Thursday, April 16, 2009

Paley Fest "Dollhouse" panel - April 15, 2009

The Paley Center For Media (formerly known as the Museum of Television and Radio) hosts an event called Paley Fest every year. For a period of about two weeks, they do events each night highlighting a different television show, with people from the show in attendance. The events are all held at the Arclight Theatre's Cinerama Dome. I'm not sure how long they've been held there or where they were held previously - maybe at the Center itself?

Tickets are first available to members and then non-members, and members also get a discount. In prior years, most of the nights are sold out fairly quickly, so I was surprised to learn that tickets were still available for some nights. The two shows I wanted to go to were "Dollhouse" and "The Big Bang Theory". Unfortunately, the panel for "The Big Bang Theory" is on a night when I already have plans, so I was sorry it wasn't on a different night so I could go. Initially, I didn't think I'd be able to go to the "Dollhouse" one either. But then, there were rumblings about the season finale not being shown (more info about that later) and uncertainty about whether the show would be around next year, so I figured if I didn't go to this, I might not have the chance again. So we decided to go after all.

Ticketing is divided into two sections. Section one is the first five rows in the theatre. Section two is the rest of the theatre and about $15 cheaper. I had considered getting the front section, but that section was already sold out. In the end, I'm glad I got the second section. It had occurred to me that the difference between sitting in the last row of section one and the first row of section two was $15, which didn't seem like a good deal.

I got to the theatre, got my parking validation (normal validation for seeing a movie is $2 for the first 4 hours, but for special events, it's $3 for the first 4 hours) and then headed inside. I didn't see the rest of my party yet and looked around at the bottom section, but it seemed mostly full. I then noticed the upper level section and found three seats in the first row, just about dead center, which were unoccupied. Perfect. Great view, especially since it was higher than the front section, so I didn't have to worry about looking over someone's head. Don't need section one tickets. A friend joined me shortly thereafter, and then the husband arrived a bit later.

The night was a lot of fun. I'm glad we decided to go after all. In attendance were Joss, two of the show runners whose names I don't know but both are female, Eliza, and the actors who play Topher, Sierra and November. The actors playing Victor, Boyd and DeWitt had been scheduled to be there, but there must have been a change of plans.

Oh, before the panel, they showed a little clip of a "Twilight Zone" episode about a dollhouse. Then they showed the "Needs" episode of the show - the one where Echo, Victor, Sierra and November are allowed to go off their meds. It was really interesting to see the episode on the big screen. And I also caught a bunch of stuff I didn't catch the first time around.

People may have heard about the whole "13th episode" controversy, so Joss gave an update on that. "Dollhouse" is produced by Fox and shown on Fox, but studio Fox and network Fox are different. Network Fox didn't like the original pilot for the show that was produced, so Joss ended up making a second pilot, and most of the original pilot has been or will be cannibalized into the various episodes. Network Fox asked for 13 shows, but since there were two pilots, that meant they only needed 11 actual episodes. Episode #12 is going to be the season finale, and Joss made it that way. However, studio Fox needed 13 episodes for foreign sales and DVD sales, so they went to Joss and wanted him to do some kind of 13th episode to complete their packages. They asked about a clip episode, which Joss deemed as "lame". The 13th episode is a sort of stand-alone episode that is supposed to be quite odd and different and includes a bunch of other people, though there is footage of the regular dollhouse folks as well. Network Fox doesn't currently have plans to show the 13th episode since their 13 episode order commitment will have already been filled by #12 as the season finale, but Joss says they are considering showing it after all. No final decision has been made yet.

Joss also says that while he's not been given any word about continuing the show next season, he actually has some hope that they'll get that chance. Ratings have been just ok, but he said the demographic is good and the studio likes the show. Joss sounded very excited about the show and said that there were a lot of stories he still wanted to tell. He did say that the remaining episodes are absolutely killer, so I'm really looking forward to seeing them.

The moderator asked the people on the panel various questions, and then they opened it up to some questions from the audience.

Highlights that I can remember:

I thought the crowd was going to riot when a guy who was asking a question addressed "Josh", and when the crowd reacted, he had no idea why they were reacting that way. Bad place to get his name wrong, dude.

Someone asked if there were only 26 actives since they're using the military alphabet. Joss said they can have more than that, and that the same "name" can be used more than once - he said something about maybe revealing info about the prior Sierra and what happened to her, since the present Sierra was made in the first show.

The actress playing November said that the sleep pods were actually quite comfy. That led to a question about which room on set was the favorite of each person. Eliza said it was the crafts room and then mentioned something else as Joss was miming the drawing-your-finger-across-your-throat move so she'd stop talking about it since it's from an episode that hasn't aired yet. The actor playing Topher joked that his favorite is the lab since that's where he always seems to be. He did say he likes Dr. Saunders' office.

Someone asked how the original pitch meeting went, and Joss said it actually went quite well. He had six years of story arcs mapped out at the time to show them.

Joss said that none of the episodes were shot in order, so oftentimes, he'd have to give the actors a cheat sheet to tell them what their characters knew at that point in time and what information the actors already knew but the characters didn't because those events hadn't happened in the show timeline yet.

The actress playing November said that she was excited when she first read the script that revealed November as an active. She said she had to keep it all a secret from her friends and family and just told them that her character might just be making lasagna for now, but other stuff was coming down the line.

They were talking to the actor who plays Topher (who was much more Topher-like than I expected him to be), and he said that he really just wanted a very mundane scene for Topher, like Topher shopping at the grocery store. And he'd just be walking down an aisle, and he'd look up, and Ballard would be shopping in that same store, on the same aisle. Ballard wouldn't know who Topher was, but Topher would freak at seeing Ballard. Everyone laughed at this story, and the husband and friend who I was there with and I all figure that if there's a second season, Joss is so going to fit that in somewhere.

It was funny to see Joss dressed really casually, and then sitting right next to him was Eliza in this low-cut but cute sequined short dress. The spotlight was on the stage, so she was like a disco ball - really hard not to notice her. She looked great.

After the panel was over, quite a number of the people in the audience rushed toward the stage, and they all stayed around for quite some time, signing autographs and having their pictures taken.

The Paley Fest panel nights are actually kind of expensive, but it was definitely worth going to this one.

1 comment:

Tim Castro said...

Thanks for the cool summary Cindy. Dollhouse is my favorite new show this season, so I hope it gets picked up for a second year. Please sneak me in if you ever get to visit the set!!!!