Dollhouse

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Three episodes of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" in a row, and my wife and daughter become giddy.  I'm merely amused.  Unless they're really good ones.  At another level, given the entirety of (the wonderful but short-lived) "Firefly," viewed in one healthy dose over a weekend, other TV series seem uninspired and irrelevant.  I'm all in for these two, and thankful for the convenience of DVD's.  (I'll pass on "Angel" though - It wasn't bad; I guess I'm just old-fashioned and prefer my vampires with wood stakes in their chests).

What these shows have in common is their creator, Joss Whedon.  As I generally have low expectations for TV shows, the news that a new Whedon series, "Dollhouse," would debut in February, was, at least, something to look forward to as football season came to an end.

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The show is about Echo (Eliza Dushku), who, in Fox's summary, is "a member of a highly illegal and underground group of individuals who have had their personalities wiped clean so they can be imprinted with any number of new personas.  Hired by the wealthy, powerful and connected, the Actives don't just perform their hired roles, they wholly become -- with mind, personality and physiology -- whomever the client wants or needs them to be."

Cool.

In essence, this gives the writers wide liberties in creating plots from week to week, a necessity for any show that aims to last.  But it also comes with a price.  At only five episodes into its launch, an undertone of pimping and human trafficking creates a curious conflict of interest for the audience.  We want to see Echo succeed in her missions, but despite the moral oughtness that is lacking with her handlers, we don't really wish them ill.  

Also, from the first episode, the stain of entropy was already inserted; Dollhouse is threatened from within and without, and Echo seems destined to resist the full memory wipes.  Even if a little forced at the onset, it's still interesting as a number of straight-forward episodes could have been created before showing the cracks in the foundation.

I've given it enough time, and, unfortunately, the casting remains questionable.  Due to Dusku's previous role as the very unlikable Faith, any "Buffy" fan was unlikely to approach Echo with open arms.  The challenge of varied roles from week to week also brought to mind the question of her range as an actress, as Faith remained nothing but angry, unsympathetic, and unremorseful.  Good news here:  That question has been answered as she has clearly handled all "imprints" astonishingly well and has proven that she can carry the show.

Still, a significant portion of the success of "Buffy" and "Firefly" was the chemistry of the casts.  So far, that is lacking here.  Cases in point are:

Topher Brink - Genius Scientist who has not quite mastered imprinting.  I know a lot of very smart people who are goofy, but even if he were not the show's primary means of comic relief, he's just not credible.

Sierra - An Active.  Okay, she handles the role pretty well.  But in a show named "Dollhouse," she's... not doll material.  Sorry.

Paul Ballard - FBI agent trying to discover Dollhouse.  Tahmoh Penikett had a similar challenge coming to "Dollhouse" as Eliza Dushku.  Unlike her, he's as one dimensional here as he was on "Battlestar Galactica."  Curiously, he's even shot and put into the hospital before the audience has any chance of even caring.  They'll have to flesh out this character or he may take another round.

Laurence Dominic - Chief Security Officer.  Granted he's had little space in the plots to develop, but he seems more likely to advertise a Gillette razor than to be taken as someone who knows the business end of a gun.  He doesn't even warrant a place in the cast photo.

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Four misfires in a recurring cast of 10 doesn't mean that the show won't succeed, but it's likely to make it difficult.  Also, the show doesn't carry the humor or the quirkiness that Whedon's previous series enjoyed, at least so far.  They aren't necessary for a show to be good, but their absence will nevertheless be a test for those who come expecting them.  

I'm hoping that the show does develop a fan base.  Dushku has been amazingly good, and there's already been ample plot lines thrown in to keep this interesting for a good while to come.

And, after sacrificing the initial episodes, in a sense, to lay the groundwork for what the show is about, Whedon let it be known early that we will finally come to see the show he envisioned in the next two episodes.  I'm hoping that they might include a peek into the obvious gap of how they acquire imprints from the dying or the dead. 

In any case, the prospect of "Dollhouse" becoming even better is a good thing, as it's grown steadily in its short span.  Oh, and it's needed to fill the black hole that "Battlestar Galactica" is leaving on Friday Nights.

2 comments :

  1. I remember Eliza Dushku more from Bring It On and Tru Calling than from Angel and Buffy. Although, I must be honest and say that I didn't really watch much of either. As with most TV shows directed at a younger demographic, it got old fast for me and I would only watch it there was nothing else on and I was bored silly. I caught the first and latest episodes of Dollhouse. So far, it looks interesting, but I am not sure if they are going to have enough material to keep the storyline going. I would much rather just read a book or play RS. To me, the show with Christian Slater, also about manipulation of personalities, was much more interesting. Of course, that could be cause he is a hottie and provides much better eye candy than Eliza (for me anyway). *grin*

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  2. Being an avid Whedonist, I admit to being biased toward anything Joss. That being said, I am thoroughly enjoying Dollhouse. It is not as impressive as Firefly yet, but I think that kind of achievement is exceedingly rare for any show's first season, even another Joss creation.

    I wasn't sure about Sierra either at first, but she has an exotic look that is growing on me. I especially liked her wearing those square glasses when she was the #1 fan. Also, I'm hoping some more depth (in the form of humility/maturity) will come to Topher as more problems arise with his imprints.

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