Sunday, March 1, 2009

Why Dollhouse is a Flop and What It Means for Popular Culture

For those who care, and judging by the ratings, most don't, the latest TV series from Joss Whedon, "Dollhouse," is a flop. Judging by reviews, the series and lead actress (Eliza Dushku), have performed "below expectations" and even Television Without Pity, a forum of certified boosters of all things Whedon, have weighed in on a Dollhouse Cancellation Pool. Buzz has been negative, with delays in filming so scripts could be re-written, and the cast and producers/writers packed with various Whedon cronies and relatives.

"Dollhouse" is of course unimportant in and of itself. But it's probable failure, contains clues as to what will not work and what will in Television, and thus clues to important trends in popular culture: the end of "demassification" and subcultures, and the rise of a new mass unified culture. With of course, profound implications for politics and society.

Dollhouse is not very well executed. But it's likely execution does not matter that much. Had Dollhouse premiered in say, 1997, it might well have succeeded. But the recession, and changing ad market, are transforming the nature of television and pop culture in general. Contrary to the Long Tail hypothesis of continued "demassification" of culture, a lengthy recession is likely to significantly reduce fragmentation of culture, and produce a more unified culture. For simple business reasons: appealing to a broad group of society is the only way to make money given scarce advertiser dollars. Yes, we are entering an era of scarcity after nearly sixty years of nearly un-interrupted prosperity.

The failure of Dollhouse is thus a signal, of how the culture of America is being transformed from a fragmented mess of various sub-groups, into a more uniform (and populist) mass culture, not seen perhaps since the 1980's. This has significant impacts on how culture will drive politics and policy.

First, let's look at how pop culture worked under the old, "prosperity" model. A commenter on Television Without Pity summed up the old model, which traded mass viewers for a more "desireable" segment. This strategy of "demassifying" or cult culture, was pioneered by former NBC head Grant Tinker in the early 1980's, with renewals of low-rated but desirable demographics ( rich Yuppies) shows such as "Hill Street Blues" and "St. Elsewhere." This strategy sustained the low-rated "Seinfeld" during it's first few years (1989-91) as it drew low ratings initially but favorable demographics. Wealthy Yuppies that advertisers would pay premiums to reach created cult shows like "Hill Street Blues," and that model was later extended to young, female consumers with shows like "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Dawson's Creek." A lot of money was made selling Pantene Shampoo and Conditioner to young women.

This was (and is) Amazon's model, selling lots of things that don't have mass appeal, but can be sold at a mark-up premium, to lots of people. Apple's Itunes store is another good example. Since their operating costs are low, and in the case of Apple inventory cost is near zero, they can afford to carry lots of songs or DVDs or books (in the case of Amazon, sitting in the inventory of partners) and sell them in small amounts (no major hits) to lots and lots of customers. Advertising had worked the same way, making lots of cult shows such as "Farscape" or "Battle Star Galactica" (the remake by Ron Moore) at least possible and sometimes even profitable, given the premium rates charged advertisers for desirable demographics, i.e. young and wealthy consumers.

As TV accelerated the process of dumping male viewers in favor of what advertisers wanted, which was female viewers (viewed as key purchase decision makers), this hyper-fragmentation continued. One network, the WB, was devoted almost entirely to young female viewers, and it's successor network CW has continued that focus. However, this strategy of cutting up the mass audience into small pieces and producing entertainment that appealed only to the small pieces required a constantly rising economy, rising consumer spending, and thus rising advertising rates as sponsors clamored to get their message across to ever smaller groups of tightly focused demographic segments. There was also the problem of the "missing men," who as they remained single longer and longer, remained out of reach of advertisers and relatively unimportant in consumer messaging.

This particular strategy of sub-group focus was failing even before the economy crashed. Last year it was rumored the CW network would shut down because of revenue shortfall caused by very low ratings and not enough advertising spending even with the desired 12-17 and 18-34 female demographic. The problem? Sponsors were seeing that demographic cut back spending on products such as specialty shampoos and conditioners, clothes, ringtones, and other luxury consumer goods that defined discretionary spending. Moreover, there just was not enough young women around, given the decline in birth rates.

Now ad spending is down even more dramatically. Of course Auto companies have been hit by the recession, even Toyota and Honda are shedding thousands of jobs and cutting back on TV and other advertising, let alone GM, Ford, and Chrysler. So too, banks, insurance companies, and other segments of advertisers, hurt hard by the economic crash, and in many cases taking bailout money that politically makes advertising almost impossible. Nor has there been any recent recovery in the spot market, indeed rates for spot advertising (instead of pre-arranged ad purchases) are lower than the contracted rates. Analysts don't see relief any time soon. Even Local TV stations are hurting. CBS, the most profitable of the networks, managed to eke out a small profit, but they are down more than 50% from last year.

The few advertisers willing to spend money, are packaged consumer goods companies like Proctor & Gamble, or Nabisco, and they won't pay extra to reach small segments of consumers, rather current advertisers want broader reach and all possible consumers, young and old, male and female alike. Since their message is value and affordability in a time of lasting recession and they cannot afford to ignore key segments such as men, as in the past. Advertisers such as Pantene have greatly reduced their advertising since their target customers, young women, have cut back on spending like everyone else.

A look at the ratings for 2009 is instructive. Fox's Ratings, NBC's ratings, ABC's ratings, CBS's ratings, and CW's ratings are all found at the links. Taking non-repeat showings, and averaging the numbers, produces the table shown below:

NetworkShowAverage Non-Repeat Viewers (Millions)
FoxAmerican Idol25.49
FoxLie to Me12.1
CBSThe Mentalist18.85
CBSCSI: Miami15.05
CBSWithout a Trace12.82
CBSGhost Whisperer10.78
CBSEleventh Hour12.02
NBCLaw and Order8.39
NBCKnight Rider5.28
ABCGrey's Anatomy14.5
ABCPrivate Practice11.02
ABCUgly Betty7.42
ABCLife on Mars5.48
ABCDesperate Housewives13.95
CWGossip Girl2.43
CWOne Tree Hill2.7

You can see in the data a few broad patterns. First, I've excluded sitcoms to focus on hour-dramas only. With a few high-rated reality shows to compare the dramas against. Even facing audience erosion after a number of years, a show like "American Idol" averages 25 million viewers. This is less astonishing, mind you, than at first glance.

In 1968, with a population of 200 million or so, "the Beverly Hillbillies" drew 60 million viewers. As compared to "American Idol" today with a full 33% more people, or 303 million. For "American Idol" to draw comparable numbers to the "Beverly Hillbillies" in terms of proportional amount of the population, viewers would have to reach 80 million or so. It's worth noting that the Superbowl the last two years has reached about 98 million viewers, so people will watch in those broad numbers if what is on offer is of enough interest. There is a great amount of money to be made in mass culture, "American Idol" alone is responsible for a great deal of Fox's revenues, given their only middling performance of other dramas.

But these issues aside, broad patterns emerge. Shows featuring a strong male lead, who in some way leads a team of disparate people, with strong female characters, generally will draw a lot of viewers. The shows feature a strong and conservative moral message, valuing teamwork, professionalism, loyalty, duty, family, decency and honor over career and status that mass audiences clearly like. Desire for closeness to family and loss (often of family) is a theme running through most of these shows. Moral lessons: don't cheat on your spouse, sleep around, neglect your family, put career first, act arrogantly, or care more about status than people, are often important plot points. CBS is chock-a-block full of those types of shows, their "Crimetime" police procedurals of one form or another, and their generally conservative throw-back nature (adult White Males are in charge in nearly all of them) appeal to both male and female audiences. Not lost on female audience is the fact that these types of shows almost always have strong female second leads who wield (responsibly) power and authority. These shows are the most popular after "American Idol," and include "the Mentalist" (18.9 million viewers), "CSI" (19.3), and "NCIS" (18.5). Even lesser rated or known shows such as "the Unit" (not shown) and "Flashpoint" ( a Canadian import) can pull in 9 million viewers or so. If CBS seems formulaic, they are. Because the formula works. Most of Fox's Dramas follow this pattern as well, from "House" to "24" to "Bones."

Female night-time soap operas, ranging from Desperate Housewives and Grey's Anatomy, to Ugly Betty, will garner 14 to 7 million viewers or thereabouts. Not as much as the "Crimetime" formula, and less consistently, but still respectable. Unlike the "Crimetime" formula, however, these shows are strictly for women only, with nothing in them to interest men who are not gay. Since these shows leave out men, advertisers are beginning to lose interest in paying a premium for them, given the need in a recession to make every penny of ad spending count.

Hour long shows that tend to straddle genres, such as comedy-dramas like "Chuck," or Superhero soap operas like "Heroes" or quirky mystery-conspiracy crime dramas like "Life" tend to underperform relative to straight up Female Soap Operas or "Crimetime" procedurals with a strong White Male lead in charge. The terminally PC "Knight Rider" is probably a good example of this, well matched in the ratings with the equally PC-lecturing "Life on Mars" from ABC. [It's interesting that the same show on NBC, "Medium" does about 2 million viewers less, than the same show on CBS "Ghost Whisperer" in the much less desirable Friday time slot, suggesting that "Chuck" if shown on CBS would pull in about 2 million more viewers, but still rate only about 9 million viewers or so, about half of the traditional male roles of the "Mentalist" and "NCIS".]

The two shows that skew male (and older) for the CW, "Smallville" and "Supernatural" significantly outperform the teen girl oriented "Gossip Girl" which if one judged only by the amount of hype and publicity, would be the top rated show instead of 2.4 million viewers. Others such as "Privileged" gather only 1.4 million viewers, which is infomercial time. There just are not that many teen girls, given the birth dearth. Too bad the people running the CW don't look at demographics.

Dollhouse of course runs closer to uber-PC (and thus low-rated) "Life on Mars" and "Knight Rider" than it does say, "Fringe," or "Lie to Me" with traditional male leads on the same network. A commenter on Television Without Pity summed up Dollhouse's approach as being feminist, with lots of cheesecake or half-naked shots of Eliza Dushku, and with nearly all the men being nasty, unlikeable pieces of work. Clearly the intent is to "square the circle," but within PC constraints, having action and "hot chicks" that appeal to men and a heavy dose of feminism, along with status-mongering and disagreeable to repulsive male characters filled with Yuppie status angst and self-loathing.This brings to mind what the REAL Lieutenant Starbuck, Dirk Benedict, had to say about the remake of Battle Star Galactica, and specifically the inability to portray non-Angsty, fun, male characters in Sci-Fi or genre TV. A profile of Benedict at National Review has much of the same sentiments.

Benedict's larger point, that TV and film refuse to allow male characters, who are not angst-ridden and self-loathing, to kick ass and take a strong moral stand, instead demanding that this be done by stick-figure women, who haven't eaten since the Clinton Administration, is well taken. Hollywood keeps pushing that "solution" to it's reluctance to allow traditional men a role in TV and movies, be it Ron Moore's "Battle Star Galactica" or the Terminator series on Fox (not listed in the table above) which is near cancellation, averaging only 3.8 million viewers, or thereabouts. Viewers are not interested in seeing women in these types of shows, particularly not the waify kinds seen on "Dollhouse" or various model types on "Battle Star Galactica." Indeed traditional female soap operas far out-draw these types of shows ("Terminator," "Dollhouse," etc.) along with the terminally PC male-oriented shows ("Life on Mars," "Knight Rider") that also refuse to take strong moral stands and provide viewers with relatively un-conflicted, upbeat and optimistic male heroes.

Clearly, Hollywood's attempt to "square the PC circle" with women kicking ass, and men angst-ridden and disagreeable, has passed. These shows found some success and advertiser dollars in the go-go status-obsessed 1990's, where the only problem was where to put all the money people were making, but far less in the recessionary and terrorist-threat (of the nuclear kind) decade of the 2000's, ten years later. Niche cultures just are not making money.

What sells, clearly, besides a remake of "Major Bowes Amateur Hour" or "the Ed Sullivan Show" ("American Idol") is the traditional White Male, leading a team, with a White female as the second lead. Sometimes the female lead is the gun-play expert to the "smart" male lead (CSI's Marg Helgenberger, Chuck's Yvonne Strahowski, the Mentalist's Robin Tunney, and Eleventh Hour's Marley Shelton), keeping expensive and difficult to portray fight scenes to a minimum and making violence on-screen short and to the point, also more realistic. Since tiny, waifish models do not throw hulking men around. But the shows are just as importantly, generally free from excessive PC lecturing, at least, and generally take a positive attitude (professionalism, duty, loyalty, family) that is the antithesis of the dark, angsty world-view of the 1990's shows such as "the X Files."

Broadly appealing shows are what advertisers are paying for, as well, and it's unlikely to change even if/when the economy recovers, because it's unlikely we will see consumer spending at the levels of the 1990's as uncertainty about employment and wages remain, perhaps for years to come. This means a lot more shows like the "Mentalist" and a lot fewer ones like "Dollhouse."

This is mostly a good thing. Popular culture, as Andrew Breitbart noted, shapes politics. A culture which believes and responds to the values of team work, professionalism, loyalty, optimism, problem solving, family, and moral conservatism is one that is vastly different from the status-driven angst fests of the current "Battle Star Galactica" or "Dollhouse." In many ways, the start of the Obama Presidency coincides with an upsurge of conservative feeling in popular culture. Not because millions of people read Hayek's "Road to Serfdom" but because people under stress respond to entertainment that is both fun and stresses positive social and cultural messages to provide a sense of self-control in rapidly changing, and unfriendly economic and political-social climates.

Angst-A-Rama, it seems, is out.


Anonymous said...

I have to confess that I like Dollhouse. It's relatively well-played, has story arcs, apparently knows where it wants to go, which is something that cannot be said about quite a lot other shows. Its small market share does not really have to constitute for a change in popular culture, Whiskey, but might very well be the result of a disease running rampant at FOX - executive meddling.

From what I've heard, it's a case like Firefly, where Whedon had an original pilot planned, Fox ordered it dropped, so he had to quickly adapt a new and inferior product, ala The Train Job. That's how you end up with inferior products, and with tiny market shares because the initial screening was botched from top-down. I'm not saying that Dollhouse is necessarily a perfect TV show, but there is very much creative potential apparent in it, and I like that. Only when said potential ends up unused will I get cranky.

Two other shows with shrinking viewer rates also can be rationalized without taking into consideration any change in popular culture. Ron Moore's BSG is loosing viewers not because Lee Adama or Gaius Baltar are non-inspiring masculine leads, but because after a 4 season run based on a continually developing story it is nigh impossible to attract new viewers. This is pretty much closed content, operating on a pre-established viewer base. And it's losing viewers because the show has gone from dark to depressing. It's nearing its end, and there is absolutely no silver lining on the horizon. Still, the show's last season so far has been a rollercoaster ride of intense acting and great story lines.

The second show is Terminator, and the reason for failure here are a lot less psychological than with nBSG. In plain terms, the show's narrative and directing have simply completely disintegrated after a strong and stringent first season. Viewers, even fans, do not reward bad quality products indefinately.

AC said...

You keep dropping the specter of demographic collapse, but without supporting data. The article on the CW has the following to say about the reasons: "Part of the problem is that the CW's young audience is most prone to spend leisure time on the Internet. Last winter's Hollywood writers' strike, which forced scripted shows off the air for three months, hastened the defection of viewers to the Web."

No mention of the decline in absolute numbers that you imputed to it.

Whiskey said...

AC --

You may find (the US Census Bureau is your go-to source) an overview here and also my post here and here .

Please note, TFR for White Americans is below replacement level, the latest Census Bureau stats on Marriage/Family has the data, while above TFR is a Hispanic phenomena. "Hispanic" is probably a poor catch-all because Mexican, Puerto Rican, Caribbean, and South American origin Hispanics do not have the same rates, but given sheer numbers it represents mostly Mexican origin immigrants and their descendants.

As I've noted in other posts, Mexican origin populations do not share in the same culture. They watch Spanish Language TV and listen to Spanish Language radio. When Prop 8 opponents sought to rally Mexican origin voters against it, they used Ugly Betty star America Ferrara, whose origin is from Puerto Rico, while actual Telenovela stars came out in support of Prop 8, accounting for it's margin of victory (check out my Prop 8 Post).

There simply are not enough young people to sustain a youth culture, See my post here for why the aging (more than forty years ago) youth culture from 1968 still hangs over us. Because that's where the (White) population is.

[Note: there *IS* a youth culture, however it is mostly Mexican, and linguistically and culturally separate from the rest of American culture.]

Whiskey said...

Strato -- While it's always dangerous to extrapolate from a sample size of one, it's worth noting attempts to "square the circle" of having both males and females watching have been successful in the "Crimetime" formula, even with lesser efforts like the "Unit" (where the wives storyline has not been well-integrated).

Meanwhile the alternative of PC-laden waify women kicking ass has generally done poorly, relative to the "Crimetime" formula. It's also worth noting that the Crimetime formula allows the female characters job/career concerns, family, etc. that female viewers find attractive and interesting, and are largely absent from the Firefly, Dollhouse, Terminator, etc. "square the circle" attempts.

I'm not quite as convinced that quality sells. "Life" and "Chuck" are both well written and acted shows, yet suffer in the ratings. Both "Ghost Whisperer" and "Medium" are essentially the same shows, laughable premise, poorly written and acted, and competing for the same audience, yet do well (comparatively speaking). "Desperate Housewives" and "Grey's Anatomy" are not quality television, yet both routinely pull 14 million viewers or so. Substantial though as noted, less than the "Crimetime" formula that includes men (worth I think about 4 million extra viewers or so).

I think Sci-Fi CAN succeed in pulling in men and women, young and old, but must have broader appeal and push traditional culture and messages.

Anonymous said...

Meanwhile the alternative of PC-laden waify women kicking ass has generally done poorly, relative to the "Crimetime" formula.

That may be true, but that misses the point that above mentioned character type is presented in an entertainment segment which simply be its state of detachment from normality limits potential viewership. The "crimetime formula" works so well because it largely does not demand the suspension of disbelief from the viewer, or some kind of longer intellectual engagement in the form of following longer and intricate story lines. The "crimetime formula" is usually episodic, while the formula for fantasy/sci-fi related material has been story arch driven since the mid-90ies. You simply are not going to get a 15% market share from this type of show, simply because the core audience is not large enough.

I'm not quite as convinced that quality sells.Well, there is of course no guarantee in it. But of course it does not hurt, either. Medium and Ghost Whisperer do comparatively better than, say Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles because their premises and narrative structures appeal to the casual hockey mom viewer demographic: it's a little episodic teary-eyed drama with happy ends about a woman who sees ghosts. T:SSC on the contrary is about military grade cybernetic organisms and a sentient AI system fighting a war across several diverging timelines against a human resistance, wrapped in a narrative in which several story archs overlap.

There is no denying that T:SSC's second season is a complete disaster for various reasons, but taking the success of the former and the failure of the latter as a sign of cultural change is, in my opinion, very far fetched, Whiskey. You are comparing a low-commitment, casual viewer, simple narrative, low complexity show like Ghost Whisperer with shows like Firefly or T:SSC, both far more complex in setting, necessary background knowledge and narrative structure.

I think Sci-Fi CAN succeed in pulling in men and women, young and old, but must have broader appeal and push traditional culture and messages.I am not sure if that is possible without destroying the qualities that set it apart from basic mainstream TV entertainment. By its very nature. sci-fi and fantasy are niche products, and there are limits to how far that niche can be opened.

Whiskey said...

The Batman and Spider-Man movies did a lot of business, and the Star Wars Franchise is the most profitable in the world. The Star Trek franchise is money-maker even poorly executed, and Iron Man, Hulk, Ghost Rider, and other sci-fi / fantasy films and TV projects have done well. Heck Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series and Harry Potter are both money making machines without being particularly well written.

The TV series of Incredible Hulk ran for years on a fairly minimal budget and generated a devoted following. The syndicated Next Generation and Voyager helped launch UPN. And both Medium and Ghost Whisperer require substantial suspension of disbelief, as does Terminator and Dollhouse and Firefly and Twilight and Harry Potter.

Harry Potter seems to draw both male/female and young/old audiences, particularly for the films. The Twilight series by it's nature of course is explicitly aimed at women/girls only.

I THINK that Whedon and company try to aim at a synthesis of both female oriented feminism and male-oriented action (also on BSG, and Terminator) but largely failed. If millions of people around the world are willing to suspend disbelief about Batman, Spider-Man, or Harry Potter, I don't think it's necessarily the "hard" part of genre TV be it Sci-Fi ala Firefly or fantasy ala "Moonlight" that fails.

Heck, Heroes has a huge suspension of disbelief, yet remains NBC's top rated scripted show. If Sci-Fi was a limiting factor, how is it that Heroes significantly out-performs "Life" and the various Law and Orderen?

chuck said...

the second post concerns Dollhouse's demise. Found both insights interesting.

alex said...

The show failed because of marketing. I've seen dozens of ads, but I don't have the slightest clue what it's about.

Anonymous said...


The demographic "recession" in white birthrates from 1980 through the early 00's definitely will change entertainment.

Its making, from what I see, the whites who ARE born more prone to being from religious backgrounds, since seculars simply aren't having as many children. A birthrate of about 1.5 for seculars vs. a slightly above-replacement birthrate for the religious will make the future whites, although numerically less than the current group of whites, more prone to being traditionalist in sensibilities.

The internet, which I would have devoured personally if it had been available back in my youth, also probably has a large detractory influence on rates of young white viewership on various programming. The ability to rent DVD's at Redbox also probably leads to lesser white viewership, as well as the ability to read about what are considered the "all-time" great movies via the internet, and the ability to watch them, even if only via YouTube (did you know that some entire movies are on various online servers like YouTube?), probably also make people less likely to sit through Smallville, etc.

Frankly Whiskey, Im about "Crime Drama-ed" out myself. Im not a big TV watcher and havent been since the late 80's, but good grief the crime shows have reached a critical mass of presence. There are just too many of them.

I wonder how many young viewers are watching the Discovery, Science, Learning, Nature, and History channels also?

Im repeating myself here on a point Ive also made to you before Whiskey, but TITILLATION is no longer just the realm of TV. You can go to many sites on the internet and see beautiful young people talk and whatnot. Kids no longer wait for their favorite television series to admire their "crushes" anymore. They dont have to. All of these things lead to lesser viewership.

I dont think TV will ever be as popular as it was from 1960-1995 again in this nation as a proportion of the population. This nation is ethnically divided, the internet, and cable, and DVD's offer cheap entertainment alternatives also.

Jesus Christ Supercop said...

The most popular TV show you have likely never heard of is Dae Jang Geum. It's a historical Korean drama that has been enormously successful in not just Asia, but also in the Middle-East and even Africa (average viewer rate in Korea was nearly 50%). It's very chaste and promotes positive and traditional values, which is why it has broad cross-cultural appeal and has been popular in highly conservative societies.

The heroine is more or less a paragon of virtue (though not without flaws). She is kind, loyal, selfless, hard-working, persistent, intelligent and brave, and associates with people of similiar character, such as her (only) romantic interest, who is likewise a thoroughly upstanding person.

It's a very moving, inspiring, optimistic and intelligently told story, with great acting, production values and cinematography. I guess you could say it's wholesome, but without being syrupy, naive or simplistic.

I'm not really a conservative, but many aspects of modern culture fill me with dread, so I'm definitely not into shows like Desperate Housewives and Gossip Girl. The "who slept with who" storylines (or whatever) that they feature are cheap gimmicks reminiscent of soap operas, and a depressing reminder of the realities of modern life.

NCIS is terrific.

Anonymous said...

One more "Hollywood" thought for you Whiskey.

Wikipedia, YouTube, and the internet have put their collective foot in one other former Hollywood door:


The movies used to fufill a role of pseudo-historian to kids. A movie about WW2 or Vietnam was primarily how a ordinary dumb kid might learn a little about those historical periods. These days, instead of seeing the movie, if his/her interest is really piqued, they can simply look it up. They will be able to discuss (lets say Vietnam for instance) more intelligently the following Monday better than their co-horts who ran off and seen "the big movie that week".

Historical periods from the middle ages, Ancient Egypt, the industrial revolution, up until today are all covered on various documenturaries that are available for free----on YouTube. Nobody has to see Sean Penn's homely mug to learn about Harvey Milk.

Thats yet another reason Hollywood is "down".

You seem dissapointed Hollywood is down, but lets be honest.........a few movie studios should not get to tell the American (world?) story to the public. Its actually better this way. That puts to much centralized cultural power in a few hands anyhow. I think their loss on the monopoly of titillation has harmed them more than anything. One can see beautiful men or women in so many other formats, that the movies actually have to be excellent dramatically to get large numerically motivated enough to go spend 15 bucks and drive for the experience.

Anonymous said...

NCIS is terrific.

Actually, NCIS is crap. Totally unbelievable. That supposedly Israeli super-cop, not likely.

Jesus Christ Supercop said...

I don't watch NCIS for its gritty realism.

Chic Noir said...

update whiskey update please

igoo_boy said...

are you whiskeyagogo?

Anonymous said...

Whiskey, nice blog here.

I've been watching eagerly hoping for it to redeem itself after it's horrible initial episodes but it's fair to say it's a disaster of a show, conceptually flawed and utterly out of tune with today's tv environment.

Here we have a show that unlike most regular dramas (ER/CSI/Law & Order) does not have a premise that can fuel stand alone episodes. "Buffy" and "Angel" primarily consisted of non-arc related episodes, as did "The X-files" and even "Firefly." In all those shows, any arc-storytelling was never primary, and the audience was always satisfied with the self-contained episodes they were offered. Heavily connected episodes were always an icing on the cake.

"Dollhouse" had a premise like "Prison Break" that is really a every episode needs to address the central mystery of "Dollhouse," just as every episode of the first season of "Prison Break" concerned itself with the Prison Break attempt.

Whedon however took a Dickensian approach to building up the story of the Dollhouse. It opens very weakly and we get five throw away episodes concerning Echo's meaningless "missions." Only the 6th episode was any good, but the two after that were also pretty insignificant in terms of plot progression. The problem: there is no excitement here for the long haul story, and the show doesn't have a structure that could serve decent stand-alone episodes. In its first season at least, maybe because of the producers or Whedon himself, this show tried to be something it isn't, and that's partially responsible for the horrible ratings.

Anonymous said...

I have to reluctantly agree with Anonymous. I kept the faith so far, and thought that with the sixth episode it had finally found its stride, but obviously that's not the case.

I also have to admit that, while I had no great hopes for the nBSG series finale, it was a severe disappointment that was not even adequate with regards to basic Writing 101.

abe said...

Oh, Anonymous is me. What's up Whiskey. Don't you miss Dirty Harry's place? Big Hollywood sucks!

Anonymous said...

I second that.

Chic Noir said...

*does sexy girly pout*
come on Whiskey it's been a month.

Anonymous said...

Why should I take seriously the opinions of a life failure who thinks Sarah Palin has the ideal American family? The sycophantic sheeple who infest your comments section make me think I'm at some commisar's meeting. Whiskey, I'm guessing that you were a community college mediocrity, who uselessly posts on people's websites, and blogs, rather than actually work a real job. You're probably unemployed, or marginally employed, living in the Inland Empire hellhole, right? At a 9-5 office job, would I listen to talk-radio during the workday?

AJ said...


Why should I take seriously the opinions of someone who launches ad hominem attacks? ;)

Ground Truth said...

The stratomunchkin (March 2, 2009 4:45 PM) speculated, "Medium and Ghost Whisperer do comparatively better than, say Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles because their premises and narrative structures appeal to the casual hockey mom viewer demographic: it's a little episodic teary-eyed drama with happy ends about a woman who sees ghosts."I disagree. Yes, Medium and Ghost Whisperer (which I haven't seen but I'll take the word of an earlier commenter who claimed it's another network's knock-off of the former) appeal to females but not for the reasons given. Medium is your basic Woman In Jeopardy nonsense and females take to 'jep' like cats to catnip. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, though superficially similar to the other two shows, hasn't got the female attracting jep quality because the lead character is tough, competent, and portrayed as someone who (here's the jep-killing aspect) can save herself.

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