Betsy Speicher

Dollhouse (2009)

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14 posts in this topic

I really like this show. It reminds me of a more intricate Stepford Wives.

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I try very hard not to miss Dollhouse, so it has me racing home on Fridays.

Unlike other shows situated on apparently similar premises (Christian Slater's recent bust comes to mind), the creator's (Joss Whedon's) very fertile imagination is evident. The look-and-feel of the show, while beautiful, isn't typical Whedon though, and judging from what I read online, he may have made some compromises in order to get the show produced. So, some "mainstreaming" - or what I think is "mainstreaming" - leaks out here and there.

Still, the final product is quite good. So far, I can see several interwoven threads: one, a murder mystery; another, a classic knight-trying-to-save-damsel-in-distress story; yet another is a running commentary on the nature of free-will. These threads, and potentially others if the show stays on air, are the background for missions which Dushku's character (an "active" named Echo) is sent out to execute.

Your interest in the action and suspense of particular missions may vary; but, overall, they have been more philosophical than Whedon's previous stories, and I think this is the main draw of the show. One interesting question that, I think, has been raised is: Does man's right to exercise his free-will include the right to surrender his free-will?

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I've been watching Dollhouse and I'm not sure yet how I'd rate it. The basic premise - of people who apparently choose to sign up for 5 years of well paid total suppression of their personalities so that they can be imbued with false personas for a wide variety of purposes often including sex - is very disturbing.

I've watched Whedon's Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog which is well done and very funny in places (given the very hasty context in which it was created) but also disturbing.

Why disturbing? One can induce from these two productions that Whedon is moving away from shows with pretty clear-cut good guys and bad guys (e.g. Firefly) to ones with no real heroes - just bad guys with shades of gray. In Dr. Horrible, the "good guy", played by Nathan Fillion (the captain in Firefly), is a total creep. The villain (aka Dr. Horrible) starts out being pathetic but funny in an almost good natured way, and ends up being a real villain with the "hero" completely disgraced. In Dollhouse, the ones running the "house" are not really portrayed as villains but their entire job - programming the "dolls" with new personas for new jobs - is actually villainous. And the dolls themselves apparently voluntarily signed up to be these puppets for 5 years, which is very bad. However, the unique premise is what makes the show somewhat interesting, including internal questioning about the actual goodness of the operation. However, that doesn't really make up for the implicit portrayal of the dollhouse keepers as just "smart people doing their job".

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I confess I'm a huge Whedon fan, so I keep watching this show despite how frustrating it is. Watch a couple episodes of Dollhouse than any 10 minutes of Buffy, Firefly, or Angel -- and there's just no comparison. Is there some plan in motion for a big change in the show? I hope, but I'm losing hope with every episode. As a fan of Whedon, I reserve the right to reserve judgement on the show, but I really really really hope things change soon.

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I watched a couple episodes on Hulu today. It's interesting. They started with episode 4 though, so I think I missed some important material about the project. In one of the shows I watched, they mentioned that it was voluntary, but I have no idea why anyone would volunteer to be a "doll". So strange.

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I'm liking the show so far. Maybe I need to give Buffy a 2nd try. I couldn't get passed the so-so production of the 1st episode.

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*POSSIBLE SPOILER FOR THE SEASON FINALE*

I heard that in the season finale, when the main character wants to die, she is roused back to wanting to live when she learns that Barack Obama is President. Is there any truth to this?

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*POSSIBLE SPOILER FOR THE SEASON FINALE*

I heard that in the season finale, when the main character wants to die, she is roused back to wanting to live when she learns that Barack Obama is President. Is there any truth to this?

It would not suprise me. In the trailer for the untelevised 13th episode, someone says something to the effect: "Don't move or I'll blow you back to the Bush years!" I nearly rolled my eyes one-hundred and eighty degrees.

Joss Whedon is certainly a democrat, as well as an exestentialist and feminist (hence, 90 lbf girls beating up men twice/three times their size); but, despite this he manages to make excellent television.

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I'm liking the show so far. Maybe I need to give Buffy a 2nd try. I couldn't get passed the so-so production of the 1st episode.
psst: Joss -- Everybody else, go about your business -- Yes, you need to give Buffy a 2nd try. If you didn't get past the first episode, you haven't seen the show. The first season was overall entertaining, funny, a great setup for the 7-season show. But it took a while for Whedon and company to reach the level of brilliance they achieved, to get in their stride, to set up and deliver the long story arcs, deep character development, humor, pathos, and heroism for which that show is deservedly famous. You're missing out if you don't see it.

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I really cannot get through the first season episodes. Everything is bad in the 2 episodes I tried to watch - I couldn't finish them. Which season should I start with?

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Looks like Dollhouse is canceled:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dollhouse_%28TV_series%29

The second season premiered on September 25, 2009. After four episodes, the show was put on hiatus in the United States during November 2009, but was scheduled to return in December with back-to-back double episodes. Fox officially cancelled the series on November 11, 2009 during production of the 11th episode but will air all thirteen episodes that were ordered.

(...)

On November 11, 2009, The Hollywood Reporter announced that the show had been cancelled. Fox passed on ordering more episodes of the show; however, Fox will air the rest of the 13-episode order. After airing the back-to-back episodes in December 2009, the final three episodes will air during January 2010, with the final episode airing January 22, 2010.

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Not surprised. I expected it to be cancelled after the first season. Out of all the episodes, maybe 2-3 were worth watching. The rest effectively just had the same plot, repeated. I also dislike most of Dushku's characters. It felt like this was all written by a 14yo girl in a basement dreaming about being cool without having to do anything to deserve it. And do we really need another "Earth breaks down", Armageddon scenario (especially another caused by a variation of the Rage virus that turns all into zombies)?

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Yeah, it's sad, but, this is the first time I actually agree with the studio 'suits'.

The whole premise was flawed from the outset: How can you care about a lead character whose fundamental character changes every week, who 'has no soul,' in a real sense? In the middle of the first season, we were given a glimpse of who she had been before and it turned out she was a brainless emotionalist twit; a PETA person freeing lab animals with no actual understanding of what the scientists who were using them were doing. Toward the end of the 1st season, the writers made a serious attempt to address the problem by giving Echo memory of her previous incarnations.

The 2nd season started off pushing this line to graft on an enduring character and also started putting strain on the Dollhouse staff and infrastructure to add complexity to the simple-minded rent-a-date paradigm. It was getting stronger, the story arcs were getting longer, and I'm confident, knowing how talented Joss is, that, given a 3rd season, he would have muscled it into a compelling show. But giving his lead actress Dushku's superficial concept such expensive treatment without really considering the trap it represented has mostly just undercut Whedon's perceived bankability and will make it harder for him to bankroll a worthy project in the future. As a fan, that concerns me. The future of this show doesn't(*).

(*) except that a family member works on it and I'm sorry that this puts him out of a good gig.

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