July 22, 2008

Fox Chairman Talks About ‘Virtuality,’ ‘Dollhouse’

LOS ANGELES _ At the Television Critics Association press tour, I spoke to the Fox network's chairman, Peter Liguori, about "Virtuality," the pilot "Battlestar Galactica" executive producer Ron Moore and co-executive producer Michael Taylor are making for Fox. We also talked about "Dollhouse," created by Joss Whedon ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer") and coming to the network midseason.

In addition, we talked about the relative value of the biannual TV critics press tour versus San Diego Comic-Con, which the TV networks are increasingly emphasizing as they promote their fall lineups. San Diego Comic-Con started out as a convention for comic book fans but is now a venue in which TV and film studios market big new movies and shows to fans. Here's an edited version of our talk:

Q: Which is more important, Comic-Con or this (critics convention)?

A: They both have a heck of a lot of importance; it also just depends on your show. If we turn Comic-Con into a very broad convention, frankly Comic-Con is no longer giving status (to the shows that go).

Q: Do you think the shows benefit more from engaging interest at Comic-Con?

A: It's like any TV show, any movie _ what do you do when you screen the movie (for research), you screen it with real aficionados. If you make it with them, you have a chance to spread out (beyond that). With a show like "Dollhouse," we want to make sure the loyalists are really reacting to the show and that does give us a fair amount of momentum. For a show to be successful, you've got to branch out beyond the sci-fi geeks.

Q: What's going on with "Virtuality"? It seems like there's so much positive buzz about it, but that doesn't always translate into a pickup (to series).

A: Yeah, look, this is why you do pilots. Especially, the more ambitious the show, the more important the pilot is _ just being able to do that exercise and figure out, Do we have the characters right, can we (execute) this? Ron Moore, honestly, he's the real deal. ... It's a very ambitious pilot; it's a very ambitious premise. I think we cast it really well.

Q: There's a gay relationship on "Virtuality." Can you talk about that, about things you find interesting about the show?

A: What I think is interesting about it is, it's the first 21st or 22nd century office drama. It's a bunch of people working in a claustrophobic environment, working for a business with a specific mission. ... Plus there's a social commentary; (Moore) does that in "Battlestar" and he has that here. The gay relationship is one part of that.

Q: When it comes to "Dollhouse," do you have time to build that audience?

A: It's the age-old question. Every show is different. ... The thing with Joss, you launch his show and instantly it becomes somebody's favorite show. To me, in this current television environment, if you can be somebody's favorite show, you'd better be patient with that show. ... I know I have certain tools at my disposal for promotional platforms. And you know what, I'd rather know I have a very strong, loyal core that I can build on. That being said, getting out of the gate is important in this environment.


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