Dollhouse returns tonight for the first of its last three* episodes of the season. How will it do? Some fans suggested that Prison Break would prove to be a better lead-in for Dollhouse than Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. It's hard to make a strong case for that based on last week's return of Prison Break, but we'll see.
With only three weeks remaining, the numbers suggest that the Dollhouse will be torn down after only one season. There's a lot of chitter-chatter of renewal hope, but the numbers don't suggest a reason for such hope. Not even factoring in Fridays. Now, there are a lot of people, who say you can't look exclusively at the numbers, and that other things like DVR viewing, online viewing and DVD sales factor in. There's not a lot of data to suggest that the DVR viewing and online viewing actually do matter in the renewal decisions for Dollhouse (or any other show, at this point).
Our experience has been that in terms of show renewal decisions, particularly for one hour scripted dramas, those numbers haven't changed the outcomes any. I do believe that DVD sales are an important component, but when coupled with the TV numbers, those DVD sales would need to be very robust. We've seen the DVR numbers and I've looked at them thoroughly, and even on the basis of DVR increases, Dollhouse doesn't have much of case for renewal. I haven't seen online data directly, but from what I hear while "not nothing", it won't likely play into any renewal decision.
For now, it looks like the only way the show will be renewed is if the TV viewing goes up for the last few episodes or FOX is very confident in brisk DVD sales.
Sadly, neither outcome seems likely to me, and it's too bad because I particularly enjoyed the last episode (two weeks ago). I would need to see the adults 18-49grow to a 1.6 before even starting to get excited and the prior trend doesn't suggest such growth is likely. I don't see Prison Break being any better of a lead-in for the Dollhouse (though likely no worse).
Last time out, Dollhouse had a 1.4 adults 18-49 rating. I'd look for tonight to be in the 1.3-1.4 range. I'm not sure being off the air for the week helped it any, but Joss Whedon has a loyal following so I wouldn't expect it to drop much either. I hope I'm wrong and it goes up, but that doesn't seem a likely outcome.
*As everyone pretty much knows at this point, there is a fourth episode, to make a total of 13 for the season but FOX has elected not to air that as a part of this season's run, and so far hasn't backed down on that.