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From Dollhouse To Charnel House

In case you’ve been living under a rock somewhere, the premier of Joss Whedon’s much anticipated new series, Dollhouse, occurred this past Friday night. After months of hype, studio issues and re-shoots, is Dollhouse set to take the world by storm?

In a word: No.

Now, I’m not a Whedon fanboy. I’ve never seen any Buffy or Angel episodes, but I was hooked on Firefly from the very first time I saw it (on DVD, not during its run on Fox). I didn’t get the excitement or interest level from Dollhouse that I did from Firefly. Maybe it’s because I love space-based SF (especially on TV) than I do current or near future SF. However, I do like the idea behind Dollhouse, but the execution left a lot to be desired.

I was expecting the same level of wit and by play in the conversations as we get in Firefly. We didn’t get that. I was expecting interesting characters and situations. We didn’t get that. In fact, there is no character at all that I found to be even mildly interesting. I thought Echo was dull and Topher Brink (WTF kind of name is that?) to be insufferable and oily. The rest of the cast was even less engaging, and every time Tamoh Penikett was onscreen, I kept expecting to see him in his flightsuit. Maybe with a bit more backstory to come the characters will become more interesting. Maybe.

I thought the acting was rather sub-par as well. Eliza Dushku just didn’t do anything for me at all with her ‘acting’ abilities. It always seemed that she was trying to act, instead of just acting. And Fran Kanz seemed like he was reciting his lines instead of actually talking to people. The only person I felt did a decent job with his role was Harry Lennix, although his character seems to to be the ‘conscience of the corporation’.

Even the story wasn’t all that exciting. It felt rushed and ham-handed, probably a result of only having an hour to tell the story). Maybe the series will even out as it goes along, but I think we can see why the execs at Fox wanted to work on the show before it aired. Even so, I think this is a mediocre offering. We know Joss can do wonders, just look at Dr. Horrible, but apparently he left the ‘wonder’ part at home.

If you’re a fan of the show, you have to be very concerned about the ratings. Even for being placed in the Friday night ‘death slot’, Dollhouse fared very poorly, being seen by a paltry 4.7 million viewers and with a 2(!) rating in 18-49 year olds, with a 6 share. These are not good numbers. I’d say that without drastic improvement and quick, Dollhouse will be put out of its misery and buried faster than you can say Firefly. I’ll probably give it two more weeks before pulling the plug. After that, it’ll be a poor replacement for Psych as that show ends its latest season. I’m very disappointed by what I saw.

Could it be possible that the execs at Fox actually knew what they were doing by putting Dollhouse on Fridays?

If you haven’t seen it yet, you can watch it below:

About JP Frantz (2323 Articles)
Has nothing interesting to say so in the interest of time, will get on with not saying it.

11 Comments on From Dollhouse To Charnel House

  1. I was underwhelmed as well.  The opening scene was like an amateur screen test and keeping the user in the dark for most of the episode seemed an unwise choice.  When the background became more clear, I was finally able to get somewhat immersed in the kidnapping story.  I’m interested enough to tune in again — giving it a fair chance and all that — but man, the whole setup is odd and un-compelling.

  2. I liked the first episode, but at the same time I reserved a lot of judgment based on the fact that this is just the first episode.  It usually takes me two or three episodes to figure out if a show is worth watching for me (or, if the first episode is really absolutely terrible, then just one).  I think some of its problems stem from it not being as action-packed as fans of Whedon probably hoped.  Dushku doesn’t do a whole lot of fighting in the 1st ep., yet the way the show is set up, she could be doing a heck of a lot of fighting.  I actually reviewed it here, in case anyone is interested.

    I think next week may or may not be the deciding point for me.  I’m incredibly picky about my television shows, to be honest.  There really are only three shows I watch regularly on TV now:  Family Guy, American Dad, and Battlestar Galactica.  Nothing else really grabs me these days.

  3. Its so hard to tell anything in the first few episodes of any show…I do agree they should have focused more on character rather than the kidnapping plot.  They could have introduced us to the main players and “world” without having a “mission” so heavily focused in the show.  It might have worked better if we got a bunch of short vignettes and more character/dialogue. 

    But – it WAS the first show.  I still thought it was OK and (being a Whedon fanboy) am confident if given the chance will grow into something great given the man’s track record.

    Unfortunately I agree with you that with the gnat-like attention span the studios (and viewing audiences) have these days, I’m sure they’ll cancel it inside a month if it doesn’t magically turn into a blockbuster in the next 30 days.

  4. I was underwhelmed, too, but it’s very tough to tell anything from a single episode. And it’s altogether possible that the mediocrity was partly a result of the network’s tinkering. Word is, they did less editing on next week’s episode, which was originally intended as the pilot. I still have serious concerns about the show — notably Dusku, who may not be able to stretch as much as the role demands of her — but there’s enough interesting things and good acting on the sidelines that I’m with the show for the next few weeks at least.

  5. I was somewhat underwhelmed. It felt like the “Train Job” for Firefly, but slightly less polished.  There is potential here, but I am not sure that its ever going to be revealed.

  6. I am a fanboy, but while this certainly fits within the Joss Whedon multiverse of victimized girls becoming empowered women, the show seems like it was handed off to someone else who just didn’t have the knack for whedony dialoge.

    Angel was consistently darker than this first episode of Dollhouse, but it was also much more alive. I’m not prepared to bash any acting yet, but the Joss Banter ™ just isn’t here. Will it come in time?

  7. I tried to watch it but I started to fall asleep. Maybe I was tired, maybe it wasn’t that great. Anyhow, I switched my DVR to Friday Night Lights and all of a sudden I was awake and glued to the TV. But I’ll give Dollhouse a few more episodes to captivate me.

  8. “Word is, they did less editing on next week’s episode, which was originally intended as the pilot.”

    Actually, the original pilot was eventually scrapped altogether. Whedon initially wanted to air it as the 2nd episode, but in the end it won’t be aired at all. Next week’s episode won’t be it.

  9. I thought it strange that the episode # for Ghost was 102 – made me think I’d missed one.  But yet again we see Joss having trouble figuring out how to start a series.  Maybe we just have to acknowledge he can’t figure this part out.  Frankly, I can see the challenge, a pilot has to give you some backstory which takes up time you can’t use for plot, but it also has to give you a good plot to hook you into watching it.

  10. I usually like Whedon’s stuff but I haven’t been able to dredge up much interest in this.

  11. Yes, “underwhelming” is the word.  Even the folks who want to defend the show can only talk about its potential and about how it might be better next time.  Is anyone excited after watching “Ghost”?  I have enough love for Whedon’s other work to tune in again, but I’m not feeling that optimistic.  It is rare to fall in love with a show after only one episode, but a good show will at least make you want to see some more.  I’m not sure Dollhouse has done that.

    On the other hand, I am interested to see how they’ll try to make us care about the Actives.  If an Active has a different personality with a different set of memories and skills every week, with absolutely no psychological continuity, then arguably we’re watching a succession of artificially created persons who are inhabiting the same body.  One of those persons is “Echo,” who seems pretty blank–is maybe something less than a person?–and occupies the body during the spaces between jobs.  Will we see any sign of the person who’s acting as a “body donor” here?  Will Whedon stick to the premise of complete mind-wiping between jobs, or will that premise break down as the show develops?


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