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Great News for Quality TV: "Dollhouse," Others Get Fall Renewals
May 18, 2009  | By David Bianculli  | 1 comment
dollhouse-09-cliffhanger-wh.jpgThe broadcast networks unveil their 2009-10 TV schedules officially this week, but word already is leaking out about some of the survivors and casualties. The most pleasant surprise of all: Fox has renewed Joss Whedon's Dollhousefor a second season.

Adding to the good news: Most of the best broadcast series from the just-ending season, whether freshmen entries or veterans, apparently will live to fight, and delight, another day...

At CBS, the best new show of the season has been The Mentalist, which also happens to be the most popular new show of the season. Its renewal was guaranteed long ago, but it's still nice to know that quality TV can thrive as well as survive.

That isn't always the case, of course. At NBC, Life never got the support it deserved, and that wonderful cop series isn't likely to stay on Life support any longer. On the other hand, NBC found a way to extend its deal with DirecTV, which in turn extends the life of Friday Night Lights -- a drama so good, its survival is a victory for all TV Worth Watching enthusiasts.


That show, like many borderline shows jockeying for survival, ended their seasons with a cliffhanger that tantalized with hints of things to come. On Friday Night Lights, Coach Taylor was forced out of his job teaching the Panthers, and ended the TV year taking wife Tami on a tour of his new football field at a much lower-rent high-school facility. Can't wait to see the new team, the new challenges, and the new dynamics.


Fringe, on Fox, joins The Mentalist and Dollhouse as one of the three best new shows of the season. Fringe, too, is coming back, as is, according to reports, Lie to Me. The only Fox vanishing act is that of Terminator: the Sarah Connor Chronicles, despite the tie-in possibilities with the imminent theatrical Terminator reboot.


Fringe ended with its season with a dual stunner: Olivia coming face to face with William Bell (played by guest star Leonard Nimoy), who was very much not dead, and Olivia realizing the office in which they were meeting was on one of the top floors of the still-standing World Trade Center. Welcome to an alternate reality -- but how? Where? Why?

Finally, there's Dollhouse, the Fox season finale of which (not counting the missing episode held back from telecast) made my jaw drop. Among the gasp-worthy revelations: Amy Acker's Dr. Saunders, who administers to the blank-slate dolls in the Dollhouse, was shown in flashbacks to be a reprogrammable doll herself: Whiskey, seen in this case adopting the identity of a murderous vixen named Crystal. (Photo at top.)

I desperately wanted to see more. Now, thanks to Fox, I can.

ABC, for its part, is said to be dumping The Unusuals, but bringing back newcomers Better Off Ted and Castle, both of which are fun.


And in more surprising good news, the veteran, never-say-die comedy series Scrubs, which moved from NBC to ABC this season, will be back for one more year -- though in what form, and with which cast members, has yet to be determined.

Start the week with a smile. Scrubs, Dollhouse and Friday Night Lights are coming back, and Fringe and The Mentalist aren't going anywhere at all. I'll miss Life, a lot. And I hope Whedon grabs his old Firefly cast member Summer Glau, now that she's freed from Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and slips her into Dollhouse.

But with this high a battling average for quality TV, I have no complaints. Most seasons, a good TV year is defined as much by the good old shows that survive as it is by the good new shows that premiere. Next season looks to be a good year already, for the old returnees -- and this week, as the networks roll out their new schedules, we'll see what brand new quality programs may be joining them.




Rich said:

I don't know, You don't seemed to thrilled about the Dollhouse- I mean you barely mention it on your site (lol).

It's officially one of the best seasons for TV that I can remember in awhile and was well deserved after the writers strike (Late 2007). In fact I'd argue this seasons shows (as a group) easily surpassed the feature films released in theaters for the same season.

I must say I give full credit to the 'supporting' cast of "Dollhouse" for it's renewal. I was like "Oh wow, look what happens when we focus anyone but Echo". I suppose I can't have my dream cast of Summer Glau (as NEW Echo) and Charisma Carpenter as her handler. A Smart Idea would be to give Dushku's Echo her 'freedom' and have her team-up with Paul (as a Dollhouse liason) to hunt down Alpha. That way she's not 'trying' be the new people every week- I could live with that. I'll be happy to see the cast again but this is 'Do-or-Die' time now...is he gonna 'meander' and stroll like with "Buffy" season 7 or is he gonna re-invent the Dollhouse like season 2 & 3 of "Angel".
I will laugh my butt off if "Terminator 4" opens huge and makes over 200 Million domestic and Fox shoved "Terminator - Sarah Connor C" off a cliff and "DollHouse" actually drops the ball this fall. I knew lots of people who avidly watched "Terminator" and other than Bianculli no one but me who watched "Dollhouse". I hope Fox gives it a 'better night' or something- "Terminator" shined for Fox when ALL were reeling in the midst of the 'Strike' and gained a loyal following- This is how Fox repays Fans? I personally won't forget this if Fox & Joss don't deliver with a respectable 'season 2'.

Elsewhere- Never watched "Life" (don't care) & didn't like "Unusuals". Don't care about "Castle". Never watched "Friday N.L" (I hear it's good) and "The Mentalist"?...You mean Simon Baker actually had a Hit? Wasn't he the guy that would always be in a drama that would tank by Thanksgiving? Wild.

"Heroes" really staggered to the finish and better up it's game and quit killing off the blondes I like! "Fringe" was a steady supply of fun or intrigue and the finale as a whole was really 'meaty' with great revelations and secret reveals (Peter doesn't remember his childhood the way Walter does- now we know why!). "Lost" delivered steady and was it's best season yet.

"House" - featuring Maxim's #1 ranked (out 100!) hottest female for 2009: Olivia Wilde totally stole the Finale Wars with it's best "What the Hell?- No!!!" moment I've seen in years and it started weeks ago and You never saw it coming- Plus the "What next?" is already eating at me.

Comment posted on May 18, 2009 8:10 AM

Sean Dougherty said:

I would have traded every show you mentioned for a "Life" renewal. Many of them were watchable but none were as of consistently high quality as Life. Scrubs is done. It is one of the funniest shows ever but even the most recent season was way off their best stuff. It doesn't need to come back.

Comment posted on May 18, 2009 8:51 AM

jonnybgoode said:

I am ecstatic to hear the news of Dollhouse's renewal. It had a rough start but -- certain flaws aside -- it is the most promising show on TV. Joss seems to be hit-or-miss very often. I hope season 2 will hit the creative mark. It's a show that stars Eliza Dushku but is carried by Fran Kranz, Dichen Lachment, Enver Gjokaj, Amy Acker and Olivia Williams. I hope they realize that and focus more on those characters. I have a sinking feeling in my gut that this will not be the case due to Eliza's role as not just an actor but one of the creators. I like her, but Echo simply isn't her forte.

I can't really say I'm disappointed in the cancellation of TSCC. The finale of season 2 was the only interesting episode. The show dragged on and on and the focus -- much like the situation in Dollhouse -- are on the weaker character rather than the stronger ones; Sarah and John Conner simply were not interesting; Cameron and Weaver were.

Comment posted on May 18, 2009 1:06 PM

ceolaf said:

Oh, come on! There was nothing surprising about Amy Acker's Dr. Saunders being revealed as a doll. That's been obvious from the start.

1) How many other staff members were attacked by Alpha in the pilot?

2) How many other staff members have that kind of passivity and smallness?

3) How many other staff members are young pretty little things?

It has been obvious from the start. The only surprise there was that she was given much of the identity of the previous doctor, who was killed in attack in the pilot. That other doctor's killing is news, and everything else about him and his personality.

On the other hand, I entirely agree with you about Life. It was well acted and interesting. I don't usually watch cop shows, but this was an exception.

Comment posted on May 18, 2009 2:12 PM

Davey said:

Good news about Dollhouse. It seems like it's just getting going lately. Fringe is kind of in the same spot. It's going to either have to get more depth or it will just become tedious. The final episode was a great cliffhanger, though.

I'll miss Life, but will miss Life on Mars, which apparently never stood a chance, more.

Castle has two great leads, but the script needs major work. Almost half the time is wasted on the pointless family banter; as a result the crime-solving is generally pretty perfunctory. Do we really need Miss Marple Meets the Gilmore Girls?

Any word on Supernatural? This is a show that became tedious for a while with its critter of the week, but has become the most riveting drama series on television with the current apocalypse thread. It's gone from jokey and light to genuinely scary, philosophical, and emotionally draining. I think at the moment it's the best thing out there, and much more controlled than Lost. Anyway, here's to a pretty good new season.

Comment posted on May 18, 2009 7:42 PM

Aoede said:

Um. The first other person Alpha attacked was his handler. Then he killed the real Dr. Saunders. What was your point again? (And to whom is this point aimed? I'm unclear. Me? Another commenter? I must be especially obtuse or tired today. Probably both. Still book writing... -- David B.)

Comment posted on May 18, 2009 8:07 PM

AngelaS said:

Great news about Friday Night Lights! I treasure every episode and I don't even watch football. The dialog is so darn real, and heartfelt.

Also good about the Mentalist. Once they developed the other characters, the show became much better.

So... what about Breaking Bad?!? It is the only other show I really, really look forward to these days. Though I promise to check out Fringe and Dollhouse because of all the good comments by...you know. :)

I put Breaking Bad right up there with Deadwood, 6 Feet Under, and BSG. Every other show seems flat after watching BB. When I finished Deadwood, and then 6 Feet Under, and then BSG, I felt exactly like Bianculli did after the last episode of Lost. And I'm going to feel that way all over again when Breaking Bad is over.

Thanks for the heads up, and thank you for this site.


Comment posted on May 18, 2009 8:11 PM
tony said:

Dollhouse sucks..I don`t understand why would it be renewed. It is a total disappointment.

Comment posted on May 19, 2009 9:32 AM

JavaChick said:

Happy happy happy that Dollhouse and Castle will be back. Sad that we won't get another season of Life though, loved that show.

Comment posted on May 19, 2009 2:10 PM

David Rivera said:

I'll join the chorus regarding Dollhouse and say that whenever Eliza Dusku's Echo was programmed with her personality-of-the-week, the show bored me to tears. (I, too, loved her on Buffy, but I don't think she has the range to pull off a different personality every week. Plus, if she has a different persona each episode, why should I care about her?) But whenever the story focused on the supporting cast and the goings-on at the Dollhouse, I was riveted. If the show is to succeed in season 2, we need to know and care about Echo. After watching for a full season, I still don't know the real character.

Comment posted on May 20, 2009 12:19 PM
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