To whom it may concern:
I would like to take a moment of your time to plead the case for Dollhouse. It has had a rocky season and it needs all the help it can get.
First, I would like to thank you for the little things that were different in the way Dollhouse was handled versus Firefly. I’m sure the number of fans that assaulted your company was very high when Dollhouse first began airing (and they feared that the show was being “mangled” by the studio), crippling its chances of success. Likewise, a similar situation probably occurred when it was believed that the studio was intentionally holding back an episode of the show instead of airing it (due to the issues with funding for a pilot that was never aired versus a DVD release of 13 episodes.
I would like to apologize on behalf of those fans. They desperately want this show to succeed and don’t always realize that they may be hurting its chances rather than helping.
Now, on to the meat of the matter. As I’m sure you are aware, Dollhouse is a show that faces some stiff opposition. In a technological landscape that allows fans to download complete episodes of their favorite shows the day after they air (both legally and illegally), watch them for free via websites that are already looking to the future of broadcasting (such as Hulu), and record their preferred shows via DVR and skip past the commercials, advertising dollars for big-budget shows like Dollhouse can be hard to come by. On top of all that, the difficulty in getting reliable viewing numbers with the antiquated Nielsen system make shows like Dollhouse difficult to keep spending money on. How can you be certain you’re getting a proper return-on-investment?
Unfortunately, you can’t anymore. Not until the DVD release is available, not until the second season starts, and not until a method is in place for reporting accurate internet views and live and recorded viewings on televisions. With advertising on sites like Hulu and other streaming media locations a much smaller source of income, the profits for a show like Dollhouse dwindle as the world gets better educated and more connected.
Which brings me to the point of my e-mail. We love Dollhouse. We love it because Joss Whedon created it and we feel that we got shafted on Firefly and so we fought so hard for this show, even though the first three episodes kind of sucked (we’re not pointing fingers, we’re just saying). But we also love it because it is an incredible show, one with depth and controversy and incredible writing. No other show on television will be able to touch on the subject matter that Dollhouse can (voluntary / involuntary slavery, who are we without the experiences that define us) which makes it an important piece of television history. Or, it will, if it’s allowed to live.
As the world has moved more and more to delivering content over the Internet at a time of the viewer’s choosing, viewership during live broadcasts have tapered off dramatically. The secret is not to create more reality TV or to cancel good shows to give other shows a try. The answer is to embrace the Internet. And if any one man knows how to get the most out of the Internet, it’s Joss Whedon. Look at Dr. Horrible. A low-budget project with big names and incredible talent. Think of what you could do if you were the first studio to truly embrace the Internet. Air episodes of Dollhouse with the SAME commercials you air on television during the first week it’s online. After the first week, let it become just like all the other episodes on Hulu with the same commercial shown 4 or 5 times during the 45 minutes it takes to watch. Or get a corporate sponsor for the show that already embraces the Internet. Put a single 60 second advertisement at the beginning of the episode and let people stream it commercial free. Create an alternate-reality game to prep people for the second season. Ask fans of the series to market the show for you via guerilla marketing tactics. All of these are ways to increase viewership. And if you really want to help, keep the episodes online for free all summer long and encourage fans to share them with their friends and family so that when the new season starts, they’re caught up, too.
I promise you, that if you make the effort to push this show, and let Joss do what Joss does best, he won’t disappoint you.
But don’t tell him I said that, he doesn’t need the pressure.
Thank you for your time,