. Whedon has always been great at ending TV seasons — Buffy and Angel have tons of memorable season finales, and Dollhouse‘s S1 ultimatum was terrific — but not so great at starting them. Listen, I’m all for Joss taking his time to build his universe and layer his stories with emotional substance topped with an action frosting. But anyone looking objectively at the Dollhouse situation for the season would have to see that the show has its back against the wall. It’s the fourth quarter and Team Dollhouse is down by a whole mess of points — it’s not the time to do slow burn undercovery episodes. Dollhouse needed to score, early and often, and it didn’t.

Is it too late? I fear that it might be. Whedon and company are telling the stories they want to tell — and unless those stories suddenly bring the whup-ass in the next couple of weeks, they might not get to tell them for much longer. The saddest part of it is that I desperately want Whedon and Dollhouse to succeed — I want smart genre content to work on broadcast television, so that networks will continue to take risks on programming that doesn’t have a host. I just hope that it gets the chance.

How do you feel — is this a call to action or a eulogy? Can Dollhouse be saved? If so, how?

Image Credit: Carin Baer/Fox

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