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December 19 2008

(SPOILER) IGN Review of the Dollhouse pilot. A cautiously positive take on the new pilot, with some reservations.

No real huge spoilers here in case anyone was wondering. It's a decent review* and somewhat compliments that Time.com review that was posted a couple of weeks back.

*by a Joss fan.
"...you have a show that feels like Alias meets The Matrix"

Niice. (My little geeky heart goes pitty-pat)
I'd personally go with "Alias meets Dark City," but then again I haven't seen the first episode, so what do I know. :)
This sort of half-way confirms my fear that Dollhouse will have less of that good ol' trademark wit Whedon is well known for, at least to the extent Buffy did.

On the other hand, premieres aren't the Purple One's strongest side, so I'm still not too alarmed.
What does IGN know from funny, anyway? Have faith, ye of little.
Premieres aren't Joss's strong side? 'Serenity' was one of my favourite episodes of Firefly. 'Welcome to the Hellmouth' rocked. And 'City of ...' was at least one of the best episodes of Angel season 1. Though I agree that season premieres apart from premieres of first seasons often aren't among the best episodes.

Anyway, this makes all three of the people who have reviewed the first episode decidedly lukewarm about it. I have absolutely no doubt that the show will become great. But I'm a bit more worried that new viewers might not tune in to episode 2.
Let Down, you definitely weren't the average TV viewer who wasn't too familiar with Joss' work..and you have the benefit of hindsight. There are people who still have yet to watch any of Joss' shows, and there are those who may give Dollhouse a chance but are confined to a preconceived notion of what Joss' work is like.

For the average to casual viewer, Dollhouse may or may not appeal. Looking at the numbers, premieres aren't the Purple One's strong suit not because of him, but because people didn't quite grasp what he was trying to do. It's not his work that's the problem, it's other people not getting the genius. A few years later, revisit and appreciate.
I'm not really convinced by this notion of the 'average' viewer. Apart from the fact that I'm not sure what it means, it's a bit dismissive. As if only we few can understand good television. If anything I was the average viewer when I started watching reruns of Buffy. My viewing only rose above average once I got hooked. But if the first episodes I watched were, say, 'Him' and 'Beer Bad' my viewing probably would have stayed mediocre forever. My only point is that if the first episode of Dollhouse isn't very good (and, who knows, it might be wonderful) it might lose potential viewers precisely because it's not all that good and not because of their failure to grasp genius.
Maybe what's lukewarm to us is what the "others" want to watch? Joss'll rope them in and then they'll become "us" as we ride through Season 1.

I agree with Xyron, though. It's not the premiere that ropes me (none of Buffy's season premieres did it for me, Angel's were good if you knew the story... "eh" if you didn't). I don't know if I can count Firefly or not. "Serenity" was nice, but that's not what became known as Episode 1 for TV watchers (the "Train Job" took that title).

Not that I want to stir up dust, but it would be interesting to know what people think who have seen BOTH pilots. Anyone care to share?
yeah ... and if some knows where the other pilot is ... i'm curious, since I probably have to wait until the DVD.
The only person I know of who's seen them both is a guy who wrote a very positive review of SCRIPT of the original pilot. But later he came onto Whedonesque and said that the final product of both versions of the pilot were underwhelming.
Korkster, the only person outside of DH to have seen both pilots is Jace from Televisionary, who I believe feels the original pilot felt like a Whedon show (feel free to correct me), but wasn't keen on the new pilot.

What makes a show concept appeal isn't something we can bottle. So the only real indication as to if it will stick will be the ratings. If I'm honest I think the timeslot, bad (ratings wise) lead in, lack of promotion, negative buzz due to PR mistakes, proliferation of DVR and probable leakings to BitTorrent of the first few episodes will cause worse ratings than Firefly from the first episode. None of that is Joss' fault. It's all the network, which is trying it's best, but there's a reason (or twelve) why so many recent FOX dramas have failed to launch - they suck at it.
Okay, I'll feel free, Gossi :) Jace was the guy I was talking about. He loved the script for the original pilot but didn't think the actual filmed episode was that great.
I still don't get why Joss doesn't try his hand at a cable series. That seems to be where the talent is nowadays. As 'The Shield' showed us, you can still blow s**t up from time to time: even on a budget.
Aiden,

Because he wanted to make a show with Eliza, who has a contract with Fox. I don't think he would have worked with them otherwise.
I think the 1st episode feels like a Fox show with a Whedon twist whereas Firefly was a Whedon show shoehorned into a Fox box where it didn't fit. I think it very accessible to those who may not be familiar, or even care, with Mutant Enemy. If marketing does their job and gets the eyeballs to sample the show then I think Joss fans might be surprised to see a relatively mainstream hit.

I am reminded of how JJ and team Darlton managed to sneak a genre show onto ABC before the execs knew what happened.
The lack of wit comments keep worrying me. I don't even care so much if the pilot lacks that usual Whedon/ME charm, but I'm hoping the show will get to more similar territory after that.

It's Joss' gift for dialogue, the flow of language (and using it to define his characters) and unashamed mixing of genres that make him a special writer. He uses it to make you care. If all that gets 'edited out' for mainstream appeal... then what are we left with? Possibly a show everybody's 'lukewarm' about, which is also a hit? I can't quite imagine a Joss script that's also not funny/witty on at least a few counts. The man can't even post here without combining insightfull comments with laugh-out-loud language.

Anyway, here's hoping our reaction to this first episode will be different than these early reviews. And if not: let's hope that it picks up in the next few episodes. I'm quite ready to deal with another cut-short Joss show. But something the big purple bloke wrote, which leaves me lukewarm... that'd suck. Beyond the telling of it.

Wow, this posts reads really negative. I'm still looking forward to Dollhouse, y'know :)
Still, it did have that pivotal moment where Malcolm Reynolds kicked a tough talking prisoner into an engine that made you sit up and go, "Oh yes, this is a Joss Whedon show alright!"

That was exactly my reaction to the Firefly "pilot". While not bad, I wasn't sure if I was going to watch the next episode, until that moment. Each episode after that made Firefly more of a necessity. But without that hook, I may not have given it a chance.
Does it matter that I thought it was witty and had it's funny moments? It also felt like a first episode. There's a lot to set up. This is not a simple premise and it isn't Buffy. Those of you expecting Buffy will be disappointed, I think. It is more Angel with a more sinister edge in my opinion. Eliza is better than reviewers are saying although she sells the first character better. It may just be that the viewer buys into that and has a tough time switching gears.

The show has intrigue, mystery, action (beginning, middle and end), wit, laughs and a lot of sexy. Made me drool for the 2nd episode. I don't think folks will be disappointed unless they decide to be or if they aren't able to let go of Joss' previous work and just judge this show on it's merits.

I'll be watching and loving it and there will be plenty of folks pointing out why it isn't good enough because it isn't Buffy enough or Firefly enough and how can we possibly like a show without vampires or spaceships.
Wait, WTF. There are no vampire or spaceships?!

Picnic level at Ahh, bees!
I am going to write an angry letter about the distinct lack of vampires, spaceships, and Nathan Fillion. I need 2 out of 3. It's why I was never into Angel now that I think on it.
Thanks, TamaraC, I needed that. It's been my impression that those lucky enough to have seen the first ep (or more, not savy enough to know just how much has leaked, or where) are expecting Dollhouse to be too much like BtS or AtS or Firefly, depending on your favorite.
Then on the other hand, you have those who accuse Joss of being a "one trick pony". Not because he kills characters a lot, but simply because his work is so "identifiable".
Which to me is like saying, what's with Van Gough painting all that dark 'starry night' stuff, he's supposed to be doing bright sunflowers or moody portraits. ;-)

Panic level, non existent. It will be what it will be and the only thing that would really shock me, would be if it totally sucks. Which I simply don't believe is possible and which I certainly wouldn't judge by the first ep. Even Buffy had it's Go Fish and Teachers Pet.
Poor Joss, his fans must sometimes seem harder to deal with than his detractors.
I really wish we'd gotten the original show Joss was trying to make. That first script intrigued the crap outta me. I'm still looking forward to this one though, and hoping for the best.

I will admit though, that Joss isn't typically great at selling his show in just the pilot, with the exception being Firefly's original pilot, which had me at "we are just too pretty for God to let us die". Well not really, but it was a great line.

Joss tends to be much better at slowly hooking you on his shows over the first few episodes. Though to be fair, I don't usually fall in love with a show based on just the pilot (and weirdly, whenever I do they get canceled).

Most people do seem to be expecting Dollhouse to be Buffy or Firefly though, which I'd bet is one reason they aren't as into it as they'd like. I'm not terribly worried.
I must admit there some kind of sadistic cruelty in putting out reviews of a show you are dying for to see TWO MONTHS before iy actually airs... Je,je...

Makes me wonder why o why o whyo did i mussplace my patience...
Does it matter that I thought it was witty and had it's funny moments?


Actually, yes, TamaraC :). It makes me more hopefull, at the very least.

because it isn't Buffy enough or Firefly enough and how can we possibly like a show without vampires or spaceships.


Well, to be fair, I'm expecting the show to be Whedon enough. I'm not expecting a new Buffy, a new Angel or a new Firefly. But between those three shows, Dr. Horrible and all his work in comics, I think it's pretty safe to say that there's an overarching Whedon/ME style to all that work. Those of us who were here for the ride from the beginning of Buffy S1 have seen more than enough changes of setting, characters and story from Joss to not let that bother them.

I've thus far fallen in love with every single thing Joss made because of the unique things he brings to storytelling. And it's those things I'm hoping (expecting?) to see in Dollhouse. I realise that's making demands of something I haven't seen yet and that may not be fair, but it's how I feel in advance. It's also how I felt before Dr. Horrible started, or before Joss started his Astonishing X-Men run or even when Firefly started to air. And in those cases I wasn't dissapointed one bit.

So what has me worried about these early reviews is not that the show sounds bad (it doesn't) or that the plot may be confusing (it doesn't seem to be anymore) or any number of other issues. It's that some of these reviews seem to be saying that it's less of a Whedon show than one would expect.

But all in all, your outlook after seeing the first episode is a good counterbalance to those other sounds, TamaraC. And in the end, whatever feelings/fears/hopes I may have built up by reading and exchanging words on computerscreens in these months leading upto Dollhouse, they'll all go out the window pretty fast once the actual things starts on my television screen :).
For me itís not so much about style, never mind setting or parallels to earlier things. If the show offers an ounce of the usual observant, honest and eye opening writing, Iíll be there.

Style, at least arguably I think, isnít much more than a device to facilitate the experiencing of something deeper within. Thatís not to say it isnít important, of course it is, only that there are many paths to the juicy centre and that some experimentation mightnít be a bad thing.

Hmm, if that sounds like a substance over style argument, perhaps it is. I only wanted to flag for there being more than style to look forward to really.
While that's obviously true, hence, I'd argue that the way that Whedon (and the other ME writers) use their style is the way they get to the substance.

But yes, there are, of course, other ways to do that. For large parts of its run, BSG, for instance, was (is) just as good as the ME shows. It is layered, intelligent, offeres shades of grey and interesting characters on interesting journeys. But in the end, for me, it's slightly less interesting. The continously bleak storytelling is wearing and makes one more-or-less numb to the emotional implications of what's happening onscreen. Whereas Joss' writings, switching from the laugh out loud to the heartwrenchingly dramatic, creates a larger impact for both emotions.

And that's really just one example of where the chosen style improves on (or detracts from) the substance. Which is why - in this case, for me - it is very much about style. As a big lover of all things Whedon, I don't want 'just' a good show. I want a good Whedon show. And while the second equals the first, the arrow does not go both ways.
Lovely.
The Suits at Fuc--I mean Faux are about to frack up ANOTHER potentially good series by either fracking with or not airing the PILOT.
Or not airing the pilot that was written to kick off the show.
Or not airing the pilot WRITTEN BY THE CREATOR OF THE SHOW.
Why couldn't this show have been picked up by NBC or it's SciFi brand?
Fox. Why'd it have to be Fox? (Apologies to Indiana Jones.)
Why couldn't this show have been picked up by NBC or it's SciFi brand?

Because Eliza's development deal is at Fox.
Because Eliza's development deal is at Fox.


Well, if you're gonna start throwing actual facts into the debate...

I get what AmazonGirl means though. I've not been posting around here much this last year (actually haven't had much time for posting anywhere online this last year) but I have been keeping up with the goings on regarding Dollhouse and my first instinct when hearing the news that Joss was working on a FOX show again was to ask myself why he would want another of his shows cancelled so soon. I know all about the new "cooler and friendlier" FOX regime and that Eliza is tied to the development deal with FOX (so if Joss wants to work with her at the moment then FOX has to be where it's happening) but it still didn't make a lot of sense to me that Joss would put himself through the Firefly experience again. Very little of what has happened regarding Dollhouse since then has changed my opinion.

I rarely hope that I'm wrong. On this occasion I really hope that I am.
TamaraC: "The show has intrigue, mystery, action (beginning, middle and end), wit, laughs and a lot of sexy."

This is all very well and good but are you claiming that this can be any good at all if it doesn't come with bees?

I am fuming about the lack of bees. Who can I write to? About the bees, I mean.
I am fuming about the lack of bees.


Have you checked the Medusa Nebula?

What do you mean, "wrong show"?
The distinct lack of bees may make me tune out by the 14th episode. I hope that situation is rectified. Tim, if you are reading, please add bees to episode 12.
The wasps of the world are very upset about their mystifying exclusion. Bees are nothing more than wasp wannabees!
Whereas Joss' writings, switching from the laugh out loud to the heartwrenchingly dramatic, creates a larger impact for both emotions.


I agree with you there, GVH. I would even argue Joss has successfully built on the works of Shakespeare and others to achieve a very potent way of conveying emotions. But, with that in mind, we should also afford our authors the right to investigate different ways of expression, especially when they have proven such firm grasp of their techniques.

That said, Iím not prepared to believe Dollhouse to be a huge departure in this regard.

(This was a late reply, Iím sorry. Beer got in the way. And bees apparently.)
Ahh but the word 'BEE' is actually IN the word 'BEER'!
(Which you think would make them a good thing, but as any self-respecting fan knows, beer = bad.)

Nice to see some positive reviews starting to come out, so I will continue stick to a Zen-like 'Wait and see' philosophy without cussing at networks, television executives and/or religious deities. My own personal 'Alert Meter' is so steady, it's practically rock-like!
But, with that in mind, we should also afford our authors the right to investigate different ways of expression, especially when they have proven such firm grasp of their techniques.


Agreed, hence. I want Joss to be succesfull in all his undertakings and wish the best for both him and his career. Above all, I want him to be writing what he wants to be writing at any given time, regardless of whether I'd like it or not. And even if that means I end up not warming to Dollhouse, I'll still be a lover of the man's works for what he has brought to us over the years. The reason I was worried - upfront, even before any reviews came in - about the way Dollhouse would go, were based on Joss' own initial descriptions (it being less funny) and his outspoken love for BSG (which is only bleak and very, very different from the type of things Joss used to write) and his admiration for Jane Espenson's work on that show.

It's just that, in the end, I'd be sorry if I did end up liking Dollhouse less; if it meant less to me than other works by our strawberry blonde author ;). But I must say that TamaraC's assurance, both on here and in other comments, that the script is witty, if maybe not persť outright funny, have reassured me enough that this is still a Joss Whedon script and something I'd enjoy.

but it still didn't make a lot of sense to me that Joss would put himself through the Firefly experience again. Very little of what has happened regarding Dollhouse since then has changed my opinion.


Well, I'd have to disagree there, Arcane. Reilley's track record is pretty good and while there has been a mishandling of PR, it seems that the people that are making the decissions that count are a lot more willing to give the show a chance than they used to be. And while I was initially apprehensive of Joss trying it again on Fox, let us also not forget that without Fox we'd never even have had Firefly (and possibly no Buffy or Angel either, seeing as Fox was producing those shows? But I could be wrong there). I'm not sure any other network would have even tried to make Joss' space western work. That they eventually bungled it up, does not change that particular fact.

What's more, I think this time 'round the blame - if any can actually be assigned - for the rough production period, falls on all people. In fact, Joss himself has been in here and has stated elsewhere that (most of) the creative changes were his idea. Now most of us obviously - because we all love and respect Joss Whedon and have less cuddly feelings for Fox - assume it's mostly their fault, but I don't think our purple friend was lying either. After the freedom of Dr. Horrible and writing movie scripts and comic books, it would be hard to get back into the limitations of writing network television again (and balancing all kinds of expectations), even if you have kicked major ass at it in the past. I'm pretty sure he got things on track (despite my reservations regarding the pilot or overall style I've expressed above), but I can imagine quite well that the start-up could be rocky.

So all in all I'd rather reserve judgement on Fox and the new team there untill after Dollhouse has started airing and we've actually seen the results of their decission making process, before we start burning them at the stake again for crimes they might never commit :).
Fair enough, GVH. I'm all for giving the benefit of the doubt and I'm happy to do that here. Time will tell if it's deserved but given the fact we have very little choice other than to wait and see, I guess that's what we do and just hope that Dollhouse beats the odds.

As I said, I hope my gut feeling is wrong. Be very glad to admit to that when we see Dollhouse's second season.
But Cabri, bees are so much more tragic, what with their ripping out of their own innards and dying just to deliver one tiny little sting...
My biggest concern is Foxís tendency to can a show that is not an instant success. So if the show doesnít pull in big numbers in the first 3 episodes then it probably wonít be picked up for a second season. So has any one seen any commercials for the show? I mean if it werenít for the Internet I wouldnít even know when the show was coming on. Terminator had a ton of commercials on the air, in magazines and comics. With that kind of media blitz the show took off (that and Summer Glau always plays a great quirky character). I havenít seen that kind of support for Dollhouse though sigh.
The promotional push begins in January.

FWIW there's apparently a Dollhouse promo on the free Lie to Me pilot DVD at Best Buy. Anyone know if it's a new one?

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