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February 04 2009

(SPOILER) Entertainment Weekly reviews the pilot episode of Dollhouse. And gives it a B-. And if you live in the metro Detroit area, you can see the first episode for yourself this evening at 6.30pm ET. Click here for details.

existentialhere adds:

In my mail today was the magazine form of TV GUIDE --special edition for the week of February 9-15, 2009--it contains several Dollhouse stories. The on line version does not appear to post these yet.

Matt Roush writes a review entitled "Fridays: Cult Heaven or Purgatory for Underdogs?" He says that Friday evening has some of the best female heroes including "the enigmatic 'brainwashed beauty' Echo (Eliza Dushku) on Joss Whedon's bold and bizarre new Dollhouse."

Then there is a two page spread by Kate Hahn entitled "A Living Doll, Eliza Dushku re-teams with Buffy creator Joss Whedon for the mind-blowing sci-fi drama Dollhouse." The spread has photos of Eliza that look like paper doll cutouts.


[ edited by zeitgeist on 2009-02-04 23:28 ]

I still honestly don't understand this criticism, which has come up a number of times (even, if I remember correctly, from the FOX execs.): "But in effect, we have to start from 
scratch with each installment and buy into Echo's new personality. The result: no consistent hero to root for every week." The person you're rooting for is the real Echo, the person behind the fake personalities, who is struggling to become self-aware. Is this not made clear in the show?

But, on the other hand, considering the number of people who have questioned Eliza's ability to pull off new personalities each week, it's encouraging to hear this: "And yet, and yet...Dushku's acting is dexterous and beguiling."
Dang, my comment disappeared into the ether. HEre goes again: The reviewer seems to not get a few things (including JMaloney's point). For one thing, (no, I haven't seen the episode), I can think of several reasons why And Firefly does not simply boil down to being a metaphor about the broken nuclear family. Yes, indeedy, it certainly IS about family ("Daddy will come and save us," is an indicative line), but it isn't just about that. FOr a reviewer who claims to 'get' Whedon's subtext, the piece suggests a bit of one dimensionality. Sigh. At least the author recognizes Whedon's talent....
I think the minus is unnecessary, I think its a solid B at worst :). I also think the "no consistent hero" thing is nonsense, too. You can immediately latch onto meta-Echo and start to root for her, so I don't buy into that at all. Plus the possibilities for the other personalities to, pardon, echo Echo and bring facets of her to light make it potentially a far more fascinating reveal than a show that didn't have this "problem".
On the plus side, to pile onto that side of the scale a bit: This reviewer, unlike the others, spotted Joss' "clever dialogue" and credited Dushku's "dexterous and beguiling" acting.

As for the hooks into identifying with Echo, I already covered that part in my own review.

[ edited by The One True b!X on 2009-02-04 20:05 ]
I also don't get the unclear-ness of the rooting. It was spelled out in other interviews, that Echo herself is becoming more self-aware, and it's THAT character, not the assigned personalities, that you root for.

ALSO, the Actives are not the only focus of the show. In fact, Echo isn't even the main focus, but it's DOLLHOUSE that's the central idea. Instead of the complexity of right or wrong, and the grayness that surrounds one character, you have a whole organization to look to, and those individuals that are effected by it, whether it be the Actives, the handlers, the doctors, the programmers, or the leader of the Dollhouse itself. All of the non-actives are real, un-wiped human beings who are also the focus. We just need to decide for ourselves if we want to cheer for them to succeed or not, and whether that's an unconditional cheer (which I doubt it will be).

Plus, we will have an outsider's point of view to ground ourselves in; who holds a mirror to our Dollhouse.

Yeah, it just doesn't seem like this reviewer gets it.

But I love the props for Eliza. Maybe this is what Joe Average will see when we rope them in. At first, before they're assimilated. ;)

Or, what everyone says.
I have found that Entertainment Weekly's reviews have always been off-base because the writers are too interested in sounding cool. Often, they miss the boat on that count. Usually I find that if they dislike something, I like it - and I'm discriminating as hell when it comes to my film and television viewing.

So, let's just watch the show ourselves before we get up in arms about the blowhards at Entertainment Weekly.

[ edited by TartFuel on 2009-02-04 20:26 ]
...it's THAT character, not the assigned personalities, that you root for.

Yes and no. I believe that the audience will root for the particular arc of the negotiator she plays in the pilot.
the writers are too interested in sounding cool

Of course, currently the cool thing is to be not so hot on the show. So if they wanted to be cool, they'd have given it a C- or less. ;)

[ edited by The One True b!X on 2009-02-04 20:41 ]
And, not that blowhards is the worst insult ever, but lets avoid throwing any mud at anyone, especially someone who actually gave it a pretty good review ;).
korkster: ALSO, the Actives are not the only focus of the show. In fact, Echo isn't even the main focus, but it's DOLLHOUSE that's the central idea.

Good point. It's not like Joss created a show called "Echo (and the Bunnymen)".

And what about Tahmoh Penikett's character, who is neither in the Dollhouse nor named Echo.
bix: Yes and no. I believe that the audience will root for the particular arc of the negotiator she plays in the pilot.

Well, I haven't seen the pilot, or any other episode of the Dollhouse, so I'll have to take your word on the arc.

But what I meant by "root" for the Dollhouse is the "investment of like" you place on a particular character... or how much you connect. Episode by episode we'll want to root for particular mini-arcs, personalities, what have you (like the "cure of the week" on House, or the "solved crime of the week" on Bones). But in both House & Bones, you become invested in the characters over the long period as you do your weekly rooting. I thought THAT'S what the reviewer was concerned about- where to invest in someone who changes daily/weekly?

That's why I dove into my spiel about the character VS personality thing. Both are worth rooting for, but long-term investment-wise, it's the Echo character that you'll attach yourself to, while the negotiator personality gets wiped.

OneTev, you're right that Paul is neither part of the Dollhouse or Echo, which is neat to see how he aides in examining all the aspects of the effects on society that Dollhouse has. Which is why I added this to my too-long-of-a-spiel: Plus, we will have an outsider's point of view to ground ourselves in; who holds a mirror to our Dollhouse.

Personally, I'm very happy that this isn't titled "Echo" (vs. Dollhouse). With Buffy & Angel, the show was about THEM in as many ways as it was about the metaphors in the show. But that can be hard to achieve on some aspects those characters hold their essence throughout the series; if you have trouble connecting to them, it might be more difficult to get hooked.

I thought Firefly (vs. Mal or River) worked well because, like Dollhouse, it embodies the whole crew... not singles out one character. So all the perspectives and decisions carry weight (unlike Buffy's decisions are the final decisions thing). Now, Mal was in charge, and more of the focus, but other characters carried weight (bringing River on board to begin with, commanding the ship and saving Mal from torture, etc...).

With Dollhouse as the title, it allows you room to look at everyone's perspective and see the power flow in more than one direction. Smart choice.
I wonder if the original arc of the show brought us more quickly to the "Echo-isn't-being-fully-wiped" arc than the re-jigged version does? The fact that the execs asked for it to be more of a procedural suggests that to me; they wanted a few eps where we just see the Dollhouse functioning as it is "supposed" to (people hire dolls, dolls do mission, the end). Presumably, once Echo starts to hear those "echoes" of her original "character," we start to move away from the straight procedural stuff. At some point we would have to have Echo going rogue, say--trying to run away from the Dollhouse to figure herself out. (This is a guess, by the way, not a spoiler).

It would be ironic if the very thing the execs forced on Joss in order to make the show more popular was the thing that put people off it.
Hmm, I started reading then stopped... this was a bit more spoilery than the other spoilery reviews. I cannot fathom all these people giving mediocre reviews for it. Sure I haven't seen it, but I do know what the majority of shows on TV are like. Surely there is a curve somewhere involved?
Well, it wouldn't be the first time TV executives "fixed" a TV show so well it winds up being terrible. Innovative TV doesn't, or can't, exist, on traditional TV networks anymore...with rare exceptions like Lost or 24.

In these times of a bad economy, or going through eight years of "the terrorists are out to get us" (being recreated on Heroes these days), TV networks rely on procedurals to satisfy what they think is the real need of Viewers these days: closure. Procedurals are the new "bedtime stories" like mom used to tell to us before we went to bed, complete with an ending, that is sort-of happy.

Dollhouse may start as a procedural to make Fox execs happy, but it has to be more than that. Joss isn't a procedural guy. He's a big picture guy, and the Fox suits should let him make his mural the way he wants it.
Joss isn't a procedural guy. He's a big picture guy, and the Fox suits should let him make his mural the way he wants it.

I think the problem may have become that no one wants Joss if he wants to paint the mural the way he wants it, and that's why he's compromising these days. Is there a network out there that routinely shows Joss-type shows? That the Joss-ian show is the norm?

If there was then he'd already have a TV show on it, and it'd be called Firefly. ... Or something else, maybe.

What I hate is that there isn't an outlet for him. We need a new network that caters to this 'story arc' thing, and I think it should be a cable network. And they should have all the old shows available for free online so that people can always catch up on what's going on.
And they should have all the old shows available for free online so that people can always catch up on what's going on.

Why wouldn't it work as a business model for the TV networks to put shows up on line with the normal ad-breaks spliced in? I don't understand why a company would be willing to pay X dollars to get your eyeballs on their ad when it's broadcast but not willing to pay the same dollars to get your eyeballs on a streamed version of the ad. Anyone know the problem here?
Did someone just add that Detroit showing info? I could've sworn it wasn't there before I posted it. o.O
Partially just the networks being resistant. I'm still shocked Hulu got put together at all. There is a weird snobbery about new media advertising amongst some advertisers too. The funny thing is that you can force people to watch the commercial on the web in ways that you can't force folks with DVRs to watch it.
Did someone just add that Detroit showing info? I could've sworn it wasn't there before I posted it. o.O


I added your entry to this entry purely to save space on the front page. We're getting to the "Serenity premiere" stage and as we get closer to the 13th, the front page may be changing completely every few hours. It may be a bit King Canute but I'll do my best to try and get some sort of stability going on during this period. People may have found that the site is already slower due to increased traffic or quite possibly vampy cats.
The funny thing is that you can force people to watch the commercial on the web in ways that you can't force folks with DVRs to watch it.

Yeah--that's what always strikes me when I watch stuff on Hulu. I watch with my laptop plugged into my TV, so I can't fast forward through the ads, although I can mute them. But there's so many fewer ads than there are on network TV. It seems like someone's really missing out on a pretty obvious business model. Heck--why not make every episode of every TV series ever available and pay for the whole thing with advertising? What a way for TV studios to exploit their back-catalogues.
I was going to stay home tonight and transcribe a Buffy episode into IPA for my linguistics class, but I think I'd rather go to the Dollhouse premiere instead.
It's still a mystery how they're pulling that event off. I had a brief exchange with the Detroit critic in question, and when I asked how they got permission, the exchange stopped dead cold.
I would go to the Novi showing, but I live to the north of the D so it would be a long drive home, and I'd rather stop by the comic shop on the way home and pick up S8 #22. I can wait 9 days to watch Dollhouse on TV.
Simon: It may be a bit King Canute but ...

Never heard that one before, learn something new every day.

(Thank goodness for search engines...)
I assume that you are putting your chair in the Internet stream and telling it to stop? But that is kinda the opposite of Canute's point, like how "Nimrod" changed from "mighty Greek hunter" to "Elmer Fudd".
and when I asked how they got permission, the exchange stopped dead cold.


This can only go well.

I assume that you are putting your chair in the Internet stream and telling it to stop?


Indeed. Though King Canute never had a delete button so he fell down in that area.
I added your entry to this entry purely to save space on the front page.

Makes sense, I saw it before you took my thread down so I was a bit confused for a minute -- just long enough to post that and then notice my thread was gone.
Simon: since it will soon get very, very crazy: thanks in advance for all you do....
I might get jumped for asking the question, but...

How many fans who have dismissed any review of Dollhouse that is not at least a B+ have actually seen an episode?

I'm utterly baffled at how people can judge this show without having see it.

It might be good -- I'd surely like it to be.

It might be bad.

It might be somewhere between the two.

Then again, I am also utterly baffled at how people can assume that if the show fails, it must be because FOX execs have specifically targeted Josss Whedon, rather than simply applying Occam's razor and believing that it might just have been a ratings decision. I am far more likely to explain such things by rampant stupidity than by malice aimed specifically at Whedon.

Right then.

Let the jumping begin.
It's Joss. Joss = brilliant, where as critics... Well to put it nicely,, critics rarely accurately judge things that I like. Simple as that. ;)
"Then again, I am also utterly baffled at how people can assume that if the show fails, it must be because FOX execs have specifically targeted Josss Whedon, rather than simply applying Occam's razor and believing that it might just have been a ratings decision."

Almost noone here has suggested that FOX is deliberately out to get Joss. I've only seen a few people jokingly suggest it
I haven't been paying attention to whether or not it's being said here, but elsewhere I've seen it said with semi-regularity in a non-joking manner.
Oh definitely b!X but the post I was responding to was suggesting that people here were saying that
I think the review seems very fair and everyone is giving the reviewer more criticism than is justly deserved.
Most people have not seen it yet, so who knows how we will perceive it. Also, a lot of people on this board have read a lot of interviews about the show, so will have far more insight than the reviewer, therefore making the reviewers opinion more valuable as a ordinary viewer who watched the show without the extra knoweledge we all have. Also, he is complimentary towards Joss and Eliza and recognises their past work to gice this show a chance, otherwise I believe he would have rated it lower than he did.

I have a feeling the first few episodes are going to be hard to get into until the overall storyline arc takes shape in true Joss-style. The early Buffy/Angel episodes weren't amzing either, and Firefly was truly spectacular and unique for being amazing from the outset. I feel Dollhouse will be a grower, and there will be plenty more negative reviews for now. Let's just hope it does indeed pan out well and the audience numbers grow steadily. If anything, the jerky concept of a 'new' character per episode might indeed help in the outset as a new viewer could therefore jump in at any stage in the first season and not miss out too much.

I'm looking forward to watching it through my faith in Joss for the long-term pay off's he always delivers.
I would like to ask, has anyone already seen some review of the 2nd and 3rd episode?
Let Down: I was not specifying here. Nevertheless, it is out there, as b!X notes.

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