It's the blessing or curse of social networking and information sites that a simple piece of information can be posted, swirl through the conversational meat grinder and come out meaning a totally different thing within mere minutes.
Take, for example, the alleged cancellation of FOX's "Dollhouse," which occurred today when "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog" star Felicia Day tweeted, "Man, day getting worse and worse. Found out my Dollhouse ep, #13 isn't gonna air. Only on DVD. Such a great part too. Thx Fox. :("
That was the frowny-face that shook the Twitterverse this afternoon, as a 140 character comment became a poorly sourced confirmation that "Dollhouse" was dead at FOX.
I have a little bit more information on the situation, facts that may not necessarily set Joss Whedon's devoted (and quick-to-panic) fans at ease, but which might at least explain the situation such as it is.
[Information after the break...]
Day's tweet actually came roughly 24 hours after FOX announced its plans for May Sweeps, plans with included the scheduled airing of "Omega" on May 8 as the "Dollhouse" *season* finale. But there's a catch: Sites like Wikipedia and EpGuides list "Omega" as Episode 12, which is technically accurate as it will, in fact, be the show's 12th episode to air. Said sites also, however, list an Episode 13, titled "Epitaph One." It's not a hypothetical or imaginary episode, mind you. It's not a figment of the Internet's imagination. It exists. It was shot. And it does, indeed, feature Felicia Day.
So the online panic goes like this: FOX isn't airing the season finale of "Dollhouse"! Therefore, the show must be cancelled and the last episode is obviously being withheld as an inducement for goosing DVD sales.
Here's the different explanation that I got from a network source: FOX ordered 13 episodes of "Dollhouse." This has been well-reported and is true. That number, though, included the original pilot episode, which was shot and then reconceived and never aired.
The "Omega" episode is the 13th episode of that original order. It is the second part of a heavily-arced two-part closure to the season and it was written, produced and directed as the season finale. It brings the slow-developing Alpha storyline to a climax and answers a number of questions about the Dollhouse and its inhabitants. It also raises possible questions setting up a possible Season Two, but it isn't a shocking cliffhanger.
More importantly, the questions raised at the end of "Omega" aren't questions answered quickly in "Epitaph One." I'm told that "Epitaph One" was ordered by 20th Century Fox TV, the show's production company, but not by the network and the network had no commitment to air that episode. It's Hour 14 for the season.
It's not like FOX had "Epitaph One" scheduled for May 15 and pulled it. The series finale of "Prison Break" will air that night, a two-hour episode that will, if we're all being perfectly honest, almost certainly draw a bigger audience than a hypothetical "Dollhouse" episode would have. That's an important point, because May 15 is the last Friday of May Sweeps and of the official Nielsen-slated TV season.
The source tells me "Dollhouse" has not been cancelled. Granted, what else would they tell me, but still... The long and short is that the network isn't airing an episode they never said they were going to air, although some people are reporting that FOX did say it was going to air that episode, even though you'd be hard press to find any official record of that.
[Given the literal meanings of "Omega" and "Epitaph," maybe fans shouldn't be surprised that one is airing as the finale and maybe they shouldn't be so broken up that the other is not airing.]
Will "Dollhouse" eventually be cancelled? I can't tell you that today. I can tell you to look at the show's ratings. If you just look at overnight and Fast National figures, that will probably tell you that hopes are bleak for a second "Dollhouse" season. If you look at DVR and iTunes and other ancillary numbers, it might offer hope. Either way, though, a decision has not been made. Or a decision has not been made officially. Or nothing that happened yesterday or today constitutes a formal pronouncement of any kind. It constitutes a twitter from a guest star and a piece of scheduling that wasn't really supposed to be noteworthy.
What I'm saying is that "Dollhouse" hasn't been cancelled until it has, but it currently hasn't been. So feel free to express your enthusiasm for FOX to renew the show, but don't jump to outrage just yet.