Scribe wends his way out of deal at 20th TV
By MICHAEL SCHNEIDER
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" creator Joss Whedon is done with TV -- for now. Twentieth Century Fox TV has approved Whedon's request to halt his overall deal at the studio, effectively shuttering his Mutant Enemy production shingle.
Besides wanting to focus on his feature career, Whedon said he decided to take a break from TV because, quite simply, he had run out of series ideas.
"I spent a lot of time trying to think what my next series would be," Whedon said. "I couldn't think of anything. When that happens, it generally means something is just not working. I didn't feel like I could come up with anything that the networks would want."
Whedon had a little over a year left on his overall pact with 20th Century Fox TV. Under terms of his departure, the scribe can't work on TV projects anywhere else. And if Whedon decides to return to TV, 20th gets first dibs.
"It would be a lie to say that I'm not disappointed, because I will miss working with Joss," said 20th Century Fox TV prexy Dana Walden.
"Hopefully, sooner rather than later, he'll have an inspired TV idea that he can't help himself from doing. ... We're just glad that when he decides to do TV again, it will be with us."
The departure doesn't affect Whedon's film career; the scribe is not set up anywhere on the feature side.
Whedon currently is writing and directing the feature "Serenity," based on his short-lived Fox skein "Firefly." He also has an animated TV version of "Buffy" in the works; that project will continue to be developed.
Mutant Enemy is expected to close shop as soon as this week; departing are the label's handful of staffers, including company president Chris Buchanan, who's been with Mutant Enemy since 2002 and is exec producing "Serenity."
"My career has always gone through phases of swelling and shrinking," Whedon said. "It's just a different phase, but this is hopefully not the end of my TV career. There are a lot of people I won't be working with that I will miss."
Mutant Enemy will continue with Whedon as the sole proprietor.
Whedon's decision caught some insiders off-guard. Given 20th's tremendous success with "Buffy" and its spinoff, "Angel," Whedon has more than earned his keep at the studio. So it's conceivable he could have finished out his deal at 20th without developing anything new -- and without anyone at the studio minding.
But Whedon dismissed that idea.
"It's possible, but I'm not interested in taking money that I don't earn," he said. "And I found out from 'Firefly' that I'm not the kind of producer who can throw something up on the wall every year and see if it sticks."
Whedon said his decision also was helped by personal matters: His second child is due to be born shortly. And, Whedon admits, he's discouraged by TV's reality boom.
"I have a bitter taste in my mouth with where TV has gone in the past five years," said Whedon, who called TV's reality trend "loathsome."
Whedon got his start on laffers like "Roseanne" and "Parenthood" before turning his attention to features. Scribe's credits include "Speed" and "Toy Story," as well as the original film version of "Buffy."
"When we did the pilot of 'Buffy,' Joss' agent told us he'd be with the show for the first 13 episodes and then go back to his feature career," Walden said. "Given that we're hundreds of episodes of TV shows later, he's finally turning back to features. It would be unfair of me not to understand."
Original URL: http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117912408?categoryid=14&cs=1