Remember the days when a TV show would get canceled and the studio would be inundated by fan protests both traditional – letter writing, petitions – and the bizarre – mailing in bulk items somehow associated with the show? They may be over, as it seems that Fox has perfected a new system of killing a show: a stealth cancellation.

While no one has come out and said that that Dollhouse, the latest Joss Whedon show, has been canceled, all signs point to the program being dead. Fox has been really mum on whether or not they’re bringing the show back for a second season – like totally evading the question mum – but now they’ve done something that feels quite final:

They’ve announced they won’t be airing the final episode of the season. Yes, the season finale will never be on television. But it will be on the upcoming DVD release. You wouldn’t be doing that – saving the episode for DVD – if the show was coming back in a year. This, as far as I’m concerned, is the death knell of Dollhouse as a TV show. I imagine when we see the final DVD packaging it will say that it contains the entire series.

I had a friend who was on the show, in one of those background-roles-that-slowly-become-more-important that seem to pop up on so many Joss Whedon shows. While I haven’t seen an episode of the show (I was cynically waiting for the full series box set), I was hoping it would do well at least for her.

Will Dollhouse be the end of the line for Whedon on TV? It feels like it should be. I think he could be one of the guys who blazes a new medium on the Internet, where the stuff he does wouldn’t need quite so many eyeballs to be a huge success.

via Dollverse

UPDATE! HitFix’s Daniel Fienberg has been yelling at me on Twitter, so I should give you guys his POV on this situation:

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.

I like Daniel, but I feel like he’s spinning, or getting spun. Whedon et al produced a 14th hour for the heck of it? They certainly thought it would air on television, as evidenced by Felicia Day’s reaction (she Twittered about the show never being televised). I mean, Daniel’s right – nobody has announced that Dollhouse is canceled. And Omega probably is a fine season finale; I’ve read that Epitaph One works more like Buffy’s season four finale, which was essentially an extended dream sequence.

Daniel has says I’m pulling assumptions out of my ass, which may be the case, but all of these signs – seriously, you have an extra episode of a show and you’re just never going to air it? – plus the show’s poor ratings plus Fox’s continuous tango around the will they/won’t they renew question…. I’m just giving you my analysis, based on looking at these facts in a larger context and my analysis is that this shit is toast as a TV series. I mean, this could be a case where a TV network arbitrarily decides to not air an episode of a series and then give it a season renewal, but Occam’s Razor begs to differ. Why would they pay to air a whole new season but not this episode?

Hey, maybe Fox is going to turn it into a series of TV movies. Or a direct to video franchise. Or a web show. But to me this is like looking at someone who is brain dead and thinking they may yet pull through. Miracles happen, but the odds are heavily against it.

SECOND UPDATE! Tim Minear popped on to Whedonesque to say the following:

Okay. So maybe I can help clarify this somewhat. Because we scrapped
the original pilot — and in fact cannibalized some of its parts for
other eps — we really ended up with 12 episodes. But the studio makes
DVD and other deals based on the original 13 number. So we created a
standalone kind of coda episode. Which is the mythical new episode 13.
The network had already paid for 13 episodes, and this included the one
they agreed to let us scrap for parts. It does not include the one we
made to bring the number back up to 13 for the studio side and its
obligations. We always knew it would be for the DVD for sure, but we
also think Fox should air it because it’s awesome.

I’m still feeling spun. Nobody saw this confusion coming? In all the massive amounts of press done for this show nobody opted to talk about this episode and its unique position?