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James Hibberd

Joss Whedon Returns to Fox With New Series 'Dollhouse'

October 31, 2007 7:00 PM

Joss WhedonJoss Whedon, the creator of acclaimed cult favorites “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel” and “Firefly,” is returning to Fox and reuniting with “Buffy” regular Eliza Dushku for a new action-drama called “Dollhouse.”

Fox has given a seven-episode commitment to the 20th Century Fox Television project for a planned debut next year.

“It deals with our darkest impulses and our best ones,” Whedon says. “It deals with all the things I like to deal with—strength, weakness, power and corruption.”

“Dollhouse” stars Dushku as Echo, one of a group of secret agents living in a futuristic dorm. Each has the ability to be imprinted with custom personalities and abilities for special assignments. When they return, their newly acquired memories are wiped. The show follows Echo as she takes on a variety of assignments—some romantic, some adventurous, some uplifting, some illegal—and gains awareness of her role and confinement.

The show represents a few reunions: Whedon with Fox, which aired the short-lived fan favorite “Firefly”; Whedon with Dushku, who starred in Fox’s “Nurses” pilot during the last development season as well as Fox’s 2003 series “Tru Calling”; and Whedon and Dushku with studio chairmen Gary Newman and Dana Walden, whose 20th Century Fox Television also produced his other shows.

Dushku will have a producer credit on the show. Sources say she was instrumental in helping bring Whedon back to television after his three-year absence as a prime-time showrunner. Dushku, who was keen to reunite with Whedon, met him for lunch and he came up with the “Dollhouse” concept. He sold the show to Fox one week later.

“The show was pretty much fully formed,” Whedon says. “I wrote a synopsis, treatment, pilot episode and six suggested future episodes. I made a poster in PhotoShop because I couldn’t sleep.”

Whedon discussed the show with TelevisionWeek Wednesday evening:

TVWeek: How did this idea come about?

Joss Whedon: Rather suddenly. It just sort of blurted forth. I was having lunch with Eliza and she was talking about wanting to do something and I made up the show. We went to Fox and they said, "Yeeeaeah!"

TVWeek: "Buffy" fans are sure to be excited, too.

Whedon: If they could only see what’s in my head right now.... They should be.

TVWeek: Every "Firefly" fan is going to wonder: Was there any reluctance to return to Fox?

Whedon: It’s a brand new day over there. It’s a completely new bunch of people and they seem really intelligent and supportive. Walking back into the building was a little strange. But no. It was absolutely the last thing I saw coming, but absolutely the right thing to do. It’s like one of those movies where you keep waiting for somebody to fall in love with the hot girl. It was sort of meant to be. ... I mean, a network is a network. They have an agenda and it is not yours. And that’s OK, as long as you work hard to make the agendas coincide.

TVWeek: So they’ll air the episodes in sequence this time?

Whedon [laughs]: One can almost guarantee.

TVWeek: The project sounds ambitious. Do you have the budget you’re going to need?

Whedon: That was part of the offer. The network said we want to do seven and it’s a grown-up show. It’s not going to be wasteful, but it has a certain production value. When they said yes, it rang out loud and clear.

TVWeek: Is there anything new with "Buffy" spinoff "Ripper"? [Whedon previously announced he’s trying to set up that show at the BBC.]

Whedon: There isn’t anything new. It might become too problematic. The rights issue with "Ripper" becomes complicated. There are other characters in the woods. We may have to do some fancy footwork. Obviously I’m committed to ["Dollhouse"], but that does not mean I’m not doing "Ripper."

TVWeek: Just recently you were disappointed that 20th shut down the "Buffy" sing-along screenings. Did that make things awkward while doing the "Dollhouse" deal?

Whedon: This is how it works. It’s a small town. The problem they ran up against was a genuine problem. It wasn’t the Disney lawyers telling preschoolers they couldn’t draw Mickey Mouse. They’re not trying to cheat anybody out of their fun. The fact of the matter is that I know they’re trying to make the musicals work.

TVWeek: "Heroes" recently added a character who’s sort of like Echo, in that she can instantly learn any ability. Did that give you an "uh-oh" moment?

Whedon: I didn’t actually know that. I was fine until now. Thanks a lot. One of the first rules of a pilot, you will see everything you are doing somewhere else the year before you do it. I saw "Bionic Woman" and I was like, "Oh, I better change my thing." I like to think that means you’re smack dab in the middle of the zeitgeist. The real thing that’s important is what do you have to say about that person. And what I have to say is never what somebody else has to say. On "Buffy," all the hoariest old tropes—the evil twin, the Monkey’s Paw—what’s important is what you have to say about it.

TVWeek: With "Firefly" star Nathan Fillion doing a lot of guest work right now, any chance of him being in the cast?

Whedon: My first instinct is to look in new places, especially since Eliza and I are already reuniting. It’s a series, not a party. That said, I do not rule anything out.

TVWeek: I was told the series would be for next spring or fall, depending on how fast you write.

Whedon: I can write for spring. There’s a hiccup in that process because of the [potential] writers strike. I will be good to go the moment we are in agreement with the studios. But I won’t pick up a pencil while we’re not.

TVWeek: Since it’s the topic of the hour, any thoughts on the possible strike?

Whedon: I don’t have any terribly original ones. I do know this: The studios are very entrenched and the issues are very crucial. I dislike the idea of the strike because it’s going to hurt a lot of people I love. But if it’s necessary, we’ll go all the way with it. Because we’re talking about the future of media that didn’t used to exist. And if we can’t get a fair deal on that, then it’s just not worth it. Next year, you’re going to see a lot of new novels.


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Comments (31)


I don't get too excited about Joss news anymore until I'm absolutely sure it's happening, but I can't help it. I'm freakin' excited. I really hope this happens.


This is fantastic. I will definitley watch this. Welcome back Joss!


C'mon, this sounds a lot more layered than the mimetic girl on "Heroes" - which, by the way, they stole from a decades-old character named Taskmaster in Marvel Comics (and is indicative of how poorly "Volume Two" of Heroes has been written).

That said, can't wait. Dushku + Whedon = my ass on the couch.

Diane :

I'm so excited I'm doing a hapy dance. Joss back doing tv where he belongs absolutely fantastic!


Yay! Joss to the rescue. With wannabe shows "moonlighting" this Fall it is great to have something to look forward to really enjoying.


Fox is still killing shows like a flame thrower wielding entomophobe in a butterfly house. I'm beginning to think Joss loves to cut himself behind closed doors. (obviously I'm in the bitter-over-firefly camp)

However, I can't wait to see what he will do with another series. I'll be there will all you other whedonschmucks, sitting on the couch and cutting myself with the compimentary knife Fox Network hands out with every new show and enjoying every moment of it.


I don't know, Joss -- "a brand new day" over at Fox?

So all the Fox people who cancelled Firefly, Wonderfalls, Point Pleasant, Kitchen Confidential -- they are all gone, replaced by a "completely new bunch of people and they seem really intelligent and supportive"?

Stay tuned.


I am really looking forward to this. I am telling all of my friends. We love you Joss !


With Joss on board this has definitely got potential (and fresh opportunity for new characters on Halloween). I'll absolutely be there on the couch for this one. Thanks for the update, Tristen!


I know this may sound obvious ,why why not just make a Faith show or mini series.
Why take a risk with a new show when the majority fail. Why not give people a spin off that already has a huge dedicated fan base???


I have to say I was slow to get on the joss bandwagon ..lets just say just in time to be really pissed when they canceled firefly soo this is awesome I get another chance to really enjoy his writeing his is the best thing for tv lets just hope fox doesn't pull another stupid move and cancel it


I have to say I was slow to get on the joss bandwagon ..lets just say just in time to be really pissed when they canceled firefly soo this is awesome I get another chance to really enjoy his writeing his is the best thing for tv lets just hope fox doesn't pull another stupid move and cancel it

The concept does sound interesting. The Chalkboard does sound similar to the Copy Cat idea in Heroes, however it could be an emotional remembering that acts like a whisper or dreams.

It will be great to see Eliza Dushku back. I enjoyed Tru Calling because of this idea of her character representing innocence and purity against evil. I was getting into the lore at the end. Unfortunately the series was canceled before the deeper story developed.

You asked for a Pilot and got seven 7. Seven is a Pop-Culture number. If you use the time concept, or figure the 7 idea into your initial plan, it could help.

Good luck with the show.

Check out HotConflict for Podcast about Pop-Culture

Brent E. Engle:

I (for one) will NOT be on my couch for this series.
Because I can't get it close enough to the screen!!
O-M-G! Can you tell WHO 'my god' might actually be?
I thought the best excuse for him to leave tv was to
be with his family. But I'M his family, and he has
finally come back to my house with new stories. The
5 minute reads of Season 8 are teen boys' sneezes to
me. Of course, I never had better 'achooii' before.
I didn't want Blunder Women. I don't have BBC. I
LOVE BUFFY & FAITH. Do I have the faith in fox to
come through this time? If not, I just might have to exercise the serenity to become an earlier angel.
By the way, I just saw a movie where a boy gets run
over because he steps out of the car to release his
fireflies from a jar. Fox still has the capacity to
commit careless suicide. After all, it's a studio.


Eh, the closest thing to Dollhouse would appear to 'Joe 90', from the 60's...

'Course, that was puppets... there's a joke in here somewhere... it's just out of reach...


I thought it was over but youve finnaly come back. And with Eliza! I hope it works out. Do you think it can compare to Buffy?

This is the best news in ages. Eliza Dushku and Joss Whedon = Awesome tv series.


Alex Hogan:

The writer's strike needs to be settled NOW! Give them whatever they want! I cannot wait the extra weeks or months that it might take to get this show on the air! I am suffering from severe Joss withdrawl! Wearing out my DVDs of BTVS, Firefly, and Angel!













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omfg!!! I will watch this n never stop....until fox cancels it cause they're stupid! Joss + ELiza = Awesomeness! I hope its great and does well, cause joss needs more of his shows on tv!!! *cries* but their gonna have to tune the show up cause of copy cats abilities, change it a bit to create something new and interesting


With all these wonderful whedon fans how did firefly get cancelled. Joss you may have forgot about fox's traitor behaviour but us loyal fans have not!

Jaime Haslam:

I have been waiting for this small bit of hope for a long time. When I see a ad for it then only then I will jump for joy. There has been to much talk about it and no hope. Let's hope that FOX doesn't can it like last time if it does start a season 2.


Im hessitant to get excited about ANY show orchestrated by Fox or showtime, as both networks have a good trackrecord for canceling good shows after 1 season. Im pretty pissed off about firefly going out like that (Dissapointed isnt a strong enough word). I dunno If you ARE going back to fox imo it should be to do Firefly season 2... I cant seem to see Fox argueing against doing another season on a show that has a practicle cult. Its like when you are buying an internet marketing campaign. Do you buy the totally new, never used before unproved campaign with a 50/50 sucess rate, or do you buy the reused one that is proven to work and make big bucks?


I still hope we haven't seen the end of Firefly. I can't get enough of it! But as more time passes, I get more worried...

Sue :

My friend just told me about this I nearly peed my pants I got so excited. hopefully with a change @ Fox that means they will not terminate another brilliant series before the wonderful Whedon erupts with this guaranteed magnificence. Go you you good thing, let it rip..we love you you Joss Australia misses you...


Id love to see a second season of firefly, but I think as more and more time pases the chance keeps getting smaller. I mean, Book is sure to have aged more, and Im sure Summer also looks different. But Nathan, Alec, and Alan still arent old enough to not be able to pass off as the same guys. Granted, Joss really f*cked us over by killing Wash and Book, but something is better than nothing! Even if the voice of reason and the comedic easy going tension breaker characters are gone. Please, seeing as how Joss has no animosity towards Fox now, please please make a new season of Firefly. Do it for the fans, Joss!


do a new buffy fick with alyson and I'll watch!

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