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Dollhouse — Episode 1.1 ‘Ghost’

Friday, February 13, 2009


Joss Whedon premiered his new series tonight, Dollhouse. Am I impressed? Maybe.

The plot: a house full of 5 “actives” – beautiful and fit young thangs who can be implanted with whatever personality some rich guy or gal might  need. I would have called it “MKUltra Hookers”, but that’s just me.


I did like it . . . I think. I’m not sure. It’s too early to tell.

What I think I liked:

The writing. Whedon’s dialogue is usually good. It seems natural, somehow, when other TV shows sound like TV. This episode wasn’t a stellar example of his writing, but I’m going to chalk that up to it being the pilot. Remember the first Buffy episode? Oh wait, it was kind of good. The line about how cleaning a slate doesn’t work was bad. It was the second line of the episode, but it got mostly better from there.

The cast. Amy Acker is back from Whedon’s repertoire of actors, and I look forward to appearances by most of his other favourites. Eliza Dushku does a good job looking pretty and pretending she can drive a motorcycle, and her acting isn’t as awful as I expected. Although I think the plot requirement of her acting like someone acting like someone else is going to start to hurt. The “Where are my glasses?” line made me shudder.

What I didn’t like:

The overall feeling. The episode comes off like a cross between the Michael Bay classic The Island and an episode of Dark Angel. I’m really hoping it will hit its stride, even though people are jumping the gun on it being cancelled. Whedon rewrote and reshot the pilot, saying the tone was off. He also claims it was his idea and not Fox’s. People are already worried, but I have faith. (Ha ha, get it nerds?)

Security issues with the set design. This might be getting picky, but they sleep in the floor of the main lobby. Isn’t there a better place? They do yoga on top of where they sleep? Don’t they have an extra room somewhere? Why is the door to the secret creepy muscle fixing room open? Can’t they afford blinds to keep the curiosity inducing flickering blue light from being seen? Don’t their doors have locks? These people have the money to reprogram people’s memories, but no common sense.

Memory vision. Normally I’m all over these kinds of effects. When the camera is really low, running through the bushes so you feel like the dinosaur who’s going to eat that guy? Brilliant. Weird fuzziness because someone is remembering something? Not so cool.

Eliza Dushku wearing that super short dress. I know I’ll have some contention on this, but seriously. It was like a shirt. Do you pay extra for that? I was all happy they showed a strong female role model on a motorcycle! And then they go and have her change out of her leathers into that… dress… and dance like a maniac. Whatever.

So far I’m on board. I did get a nice fuzzy feeling when I saw the Mutant Enemy logo at the end. Let’s see what happens next week!

8 Comments leave one →
  1. James17930 permalink
    Tuesday, February 17, 2009 11:47 am

    As for the dress — that’s just the way they wear them now (trust me — come clubbing in Taipei and you’ll see). I say, get onboard!

    I had the same sort of qualms at the beginning that you did, but by the end I was feeling it. They left plenty to play around with later, such as: the FBI guy; Amy Acker’s face; Alpha; Echo/Caroline’s real past. Pretty good for a pilot, I’d have to say. Actually, maybe too much for a pilot.

    Although, yeah — Eliza is not really the one who should be leading this show. She doesn’t really have the chops. Maybe she’ll grow into it.

    You say people are worried already . . . whom and what are they saying? Because I would have to believe that after what happened with Firely, Joss would have insisted he get a full season’s commitment from the network before even going ahead with it. And I see on Wikipedia that he got a 13 episode commitment. So I guess the question is, then, does it come back next season. Also, don’t read the Wikipedia article — there are spoilers for what’s coming up next. Although, one thing I can tell you, is that Joss has already apparently mapped out the show for five years. Talk about planning ahead.

    Oh, and one final thing — why is the nerdy ‘wiper’ guy not being played by Tom Lenk, but instead a Tom Lenk wannabe look-alike? Tsk.

    Also, Tom Lenk is now 32 . . . you believe that?

  2. tgjkennedy permalink
    Tuesday, February 17, 2009 12:48 pm

    Tom Lenk is 32? Whoa. Yeah, it is a bit weird. But that guy has a sinister vibe that Tom Lenk is too goofy to pull off I think.

    I do hope Eliza will grow into it. Did you ever see her on Tru Calling? Her acting was pretty good, although the show itself was really pretty weird/bad.

  3. tgjkennedy permalink
    Tuesday, February 17, 2009 5:18 pm

    Also check out this:

  4. James17930 permalink
    Tuesday, February 17, 2009 9:31 pm

    Can’t say I’m overly happy with this comment:

    “Yeah, I agree with the network: you need a show that doesn’t have so much mythology that you can’t get into it. We tried to make each episode a little bit like a pilot—without repeating ourselves—showing who everyone is, how the system of the dollhouse works, and what [Eliza’s character] Echo’s going through. Because for me, it’s a real problem. If I’ve missed something, I come in and people are talking about something I haven’t seen, it’s very frustrating. But at the same time, one of the great joys of a show is watching people grow and change, progress and conflict. So you have to strike a balance between them.”

    Feels like it’s taking some of the creative bite of what a show could be like (I that puts Buffy and Angel into a sort of ‘golden age’ of making shows that we’re never going to get back too, simply because of ‘network concerns.’ Suck).

    BTW — are you planning on doing this every week?

  5. tgjkennedy permalink
    Thursday, February 19, 2009 2:13 am

    Possibly… we could take turns if you want. I’ve wanted to do some show reviews for a while since it’s the only thing I actually can stick to a schedule for…

    I’m away the next two weeks though. :) So be my guest, or I’ll catch up when I get back.

  6. James17930 permalink
    Thursday, February 19, 2009 11:24 am

    Well, I think a new archive is in order then.

    I love creating archives!

  7. Sunday, February 22, 2009 12:04 am

    Just watched it; I’m not as keen as you two, but I’m going to give it one more episode to grab me. I might not have given it that, but that final little “video memories” scene, plus the FBI character played by Helo, persuaded me to give’er a chance.

    My biggest concern is also, it seems, yours: that Eliza Dushku — I don’t know much about her, but I don’t get the impression that she has much range. A role that forces her to take on new personalities each week isn’t a good fit — it’ll feel like costume changes more than mind swaps, methinks.

    I also didn’t like the Whedonesquenessiousity of it — I thought his little Whedony lines were all clunkers, or at least stuck-out sore thumbs. But it could improve in time — I do think he’s a good writer capable of good line-y lines, I liked Firefly and his run on X-Men.

    But I don’t think you’ve got reason to fear the end of a “golden age” of hyper-serialized, continuity-heavy TV, James. Remember, one of the most successful and also best shows on right now is Lost, and jumping into that series anywhere but the pilot would be bonkers. And Lost creator J.J. Abrams started up the (also Fox) show Fringe not that long ago, and it’s pretty continuity-y (or so I’ve heard; that one didn’t earn a second episode out of me). And then there’s every single non-big-three-network series. No, I think this is just a case of the network fearing that Whedon’s original job wasn’t accessible enough, and being painfully aware of how unsuccessful one of his shows could be on their network.

    Anyway, I’d say if there’s any reason that I’m “worried” about Dollhouse, it’s that I don’t find it to be Whedon’s A-game at all. It had a blandness, a pandering, and a derivativeness in its execution, so much so that my aforementioned reasons-for-returning probably wouldn’t be enough if it weren’t for the pedigree behind it. Aside from the concept (which has serious potential, completely untapped in the pilot — though it’s just the pilot, so I can cut it some slack here), this show doesn’t feel like the work of an “auteur.” But I can cut it some slack here, for now.

  8. James17930 permalink
    Sunday, February 22, 2009 12:32 am

    Well, that’s the thing with him — he does seem to require a bit of time to get going. The first seasons of both Buffy and Angel, overall, are fairly bad, aside from some cool moments here and there. It’s in the second seasons that both those shows really took off creatively. That’s why I’m hope Fox lets him get that far with Dollhosue, because, to be honest, I’m not expecting much at all out of these first 13 episodes.

    In some good news, the ratings for this episodes were apparently pretty decent, so things may not be as dire as everyone’s predicting.

    Of course, I guess it remains to be seen how many viewers returned for week two.

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