Right on the heels of this weekend's announcement that Dollhouse has been renewed for a second season comes the sadder but slightly less surprising news that The Sarah Connor Chronicles has been canceled. (Also, Chuck gets a third season, but, you know: formula + the geek equivalent of frat humor + half-naked ladies = not a terrifically long shot.)
This is, of course, very upsetting, but unlike Niall I'm not convinced that, if the decision actually did come down to only one of these two shows, the wrong choice was made. It's true, Sarah Connor is the better show (though this says more about Dollhouse's problems than Sarah Connor's strengths), and you don't need to work very hard to read an uncomfortable statement into the fact that the show about scantily clad, brainwashed sex slaves has been renewed while the one about the difficult warrior woman who only takes off her clothes to treat one of her frequent bullet or stab wounds has been axed. But it seems to me that after two seasons, Sarah Connor has had the chance that Dollhouse has now been given to find both its footing and its audience, and has, for the most part, squandered it. Yes, the second season finale was excellent, and raised the possibility of several very interesting future plotlines--John making his way in a future in which his destiny no longer hangs over him, Sarah and Ellison on the run in the present, Savannah Weaver as an intermediary between the two periods--but it did so by razing the structure of the second season to the ground, and in so doing acknowledged how problematic and, frankly, how boring and listless that season was.
Both Dollhouse and Sarah Connor are shows with interesting concepts and deeply flawed executions, but the creative team in charge of Dollhouse has a proven track record of not only producing excellent shows but of producing excellent shows with deeply flawed first seasons. Whereas when the Sarah Connor writers were given the chance to take their show to the next level, they buried it in the mud, getting mired in navel-gazing and drawn-out, poorly plotted storylines that didn't do nearly enough in terms of character development to justify their running time. If you're going to gamble on either one of these shows making the transition into excellence, it seems to me that Dollhouse is clearly the one to go with.
Of course, in an ideal world I'd have liked to see both shows get the chance to improve, as even deeply flawed SF has become a rare commodity on our screens. And really, the true shame isn't that one of these shows was chosen over the other, but that they both have to scramble to survive while Heroes, whose vaunted return to form fizzled into something only slightly less disappointing than its previous two volumes, has got a seemingly endless lease on life.