"The fans are called fans. That's already covered. That doesn't mean they'll all love the show, but it means they're more likely to check it out than Joe Blow. And we need Joe Blow. We need to find a way to communicate with people who wouldn't normally find a way to watch this show, and Friday night is a better night to do that."
- Joss Whedon, creator of "Dollhouse"
Dear Mr. Blow:
Fox has gone to a lot of trouble to get your attention for an exciting new Friday block of sci-fi action that begins at 8 p.m. tomorrow with the newly transferred Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and wraps at 9 with Whedon's new Dollhouse.
Could you please watch it?
Sure, the controversy rages. The distrustful say Fox is just burning off Chronicles on Fridays. And it hates the god of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and is trying to kill his new show, even if millions of fans hang on every thread of the Gap flannel shirts he always wears, shirts that, even if he is 44 and married with two children, enhance his childlike image and make the fans even more delirious about taking his adorableness home and having it all to themselves.
They love him so much, they have organized a save-the-show campaign before Dollhouse has even premiered and started up a fan site on Facebook that has more than 10,000 subscribers, more than 50 percent of the Facebook total backing this TV season's established big hit, The Mentalist.
But everybody needs you, Mr. Blow, to keep the show going, and both Joss (all his thousands of friends call him by his first name and go absolutely berserk if anybody calls him "Josh") and the Fox suits seem to believe this Friday idea is a good one.
"We think we can drive some momentum," Kevin Reilly, Fox president of entertainment, told the TV critics at a news conference at their L.A. meeting last month. "And we're going to let the show play out for 13 episodes and hopefully catch on. If we can do some business there, that would be a great thing for the future."
"We really think we can reinvigorate Friday nights," Peter Liguori, Fox entertainment chairman, told me in less execu-speak terms at an evening bash at a Hollywood club called My House, where you can sack out (or whatever) in the bedrooms, enjoy a Jacuzzi on the patio or just sit there, as your head throbs to the music, liquor and showbiz chit-chat.
And, Mr. Blow, to emphasize that he didn't think he was just whistling in the dark (or fantasizing to the techno beat), Liguori mentioned The X-Files, which famously premiered on Friday nights before becoming a big hit, just like TV's current biggest scripted smash, CSI.
It would be quite something if Fox resurrected TV on Friday nights, which are becoming almost as empty as Saturday nights. Last Friday, an average of 26 million people watched all the Big Four networks in prime time. That's about the same number who watch any one episode of American Idol.
It's not fair to say Fox isn't trying, or executives hate Joss because he wears comfortable clothes, or all the other silly things the fans (and a lot of critics) are saying. These shows aren't free. Nobody makes big orders (13 episodes is more than twice the usual minimum of six) gleefully just to embarrass producers and throw away $30 million.
Fox has done a lot of promoting of its new Friday block, not emphasizing the sci-fi components that render the fans agog, but appealing to the likes of you, Mr. Blow, and some of those other average Joes, like Sixpack and The Plumber.
Its Grindhouse spoof-trailer (http://tinyurl.com/bkx29a) is a mini-masterpiece emphasizing that both Chronicles and Dollhouse star some good-looking action heroines. "Hotter than Hades!" gushes the announcer. "Soulless! and smart!"
Soulless, because Chronicles' Cameron is a robot from the future, sent back to protect the boy who will become the leader of The Resistance, and Dollhouse's Echo is a weekly tabula rasa ("a blank slate," one helpful character explains for the average Joes) whose brain is imprinted to suit the specific needs of the clients who hire her (an evil organization keeps a whole stable of beautiful young men and women blankly available to be imprinted for high-price escapades, and then erased back to their semi-zombie status).
In the first few episodes, Echo is given the personality of a master kidnapper so she can rescue a victim; a super-outdoorswoman so she can be some rich kid's perfect date; and an international art thief, so she can steal some international art, natch.
Each night provides one cool case, but there are also overarching stories: an FBI guy obsessed with finding the "dollhouse" where these young people are exploited and forced into crime, an escaped ex-Doll who may bring down the whole operation, and Echo's teeny steps to realizing that she's actually a person and not just some mindless nobody stuck in limbo.
Whedon favorite Eliza Dushku (the fans know all about her, Mr. Blow, but you can simply accept her as a smoking-hot action heroine) plays Echo. The less-famous, not counting Reed Diamond from Homicide: Life on the Street and Judging Amy, play ancillary characters such as the heinous dollhouse boss and her amoral computer-genius assistant.
Like Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Dollhouse poses a modicum of philosophical issues and gives the characters the odd minute or two to address them. But nobody will be watching for deep insight into the human condition.
The shows are fun and exciting, Mr. Blow, perfect for a stay-at-home Friday night, having a few guys over for beers, or recording and watching when you wake up Saturday afternoon, after all that hard partying.
So give 'em a try so they'll stay on and soothe the rabid fans, while also making one TV critic's life just that much more enjoyable.