The 5 Stages Of Fan Grief

Wednesday's announcement of Dollhouse's cancellation came as no surprise to most, but that doesn't mean that we're not here to help those for whom the news means emotional turmoil. Let us walk you to happiness, one step at a time.

Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, in her 1969 book On Death and Dying, introduced the concept of the Five Stages of Grief to help those dealing with personal tragedy get through it as easily as possible. We've discovered that those Five Stages are almost applicable to less serious emotional issues, such as the cancellation of a favorite television show. As The Aristocats' Thomas O'Malley once said, let me elucidate here:

1: Denial
How many times did fans deny Dollhouse's falling ratings, or tell themselves that miracles could happen despite a tiny audience and uneven quality - A self-delusion not helped by the series getting a second season in the first place, admittedly - and everything could turn out okay ("Look what happens when you add in the time-shifted audience!")? The writing may have been on the metaphorical cancellation wall for sometime, but that doesn't mean that plenty of people were pretending that they couldn't read when they saw it.

2: Anger
As those who've survived the loss of Firefly should remember, the cancellation of Dollhouse will have one clear effect on fans: Blaming Fox. Never mind that they gave the show two seasons with a promise to show the complete second season despite reruns of House getting more viewers and making them more money in the same timeslot, Fox will very clearly be the bad guy in the fan version of this story; as Preston Beckman, Fox's VP of strategic programming told Broadcast & Cable, "I'll still get hate mail and death threats." But why stop there? There's lots of mad to go around: Why not get mad at Joss for going back to Fox after the clusterfuck that was Firefly (By which I mean, the way Fox treated it, not the show itself. I'm not pissing off those River Tam fans)? Or at the rest of America who, quite clearly, didn't see the entertainment value in a morally-ambiguous show about brainwashed slaves even with the amount of gratuitous T'n'A thrown in? Or Smallville for somehow managing to build on its ratings on a Friday night even in its ninth season? Or Ghost Whisperer just for existing in the first place? There's a lot of mad in there. Just let it out. You'll fell better afterwards.

3: Bargaining
We'll throw this one over to Syfy's senior VP of digital Craig Engler's Twitter stream from Thursday November 12th to illustrate this point for us:

Whenever some other network cancels a sci-fi show, I've noticed a distinct trends in the type of tweets I receive about it: 80% Polite: Could you please pick up X show? I think it'd be a great fit with your network! 8% Analytic: X shows has more viewers than your show Y so why wouldn't you pick it up! 5% Bribe: I'll star watching/will watch more of your network if you pick up X show! 4% Less Polite: Why don't you pick up X show? It's better than any of the crap you air! 3% Blame: You suck for canceling X show and/or not picking it up from another network! (OFTEN SENT IN ALL CAPS!!!!!)

I think you get where we're coming from here.

(And in case you were wondering, Craig directly addressed Dollhouse later that day:

Leaving aside viewership, the biggest issues are, we simply can't afford network budgets and no one has even offered it to us AFAIK. Then you have to consider, it had much more exposure on Fox than it would ever get on Syfy, but the audience never quite materialized. We'd of course LOVE to do a project with Joss Whedon for Syfy that was affordable. Overall we're big fans of his work... If we could hold [the audience size from the Fox airings] (doubtful), it *could* be a good number if the budget were remotely in our ballpark.

So now you know.)

4: Depression
What's the point in watching any new shows? Won't they all run into network interference issues (V) or get canceled early (Eastwick, but, really, does anyone care that much about Eastwick?), like Dollhouse? Isn't Fringe also supposed to be having cancellation woes - and it's on Fox! If Joss Whedon can't make television work, what chance does anyone else have? We understand that it can be hard to believe in the healing power of television at a time like this, but think of it like this: Sometimes early cancellation can be a good thing. Imagine a world without Angel Starbuck or Deanna Troi being turned into a cake in Data's dream, and suddenly your silver lining has been found.

5: Acceptance
Yeah, okay, this is the one that - for some fans - may never happen. Fandom in all its forms knows how to hold grudges, and if Firefly has taught us anything, it's that fandom never forgets. Now that Fox has killed two Joss Whedon shows (and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, for that matter), there's going to be an element of fandom that will never be able to trust the network again, never believing that Fox had good reasons to keep us from the full run-up to "Epitaph One."

Of course, identifying all the stages doesn't mean that you should rush through them, especially when there are nine episodes still to air, and an ARG still to decipher. We're not saying that you should hold onto your sadness until mid-January, of course... but if you want to, we're going to be here for you no matter what. And possibly going through exactly the same thing.

The 5 Stages Of Fan Grief