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9th March
2009
written by Steph
Welcome to the Dollhouse...

Welcome to the Dollhouse...

In a real time conversation with me, it only takes about 40 minutes or so before I am likely to reveal my unabashed love for the tv show Buffy the Vampire Slayer (well, 40 minutes if you’re lucky).  It may not be on the air anymore, but it still ranks up there on my list of all-time favorite shows.  Seriously, one of my best friends and I bonded in highschool orchestra over our mutual love of the show, and our appreciation for it was even known by our Physics teacher (who ruined the ending to the season 5 finale for us, which we had not seen because of our attendance at the aforementioned orchestra practice which our unfeeling conductor ran opposite Buffy.  Mr Bell, you are still not forgiven for not yelling out “Spoiler Alert!” in class that day.) and we would routinely play “the quote game” which is far too geeky and involved for me to get into the rules here.  Suffice it to say we were those hardcore Buffyphiles you’ve heard rumors of on the internet.  We had board games, people! Anyway, given my fervent love of Buffy, I tend to track most Joss Whedon projects with interest (though truth be told, I didn’t really care for Angel, especially not once BtVS went off the air, and I still to this day have not seen a single episode of Firefly… but Tony & I did watch the first 2 out of 3 webisodes of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along when that was kicking about the net!).  I have this theory (it could be bunnies… bonus points if you get the reference) that no matter how über creative a writer and television creator is, none of them can sustain more than one show at a given time.  This is why BtVS began to suffer when Angel began airing, and Angel began suffering when Firefly (briefly) was on the air (For other examples, see: Abrams, J.J. and the travesty that was Felicity upon the inception of Alias, and the downward spiral of the latter when Lost showed up, and… well, to be honest, I just don’t know what his excuse is for Lost.  Good first season, ).  In order to pick up the reins on a new show, you have to let some slack arise in those of your current show, and I am pretty confident that without fail, the veteran show always suffers.  But Dollhouse is the first tv show Joss has had on the air in years, and he’s not really working on anything else, so it was looking promising that this show would be good. Only… is anyone else watching this show besides Tony, myself, and my friend Sarah.  I can’t say I blame you if you’re not.  If Tony were not such a good boyfriend, the audience for this show would probably just be me and Sarah, and that’s mainly because - respect for Joss aside - our tolerance for middling television is quite a bit higher. The basic premise of the show is that in this alternate reality of our present day, there exists the ability to wipe people’s minds and imprint new personalities upon them.  The Dollhouse makes use of this technology to essentially create living dolls – men and women who will be and do whatever you want them to.  You can hire one of the dolls out for a date, but as we see in the first episode, they can also be pretty helpful in negotiating the safe return of hostages, or even pass as bodyguards cum backup singers for the latest pop diva.   In a way, the show is kind of like Alias, only with even less credibly science, as Eliza Dushku gets to try on a different persona each week as Echo, kind like Jennifer Garner did as Sydney Bristow.  But the big difference here is that Garner can actually act, and it is looking less and less like the same can be said for Dushku. I don’t know what to say about the acting other than that it is bizarrely terrible.  Bizarre because I thought Dushku did a great job on BtVS in her turn as Faith, and I thought she was fine in the cheerleading flick Bring It On (not that it called for impressive acting chops, but still!).  But on Dollhouse?  Not so much.  She is perhaps most convincing when she is playing blank-slate Echo, and pretty cringe-inducing when she plays any other personality.  Let’s hope the sets aren’t infested with termites because the girl is wooden.  To be fair, she isn’t the only one who blows, as the British-y head honcho lady, her glowering second in command, and the science-ish tech guy (Topher, I believe his name is), aren’t doing the show any favors either.  I suppose this is the problem when you cast your show almost entirely with unknowns… break-outs can happen (and not just of the zit variety), but these people are probably unknown for a reason. Also, it bears mentioning that the underwhelming experience of watching Dollhouse is likely influenced by the fact that the production qualities on it are crazy low, and the sets and the filming come across like this would be more at home on the Sci-Fi channel, rather than a major network (even if it is Fox).
What the fug?

What the fug?

The sets look really cheap, and words cannot describe how bad the wardrobe is, so I will just direct your attention to the picture of the girl on the right (who plays a woman who is in love with her neighbor who is a cop investigating the existence of the Dollhouse).  I’m sorry, but what the hell is she wearing?  Why is she dressed like this is 1994? And the writing.  Oy.  Normally Whedon penned shows are notable for their snappy and witty dialogue, but here the writing seems forced (this might be due to the bad acting) and lackluster.  The stories progress well over the course of the hour, but the way the characters interact with one another is really embarrassing. The only thing that makes this show recognizable as a Joss Whedon show are the plot twists that show up in each episode, as well as the very definitive and compelling story arc that will likely span the rest of this season (back in the history of the Dollhouse, a rogue doll named Alpha (perhaps the first one created?) escaped the Dollhouse only to return and slaughter a bunch of dolls and their handlers (people in charge of protecting each doll) before making a break for it once more.  Apparently a bunch of imprinted personalities were not fully erased and emerged at once and this caused Alpha to behave as violently as he did.  And what do you know, Echo has been showing signs of retaining elements of the various personalities she’s imprinted with, even after a memory wipe…).  It is for this overarching plot alone that I keep watching.  I want to know about Alpha, and I want to see what happens with Echo… but to be honest, I’m not sure how much longer these questions will motivate me to keep watching. What about you?  Are you watching this show?  If so, what do you think?

7 Comments

  1. 03/09/2009

    Not watching it. But oh, how I loved Buffy!

  2. 03/09/2009

    I am wondering if by continuing to watch Dollhouse I will somehow tarnish my memories of Buffy. Because every week I wonder more and more about Joss Whedon’s talents, and not in a good way.

    Buffy for the win!

  3. Laura
    03/09/2009

    sounds not so good. my advice – watch Firefly. Elspeth got me hooked on it in Japan. So awesome. I’m actually going to watch Nathan Fillion’s new show tonight just because of Firefly.

  4. 03/09/2009

    I was OBSESSED with BtVS. Then, to replace BtVS, I went to Charmed. Obsessed over that show so much that I had to break up with it. Every episode was making me cry, and I didn’t think I should be so emotionally involved in a show.

    Anyway, I loved Dr. Horrible, liked Angel enough to watch it, and had high hopes for Dollhouse. I don’t know that I like it, but I don’t know that I dislike it. I’ve seen the second episode and have been meaning to get back and watch it on Hulu…but it just didn’t grab me.

  5. 03/09/2009

    @ Laura: But I find Nathan Fillion kind of creepy because he was on the seventh season of Buffy (after Firefly got canceled, maybe?) and played this terrible guy who actually poked out someone’s eyes with his thumbs! Aieee! But yes, everyone says Firefly is so good, so probably someday we will watch it… but for now I will just be tortured by the eyeball memory.
     
    @Trish: Never got into Charmed, but I was very emotionally invested in Buffy. I cried countless tears over the various episodes, and still feel a little bereft that it’s not still on the air. I don’t hate Dollhouse, but I feel like it comes nowhere near the quality of Buffy, and that makes me sad. Still, it has enough of a hook that I keep watching the episodes online (but would probably not make the time to watch them in real time, otherwise).

  6. 03/10/2009

    The only Whedon series I have ever watched was Firefly. I really enjoyed it and thought he did some really interesting thing with those shows. Someone recently mentioned Dollhouse to me but hadn’t yet gotten a chance to watch. I do think the premise is really intriguing, but it sounds like it’s not really executed very well. I will probably end up passing on this one.

  7. 03/11/2009

    I think the thing about Whedon is that he’s a really smart, clever, witty guy who’s incredibly talented and creative. Normally the episodes he wrote on Buffy you could spot a mile away because even when the show was at its apex, his eps were always the best. So I don’t know if he’s not actually writing the episodes of Dollhouse (so much as writing the overarching plot), or he just didn’t get involved with casting, but Dollhouse is just not of the stellar quality you’d expect. I can’t be too hard on the budget because there’s only so much you can do in a weekly serial, but at the same time, why is it that everything about the sets and the outfits remind me of the Angel TV series, and that was last on the air like, 4 years ago?

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