Tuesday, February 16, 2010


I've been meaning to ask you about Dollhouse.  Did you watch?  What did you think?  Buffy: compare/contrast.

If you've not heard of the recently canceled Fox drama, here's a brief summary of the series: "Caroline" - code name "Echo" - is an "Active," a member of a highly illegal and underground group of individuals who have had their personalities wiped clean so they can be imprinted with any number of new personas. Hired by the wealthy, powerful and connected, the Actives don't just perform their hired roles, they wholly become with mind, personality and physiology whomever the client wants or needs them to be. Whether imprinted to be a lover, an assassin, a corporate negotiator or a best friend, the Actives know no other life than the specific engagements they are in at that time."

The premise is enticing.  The story is engaging.  The sci fi is nifty.  The plot arc was nicely conceived.  And it's a Joss Wedon show; I'll follow Joss wherever he's headed out of curiosity.  He does things for TV that no one else does.  (I've blogged about Buffy the Vampire Slayer before.) 

However, I was not without concern.  Wedon seems to like showing tiny, beautiful women getting knocked around.  A lot.  To make this violence more palatable he sometimes has the women fighting each other.  Or really really bad guys hitting the women.  Or abused women with supernatural strength and healing ability.  But, still, it's lots and lots of violence against women.  After a while it's hard to justify.

And Dollhouse not only showed women getting beat up a lot, it also glorified prostitution as a victimless crime.  Or so it seemed at the beginning.

But the plot was much more complicated than that and deeper motivations became clear in the end.

Which, incidentally, came far too soon.

Dollhouse's cancellation was premature for me as a fan, but also for the story arc.  Obviously this season's story was meant to play out over several seasons.  Instead it was so condensed that it was hard to follow and definitely lacked the emotional punch it would have had if the story and characters were allowed to develop more gradually.  Alas. 

True or not true?  I heard that Dollhouse had a solid DVR and online following but not nearly enough real-time viewers.  If shows are indeed renewed or canceled based primarily on real-time viewers, will shows that appeal to a younger, hipper audience (plus me) continue to fail until the decision matrix changes?


Topher said...

I too was disappointed in its cancellation. I think it was a really bad idea to air it on Friday night, and that is why I was a regular DVR viewer. Luckily, unlike with Angel, they had ample warning so the ending, while rushed, wasn't too bad.

The only thing I think they should have done differently was end one epsiode early, and turn the series finale into a full-length movie, so they could have fleshed it out more. The show could have easily ended on that previous episode, and then we wouldn't have been so confused during the finale...

Laura said...

If you rent the first season on DVD, the final episode from that season helps a lot in explaining the series finale. (For some reason, the first season final episode was never aired on TV.)

FWIW, I think Buffy was definitely superior to Dollhouse, if for no other reason than the humor. Buffy had lots of witty banter, which, for the most part, Dollhouse lacked.

Sarahlynn, I know you don't know me, although I read your blog regularly. I'm Matt & Jen's sister-in-law.

Sarahlynn said...

Topher, agreed. Except that now as someone who stays home on Friday nights, I appreciated the diversion. ;-) (But we watch everything on DVR, even if on the same night it airs.)

Hi, Laura! Nice to "meet" you. I'm interested in checking out that missing episode from the end of Season 1. I followed the finale but thought the last few episodes just seemed so rushed that I had trouble remembering the current relationships between people. (Also agreed about Buffy being better. It was more innovative, IMO.)