Is Dollhouse In Trouble - And Should It Be?

With ratings hitting an all-new low on Friday, rumors are already circulating that Joss Whedon's perpetually-troubled Dollhouse is in real danger of being canceled very early into its second season. But would that be the right choice for the network?

Only two episodes in, the Dollverse fansite is already reporting that the new season is in trouble:

Dollhouse is at real, serious risk of being pulled off air within the next few weeks due to low ratings. I have my own thoughts about the low ratings – I don't think they're down to the show but due to other factors – but the problem is it doesn't matter what I think. What matters is the numbers are way down on the networks projections. As a result, I've heard from multiple people over the weekend the show may get pulled off air. And I don't mean ‘Internet ratings experts'.

How bad are the ratings? Bad enough that the Hollywood Reporter's James Hibbard is describing them as "punch[ing] through it's previous rock bottom Friday night to discover a Fox ratings netherworld":

The show dropped 20% from last week's premiere, which was already an all-time-low for the show. I'm betting the debut of Syfy's "Stargate: Universe" zapped some viewers (cable ratings aren't available yet), but even so — this is too low for a Fox show.

More worrying, TV By The Numbers compared the profitability of the series with a possible replacement - reruns of medical drama House - and found them wanting:

The simple conclusion based on the assumptions of this model is House reruns are more profitable, even when baking in the ancillary revenue streams that exist for Dollhouse that do not exist for a House rerun. House reruns are more profitable assuming at least a 1.2 rating, even if Dollhouse has ancillary revenue and even if it only costs $650,000 per episode. If Dollhouse costs a million per episode, rather than $650,000, the House rerun is a lot more profitable.

With this sort of information available, combined with the perception that the show is once again in ratings freefall, it's no wonder that rumors have an early retirement for the show being planned, especially when many critics are echoing the thoughts of TV Guide Magazine's Matt Roush:

I know the loyal Whedon-ites will blame Fox for whatever doomsday scenario may occur, but I find the show to be at least as much at fault as the regrettable scheduling. While I find the premise provocative, I can't say the first episodes of this season have blown me away. It's not jelling for me, and besides ginormous plot holes I find hard to shrug off — I liked the twist that Ballard was the client in the season opener, but how was the target manipulated to fall in love and marry Echo, that sort of thing — it's all coming off so far as dismayingly flat, with wildly uneven performances. I know I should care about the implications of Topher being able to manipulate the Actives on a "glandular" basis, but it's hard when you feel so little for the actual Actives. (When the best work so far has been turned in by Amy Acker, who sadly isn't even a series regular, it's not a great sign.) Anyone who's read me for any length of time knows it pains me to be this critical of anything coming from the Whedon camp, and I'm still hoping some of the upcoming episodes (if they are allowed to air) will come closer to hitting the mark as several did toward the end of the first season (though none so audaciously as "Epitaph One"). I'm certainly not encouraging Fox to "put a fork" in it, given the investment so far. But I am disappointed, discouraged and not terribly hopeful.

The question may be, if Fox ends Dollhouse now, how many people will have a Firefly-esque reaction, and how many will view it as a mercy killing?