My Thoughts on Dollhouse

I didn’t love it. I hope to. Maybe I will in time.

I have always loved Joss Whedon’s work. I’ll watch, or read, or listen to, anything he does. He’s a smart man, a funny man, and a master storyteller man.

I also really like Eliza Dushku. Not only is she a hotty, she’s brainy, and she’s a very talented actress who’s been underused over the years.

But Dollhouse. To be bluntly honest about it, if last night’s episode were exactly the same but not a Joss Whedon creation, I can’t say for sure I’d watch again next week.

The setup — Dusku and others are “Actives,” agents for a secret organization whose personalities have been wiped and are replaced in full by other people’s personalities when sent out on various missions-for-hire — is intriguing. On the meta level, it’s an interesting metaphor for the life of an actor, who (if they’re actually a good actor) goes from personality to personality for different jobs. I can see where Joss thinks he can use the structure to explore issues of identity, what it means, how we interact, how we use each other…thematically, it has a lot of potential.

To me, its great weakness (aside from the fact that it’s on Fox, and their meddling in the show is already as obtrusively obvious as a bumper sticker stuck in the middle of the screen) is that the setup might lend itself overmuch to Dollhouse being an anthology show of a sort, each episode a different kind of story that’s disconnected from the greater story arc, and Echo and the other Actives carrying the series on the weight of ever-shifting personalities. How much, week to week, can Joss make us care about the Actives, who are rarely consistently anyone, and when they are, they’re pliable dullards wandering around a pretty room?

So far, I’m moderately interested in the characters, but I don’t care about them at all.

The first half hour was burdened with exposition, which is to be expected in a pilot, but it also reeked of Fox’s network style. The motorcycle chase was ludicrous and boring, the sexy dancing was obvious (if not, truthfully, unwelcome), and the storytelling was patchy. I suspect the original pilot Joss wrote was superior, and the Fox execs wanted him to “cut to the chase” and “add the sexy,” and forced him to build a Jenga tower with some pieces made of pudding. Unfortunately, the Fox execs aren’t going anywhere, they’ll still be making demands as the show develops, and most of the demands will likely be stupid.

Al the same, it is a Joss Whedon show, so I’m here for the duration, unless it turns really bad. I do think it’ll improve, and I hope that Joss’s intentions play out effectively. There’s potential for all sorts of action and emotion and exploration of human existence and relationships, and I’m sure Joss has lots of twisty ideas to surprise us with. Here’s hoping it all gets really good.

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One comment on “My Thoughts on Dollhouse

  1. […] my reactions to Joss Whedon’s new show Dollhouse (here, here, and here) you know I was luke-warm toward it at first, then really annoyed with it, then after seeing episodes 6 and 7, I really started to like […]

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