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DVD Sales and the Fate of ‘Dollhouse’

15 Aug, 2009 By: John Latchem


The future of “Dollhouse” may rest on how well it sells on disc, and after the first two weeks it doesn’t look too good.

TVbytheNumbers.com noted that the Internet was filled with pre-release buzz for Dollhouse: Season One, which hit shelves July 28. But actual sales data indicated it was outsold by a more than 2-to-1 margin by Battlestar Galactica: Season 4.5, which debuted the same day and received no such buzz prior to its release.

Overall, “Dollhouse” still managed a top 10 showing on the Nielsen VideoScan First Alert sales charts, and its first-week sales figures would be the envy of many a TV show. But it hasn’t had the same impact as other Joss Whedon shows on disc. In its second week, “Dollhouse” fell out of the top 50.

In discussions of the fate of “Dollhouse,” many fans point to “Firefly,” which was badly mistreated by the network, shown out of order and canceled well before its time. Yet its DVD sales were stellar, enough to inspire a follow-up movie. There is a lot of speculation that potential DVD sales are what earned a second season for “Dollhouse.” (Another theory is Whedon cutting the production budget of the series low enough for Fox to overlook its mediocre ratings).

Comparing the “Firefly” model to “Dollhouse” is really unfair to both shows. “Firefly” had some weeks years after its initial release when it sold as many copies as “Dollhouse” in week one. Granted, the industry is different now, and a large percentage of “Dollhouse” viewers watched the show through DVR or online. But looking at the sales data so far, I’d advise Whedon fans to cherish the 13 episodes already ordered for the second season, and don’t be surprised if there aren’t any more than that.

Fans might whine about network mistreatment, but if anything, the success of “Firefly” prompted the network to give Whedon more favorable treatment. Yes, the original pilot for “Dollhouse” never aired (and is on the DVD), after the network tinkered a bit with the format of the show. But Whedon is the first to say that he likes the direction the show took midway through the first season. And at least this time the network aired the episodes in order, and gave the show enough of a market push to let fans know when it was on (even if it has a crappy Friday time slot). Whether “Dollhouse” survives will be on its own merits, and while the series has picked up a lot of momentum in the past few episodes, it is still a far away from generating the kind of fan affection afforded “Firefly,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” or “Angel.”

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