I have just finished watching Dollhouse and once again find myself longing for more and cursing the vagaries of the TV studios for cutting short another Joss Whedon masterpiece. Whedon’s ability to create completely believable worlds populated with even more believable characters is worthy of William Gibson, Neal Stephenson, Frank Herbert or, I would argue, Charles Dickens or Jane Austin. His social satire is every bit as sharp as Terry Pratchett, William Hogarth or Jonathan Swift and, by working with the most impressive and versatile actors, writers, and film and television artists creates that rare achievement: a realization of an idea that exceeds the imagination on every level.
It seems the television machine and its dependence on the paradoxical equation of matching formulaic viewing demographics to advertisers target audiences while selling the viewer on the notion of novelty does not suit the long term nurturing of Whedon’s brand of storytelling. The fan base for his work is undeniable but exists predominantly on secondary distribution channels and social media platforms whence it is difficult to quantify as justification of continued financial support by studio executives. Perhaps the future of such storytelling lies in the past: Dickens wrote episodically and on subscription. Could we fund work like Whedon’s in a similar way?