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Dollhouse Delema

It’s pretty safe to assume, at this point, that those of you who care have already scoped out Joss Whedon’s latest show: Dollhouse. I’m also fairly sure that most of who who have seen the show have come to one conclusion or other about it. My synopsis: great underlying concept executed so poorly it makes Buffy the Vampire Slayer look awesome. And I liked the Buffy movie better than the show. Seriously guys, Dollhouse sucks.

Yet I continue to watch it.

I think this has a lot to do with exactly why it sucks. Ninety percent of the show is one retarded adventure after another that basically goes: someone with too much money on their hands needs a superhottie with no traceable ties to fix whatever’s wrong. Whatever is wrong, is usually retardedly simple and has no need of superhottie action star. Blank girl gets zapped full of personality that is usually vapid and shallow, mission commences, ham-fisted existentialism is had, tits go up, mission ends, superhottie gets zapped back to Blank girl we’re supposed to identify with. Then something ominous happens in the last five minutes to hint that not all is right with Blank Girl and that she might actually be developing a personality. Those last five minutes are awesome. The rest is crap. Can you see the problem?

Problem one: our main character has all the personality of a half-baked fetus. Sure, she’s kind of like River Tam from Firefly, but without the crazy and quirky insight that made her interesting. This is not a character, this is a prop. You can’t follow props, you can’t identify with them. The show may revolve around this prop becoming a person, but she can’t be our main character until she’s actually a character. This show would be much better served if we followed the FBI agent trying to track down our Blank girl, or her Handler, or hell even the damn Techie. I’d watch a show that followed a man who’s job it was to erase people’s identity and put in new ones. It could be a great examination of what makes people human, not only in what he does to his “patients” but what his job does to him psychologically. It could be awesome. Alas. It was not meant to be.

Problem two: If we must be shackled to Blank girl, at least make the adventures of Blank girl interesting. Her missions should give us some kind of insight as to what kind of person she was before she was blanked. Her missions should, I don’t know, make some kind of sense. The last one, I swear to God, sent her in to a religious cult as a blind believer so the feds could get some dope on the leader of the cult who was apparently smuggling guns. Except that he wasn’t. He had enough to arm Nicaragua, sure, but the church wasn’t a front, he honestly believed in his crazy warped religious voodoo. Tried to set his parish on fire so to prove God loved them when He wouldn’t let them burn. Seriously. If that’s not enough proof that the missions suck, remember the one where she’s supposed to be a bodyguard for the black version of Brittany Spears? ‘Cept the Brittany clone wanted her crazy stalker/fanboy/assassin to kill her? Case and point. Make the missions interesting and insightful if you have to go that route.

Problem three: the Dollhouse business plan makes no sense. You’ve got a super-secret business that uses hyper-advanced technology to provide super-exclusive impossibly perfect services to insanely wealthy clients. If it was public, I might buy it. Exclusive, elite, shadowy, impossible to get inside, ok, I’d buy that. But secret to the point of myth? A myth that everyone knows about but nobody believes? Come on. They’ve got the world’s most advanced brothel, offering an infinitely large array of services, that’s so secret no one even believes it exists. How the hell do you get clients? You can’t run something that big and expensive by word of mouth. The Dollhouse itself I think aggravates me more than anything else.

Problem four: we know next to nothing about Blank girl. At some point in her past she did something that got her into trouble. She signed on with the Dollhouse and they made it go away in exchange for 5 years of service. Something’s eroding with her programming, letting her remember portions of the personalities she’s programed with. This is all ok. Except nothing changes. The show keeps dangling the same tidbits about her in front of us each episode and the tidbits never seem to add up to anything. We don’t care enough about Blank girl for this to be effective. We don’t know enough to care about her. See problem one.

The fundamental concept of: organization x imprinting memories/personalities into people y to do z is a classic sci-fi set up. You can get a lot of really good examination and commentary on the human condition with that. Dollhouse seems to have forgotten that to do an existential show, you need to actually be thoughty and pose engaging questions. Instead, Dollhouse goes for glitz over substance, and you know what? This glitz isn’t that shiny.

Yet, I am sure I will keep watching, perhaps in the hopes that the last 5 minutes of every episode will equal up to one half-way decent TV movie.

17 Responses to “Dollhouse Delema”

  1. Numi Lynn says:

    Its almost as if FOX walked up to Joss Whedon and said “You know how you made these shows everybody loved? Buffy? Firefly? Well, make those, but if you are funny or clever with dialogue we will shoot this puppy.”
    Poor Joss. Such a lover of puppies.

  2. Andrew says:

    I’m with you and Numi on that. Shows like Dollhouse make me happy I have stopped watching like 95% of the stuff on TV, and the 5% I would watch is the stuff like Firefly, or Buffy, HG, Discovery… blah blah blah… That is just sad that Joss is doing that to himself, such a great mind, such a sad prospect. We need to go back to the true classic Sci-Fi goodness of days all but ghosting about.

  3. Logan says:

    Right so, avid reader of your comic and then I read this review. And there’s a mentality that’s all over the internet concerning Dollhouse that I do not get. We’re now 6 episodes in, when you wrote this, 5. It’s a new show. Normally, we’d watch this and go “Meh, fun.” But no, because it’s Whedon, we go “Holy shit this will have to be so awesome it will blow our collective minds. So why isn’t it? It’s crap! I hate it! It’s shit!” And that’s something that bothers me infinitely. Added to that… first 5 episodes are commissioned especially by Fox to be… more open. If you saw Episode 6, which surely you did… you must agree how different that episode was. The focus was barely on Echo, mostly on Ballard, which was a nice change, but we really got to learn a LOT more stuff. That’s the show Whedon wanted to write, but Fox wanted 5 formulaic crappy episodes, so that people could “Connect” first, before being thrown into the deep end. My point is, everyone is so eager to shoot Dollhouse down before we’ve even gotten somewhere. In our little consumerism world, we want everything now and we want it perfect. That doesn’t happen. Especially not with a cock-a-bull team up like Whedon and Fox studios. Keep watching Dollhouse, I am pretty damn sure it’s going to get a LOT better from here on out.

    I just wrote a small essay, didn’t I?

  4. ZombieNarciscist says:

    I have to agree with you about Dollhouse. Unlike the first season of Buffy, where its quirkiness was just a part of the show (it was meant to be lame, imo) Dollhouse has just proven to be… well… lame.

    I was expecting so much more from a Joss Whedon program. I’m going to keep watching in the hope that the remainder of this season/ season two will allow it to get a bit better (and also I’m holding on to the hope that Alan Tudyk is playing Alpha… But that is just me)

  5. Aaron says:

    Logan:

    you forget that this economy NEEDS to be shallow and consumerist, how else do you expect high quality products to be produced? where is the incentive to do something well if everybody just says “meh, it’ll get better probably”

    Fox is using Joss to get views, this is a personal marketing strategy, no body cares about the idea of the show, the hook, the thing that brings them in to watch the very first episode is the fact that Whedon did it, this means that if that first episode doesn’tt cut it they FAILED.

    you can’t expect to use a name to bring in views, and then deliver a lackluster product and expect people to stay with your show

  6. Logan says:

    Aaron:

    That’s not entirely my point, though I get where you’re coming from, very much so. We don’t NEED shallow and consumerist. We’ve been told over and over that we do and I still think we don’t. Everyone who’s ever watched any television show will tell you that of their favorite show, the first 5 or so episodes were absolute crap. Hell, I recently had a glance at Buffy’s first season and I could barely watch the pilot, it was so bad. Back then, we didn’t really know of Whedon and stuck with it, because it was so… quirky and different. But not with Dollhouse. And yeah, the first 5 episodes were bad. But not any worse than let’s say, CSI or a similar show. Formulaic, boring and predictable, surely. But with good performances and an interesting premise, though this is of course up to the eye of the beholder. And then, last week, it kicked into highgear and I can’t wait for tonight. But the reason EVERYBODY hates Dollhouse? Because everyone expected perfection from the getgo. Everyone got their hopes up, and expected this… revolutionising concept and story and whatnot. Why? Because A) it was Whedon, B) It was hyped to death, C) Fox fucked with the production.

    Fox fucked with the production. Happened to Firefly. Which I happen to think is overrated, bad scifi drivel. 90% of the internet disagrees with me on that :D And that’s fine. I’m not saying you HAVE to like Dollhouse. Or that anyone HAS to like Dollhouse. But nobody’s giving it a chance. Everyone is shooting it down before it’s even managed to get it’s footing. Wait that out, see how it goes, watch the first season… and if it’s still crap to you by then? Give it up and stop watching it. If you see what I see by then, keep watching. I suppose I’m a much more patient man than most out there. Especially bloggers.

  7. Aaron says:

    Logan:

    i agree that there is shaky ground for the first few episodes.

    I’m just saying that they did this to themselves, they used the name to market their product and then they delivered a product that was discordant from the name.

    personally, i have watched a little of his work here and there, generally i stay away from television all together, i’m more of a gamer, so i don’t have a personal view in all this.

    i can say that I’m currently working through my undergrad degree though, and with that knowledge I’m jsut trying to add a little perspective here.

    every time I get into one of these discussions, it always ends in an argument of emotion against the corporation, and this argument against is almost always based solely on the fact that the corporation has money, and there fore is bad, i just figured it would be nice for people out there to know that EVERYBODY thinks that fox is a big bag of moron; even from the perspective of big corporations ;)

  8. And yet, I’ll continue watching it.

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