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Whedon still playing in the 'Dollhouse'

Joss Whedon answers questions from television critics on the set of "Dollhouse."
Joss Whedon answers questions from television critics on the set of "Dollhouse."
Michael Buckner, Fox

Century City, Calif. — If you (were one of the few who) watched the first season of "Dollhouse," you certainly noticed the frequent shower scenes.

We're not talking Showtime- or HBO-like nudity here, but certainly there were plenty of scenes that featured very attractive people in that communal shower in the secret Dollhouse headquarters.

And, believe it or not, it was not Fox executives who were pushing for more of those scenes to try to build the basically bad ratings.

"The network did not pressure us to have shower scenes in every episode. That just sort of happened naturally," said creator/executive producer/writer Joss Whedon.

"They were not pressuring us to make the show sexier or edgier. They were pressuring us to make the show safer, basically. … So if there is something in the show that seems a little bit off or maybe a little bit racy, know that was me. That was totally me and (writer) Andrew Chambliss.

"The other writers are all Mormons."

He was joking, of course. About the Mormon thing, that is.

And, apparently, the shower scenes will be fewer and farther between in Season 2.

"Actually, we haven't broken a story with a shower scene yet," Whedon said. "We are a little disappointed in ourselves, and we know we have let America down, too."

PRETTY MUCH NO ONE thought that there would be a second season of "Dollhouse," given the abominable ratings last spring.

I certainly didn't. And neither did Whedon himself, who called it "the biggest surprise of my career."

"I really didn't expect to be sitting here again for a while. This has been like skiing in a cartoon where you go up the mountain and down the mountain and up and down. Right now we are pretty high up on it because we realized that we were actually going to have to work for a living this summer."

The second season is scheduled to premiere on Sept. 25.

"Dollhouse" was a rather muddled series about a super-secret private organization that offers those with lots of money a chance to hire one of its Actives — an attractive young person who is essentially an empty shell. An Active can be implanted with any personality for a specific mission; then the Active's personality is wiped clean again.

As the season advanced, it became less about specific missions and more about an overarching story arc, but the ratings didn't improve.

Even Whedon called "Dollhouse's" Friday-night ratings "hilarious." But, he pointed out, we now live in a TV world where it also makes a difference when the show is recorded on DVRs and watched later, sold on downloads, and sold on DVD and Blu-ray.

"My other shows' DVDs and feeds are being bought now 10 years after the fact," said the creator/producer of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Angel" and "Firefly." "So (network and studio executives) are thinking long term, which is not something you expect from these people. So we are really grateful for that.

"The shows that we make may not go out as broad as something as 'Lost,' but that the fans will come to them forever. And that revenue stream does not dry up, however thin it may be. That is the thing that ultimately motivated them."

COMPLICATING ALL OF THIS is the fact that Whedon & Co. produced what amounted to a wrap-up episode for the end of the first season.

Which, oddly enough, Fox never aired. But it is on the DVD release.

"When they told me it wasn't going to air, I thought, 'Oh well, we had been canceled.' So I was disappointed because I thought (it was) a great way to go out," Whedon said. "I really, really wanted it to be on. And when all of that didn't happen after a lot of begging and whining on my part, I figured, 'Well, OK, that is the death knell.' "

And, Whedon assured us, there's still plenty of room to continue the saga even though that episode, set years in the future, has already been produced.

"The first thing I did (after the show was renewed) was get together with my writers and start talking about what possibilities there were," he said.

"And what we discovered was that the possibilities were entirely limitless and that we had more excitement and enthusiasm about the show than we did by a country mile last year because we are in it now.

"Before it was an idea and it was an idea that we had a lot of trouble defining and America got to watch that. And now we feel like it is defined, the network understands what it is, we understand what it is, we know what our cast is capable of, which is wonders. And so we came in just with the most excitement, and we been having a great deal of fun ever since."

e-mail: pierce@desnews.com