In Depth

‘Dollhouse’ Halts Production Amid Creative Concerns

Production has halted on the Joss Whedon drama “Dollhouse” amid indications that some executives inside Fox are deeply concerned about the creative direction of the series.

The last day of filming on “Dollhouse” was last Thursday, a spokesman for the show’s studio, 20th Century Fox TV confirmed today. The show will resume production on Sept. 25, he said.

Officially, 20th executives said the shutdown is designed to give Mr. Whedon time to focus on getting the show’s scripts in better shape. According to Zap2It.com, which first reported the shutdown, Mr. Whedon’s decision to direct two of the first three episodes of the series distracted him from focusing on the scripts.

A 20th spokesman indicated that Mr. Whedon simply wanted to make the show better, and that because production on the series is ahead of schedule, there would be no problem with the show premiering as planned in January.

“We have tremendous confidence in Joss and his team, and we wholeheartedly supported his desire to take some time to focus on upcoming scripts before resuming filming,” the 20th spokesman said. “It’s not often in television production that you have the luxury of extra time, but in this instance we did. And this is a show we all believe in and we want to give it every opportunity to succeed.”

However, some executives at the Fox network are worried that Mr. Whedon may not have his “Dollhouse” in order.

A person familiar with the thinking of some Fox executives told TelevisionWeek that there have been concerns raised inside the network about the fundamental underpinnings of the show.

Specifically, because the heroine of the show, played by Eliza Dushku, has no free will or ability to do much beyond what she’s told to do, viewers might find it hard to root for her. In addition, some executives have expressed concerns that early episodes of the series have been confusing and hard to follow.

Mr. Whedon himself confessed to such worries over “clarity” in July, when he announced he was shooting a new pilot for the series and wouldn’t be screening the original pilot at Comic-Con.

But executives who’ve read future scripts said some of those issues remain.

A Fox network spokesman dismissed as “untrue” the notion that Fox Entertainment chiefs Peter Liguori and Kevin Reilly are concerned over the future of the show.

“We believe in Joss, and we support the show,” he said. “It will be on the air midseason.”

It’s worth noting that internal debates over shows are standard operating procedure inside networks, and that different factions within a network—such as marketing or development—might disagree about a show’s potential.

“Dollhouse” is the second Fox show to stop production in as many weeks: Last week the network’s “24” went on a two-week hiatus.