Fox Pulls the Plug on Joss Whedon’s ‘Dollhouse,’ but Viral Marketing Teases Fans

Chalk up another short-lived series on the Fox Network for envelope-pushing producer and writer Joss Whedon, whose ideas for monetizing Internet programming were featured in a Knowledge at Wharton interview in February.

Fox announced yesterday that it would cancel Whedon’s series, “Dollhouse,” a science fiction thriller, because of falling viewership. His previous Fox series, “Firefly,” also science fiction, was dropped after 11 episodes in 2002. But “Firefly” got a second life as a feature film, “Serenity,” in 2005.

Now, Whedon’s cult-like followers are spotting what appears to be a viral marketing campaign for something new from the mind of Whedon, perhaps an online game (known as an ‘alternate reality game’ or ARG) based on the series. The campaign was first reported on Tuesday, a day before the cancellation announcement, by two web sites: io9, which is widely read by science fiction fans and ARGNet, which caters to the interests of ARG players. Web sites for a fictional corporation that plays a central role in the “Dollhouse” series are part of the campaign.

Whedon is no stranger to cross-media production. Dark Horse Comics will publish a comic book based on Whedon’s online musical comedy series, “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.” As Whedon said in the Knowledge at Wharton interview: “I’m not terribly interested in repurposing things I’ve already done. Obviously, I made a TV show out of one of my movies and a movie out of one of my TV shows, so it sounds like a crazy thing to say — except that I didn’t tell the same story in either of them. I just took the story I had further.”

More from Knowledge at Wharton:

Joss Whedon’s Plan to Monetize Internet Content (Watch Out, Hollywood)

The Movies Meet Web 2.0: Lance Weiler on the New Economic Model for Independent Cinema