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February 23 2009

The New Yorker reviews Dollhouse. "Whedon is back on Fox, and the second time is probably not the charm."

Nancy Franklin, the New Yorker's TV critic, reviews the critic's three-pack of Dollhouse eps but does not love them (and does not have nice things to say about Eliza). On the plus side, she does seem to actually get what Joss had in mind for DH, and has some props for Dr. Horrible and (ambiguously) Whedon fandom at large. Second half of the article is unrelated commentary on DTV transition.

Bonus points for use of the word "clamorously". But I wonder if it's just trendy to bag DH because it's mainstream and Fox.
The problem with playing someone whose default setting is tabula rasa is pretty obvious, and the primary qualification that Dushku brings to the part is that she graduated with honors from the Royal Academy of Cleavage.


Ouch.
Yeah, was gonna quote the same thing as chazman, but I was going to include the phrase: minus 2 points for lack of imagination (the nonsense no chartacer to root for supposition) and the dismissal of Eliza for being attractive. Just because the advertising tries to trap people with the cleavagey slutbomb (to borrow a phrase from Jossiness past) act, doesn't mean the show isn't working to subvert that assumption.

Whedon wants to explore the farthest corners of our natures to discover what it means to be human. But this vehicle, which he created specifically for Dushku, doesn’t seem fit for the journey.


I beg to differ.
I've noticed lately that women seem to be especially cruel towards Eliza and her acting ability, or lack thereof. Not sure what that means, if anything but it's just a recent observation. I'm kind of tired of it. It's as if certain actresses are eternally cursed because of physical qualities beyond their control, and no matter what they do, they will never be appreciated for their acting or taken seriously.
Well, to be honest, compared to other 'Whedonverse' women, Dushku hasn't really been known for her acting chops/versatility. Though I will admit that her acting is significantly better in DH than it was on Buffy/Angel.
I think the "Royal Academy of Cleavage" remark was in bad taste, and certainly uncalled for. Eliza is an accomplished actress, and very talented whether or not she has a charming physical appearance, one perhaps too envied by a certain critic.

So far, I've watched FOUR TV-series produced by Joss Whedon and loved them all for different reasons. I have yet to watch a SINGLE TV-show created by "Nancy Franklin."

If she thinks it's so easy, she should try it sometime.

Grump!
I think any other actress could have played Echo and still everyone would have criticised the acting. It's just a terribly demanding part where people expect greatness (like Toni Colette or Meryl Streep-greatness), but there are not a lot of actresses in their late twenties who can pull that off and if they can, they usually don't want to do TV. Greatness comes with experience though and I think DOLLHOUSE is a great growing experiment for Eliza where she is challenged and can become better.

But I think if Joss and FOX had decided to air the brilliant original pilot, critics would have been softer towards Eliza and her acting. It's no secret that the first two DOllhouse-episodes weren't all that, the show is still on shaky ground (though I have faith that it will become brilliant) and a lot of people seem to take out their disappointment on Eliza.
Eh, I can accept where she's coming from, though I don't agree. I mean, the "Royal Academy of Cleavage" stuff was unnecessarily snippy, but otherwise, she seems to get the premise of the show--as in, realizing where Joss is trying to take this, understanding the themes he wants to explore--so if she doesn't like it, I can't really fault her. Besides, she called Horrible wonderful, so, that's a plus.

Something about Eliza in that Hulu commercial is great. I can't figure it out. She's just so different from her interviewing and Echo/programmed self. I don't know what it is. For some reason I wanna say she seems like she'd be the cool teacher in high school.

I like the Hulu commercial a lot.
Oh dear, is criticism valid now only from critics who are also great artists? Please. We all know that plenty of actors are selected to be on tv shows more for their looks than for their acting talent. The question is whether this is so for Eliza. Assessment of acting skill can be pretty subjective.
Well, this made me smile:
Whedonians have a large footprint on the Web, and there is much information and analysis to take in—the image that comes to mind isn’t of worshippers before an idol but of a chatty gathering of like-minded souls, who have come together to form a community.

That's a nice way to describe this place, no?

She's clearly someone who knows and likes Joss Whedon's work, and besides the rather nasty cleavage comment, I thought it was a fair article. (To reiterate what has been said in other threads - there's nothing wrong with pointing out that Eliza is stunning, because she is, or even with rather more crudely pointing out that she's stacked, which is also true, but the implication that she's just a hot bod here and brings nothing else to the performance is just mean, and rude, and I couldn't disagree more. I don't think she's the most versatile of actresses, but she's more than competent, and has a kind of rare magnetism and charm that makes her so sympathetic and fun to watch, IMO).

But to be a little contrarian... I do understand the two common criticisms that a lot of posters in a lot of threads have been ruffled by:
a) it's hard to sympathize with a blank slate
and
b) the show lacks humor.

Of course, the whole point is that Echo is developing a sense of self and we're going to come to sympathize with her, and of course, we can sympathize with Caroline who is still buried somewhere in there, or, certainly, with the personality of the week. And of course, there are other characters to engage us, who are who they are (we assume!) week after week. All true, and I've been surprised at how much I do sympathize with Echo's various personas, and how poignant their unreality is (for which, total props to Eliza Dushku). But I can't fall for Echo yet the way I fell for Buffy, or Mal, or Starbuck, or Jim and Pam, or crazy Nancy from Weeds. With all of those shows, I watched an episode or two and I just wanted to follow the character as far as the story went. I'm curious about Echo, but it's not the same thing. It would be easy enough for me to stop watching at this point and never wonder about her story again.

As for the humor, the show has flashes of it, but it is quite deliberately a more "serious" show than Joss has done in the past. It's not as funny as Buffy or Firefly and it would be weird if it was. It's not that kind of show. But if you are mainly a fan of Whedon because of his twisty-worded wit and the hilarious banter between characters, then sure, you might be disappointed here. That's fair.

I enjoyed both episodes. I was definitely entertained, I think the cast is great, and I'm looking forward to more, if not exactly "hooked." It would never occur to me to say "hm, how am I supposed to sympathize with Echo?" or "That wasn't as funny as some other stuff" after either episode, but I don't think such criticisms are totally off-base either.

There's my eighteen and a half cents. I am always, however, one of those "people who are willing to cut Whedon endless slack" as the reviewer puts it ;). He's earned all the slack I can cut, as far as I'm concerned, and I'm not having to cut very much of it here.
I have yet to watch a SINGLE TV-show created by "Nancy Franklin." If she thinks it's so easy, she should try it sometime.

Now that's just silly. I've yet to watch a single TV show created by you, either.

[ edited by The One True b!X on 2009-02-23 21:06 ]
I haven't noticed that "women seem to be especially cruel towards Eliza". Everybody's been at it. Whether they are right is another matter.
PS - Has anybody linked to James Wolcott's review on his Vanity Fair blog? He isn't too keen either.
He isn't too keen either.

Wow, you're not kidding! Not much to say in reply to that...!
I have to say I can't really disagree with a lot of these reviews. I watch Dollhouse, and I see moments of brilliance, and I know that if I stick with it, it'll become something amazing -- but that's because I've seen a lot of Joss/Mutant Enemy shows before, and I know how they work by now. But judged only on the two episodes I've seen so far... they just aren't that inspiring. They're entertaining, but also a bit bland (the Alias comparisons seem spot on).
A decent enough review (although I disagree), but I do have two complaints:
1. As Topher overexplains...
If it was overexplained, you wouldn't still be hearing the (frequent) question of why the Actives have flaws.
2. Would someone please show these actresses a movie starring Katharine Hepburn, Barbara Stanwyck, Irene Dunne, Bette Davis, Cate Blanchett, Meryl Streep, or Judy Davis?
The writer is talking about "Dushku’s demeanor as a zombie". What would those other actresses do differently, if they were acting like a zombie?
I think the author may be on to something here:

In terms of gender studies, it is notable that Dushku’s demeanor as a zombie is much the same as the demeanor many actresses her age resort to when trying to project an image of themselves as unthreatening and “feminine”: a slouchy walk, a bobbly head, and ever-parted lips.

I noticed that too, and I assumed it was intentional. The author doesn't seem to think so, which is also interesting.

I've seen all the complaints about the acting, but my sense is that they're trying to convey emotion without over-acting or a lot of dialog. I'm not sure subtle works on television these days, but I am enjoying the attempt. In the second episode, you can see Lennix's low key acting reveal that his opinion of Echo evolves as the ep goes on.
Eliza is the only actor, trained or otherwise, to consistently steal scenes from Sarah Michelle, and that's saying a lot. (Not saying she's better at the acting than Sarah Michelle because no one is.) Eliza makes you feel for her, feel what her character is suffering. You believe her as the one person in the world that the Mayor cared about. You believe that she gets to Boyd despite himself. You even feel her pain the third time she meets the perfect guy--when her character's not feeling her own pain. She's soulful, which is why she's perfect for a part that explores what's irreducibly human.

That might be why she's kind of disturbing in her unimprinted "doll" state--she doesn't feel much of anything unless she sees someone suffering. (The dead, being beyond suffering, only confuse her, which is disturbing a different way.) But her "doll"-ness is supposed to be disturbing, so well done.
Yeah, if the show wasn't by Joss, I wouldn't keep watching (or start watching for that matter). I'm waiting to see the awesomeness I know Joss is capable of.
As for Eliza's acting chops, I guess I fall back on a reassurance most critics probably can't or won't. That is, Joss says she's got the goods, that she's up for the task at hand. I'm not here because of a long procession of tepid performances in Joss' past productions.

I think she's been good so far. And I believe she'll get better. I believe because Joss believes. Kind of an Allstate effect for me.
What MattK said.
I love Joss, but I don't think Dollhouse is the Joss I love. And this article critiques many of the reasons it is not.

And I've only seen Dushku steal a scene by vamping it up. That's not a technical skill. Sorry, but again I agree that she's not an actress with any range and she's shown that off rather well in her career. I liked her as Faith, alright (but no way do I think she ever blew SMG out of ANY scene or really, any other actor), but I think her more an ensemble actress and much less a lead. She can blend when need be, but I would never look to her to display nuance.

Oh, let me put this disclaimer out there: I'm not an actress nor have I produced or written my own TV show. Gosh, i wonder how many of you have taken the resumes of those who have given the more positive reviews. I'm thinking none.
Franklin's generally a smart critic. I assume that at the end she meant simply to criticize "young modern actresses" in general and wasn't suggesting that the Actives in their "zombie" state should be channeling Stanwyck and Streep. Maybe a crucial sentence or two got lost in editing?

It's funny. My one remaining doubt about the show is, in fact, ED's acting chops. But the thing I think she's been consistently hitting out of the park is the "blank Active" stuff. I think she manages to convey a kind of innocence-on-the-verge-of-experience quality with a wonderful pathos. The scene where she witnesses Sierra getting programmed was fabulous, I think--as was an equally tricky moment, where she has to convey the "I've just been wiped" idea with nothing but a look as Boyd runs in (thinking 'too late') to prevent Topher from wiping her, and it just turns out to be a myopic "where's my glasses" look.

I thought she was shaky as Miss Penn: she has certain physical mannerisms (a little slighly-challenging, slightly coy head-toss, for example) that were all wrong for the buttoned-down Miss Penn. She was still far too much the "sexytough Faith-type" in her body-language and should have been coached to be much less physically demonstrative. But...there's always the out (and I noticed Joss use it in a recent interview) that the ways in which ED remains ED through every character are simply the ways in which Caroline remains Caroline through all of Echo's "imprints."

That said: I do think that someone as cute as ED is held to a higher standard on things like this. There's a reason that "character actors" tend not to be conventionally 'beautiful'--and it's not that beautiful people have some kind of genetic inability to act in a wide range of roles.
Don't get me wrong, it was a well written review that actually understood the show for the most part (rare enough it seems) and Nancy certainly has every right to criticize, I just thought the snark was unnecessary re: Royal Academy.
Eliza is the only actor, trained or otherwise, to consistently steal scenes from Sarah Michelle,

Really? I always thought SMG really outshone ED in Buffy. Of course, Faith was a great character, and the character often got to shine (or the dark opposite of shining) at Buffy's expense, but just as actor to actor...well, to me the real test is in the body-swap episodes: SMG does a fantastically convincing Faith, but ED never really sells me as "Buffy in Faith's body."

YMMAPDV (your mileage may and probably does vary).
I think Joss pointed out Eliza's scene-stealing prowess in one of the Season Three DVD extras, which made me go back and check it out myself. My mileage may blow holes in the ozone, but he's got an impressive actron chops detector.
I've noticed lately that women seem to be especially cruel towards Eliza and her acting ability, or lack thereof. Not sure what that means, if anything but it's just a recent observation. I'm kind of tired of it.

I have definitely noticed this.

I do think that someone as cute as ED is held to a higher standard on things like this.

THIS.

Pretty guys however? Well I could name names, but lets just say not so much.

I agree with you snot that she was a little shakey as Miss Penn, but she certainly wasn't embarrassing by any means. I've been enjoying her performance.

The critic makes some fair points, but then she has to make that cleavage remark, which was totally ugly and uncalled for. Maybe she missed the third wave. It's ok to have cleavage.

ETA:

to me the real test is in the body-swap episodes: SMG does a fantastically convincing Faith, but ED never really sells me as "Buffy in Faith's body.

Really? I always felt the opposite. When SMG says "five by five" at the end of "This Years Girl" and tries to look psychotic, I cringe every time. I think SMG is normally a fine actress, but her as Faith was really off IMO.

[ edited by ShanshuBugaboo on 2009-02-23 21:59 ]
Well, Snot, "doing Faith" is a lot easier than "doing Buffy" (err, umm... you know what I mean...), because Faith was more of a caricature than Buffy and had more unique mannerisms. (That being said, SMG doing Faith doing Buffy was pretty great: "that would be wrong.")

Honestly, and I'm prepared to be pilloried here, I don't think that SMG was all that magnificent an actor in Buffy, especially at the beginning. And, while I didn't buy Miss Penn 100%, Caroline, whatsername-in-ep.-2, and Echo are all quite well done by ED, especially Echo.

[ edited by Septimus on 2009-02-23 21:59 ]
I think Joss pointed out Eliza's scene-stealing prowess in one of the Season Three DVD extras, which made me go back and check it out myself. My mileage may blow holes in the ozone, but he's got an impressive actron chops detector.

Well, there seems to be no doubt that Joss is impressed with ED's acting skills (although that comment about her always being a little the same and that this was o.k. because of the character's situation did sound a little like apologetics). The question is whether or not we agree with him. I don't yet, but I'm willing (and hoping) to be proven wrong.
Thanks, ShanshuBugaboo, for your reference to the third wave.
The critic's snark at the end wasn't simply tasteless. Maybe ignorant, but not simply tasteless.

[ edited by shinygroovyj on 2009-02-23 22:11 ]
Ooh, zigackly what Pointy said further up re. Eliza Dushku. Soulful is just the word for it. She just makes you feel for her. I absolutely loved her as Faith, I couldn't get enough of her. It wasn't that she "stole scenes" in Buffy in terms of technical acting skill, exactly, but just through sheer charisma and energy.

And I was actually really impressed by Miss Penn - I bought it completely. I'm not in love with the blank Active state - I think it could get old fast - but they've used it well so far. The previews had me a little nervous about that. The "character" last week was kind of "meh" but whatever, it was a tight episode. When she made me laugh and broke my heart a little at the same time was in her monologue to Boyd about the fat guy she'd fallen in love with.

But even with all that... there's no "character" for me to come back for every week, yet. I was thinking about the characters I'd listed above, and realized I'd left out the two characters that I fell for totally within the first half of their first episodes: the despicable and yet riveting Tony Soprano, and Veronica Mars.

Maybe she missed the third wave. It's ok to have cleavage.

:)
I was never blown away by the leads of any Joss show (except maybe Mal, but Firefly was an ensemble so he didn't exactly get 90% of the attention anyway). Now? I'm not blown away by Dushku, with or without the good looking body -- not that she's terrible, but she doesn't stand out to me just yet. (I find myself absolutely loving Topher and Boyd though.) So for me, this is standard Jossian fare. Which is great, because standard Jossian fare is usually a step up from standard everyone-else fare.

I think, ultimately, this is a good show on its first season that will very likely get much better with a better grasp of the world and characters in S2. But not everyone is willing to give a show a chance if everything isn't Absolutely Perfect right out the gates, which seems so odd to me, as I don't remember very many shows past or present that had a stellar pilot or first season. There just seems to be so much nitpicking. (Note: this may partly be me being a little sour over so many of my favorite shows not getting more than one season before getting cancelled. Sigh. Brimstone, you had so much potential...)
It's nigh impossible for anyone to operate without bias when forming opinions of things. We, as humans, are built to prefer X over Y. Whedonesque humans are built to prefer Mutant Enemy Productions over most other shows in our television landscape. If this weren't a Joss Whedon show, I don't know if I would have watched beyond the pilot. It was engaging enough, but it didn't capture my imagination and hold my attention because it is difficult to find a character to identify with. I'll give it a few more shots, largely because of a really positive review from David Bianculli (who has turned me on to some other excellent television shows) and mostly because I have enjoyed Mutant Enemy Productions greatly before.

Regarding the perceived venom of women towards Eliza Dushku, I think that there are layers to that. It's not petty jealousy. Reasonably intelligent women don't respond negatively to the Eliza Dushkus of the television world because "she's skinnier/hotter/more stacktastic/in better shape/taller than I am."

In my case, it offends me that for the most part, you have to be as stacked as Eliza, or as slender as Amy Acker, or as effortlessly beautiful as Alyson Hannigan or Felicia Day to land any sort of a role on American television. Men are absolutely not held to the same standards, so it seems like better actors can be brought in for various roles. Their hotness to talent ratio can be skewed more much heavily towards acting.

For women, looks are often valued over acting. I'd make a list, but that would just be incredibly snarky, and I think we all have our own lists of Really Beautiful Television Stars Who Are Crummy at Acting. It isn't their fault that they are really hot and that the average viewer is really shallow. I'd like to think that the venom is for the disparity between the sexes in entertainment, but ends up being reflected in person-specific comments, because people don't really step back and think about why it bugs them.

Eliza Dushku is hotter than Meryl Streep, so she is the one cast as the lead in a show on Fox. Fox isn't selling their stable of revelatory actors and actresses. They are selling action, adventure, and yes, sex, because sex is what sells. And yes, it bothers me that there are a number of screen actresses that I notice have a highly imbalanced hotness-to-talent ratio. I'd much rather watch a great actress who looks like a normal person. Instead, I have to settle for a lot of decent to good actresses who look great in bikinis. (I avoid all shows with truly terrible acting, though I am still vaguely aware that those also exist.) And for the record, I don't think of Eliza as a great actress. Great is an awfully big word, and I am inclined to reserve it for the Meryl Streeps of the world.
Honestly, and I'm prepared to be pilloried here, I don't think that SMG was all that magnificent an actor in Buffy, especially at the beginning.

Ha, no pillorying, Septimus but I'll provide the obligatory whaaat? She just was that character, nary a false step, for seven years. IMO, obviously ;).

[ edited by catherine on 2009-02-23 22:05 ]
That said: I do think that someone as cute as ED is held to a higher standard on things like this.

I'm confused by this statement. How is she being held to a higher standard? She's the lead of a series and that seems to be the standard she's being held to by most critics. If she were knocking these critics over with her talent, there would be much less to say about her cleavage, IMO.

I've noticed lately that women seem to be especially cruel towards Eliza and her acting ability, or lack thereof. Not sure what that means, if anything but it's just a recent observation.

Wow, I'm loving every which way the critique of this actress or this show is being dismissed here.

[ edited by syd on 2009-02-23 22:08 ]
Honestly, and I'm prepared to be pilloried here, I don't think that SMG was all that magnificent an actor in Buffy, especially at the beginning.

I think she was pretty great, myself, but that's an argument for another thread. I will say, though, re this topic, that SMG certainly took a few eps to really "gel" in the role; and DB took a whole season to really gel as Angel, I'd say (there are great single eps in S1, but he--and the writers--are kinda casting about for the thread of the character throughout). So I'm certainly willing to give ED more time (just to be clear: I'm hooked on Dollhouse--even if ED turns out to be a bit limited, I think the series will be great).

while I didn't buy Miss Penn 100%, Caroline, whatsername-in-ep.-2, and Echo are all quite well done, especially Echo.

I agree on Echo. Wossname in Ep2 was the same as the Wossname-onabike in Ep1 and they were both essentially Faith-in-a-happy-mood--until it became scared-girl-running-from-psychokiller, perhaps the most generic role in contemporary cinema.
I actually agree with most of what MattK said as well. With the exception that Alias got off to a better start: the pilot had big drama and the main character got off to a more interesting start because of that. But then again: I actually really liked the first season of Alias, I felt it learned one of the major points Buffy always used: tie the evil, the bad guys, into something personal, so that battling them becomes a personal journey (and as such, more intersting to the viewer).

I also agree with what catherine writes upthread. Those two criticisms (hard to sympathize with the main character and lack of humor) are actually, y'know, true. Though I find myself not being bothered by the first one. I have no trouble sympathizing with Echo and that's probably partly because of Eliza's charm.

But, having said that: I also don't think Eliza is doing great in the "chameleon" aspect of the show so far. She was very strong in last week's episode, but not nearly as strong as a hostage negotiator in the pilot. But she's a competent actress, so I also think the complaints would have been less if the show had gotten off to an otherwise amazing start.

So, yes: I'm giving Joss (and the other ME writers, for that matter) major slack so far. Dollhouse - at this moment - is nothing really special. There's certainly potential and knowing and loving these writers, I'm pretty sure they'll start outing that potential in a couple of episodes time. So while I'm enjoying the ride so far (and nothing much beyond that), the only reason I'm watching and am more than just slightly interested, is because I know what all the people involved can do.

Unfortunately at this point, the show is formulaic, the performances are not always great (the unscrupulous security agent comes across as completely flat in the first two episodes, for instance) and the writing is still a mixed bag, which is surprising given the stellar talent involved.

It's not so much the wit and funny I'm missing (I already knew there would be less of that) in the scripts at this point, it's the rhythm of dialogue. There were some nice examples in the first episode (Topher's Shakespearian lines were token Whedon), but overall these scripts could've been written by pretty much anyone. There's usually a beauty to Whedon's lines even when he's not funny, a rhythm of writing that draws one in. He uses language to create a world, a setting, and make it feel more lived-in, more real. So far: not so much in Dollhouse.

I'm still very hopefull that the show will pick up. So far there's a lot of promise, but not a lot of actual greatness as far as I'm concerned. Dollhouse is off to a mediocre start and that's probably what is prompting these mostly negative reviews: one expects more from an accomplished writer such as Joss, and there's really only flashes of his usual brilliance in the show so far.

Having said all this, come episode six, I'm expecting us all to sing Joss' praises once more. So for now: I'm not worried.
Wossname in Ep2 was the same as the Wossname-onabike in Ep1 and they were both essentially Faith-in-a-happy-mood--until it became scared-girl-running-from-psychokiller, perhaps the most generic role in contemporary cinema.

I'm with you on the second part (re. generic) and also hee hee re. Wossname, but can't agree at all re. Faith-in-a-happy-mood. I can't imagine Faith with any of those mannerisms or lines. She was awesome-hot-party-girl, but not Faith. Except that she looked a lot like Faith.
Wow, I'm loving every which way the critique of this actress or this show is being dismissed here.


While you are stopping to smell those particular flowers, you may also want to check out the ones that smell like people dismissing every defense of this actress and show as fanboy-ism. They also smell delicious!
While you are stopping to smell those particular flowers, you may also want to check out the ones that smell like people dismissing every defense of this actress and show as fanboy-ism. They also smell delicious!


And one makes the other better...how again?

I don't recall defending that kind of dismissal either. However, what I see in THIS post is what I commented on, which was the brushing off of this article's points(and others, apparently) because A)The author is a woman, B)She does not have her own TV show, and C)Eliza has the terrible cross to bear of being beautiful and therefore, should not be held to regular lead actress standards because... Yeah, i'm still unclear on that one.

[ edited by syd on 2009-02-23 22:25 ]
I don't know...call me crazy...but I think Eliza is doing great in DH and is getting harsh treatment because this isn't Buffy, Angel or Firefly...
Men are absolutely not held to the same standards, so it seems like better actors can be brought in for various roles. Their hotness to talent ratio can be skewed more much heavily towards acting.

I really have to disagree. There is definitely something to be said with regards to the hotness to acting ratio overall in television, but I absolutely do not think it applies only to women. One of the reasons it took me so long to get into Angel was because I really, really don't think DB is a good actor. I thought Alexis carried that show...and incidentally, I think he is hotter too ;-) But that's just my opinion. I know plenty of women who are completely in love with DB, and many of them are also criticizing Eliza. I guess I should take it on faith that they really do think that he is a great actor and she is not. Somehow, I don't.

To be fair, I think they both have limits, but I think that in the end, both are completely able to carry a show. I think DB grew a lot by the end of even season one Angel, and I think it will be the same in Eliza's case.

ETA:

@ snot

and DB took a whole season to really gel as Angel, I'd say

Sorry, I didn't mean to be all repeat-y. I must have been posting before I read. But yes, heartily agree.

[ edited by ShanshuBugaboo on 2009-02-23 22:24 ]
That said: I do think that someone as cute as ED is held to a higher standard on things like this.

I'm confused by this statement. How is she being held to a higher standard?


Someone once commented that if a portrait painting is praised as showing 'great psychological penetration' that means that the sitter is ugly or is shown as other than happy/content. People who are model-beautiful get their acting-chops criticized more harshly than people who are not. Partially, I think, this is because people are simply more willing to credit a depth of character (see the "portrait" example above) to people who are not conventionally beautiful.

I think in part this has to do with our idea of the "beautiful person" as a kind of blank "ideal." If you look at casting speculation for a project in which, say, the lead character is a complex, intelligent, unconventional character, people will often get furiously angry if they see that the actress cast in the role is conventionally beautiful--whether or not they've had a chance to see her acting ability. Now, in part this is because they know that often enough beauty has won out in the casting stakes over talent--but in part it's because we simply find it hard to accept certain kinds of "idealized" beauty as consistent with rich and complex character. I guess the "ideal" is, by definition, rather generic. It's not surprising that Charlize Theron, for example, didn't get really serious praise for her acting until she did Monster.

This, by the way, is true of both male and female roles. No one wants a "pretty boy" playing, say, Rochester.
I dunno, ShanshuBugaboo, I think there may be male actors on TV who are givne a pass on less-than-stellar acting skills because of their incredible good looks (and possibly DB in the first season of Angel was one of them), just as female actors often are.

The disparity lies in the fact that the non-incredibly good-looking male actors are also given a chance if they have the acting chops, whereas the same is really not true of female actors in the vast majority of cases.

In other words, with a very few exceptions, ALL female actors are required to be beautiful, but not all male actors are.
snot monster from outer space : to me the real test is in the body-swap episodes: SMG does a fantastically convincing Faith, but ED never really sells me as "Buffy in Faith's body."

Having just watched "This Year's Girl" and "Who Are You?" last night, I have to agree. SMG blows her out of the water. ED is merely adequate. I mostly buy her as Buffy because I've been told that's who she is; SMG as Faith I believe.

OTOH, my main complaint with her work in DH so far is the rather mild observation that she has a tendency to overact a little when she's supposed to be transmitting something non-verbally. On the whole, I think she's been doing well and not just reverting to the 'working class tough girl' she's tended to get cast as up to now. People often give too many props to actors playing 'wild' roles (like, say, Brad Pitt in 12 Monkeys) that aren't actually that hard to play while discounting how difficult a 'normal' person is to play -- or a blank slate. And ED's tabula rasa Echo is very believable.

Someone also mentioned the lack of humour, which is definitely an issue. But the best Whedon humour is always character-based and we just don't know these people well enough for that yet. So I am deferring judgment on that point until they've been fleshed out some more. All in all, I the show seems aimed at a place where it will meet my (admittedly high) expectations as it progresses, so I'm keeping the faith (NPI).
And one makes the other better...how again?


That's exactly my point, there is too much of both things happening.
I don't recall defending that kind of dismissal either. However, what I see in THIS post is what I commented on, which was the brushing off of this article's points because A)She's a woman, B)She does not have her own TV show, and C)Eliza has the terrible cross to bear of being beautiful and therefore, should not be held to regular lead actress standards because... Yeah, i'm still unclear on that one.

Actually, syd, you were commenting on two posts by two different people, and as far as my post was concerned you're completely and utterly misrepresenting it. But, you know, whatever works for you.

ETA: Putting me down as someone who has reflexively attacked the reviewer just because I'm a crazed Whedonite when I A) praised the reviewer as "smart" and B) agreed with her criticisms of ED's range, just seems, well, silly.

[ edited by snot monster from outer space on 2009-02-23 22:45 ]
But to be a little contrarian... I do understand the two common criticisms that a lot of posters in a lot of threads have been ruffled by:
a) it's hard to sympathize with a blank slate
and
b) the show lacks humor.


I went with the flow and thought that it would be hard to sympathize with a blank slate before I watched Dollhouse. But after watching two episodes... I find that this is not the case. To steal from snot (who stole from Joss), there is an inherent Echo in all of the imprints/Echo/Caroline that I see and feel for. It seems to shine when stress/confusion/"OMG I'm going to die!" are inflicted upon her. I saw it in both episodes, call it the Other stuff (the stuff that Topher & the Dollhouse can't control), and ran with it.

I watched both episodes yesterday, and even though I still believe in the Other, I may be a bit insane. That said, when I don't find myself feeling for that inherent persona, I do feel for the imprints and the blank-slate Echo.

Blank-slate Echo with Sierra scene: When Echo walks in on Sierra being "conditioned", and Topher explains the process to her, it's like watching a person feel a response (worry/happiness), and attempt to express that response without fully understanding it (or experiencing it). When we later see Echo in the showers with Sierra, she recognizes her "friend", and gives a real response (smile=happiness for friend). The fact that she even remembers her friend (when she's been wiped in between), and can now FULLY smile, is impressive. Her face has been something wonderful to examine as Echo starts to understand things about her world.

In Episode 2, we see similar understanding taking place. Although this time, her learning experience can from the imprint, not her blank-slate. Richard uses the "hand to the shoulder" expression whenever he refers to the rule of the land, be or be killed motto that his dad forced on him, even if his face doesn't convey the same primal feelings. Throughout the episode, this lesson is taught to Echo's imprint as well.

When she meets Adelle's 2nd in Command (forgot his name), he challenges her, threatens her. Her face remains the same (blank Active face), but her body reveals her true reaction- be or be killed.

I don't know. Picking up on these tidbits has been a complete fun-fest and I have no trouble what-so-ever feeling for this "blank slate". But then again maybe I'm the only one who picks these things up. And to that I truly am perplexed as to why.
Thank you, Septimus, for stating what I was about to state. Yes, you usually have to be a really good-looking man to lead a television show. You don't necessarily have to be a good looking man to be ON a television show.

You have to be attractive, as a woman, to be on television. Even in the Dollhouse.

I am going to stick with my original statement: men are absolutely not held to the same standards as women when it comes to television acting.
Do we know if Joss wrote either of the episodes we've seen, GVH? No doubt there was a lot of fantastic writing in all of his shows, but Buffy had its clunky moments too. The price of having to rush, I'm betting. Mostly, I thought "wow those actors are lucky to have such great lines to speak" but occasionally I thought "wow those actors are doing a great job with some pretty crap dialog." It seems like a great deal of attention was payed to plot and smooth exposition in both of these episodes, and perhaps a little less to dialog. Hard to say.

I know plenty of women who are completely in love with DB, and many of them are also criticizing Eliza. I guess I should take it on faith that they really do think that he is a great actor and she is not.

Hee, take it on faith, get it? Sorry. I haven't heard those kinds of comments, so can't, err, comment, but I do agree re. DB surprisingly being able to carry a show. He was just awful in early Buffy and it was such a nice surprise to watch him become more and more natural on-screen. Like Eliza, I think he's a competent actor whose strength is more in his charisma than in technical chops or versatility or whatever. But I've never found him as compelling as Eliza.
It's not surprising that Charlize Theron, for example, didn't get really serious praise for her acting until she did Monster.

I think you are onto something here.
Another masterpiece from "The New Yorker"! These are the same woman who said that Sarah Palin looked like a prostitute -- no matter your politics, that is unprofessional. I am tired of jealous women taring down other women in the name of "feminism". So the hell what if ED has cleavage??? Mentioning it in a derrogatory manner demeans the author more than ED. I don't think a woman's breasts are that much of a problem. ED is a better actor than many of the women on TV. - even if she weren't, it wouldn't have anything to do with her breasts or "parted lips".
Eliza's great in Dollhouse. She does all these subtle things with her body language and delivery for each persona. I for one am impressed so far.
By the by, does anyone else miss thin lips on TV??? I do, the fillers are getting a bit much. DIVERSITY please...

Also, why is it OK for women to pick apart the looks, weight, etc... of other women? Why do they care? Why don't they focus on the way the men look (only for the non-lesbians of course)?

The New Yorker is going bankrupt anyway...
You have to be attractive, as a woman, to be on television. Even in the Dollhouse.

Well, I'd say "especially in the Dollhouse." Whatever other barriers Joss has broken down on TV, the "only beautiful people need apply one" is not one of them. All his casts are ridiculously pretty--male and female.

That said, your formulation above is a little too forcefully put. I'd say that women on TV are beautiful unless there's a specific reason for them not to be (thus someone's crotchety old aunt or hideous blind date or what have you will not necessarily be beautiful: there are some pretty ordinary women who get steady work on TV, after all), but men on TV are cast fairly blind unless there's a specific reason for them to be beautiful/buff/whatever. Thus if an episode calls for a random "rental car agent," say, if she's a woman she's likely to be a cutie-pie, but if he's a guy he could be anything from gorgeous to frightful.
... and even though I still believe in the Other, I may be a bit insane.

Comments like this are why Whedon fans are unusal among TV fandoms. I'm right there with you, korkster...
Hmm, I'm not sure I like so much the way some people are assuming it's "female jealousy" fueling tasteless cleavage comments. That reaction just seems like another kind of yuck, to me. I didn't like the New Yorker comment either. Every time I see it (well, twice ;)) it smacks of a lack of class and a kind of thoughtless sexism. But "jealousy"... I don't know. That accusation feels a little like throwing the same stones back, you know?
The disparity lies in the fact that the non-incredibly good-looking male actors are also given a chance if they have the acting chops, whereas the same is really not true of female actors in the vast majority of cases.

Septimus, I can agree with you there. I guess I was mostly thinking lead actors (as people seem to be arguing that Eliza cannot carry her own show). I agree that there are more supporting actors that are less attractive in comparison to supporting actresses.

I am going to stick with my original statement: men are absolutely not held to the same standards as women when it comes to television acting.

Agreed. I should have specified that I meant "lead actor" in a show.

Actually, syd, you were commenting on two posts by two different people


I actually understood I was doing that.

Actually, syd, you were commenting on two posts by two different people, and as far as my post was concerned you're completely and utterly misrepresenting it. But, you know, whatever works for you.


And after reading your explanation, snot, I still disagree with your point(and interpretation), especially considering what an aesthetically gifted place Hollywood is. If actors are resting on their looks to get by and have no skill to back it up, then I have little sympathy when critics tear them apart. There are plenty of attractive talented people being applauded all over the place who don't need to put on "ugly" in order to get an accolade.

ETA: Back to the original. Which makes no difference at all, but there you go.

[ edited by syd on 2009-02-23 23:12 ]
I haven't noticed an abundance of homely men on tv. Am I watching the wrong channels? I do understand that the landscape's more hostile for a woman, especially as she ages, but I think men are experiencing some strong selection for looks as well. It just seems to be more of a talent/looks combination, where not being as good-looking (relative to other faces onscreen) isn't as much of a non-starter for a man if he's good.
I don't want to go accusing people of discrimination, but did anyone else find that Ms. Franklin's characterization of Topher as having "no social skills" shows a certain anti-geek bias?

So far, at least (I've only seen the 1.25 episodes) he strikes me as kind of a smoothy. The sort of guy who could efficiently stab you in the back via office politics while hiding behind his inoffensive nerdwear. I'm not saying they aren't geeky types lacking in social skills in this world, but Topher's a long, long way from Urkel-territory from what we've seen so far.

He's more like an IT guy who might participate in sales calls, rather than the smelly, obnoxious guy they hide in the back room and tolerate only because he's a genius at programing. (I actually think he's a stand-in for the writers -- what he does is pretty analogous to a TV writer.)

If Topher reminds me of any characters at all from past Whedonia, I'd say he'd be any of the three characters played by Jonathan Woodward (especially the last one) who, btw, I hope gets offered the chance to be killed by Joss a fourth time. Great actor.

(And, come to think of, so far we haven't seen a whole of lot social skills of any kind from either Tahmoh Penniket's or Reed Diamond's characters. In fact, everybody seems they meet seems to hate them, and not without reason. Is being violent and/or conventionally handsome a social skill?)
Thanks, snot monster from outer space, for offering more clarity to go with my forceful clarity. I agree with your "unless." I also concur that Joss has especially beautiful casts.

I am grateful that he gives us some beefcake to go with our cutie pie.
Catherine, I didn't mean to imply jealousy. But I have noticed that a lot of women (not just in the case of dissing Eliza's looks, but as a general observation in my own life) partake in sexism, and its very troubling. If Eliza's acting doesn't do it for someone, I can't argue on that. It's their opinion, but the constant demeaning of her based on her looks? It's really upsetting IMO, and it feels like we've taken a step backwards in the grand scheme of things.
I actually understood I was doing that.

Then you need a little help with how to form plurals (hint--you put an "s" on the end of the word. "THIS post" can only refer to one post).

And after reading your explanation, snot, I still disagree with your point(and interpretation), especially considering what an aesthetically gifted place Hollywood is. If actors are resting on their looks to get by and have no skill to back it up, then I have little sympathy when critics tear them apart

You are free to disagree with me, of course. However, as you don't seem to have understood my point, it's hard to tell whether you do or not. I did not say that beautiful actors should be "free to rest on their looks." I said that people find it a little harder to impute complex psychological depth to certain kinds of "idealized" beauty.

You also suggested that I was reflexively attacking Nancy Franklin because I'm obsessed with defending Dollhouse no matter how outlandish the argument I need to employ to do so. As, in fact, I praised Nancy Franklin as "smart reviewer" and agreed with her suggestion that ED may not have the range required for her role, your larger point was absurdly wrong.

ETA: I should add that the line "I actually understood I was doing that" was what Syd originally posted. S/he has since edited that post so as to have it read: "That was my intention? I was listing points, not directly quoting."

Right...from "I understood I was doing that!" to "That wasn't at all what I was doing!" Might be time for a cup of coffee, Syd.

[ edited by snot monster from outer space on 2009-02-23 23:02 ]
They said the same things about Sophia Myles in Moonlight, "she's as credible as Anna Nicole Smith as a reporter". I, for one, think she was the bright spot in an otherwise boring show. In fact, the episodes I watched were specifically for her. There is a gut reaction prejudice towards beautiful women, young women, intellegent women... and, IMO, it is just as often other women perpetuating this as men. And honestly, as much as acting talent is a gift, it is not exactly neurosurgery, and it is not unreasonable to think that a pretty women could be also be a good actor, reporter, or whatever.
I completely agree with you ShanshuBugaboo.
Oh, I agree with you ShanshuBugaboo. I was responding to this:

I am tired of jealous women taring down other women in the name of "feminism".

from bee further up... and also somebody else said or implied that female reviewers are jealous... perhaps in another thread because I can't find it now and am too lazy to look hard ;).
To respond to your comment, Sunfire, I acknowledge that anyone on television is going to be selected for a certain look. I'm just trying to say that if you took every single person that spoke a line or two on television and put them in a swimsuit then sent them to a pool party, I'd bet you dollars to donuts that there would be a whole helluvalot more eye candy of the XX variety at that party. You see overweight men on television all the time, but it is rare to see overweight women, unless it's a specific requirement of the part. I can think of lots of television actors who have had successful careers, but who are also men who would not be considered conventionally attractive in many ways. It's hard to summon up even a moderately long list of successful female television actresses who have not also been very conventionally attractive. That's what I am saying.


edited to remove a redundant word

[ edited by Raggedy Edge on 2009-02-23 23:09 ]
Then you need a little help with how to form plurals (hint--you put an "s" on the end of the word. "THIS post" can only refer to one post).


This here? Where all our commentary sprinkled all over? Is what I'm referring to as a "post", as in "Hey, check out the new post on Whedonesque". What people say are what I refer to as commentary on this post. Sorry if that wasn't clear to you. The only commentary I was referring to from you had to do with this original quote, "That said: I do think that someone as cute as ED is held to a higher standard on things like this."

I said that people find it a little harder to impute complex psychological depth to certain kinds of "idealized" beauty.


I understood this and then replied how I disagreed with your ultimate point and interpretation of this idea. My point in response was that there are many attractive people who do not have to ugly themselves up in order to get recognition and disagree that ED holds this idealized beauty that is making it difficult to critique her performance without bias or blinders.

But as I feel I'm chasing my tail here, I'll just leave it as agreeing to disagree. My original point in general to this *whole* post is that it's unfortunate that so many opinions can so easily be dismissed because they are negative.

ETA:
ETA: I should add that the line "I actually understood I was doing that" was what Syd originally posted. S/he has since edited that post so as to have it read: "That was my intention? I was listing points, not directly quoting."

Right...from "I understood I was doing that!" to "That wasn't at all what I was doing!" Might be time for a cup of coffee, Syd.


Wow, okay, I'll go edit it back to make it clear that you misunderstood me?

Maybe it's time for a cup LESS of coffee, yeah?

[ edited by syd on 2009-02-23 23:10 ]
Oh, I forgot to look at the "lack of humor" bit of my quoted catherine's phrase.

Re: humor, or lack thereof.

Since this is a more realistic, business world that Joss has built, I get that there seems to be a lack of humor. Everyone's watching their back in this place, and they don't want to be caught unawares. They aren't high-schoolers. They're business people.

Anyhoo, with that aside, Lubov cracks me up. I love that guy. I also love Paul's neighbor (played by Miracle). She's a sweetie and did exactly what I would have done if I were in her shoes. Except she wasn't wearing any shoes. And I can't cook lasagna. :-/ But the "lucky girl" bit was spot on.

And, besides the professionalism of the Dollhouse, Topher seems to be in a position that is most secure from being "replaced" by someone else. Not only does he have the technical skill to imprint the actives, but he also has that creative eye to combine the mix-match the soup of personalities to make the perfect Active. That's a hard talent to come by. Which would explain the toys in his office and how he seems more open, direct, and funny with his co-workers; he has the space to be more of himself without the fear of being "replaced". I like that.

And I totally dig how he carries himself, knowing that he can get away with it. His refreshing attitude will probably rub off on some of the other co-workers. I predict that people will be more comical (open up) with Topher than they will with Adelle (which is quite understandable). Typical business relationships- very believeable.

Thanks, Septimus for reading my earlier comment. As for the "insane" part I placed on myself, I could no longer tell if these things were "real" in what I was seeing, or if I was trying too hard. I think they were real, and that I've seen & understand what specialness Joss sees in Eliza acting-wise, but since I have yet to see confirmation from others here, I could be wrong.

Unless the "I'm right there with you, korkster..." is an indication that I am not insane. Then I feel like #3 when she saw the Final Five before being boxed. :)
I do not think female reviewers are catagorically jealous of other women, of course. I just think that when she brings up mostly irrelevent points about ED's looks, it exposes her. I assume that the reviewer is a jealous person in general, about most things, but the part I have a problem with is that she does not believe that she must restrain herself from saying things like this in a professional setting. This is the culture of sexism veiled by "feminism" that I don't like.

This is similar, but not as bad IMO, to a male reveiwer saying how hot ED is instead of focusing on her role in the show. Both are very demeaning.
@ShanshuBugaboo and bee:

To clarify (maybe not necessary?): I don't like the way "she's hot" and "she's got no talent" sometimes get equated as if they are related points instead of entirely separate points. As a great admirer of Eliza Dushku, I find it even more off-putting than I usually would!

However, I'm a little hesitant to make a particular point of female reviewers making that kind of comment versus male reviewers. There's no doubt, of course, that women participate in sexism as well as men, and can say unpleasant things. But somehow making a particular point of the fact that a woman said it makes me a tiny bit uncomfortable. As in, I'm not sure that's relevant, anyone can be a jerk, and it starts to dip towards another nasty sexist cliche about women not being nice to other women. As for jealousy... that strikes me as a bit mud-slingy. All just IMO, needless to say ;).

Someone get syd and snot monster some ice cream?
Oh - saw your post just after I posted, bee. I see what you're saying, I'm just not sure I'd want to make any assumptions about the reviewer personally. It feels like enough to condemn the comment, no?
I think the article's author is missing a very important point, WHO IS GOING TO RENT AN UNGLY ACTIVE TO HAVE A SEX FANTASY WITH???? It is necessary to have an attractive active!!!
My original point in general to this *whole* post is that it's unfortunate that so many opinions can so easily be dismissed because they are negative.

And, again: I praised Franklin as a "smart reviewer" and agreed with one of her major criticisms of the show. How, exactly, does this become "easily dismissing" her in your book?

It would seem that unless we bow down and say "every criticism is as the very word of God" you're not going to be satisfied.
I haven't noticed an abundance of homely men on tv. Am I watching the wrong channels?


Sunfire, have you heard of the Ugly Guy, Skinny Wife trope?
Catherine, a person's comments and actions are the only things you can judge them by. Since I do not know the reveiwer personally, this is all I am judging her by, but I don't think I should have to make this disclaimer. However, I do think we are mostly in agreement. I have no agenda against women, I just think they know better when they make comments like this and it is intentional, just like men can also intentionally put down women for no good reason.

[ edited by bee on 2009-02-23 23:36 ]
@zeitgeist - Thanks so much for that. My observation, personal though it may have been (if you've seen/heard/read what I have in the last week...Sheesh, what did Eliza ever do to those people? Did she set fire to their house/car/family dog or something?), is not merely me dismissing the critique itself. You'll notice, I said nothing in regards to the author's reasonable feelings towards the quality of the show itself... Man, that sentence ran on for so long, I got dehydrated just reading it back to myself.

If Nancy (or anyone else, for that matter) isn't enamored with the show right now, or even Eliza's performances in it, that's fine. I can totally understand and even agree with some of it. What I will not stand for is the unnecessary and spiteful need to dump on someone for taking advantage of what the Big Sky Bully gave them, whether that be big, bright eyes, long, graceful legs or a decent pair of breasts (GASP! NO! PUT THOSE AWAY!). And I won't apologize for defending such rights, either.

While we're on the subject, aside from some of the Fox promotional material not in the actual show, Eliza's cleavage hasn't really been featured much. If anything, I've seen plenty more frames of her bare back or slight teases of her butt (courtesy of that cocktail napkin some would call a dress she wore in the beginning of the pilot). In the end, so what? If she's okay with it, I'm okay with it.

This reminds me of an interview with Jennifer Love Hewitt, where she talked about how when she was twelve, her body essentially developed overnight and she felt like a freak around other girls her age for a long time. Now, she feels more confident in herself and treats her breasts like props. She actually believes her back to be her best feature. I find this very commendable, not to mention delightfully amusing. My point is, we are as the flying spaghetti monster made us. We should not be ashamed of it or made to feel like we're offending someone for being okay with ourselves and our faults, whatever they may be.

Sadly, being highly intelligent does not exclude one from shallow, irrational behavior. Sometimes, I think, "Wow, such a big, beautiful brain and this is what you do with it? What a waste." The fact of the matter is, that particular remark from the author had nothing to do with the quality of the show. It was simply mean and hurtful and to me, it negates any valid points she may have made elsewhere and I don't want to read more of her words if this is what I'm going to have to deal with. To quote from the works of John Hughes, "A man can be smart and still not have the sense God gave a doorknob."
Just a reminder - excessive use of upper-case gets me riled up rankles my shackles so please don't use it as it looks like people are screaming their heads off.

Also this thread is starting to get a bit wanky so if people are feeling pissed off or annoyed, I suggest they take a break for a wee while.
I agree with you kungfubear.
Sunfire, have you heard of the Ugly Guy, Skinny Wife trope?

Yeah, from the Honeymooners on (and probably before that) we've had that sitcom staple. Has there ever been a hot-guy/ugly-wife pairing?

Typically, of course, the "ugly guy/hot wife" thing involves a guy whose made his name as a comic, of course, so it's a slightly separate category. That is, not-conventionally-attractive women have also managed to have shows built around them (Roseanne, Bea Arthur). Still, there's no doubt that it's a whole different ballgame for men and women.
What exactly is ugly, bee?

And thanks Catherine for saying what I keep beginning to write but can't articulate.
Moley75, in context of the show, it is someone who would get less than the maximum amount of billionaires renting the active out for upwards of a million dollars. One active cannot appeal to every billionaire, so one might want to go for the common denominator.

By the by, I am the one who said that they missed thin lips and big noses on TV and asked for more Divesity!

And, again: I praised Franklin as a "smart reviewer" and agreed with one of her major criticisms of the show. How, exactly, does this become "easily dismissing" her in your book?


Okay, did you read the rest of what I wrote? And how I emphasized that I was referring to the post as a whole and not your personal commentary??? I don't know how else to explain it beyond that.

It would seem that unless we bow down and say "every criticism is as the very word of God" you're not going to be satisfied.


Yes, me saying that reviews shouldn't be so easily dismissed means that people should bow down to them. Yep, that's the same.
Oh, I agree with you ShanshuBugaboo. I was responding to this:

I am tired of jealous women taring down other women in the name of "feminism".


Sorry, Catherine, I should have read more closely :-) My cat has been kickboxing me to get off the computer, heh.

ETA:

I don't like the way "she's hot" and "she's got no talent" sometimes get equated as if they are related points instead of entirely separate points.

Precisely. Well put. That's all I have really had a problem with throughout all of this.

[ edited by ShanshuBugaboo on 2009-02-23 23:37 ]

[ edited by ShanshuBugaboo on 2009-02-23 23:41 ]
Let's reign it in a bit, folks. Be mindful that personal insults towards other posters and towards reviewers/actors/what-have-you are all verboten.
Just a reminder - excessive use of upper-case gets me riled up rankles my shackles so please don't use it as it looks like people are screaming their heads off.

Oops, sorry Simon. My fingers have been slacking on the whole bolding thing. Will drum down the caps for the future.
Syd 1.5: Okay, did you read the rest of what I wrote? And how I emphasized that I was referring to the post as a whole and not your personal commentary??? I don't know how else to explain it beyond that.

vs.

Syd 1.0: The only commentary I was referring to from you had to do with this original quote, "That said: I do think that someone as cute as ED is held to a higher standard on things like this."

QED.

Let's reign it in a bit, folks. Be mindful that personal insults towards other posters and towards reviewers/actors/what-have-you are all verboten.

O.K., fair enough. I'm out of this thread.
ShanshuBugaboo, I agree with you.

"I don't like the way "she's hot" and "she's got no talent" sometimes get equated as if they are related points instead of entirely separate points."

I agree, and I think what the reveiwer was essentially saying is that looks can somehow conflict with talent, or at least diminish it, which is just as improbable and arguably more harmful than saying that "she's hot" and therefore "she Does have talent".

Is Moley75 going to respond??? Please? I am enjoying this conversation. :)
I agree with you kungfubear.


Heh, I just read "kungfubear" as a cute nickname for Simon, which gave me a weird moment or two untill I remembered "kungfubear" is actually a poster here too ;).

Do we know if Joss wrote either of the episodes we've seen, GVH?


Yeah, catherine :). He wrote the first episode and DeKnight wrote the second.


No doubt there was a lot of fantastic writing in all of his shows, but Buffy had its clunky moments too. The price of having to rush, I'm betting. Mostly, I thought "wow those actors are lucky to have such great lines to speak" but occasionally I thought "wow those actors are doing a great job with some pretty crap dialog."


Yep, the only difference with Dollhouse is there's not much great lines, and the overall "feel" for the world is missing. This may be partly because it's based in the real world, so we need less characteristic dialogue or style-of-speaking to set the scene, but on the other hand, in a pretty enclosed environment like the Dollhouse, you'd expect some stylising. Not as much as you would in a group of friends who usually - after a while - start to speak in the same kind of rhythm and use the same kind of words (one of the reasons the constructed "families" in Joss' shows always seemed very realistic to me), but maybe still a bit.

It seems like a great deal of attention was payed to plot and smooth exposition in both of these episodes, and perhaps a little less to dialog. Hard to say.


Yeah, I expect that to be true. But then again: I always figured that writing that way came naturally to Joss. I'm currently imagining him actively keeping himself from using those instincts, to get to a different place creatively and make a completely new kind of show. If that's the case: fair enough. But I still miss his stylized dialogue. Like I said: not so much the funny per se, but just the flow of his language.
snot, your math is off. Especially since one equation was entirely separate from the other and I emphasized that and keep on trying to clarify that, to no avail, apparently. I'll stop now.
This may be partly because it's based in the real world



Yes that's one very minor problem I have with Dollhouse. So far the mythology seems to be restricted to the building. Where as Buffy and Firefly you had whole universes to play with.
On a much less fraught note... bee, I think you may be thinking of the New York Times with your comment re going bankrupt. The New Yorker is doing just fine, as far as I know -- as fine as any magazines are these days, anyway.
Oh yeah... thanks cronopiogal!
bee, I think ugly is a dodgy word to use because beauty is in the eye of the beholder and, bizarrely, I have seen the word ugly applied to ED.

Personally, she does do nothing for me so this billionaire wouldn't be frequenting the Dollhouse.

[Not that I would be, of course.]
I don't really get the "Dollhouse is set in the real world but other Whedon stuff isn't" claim. I mean, things like the Dollhouse don't exist in the real world anymore than things like vampires do. I have no doubt that if Dollhouse lasts for seven seasons, the mythology is going to get more and more outlandish and will deviate more and more from the real world, just as occured with Buffy. (Firefly, I can grant you, since it's a radically different world from the get-go.)

(Are people thinking of the magic/fantasy versus sci-fi distinction? Because that doesn't hold a lot of water for me as far as what the worlds really feel like. Sufficiently advanced science and all that...)

ETA: The New Yorker has its share of financial problems right now, too. A recent rumor suggested they were thinking of turning into a monthly magazine to lower costs.

[ edited by Septimus on 2009-02-24 00:02 ]
I found this buried in the deluge of comments:
korkster: To steal from snot (who stole from Joss), there is an inherent Echo in all of the imprints/Echo/Caroline that I see and feel for.

Now that is an interesting statement... which might explain some of the criticism.

- If Eliza/the writers don't keep this common thread going, then people can (and have) complained that we can't sympathize with Echo because she doesn't have any (base) personality.
- Eliza/the writers decide to keep a common element. Now critics complain that Eliza does not have range, because they see something common in all of her Engagement roles!

Now, I'm not blown away by ED acting so far, but it has only been two episodes. And there have been enough moments that were not-Faith, that I'm optimistic for future episodes. (The same criticism of "lack of acting range" was true for Denisof early on, if memory serves. The long-term character arc allowed him to show the chops he possessed, like the Illyria-twist did for Acker.)

[ edited by OneTeV on 2009-02-24 00:05 ]
I recently realized this, but it is not only tasteless and demeaning to mention ED's "assets" like Franklin did, it also does not make any sense in the context of the show! Again, why would someone want an Ugly* active to fulfill their fantasies? For these two reasons, I cannot defend Franklin's article at all.


For people who want to know what I mean by ugly:
Ugly, in context of the show, is someone who would get less than the maximum amount of billionaires renting the active out for upwards of a million dollars. One active cannot appeal to every billionaire, so one might want to go for the common denominator.

By the by, I am the one who said that they missed thin lips and big noses on TV and asked for more Divesity!
Agreed, OneTeV. The "can't relate to someone different every week" and "ED can't pull off someone different every week" criticisms may very well be flip sides of the same coin.

I think in two episodes the show has already addressed the issue quite handily; Echo is already glitching.
I agree Moley75, if I were looking, Eliza would not be my first choice, but Franklin's criticism is that she was only "hot", whether we agree or not with this fact, this would be a requisit to be in accordance with the plot of the show, which makes her "criticism" shallow and undefendable. There is no need to mention someone's cleavage, especially when ED's looks are integral in the story line.

Sorry, I didn't see your last post until I posted my last post.

[ edited by bee on 2009-02-24 00:13 ]

[ edited by bee on 2009-02-24 00:48 ]
I don't think the reviewer was saying Eliza was "too hot" bee. I think she was saying that she has a hot bod but isn't bringing anything else to the show.

I didn't know Joss and DeKnight were our auteurs so far!

Yep, the only difference with Dollhouse is there's not much great lines, and the overall "feel" for the world is missing.

Yeah. Hoping and sort of assuming that will come. Firefly in particular really hit the ground running, I thought. Buffy was maybe a wee bit slower... in that it seems like they were making up a lot of stuff as they went along. But it had an immediate charm, and yes, that sense of "family" and that oh-so-distinctive dialog. Dollhouse does feel much more "generic" but I can't think it'll stay that way.
To me it seemed that ED's look was a negative, not a positive, and she completely ignored that it is a requisit to the story line.
Septimus, OneTeV, I can see the criticism coming from either side of the coin, as you both have mentioned.

BUT, my argument is that while she is an Imprint, she's an Imprint. When the stress of the situation makes her imprint crack, I see the inherent Other. It's like the Other is aware of the imprint, and "acts" the role of the imprint, but draws on other skills & memories to get the job done. She will even (at times) refer to herself in the 3rd person... like the Imprint isn't who she really is, and that the Other understands that.

This Other is different from the blank-slate Echo, who acts like other inactive Actives. The only times I've seen the Other is when she was introduced to the pain that Sierra feels, or the threat that the second-in-command makes upon her life. On those occasions, she acts "out of blank-slate character" and reacts to the situation with knowledge that she shouldn't have. With things like "the whole brain is blue from fear & yet she is able to complete the mission" (Episode 1) to "I'm being chased by a psycho but I don't have the right imprint to take him down yet I do with an arrow" (Episode 2).

I see the Other to dominate whatever persona she is supposed to be in times of need. Which would explain her calmness, her clarity of the situation, etc...

Caroline, is not this Other. Not fully. If she were, she would not turn to the Dollhouse to begin with. She has the worry and baggage of living a real life; the Other views the life from a distance but doesn't actually "live" it.

Which is what I think Joss is going for. The whole, "you can't ever wipe a slate clean" thing. The markings are still there, or the dust from the chalk is still there.

Regarding Imprints & blank-state Echo, I think Eliza performed these quite well. I believe each imprint has been different from the others... even Party Girl was not the same person as Girl with Non-Democratic Brothers.

So, while you both can see the "other side of the coin", I'm more fascinated when the coin lands on its edge, which I think it has.
I think Joss needs to take this article and use some of the points to hone the show. I know it's a serious show but all action and no play make people nutty. I don't want a T:SCC redux. If I wanted that I'd watch that show.

Joss, make Nancy eat her words, not revel in the fact that she was right!

Write, man, write like the glorious wind!! And bag Topher, he's like Andrew without the cute, funny demeanor that I love.
catherine, I don't see how this show can have a sense of "family". Despite the actives living there, it is an illegal, somewhat-paranoid business setting. I have to imagine the relationships will be more Jayne/Simon-ish instead of Mal/Kaylee-ish. But that will just make us like and notice Boyd more.

korkster, why the "but"? I was agreeing with your observation. I was just trying to point out that there will be fodder for criticism, no matter what choice is made. (Which is kind of annoying, but so be it.)

[ edited by OneTeV on 2009-02-24 00:45 ]
I also am fascinated with the transition between the inactive Echo and the active Echo. Further, the show clearly set it up in ep. 2 for the two to converge in conflict rich ways. The reviewer also missed this in her comments. Anyway.
Perhaps at some point Echo will escape with FBI man's help and have to develope a personality??? Even if this is improbable the possibility sounds exciting. There are so many possiblities and that is what I like most about the show.
Despite any criticism of any show, I usually remember that what first captures me about a show is not usually what I stay for. This is why I give shows that I think I might like a good chance.
I think you're right, OneTeV - it's just a feature of his shows I've loved in the past and miss a little here, but it's not really fair to compare so early on. I guess I was fuzzily also trying but failing to pick up the point that GVH made earlier about language... that there isn't a "community" here with a particular or distinctive way of speaking.
It's a shame, because people don't buy Echo's imprinted personalities, but they don't buy her regular "I'm a college girl!/I'm in big trouble and need to be a Doll" personality either.

She's sort of screwed either way. She can play sex kitten, I guess.
catherine, right on. I should have mentioned I miss it too.

BUT... :-) I look forward to what the writers do in this environment, as long as the characters are kept interesting. People complain about how Joss torments the characters that we like. It will be easier to enjoy the Doom that he unleashes on characters that we don't like. (Hee hee hee... oops, did I say that out loud?)
Funny, Darc.
Bee, no, I really did enjoy her most in this past episode where she had this crazy raw sexuality to her character. She was tough and sexy. Then it all fell apart when she start tripping and falling and didn't know how to run.
Oh. OK. I liked both. Ha Ha.
She was supposed to be sporty. Also, putting the gun down reeked of "House giving the kidnapper his gun back" on House. That is, stupidity and out of character. At least from what I can tell. It was worse on House cause it was a desperate attempt at drama and it made no sense.
korkster, why the "but"? I was agreeing with your observation. I was just trying to point out that there will be fodder for criticism, no matter what choice is made. (Which is kind of annoying, but so be it.)

Well, I was trying to swim against the fishies and delve more into Echo as a character(s) and not into the reaction the public will have to Echo.

But posting to entertain myself shouldn't be the point of my posts, I guess. ;)

OneTeV, I don't know about you but I've already started to see little community form. Or relationships, I guess. Boyd & Topher have come a long way and seem to give me that "buddy cop" feel. Echo & the other Actives... Echo & Dr. Saunders is interesting to me.

I also like Adelle & the second-in-command-guy. What's his name?

And I'm also loving the relationship between Echo & Alpha even though they haven't actually had any screen time together yet.

And how about Paul & his neighbor? Seeing him reflected through her eyes showed me the softer side of Paul... and how he's blind to everything but the mission. Poor girl. Now I want lasagna.
Yeah I wish I had a cute neighbor who offered me lasagna. I'd totally ditch the mission.
I keep reading these incredible comment threads and get blown away that you all have so much to say over just two episodes. I have some vague feelings one way or the other, but some of these epic, strongly opinionated comments call for a little bit of a *boggle* from me.

Personally, I went through 2 seasons of Buffy wanting to rip my eyes out (with the exception of the Angelus/Dru/Spike arc season ender in Season 2). Even Angel took me about half a season before I felt like the actors weren't bumbling through their scenes (despite being familiar with their characters). The only Joss show that immediately gelled for me was Firefly - and I almost wonder if thats because I watched in on DVD and not TV, where the episodes would have aired in different order.

My very small point being, erre'body chillax! It'll get better. It's Joss.

(And, if you like it already; Shiny!)

[ edited by mackenzie on 2009-02-24 01:09 ]
Personally, I went through 2 seasons of Buffy wanting to rip my eyes out (with the exception of the Angelus/Dru/Spike arc season ender in Season 2)

Yowza! And you kept watching??

I don't think most posters come to a site like this to chillax and have little to say, tho' - where would be the fun in that? ;) I personally turn up because I enjoy indulging in my (and others') rampant opinionitis!
Dollhouse on iTunes now in HD, $2.99 an ep not $1.99 for standard def. Sorry if repeated info.
Yowza! And you kept watching??


I sure did. I was Browncoat first, and my friends kept telling me Buffy was great if I could at least make it to season 3. I pushed through and somewhere along the lines it became my fave show of the three!

But to get back on-topic, I think having opinions is great, and I certainly have some thoughts about Dollhouse myself. But I've been more surprised by the passion and volume of certain opinions based on about 90 minutes of show so far. Comparitively, Joss & Co. haven't had enough time to really dig into the meat, IMHO. We're still on the soup and salad course! How can we say the whole meal is a wash or a raging success at this point?
Do they have a season pass up yet on iTunes?
Well, mackenzie, I keep dreaming about the dessert. ;) But I dream about that dessert while I'm eating the meat and then I realize that I'm so full that I can't think straight. Like at Thanksgiving, if you substitute the dessert for stuffing. It's a good place to be. :)
$2.99 an ep not $1.99 for standard def

I assume you meant "and" where you wrote "not".

I also like Adelle & the second-in-command-guy. What's his name?

Agreed. They got very little time in the first ep, so of course we got some complaints about how boring those characters were. (Sheesh, wait until they get some decent screentime first...) I opinioned early on that the Engagements were going to distract from the more interesting going-ons at the Dollhouse. I do think we need a decent nickname for 2nd-Command/What'sHisName (I can't remember either), because I don't think the moderators will like it if I refer to him as ButtHole. :-)

Will "I wish I had lasagne" become the subtler version of "I'll be in my bunk"?
I agree that Buffy and Angel started out mediocre and then got awesome. But I'm worried fox won't be as patient with ratings as the buffy/angel networks. I don't want DH to get cancelled.
I don't think Angel was ever mediocre. I love season one.

Can't say about Buffy. Because I started part-way through, I watch season one with a pre-disposed bias.

I liked Firefly from the start, but didn't love it right away.

I'm not feeling the connection to Dollhouse. Doesn't mean it won't come.
Also, putting the gun down reeked of "House giving the kidnapper his gun back" on House. That is, stupidity and out of character. At least from what I can tell. It was worse on House cause it was a desperate attempt at drama and it made no sense.


Really? That was such a House moment to me. House would totally have done that to prolong the situation so that he could find out the answer. That is pretty much the distilled essence of who House is.
Squishy, don't think "canceled", but "not coming back for Season 2". ;)

But I think it will. As all overly-optimistic-slightly-insane-computer-cheerleader often do. :)

OneTeV, when I made my lasagna comment, I was indeed actually hungry. But I think the temperate version of food and sex will lead down a painful road similar to pie.
Yea I meant the second one. Why do u think it will come back, apart from the insane optimism computer thing? I'm worried that it will lose viewers over the next two or three eps, then when the show finds its footing in the fifth or sixth ep, it will be too late to grow the audience. Please tell me I'm wrong. Maybe I'm on the wrong thread for this concern though...
Z, I'm sure most of us beg to differ. What can I say? Just because a critic writes something doesn't make a thing true; whether they write to be deliberately provocative, filling their sound byte quota, or whatever. I think we know in this world, negativity sells (just look at The Enquirer and Star Magazine). I only worry about the amount of people out there who may be the clingy listen-to-everything-a-critic-writes-and-buys-it variety and not watch the show. Three episodes is a pretty paltry amount to be so dismissive, but again, I'm not embracing anything said in this review at all.

PS: I thought we were Whedonites.
I hope being a fan of Joss doesn't mean having to blindly love everything he does.

It's entirely possible that some critics are not embracing the series because they just don't like it.

Like I said before, I'm willing to be convinced. But I didn't take much convincing before.
When I first read about "Dollhouse," I loved the concept -- I'm a sucker for existential explorations. With "Ghost," though, I felt like all the potential was turning into Joss's "Ishtar" or his "Henry VIII". Not that Joss isn't entitled to have an "Ishtar" moment, but I really didn't want this to be it. "The Target" was so much better that my hope and interest were renewed and I'm looking forward to this week's episode, but "Dollhouse" still isn't grabbing me completely.

So, that said...I was sympathetic to the reviewer's criticisms...up to a point. Leaving aside that the "cleavage" line is a throwaway, the allusions to Katharine Hepburn, Barbara Stanwyck, Bette Davis, and Irene Dunne were completely nonsensical. KH, BS and ID made several movies that were wonderful, but a lot of movies that weren't. And I can't think of a single BD movie that wasn't eminently forgettable. When KH was Dushku's age, she won an Oscar for "Morning Glory," a movie I watched once and never will again; it tells us only how low the acting standards were at the time. (Yes, I'm dissing Katharine Hepburn. So did Dorothy Parker. Aim high, I say, and notwithstanding her faults, "Bringing up Baby" will always be a favorite.) And to get to her main point -- how these actresses portrayed women -- I wonder if she's seen "Woman of the Year," in which the camera tells us exactly which part of KH's body Spencer Tracy is looking at, for quite awhile? And BS not infrequently portrayed women as conniving and deceitful...what exactly does she expect the group of actresses she is criticizing to learn from this group?

Streep, Davis and Blanchett have generally made much more consistently good choices in roles, but as someone else noted, I don't recall them playing zombies. (I'm not sure Echo is really a zombie...I see her more as an Eve before the apple...which would mean she and the other dolls ought to be walking around naked...I guess not even Fox would try that.) And notwithstanding their merit, I'm a bit put off by the implication that good acting ended with Cate Blanchett -- that female actors under 40 are somehow less worthy of praise -- how about Anne Hathaway (who completely won me over with the Nixon impression) or Amy Adams? (I say this as a 50+ year old, too.)
redeem, I hear you, but that doesn't mean we have to agree with lines like, graduated with honors from the Royal Academy of Cleavage. That's just insulting verbiage that doesn't add anything to the piece being a well-reasoned review.

[ edited by Tonya J on 2009-02-24 04:10 ]
The first two eps of DH are the best first two eps of any joss series imao. Joss's series generally take a while before becoming awesome.
@ Tonya,

PS: I thought we were Whedonites.


We are Whedonites, but etymologically we probably should be Whedonians (cf. Bostonian, Oxonian, Jacksonian). The New Yorker has a very strict style manual and naturally chose to correct Whedonite quirkiness.
redeem, I hear you, but that doesn't mean we have to agree with lines like, graduated with honors from the Royal Academy of Cleavage. That's just insulting verbiage that doesn't add anything to the piece being a well-reasoned review.

No, it's a very tacky dig. I can, however, sympathize with the opinion that she may get roles based more on her physical appearance than her talent.
korkster - I definitely have been noticing the same things! I like the little details like the smile and the shoulder salute. Or Topher's use of the word abracadabra in the flashback as explanation/parallel-ness to telling Boyd that the magic word he was actually looking for was abracadabra.
how about Anne Hathaway (who completely won me over with the Nixon impression) . . .

Did you see Rachel Getting Married, Eileen? She was fabulous in it (and I wasn't particularly fond of her before). Really good movie.

More on topic . . I guess I have some doubts about ED's range, so I can see where negative reviewers are coming from. I mean, I don't think she's devoid of range; she's doing the blank-slate thing well, and some of the emotional things have been both good and subtle (e.g. the way she looks at Boyd right after being wiped, like she almost remembers something). But I'm not convinced that she's the kind of chameleon the premise seems to call for.

That said, I'm still eager for the next episode, and I fully expect everything about the show to continue improving, if it's given time.
I actually look at these bad reviews as extremely complimentary to Joss. You can tell that most of them are Whedon fans and know how great his shows usually are. The problem is that Dollhouse is disappointing. It isn't great and I for one expect more from him. I refuse to accept the whole give it time argument. Why should I do that when there are many shows out there that hit it out of the ballpark with their first episodes? Lost for example. I fully expect that Joss has this capability. I never once doubted my love for Buffy, Angel or Firefly after their premiere eps.

I agree with the majority of this review. It basically says everything I have been thinking and feeling about Dollhouse for the past two weeks.

Still, I hope that it improves because after all the great TV that Mr. Whedon has made I can at least stick around and see how this one turns out.

[ edited by twinkiefoo on 2009-02-24 06:16 ]
I thought the pilot was a quite serviceable pilot and I (and many others) thought that ep 2 was far from disappointing. You may just not like it, it may just be disappointing to you and there's nothing to be done. I feel as if its already great.
Why should I do that when there are many shows out there that hit it out of the ballpark with their first episodes? Lost for example.


I'd suggest that Lost never outdid its pilot, IMO. It got broader, for sure (and I've enjoyed many episodes hugely), but not so much deeper. Joss's shows, for me, expand and build in the telling, and create their wonderful mythologies down the line. That's worth waiting for. Again, IMO.

I usually dig Nancy Franklin's TV column, and this one was mostly very fair, as others have said, but I agree that the jab at ED was unnecessary. More charitably, I'd attribute it to Ms. Franklin's own disappointment at the particularly physical way Echo has thus far been portrayed (as folks here have been discussing in some detail), except that it feels like a comment directed at Eliza uniquely, not at the character. Harsh, that.
WSNTS! Re. Lost and the other stuff.
Frak the New Yorker. I should have something more elaborate to say, but I'm to angry to articulate my rage. So instead I'll sum up my feelings by cursing like a nerd.
^Yeah I know! How dare they do their job.

[ edited by Rhodey on 2009-02-24 09:24 ]
SteppeMarc: your comments have been increasinly OTT of late, tone them down.
I agree with you Zeitgeist that the second episode was an improvement and I did like it better than the first. Especially when it dealt with the mythology of the Dollhouse and what happened with Alpha. It just hasn't grown on me yet but I'm expecting that it will. Being a huge Lost fan I am certainly someone who can appreciate a slow building mythology.

Plus, I probably wasn't too discerning when it came to the Buffy premiere, I was 12. I doubt that I was arguing its artistic merits with anyone. Its new for me to be able to discuss a Joss show with anyone. But definitely a cool experience.

Regarding Lost, SoddingNancyTribe, that is certainly a valid point. I am a big S1 fan which is so very different from what Lost is today in S5. I hold things up against Lost, because in my opinion that is the pinnacle of great TV today. But that is a little unfair because it is so unlike anything out there, its in its very own league of weirdness/awesomeness/whatthehellisgoingonness.

Anywho, I'm definitely excited to see how DH progresses. And I will give it that chance.
Thanks catherine for writing down exactly what I think, saves me from doing it myself. Dollhouse isn't as spectacular as I'm used to from Joss, but I'll cut him all the slack there is, definitely till the end of the season. Right now I especially have high expectations of the first Minear one.

I loved Eliza as Faith, but I've always thought SMG bested her in the body-swap + Angel follow up episodes, so I wasn't sure she'd have the range for Dollhouse. However so far I think she has been doing a decent job.

I liked all the Alpha/arc stuff on the second episode of Dollhouse, still liked Boyd, but I thought the engagement was simplistic, too long and frankly just boring. IMO definitely a huge stepp down after the "Ghost" one, that I absolutely loved.

Anyway, nice review, especially the bit about us not being a freakish cult. I'm afraid I can't say I really disagree with any of it.
We're not a freakish cult?! What was in that koolaid I drank, then?
We are Whedonites, but etymologically we probably should be Whedonians (cf. Bostonian, Oxonian, Jacksonian).

Umm, does that mean we're in Joss or from Joss ? Not sure which fills me with less glee ;).

(or how about Whewegian ? ;)

But I still miss his stylized dialogue. Like I said: not so much the funny per se, but just the flow of his language.

"They're not people, they're empty hats, waiting for you to stuff a rabbit in them" (roughly - can't check the exact wording) was a very Whedony line to me GVH (probably not even by him but it shares attributes in that it scans nicely and is clever in the context of the particular dialogue between Topher and Boyd but also resonant with the overarching story with the "abracadabra" reference - it's layered basically). "Watch where you step" (at the end of Saunders/Boyd's first meeting) is a more straightforward line but still has that almost effortless overarching resonance/layering that we take for granted on Joss' shows but which is often a sign of rare-ish quality on others.

In fact, for me, the more deliberately "Whedonesque" dialogue has almost felt like it doesn't quite fit the show (e.g. "We have a problem ... the kind you need to shoot at"). In that sense Topher is most assuredly Joss' "mouthpiece" (that sounds harsh and simplistic which I don't mean, he's not a crude vessel or anything, he's just - in Big Purp's own words - closest to Joss in some ways, including metaphorically, as Frankensteinian "creator") since he has most of the overtly Whedony dialogue (whereas with Buffy everyone had their own voice but the style of dialogue felt similar for everyone too).

[ edited by Saje on 2009-02-24 13:56 ]
Stylized dialogue is by definition not how people speak in reality. If Joss is trying to create a more 'real' show shouldn't that objective extend to the way his characters speak? The characters in, say, Buffy were mostly unnaturally witty and eloquent on cue and each spoke to a greater or lesser extent in a way you could identify as the Buffy style. Obviously, that worked extraordinary well but if all the characters spoke that way in Joss's new Serious Drama my response would be 'huh?' Besides, we'd just replace one set of criticisms on the internet ('Dolhouse isn't Whedony enough') with another ('Joss is a one-trick pony grafting Buffy dialogue onto Dollhouse')

Of course, we might miss the hilarious absurdity but to me that's all the more reason to look forward to Joss's internet takeover (moresugarshockplease) in addition to Dollhouse.
Why should I do that when there are many shows out there that hit it out of the ballpark with their first episodes? Lost for example. I fully expect that Joss has this capability. I never once doubted my love for Buffy, Angel or Firefly after their premiere eps.

twinkiefoo, it's funny how I look at this in the opposite way. For me, strong first episodes don't mean strong series. Things like Lost, Heroes, Prison Break, & Fringe seemed awesome at first, but it's as though they used all of their good material in those first couple of episodes; now they're running on an empty tank.

For Joss' works (Buffy, Angel, & Firefly), I struggled in the beginning. It took me 2 seasons of Buffy of going, "well, it's not terrible; I'll keep watching" before I was "hooked". Angel took the first season, and I didn't truly fall in love with Firefly until "Objects in Space" (which was totally awesome).

To me, Joss' works are like warming up a car in winter- it's not as warm & squishy as you want it to be at first, but once you get rolling, you're toasted & happy.

Or, WSNTS! :)

Or Topher's use of the word abracadabra in the flashback as explanation/parallel-ness to telling Boyd that the magic word he was actually looking for was abracadabra.

I totally dug this, boykit! It was a neat little bow to go on a well-wrapped gift. ;)

And, Saje, I'm actually to determine what comments are yours just by reading them. Wow and creepy.
I'm curious. I commented on Jossisms I noticed in the 2nd episode in that topic, and how, at least for me, they were something to hang onto as we go into much darker territory (I have an Internet acquaintance who is incensed at the number of times Echo has had unconsensual sex and termed it "cheap." - perhaps she hasn't read how that's an area Eliza wants to explore; the sexual side of what's going on; parameters, limits ...).

Do you think the terms and phrases like "nowish," "everything looks beautiful from here," distract and a new kind of language should be formed (not to say that there shouldn't be familiar humor because Joss can't change his essence now), if you know what I mean? I encountered actual hostility when I even mentioned tabula rasa and these terms at another forum, like I was immediately going to go into a thesis-level, meta discussion about Buffy/Angel/Firefly language and all roads from Dollhouse leading back to those (the tone being, "I can't possibly be expected to know all that when talking about this new show!").

[ edited by Tonya J on 2009-02-24 18:55 ]
LetDown: Stylized dialogue is by definition not how people speak in reality. If Joss is trying to create a more 'real' show shouldn't that objective extend to the way his characters speak?

Then let's say that he writes "personalized" dialogue, because the "stylized" dialogue is exactly how he (and the writers) talk.

If we are discussing how people speak in reality, they do use shorthand, sentence fragments, obscure references, etc. (Or at least they do here.) So even if no one I know speaks the way (precisely) Joss does, they do speak the way (pattern-wise) Joss does. Other shows aren't that realistic either, and that would be boring. "Umm... ahhh... umm..." Most (real) people would be pretend-snoring if someone tried to monologue the way they do on Smallville (as an example).

korkster: For me, strong first episodes don't mean strong series. Things like Lost, Heroes, Prison Break, & Fringe seemed awesome at first, but it's as though they used all of their good material in those first couple of episodes; now they're running on an empty tank.

I agree. (Again... must be a sign of one of the apocalypses.) Although I think Lost is still going strong after some rough patches. (Helps to have writers from Mutant Enemy and "Brisco County Jr".) "Lost" has (arguably) the best pilot episode of any show ever, so Dollhouse not rising to that level may not be the best comparison.

Saje, I had forgotten about the empty hat quote. I really enjoyed it, because it required some thought about what it meant, but then conveys a lot of information in a few words.
The 'Buffy' dialogue is both stylized and personalized ie. Joss styles the characters' speech so that it's similar to how he talks. That, of course, doesn't make it realistic. Joss Whedon is unnaturally witty and eloquent on cue and it's not plausible to have so many similarly talented people on 'Buffy' (though I'm not advocating plausibility as the yardstick of quality). I'm not sure that pointing to how the other writers and how we on this board speak / write is very revealing given that both the writers and many of us have been influenced in how we talk by Joss (both from interviews and indirectly from how his characters talk).

You raise a very interesting point about whether fully realistic dialogue would even be a good thing. I don't know the answer to that but I'd be very interested in seeing a show with 100% naturalistic dialogue. In any event, Dollhouse is not that show. Saje has pointed to some good examples of Joss-speak (eg. the hat metaphor) and most of us accept that Topher at least speaks in a Whedony way. My point is really that the dialogue in Dollhouse should be a closer approximation of real-world conversation than Buffy's dialogue was, not that Dollhouse's dialogue is or should be entirely realistic

(It's possible we're talking at cross-purposes here given that some of the things you cite as examples of Whedony touches - eg. shorthand and sentence fragments - I see as fairly realistic speech)
Then let's say that he writes "personalized" dialogue, because the "stylized" dialogue is exactly how he (and the writers) talk.

Yeah I agree with that but I also agree with Let Down ;). I.e. I think writers (and maybe fans of those writers) are bound to be much more playful and conscious of language than most people. And "on here" is a special case too IMO, I mean I probably use the Buffy trademarks as much as most on here but it's pretty different to how I talk in reality.

The hat quote is quite dense and nicely put IMO BUT it doesn't feature the sort of constant self-editing/awareness and willingness to coin new words that most of the characters employ in Buffy, it sounds, in other words, like the sort of thing a real ex-policemen (if that's what Boyd is) in his 40s might say given the caveat that it's dialogue and not speech (i.e. it's created).

As well as the different, more reality based feel of the show I think it's partly a cultural/generational thing too since Dollhouse features more older characters in central roles.


ETA: A chunk of which Let Down covered ;).

[ edited by Saje on 2009-02-24 18:57 ]
I should have said more succinctly that my major concern in my post up there, is that to a lot of the more general populace we appear insular and self-congratulatory Whedon luvvies, if you will. With all the concerns about the show taking off, negative reviews, possible cancellation by Fox, it's preying on my mind a bit. I, of course, enjoy Joss's, and by extension the other writer's, playfulness with the lingo, but it seems to tick a lot of people off.
Um, wow Saje, it's unnerving how what you and I said was pretty much exactly the same thing

Good point about the age difference. Even Giles and Joyce don't speak in what most of us think of as Jossy dialogue and Joss has actually said that the way the younger characters speak was his deliberate attempt to create a teen way of speaking. There's a Buffy scene I really like where Giles says something that sounded more like Buffy, Xander or Willow and Buffy responds 'careful, you're starting to talk like me' (or something like that)
Um, wow Saje, it's unnerving how what you and I said was pretty much exactly the same thing.

Unnerving? Or... suspicious?
LetDown, I went back to your earlier posts, and realize I was confusing whether you were saying how it is, how it isn't, or how it should be. Hope that clarifies where I was coming from. (It would in Bizzaro-land.)

TonyaJ: but it seems to tick a lot of people off
I see your point. At the same time, at the risk of overgeneralizing, a lot of those people would be ticked off at any dialogue that is different than they way they speak. I'm basing that on the complaints that "no one speaks that way" (evidently, some do). I also think that some of these complaints are confusing what the character is trying to do, with what the writer is trying to do. (For example, the character could be trying to be overly clever, and failing. Does not mean that the writer was being a smart-ass, wiser-than-thou to the audience.)

[ edited by OneTeV on 2009-02-24 19:28 ]
Unnerving? Or... suspicious?

I'm actually a character created by Saje (incidentally, did you know that Saje is the most awesome person ever?)

LetDown, I went back to your earlier posts, and realize I was confusing whether you were saying how it is, how it isn't, or how it should be. Hope that clarifies where I was coming from. (It would in Bizzaro-land.)

Heh, I love getting to the end of a debate just in time to realise you agree with each other
Speaking of touches of Whedon-y dialogue. It struck me as I re-watched Ep. 2 last night, that the fake ranger/cop that accosts Boyd and his driver in the van sounds a lot like (and even seemed to be imitating) Cpt. Mal. I forget what the first line was that he said, but it was somthing like "We don't get a lot of people here in the off the beaten" or something (with that firefly-y use of an adjectival-phrase as the noun). Then, as he pulled the gun on them and said "well that's good to know" (that they wee "savory"), he smirked in a decidedly Filion-y manner. (Once he was hogtied in and getting shot int he van... not so much Mal.) Did anyone else think this?
Absolutely Septimus, for just a moment I thought it was Fillion. Bizarre similarity
Here's an off-topic nitpick about the show: they keep on showing or talking about people signing contracts to enter the Dollhouse. Given that the Dollhouse is an illegal enterprise, those contracts are completely void ie. no legal effect. (Apologies, I'm a law student)

Though - I'm thinking as I post - it might be possible to fanwank this. Though the contracts have no legal effect, they may make those who sign them feel morally bound to honour their agreement. Oh and if they did rat on the Dollhouse the management could use that contract to prove s/he knew about the Dollhouse and was involved with it. Cool, moral pressure plus outright blackmail works for me

[ edited by Let Down on 2009-02-24 20:34 ]
Indeed, contracts to perform illegal acts are void (recent former law student, here). As a lawyer, though, wouldn't you just want the chance to argue that they weren't? I mean, there's no specific law that is broken by wiping someone's memory voluntarily (is it like euthenasia or what?). And, they could argue that the contract itself did not require that anything per se illegal be done (assuming that the mindwiping was not illegal).

In any case, you are of course correct that there's no way those contracts have any legal binding force, not least of all because who is going to bring the Dollhouse to court - they do not sem averse to killing those who would do so...
Wow, Septimus - I didn't pick up on it before, but you're absolutely right, it sounds just like him (although there's no physical similarity, which is maybe why I didn't notice at first).
Unnerving? Or... suspicious?

I'm actually a character created by Saje (incidentally, did you know that Saje is the most awesome person ever?)


Cool, Let Down must be another instance of the class "Saje", so many are 'spawned' it's sometimes hard to keep track. In fact, just imagine that after everything Let Down says there's a "© Saje Industries 2009". Especially if a patent and/or marketable commodity might result.

Given that the Dollhouse is an illegal enterprise, those contracts are completely void ie. no legal effect.

Heh, hadn't thought of that. I guess we could fan-wank it as a symbolic gesture, literally "signing your life away" (i.e. it makes the "Faustian pact" aspect more explicit) but yeah, who the hell is Adelle gonna show it to ? And how many dolls have they had "default" before to make it worthwhile ?

I, of course, enjoy Joss's, and by extension the other writer's, playfulness with the lingo, but it seems to tick a lot of people off.

I think it's like anything else Tonya J, it's an individual style and if you like it you like it, if you don't you don't (just like people like/dislike a particular vocal style or painting style). The problem only comes when either "side" makes more general judgments about the other based on whether they like a particular TV creator's dialogue or not - it's just one point on the graph after all.
Seems to me we're all (critics especially) falling into the american mindset of everything-must-be-everything-NOW. Yes, the characters aren't entirely relatable. Yes, that makes humor far-between. Yes, Eliza is playing a blank slate.

But are the car chases (and cleavage academy graduates) interesting? Yup. Will that combination gold my interest for long? Nope.

But we've all seen Joss shows before - they grow, and grow, and grow, and grow.

Echo starts to remember, she starts to get relatable. Eliza starts getting to act out scenes of subtlety and mixed emotion. The human element allows humor to enter the picture, and drama to become more intense.

All the reviews I've read so far remind me of another peculiarity I've noticed in the states - we don't plant trees. We buy them fully grown or we salt the earth and lay pavement.
It's not Eliza's acting that bothers me about Dollhouse, it is the weak supporting cast. The only characters I seem to like on Dollhouse is Echo and Boyd. Tahmoh Pinikett's acting as Paul is way too wooden and not very interesting, Fran Kranz, as the stereotyped boy-man computer geek, is irritating, and the actress that plays Adelle isn't very good. And yes Azarule, there are a few people in the States that plant trees. I'm one of them!
Sigh.

Yeah, I saw Eliza's DH advert. "It'll simmer your headmeat down to a bubbling brainy fondu." And she does, cuz Eliza Dushku certainly is smoking hot (dunno what the deal is with her cleavage, per se; but she's got beautiful shoulders/arms, and a slim, sexy bod'; but I digress). Since when is being gorgeous a crime, though? Especially for a Doll: they're supposed to be beautiful! So, basically Nancy Franklin is faulting Eliza for being an 'active' gal? That's pretty low.

And the girl can act. Dear and fluffy Lord, can she act! Eliza pulled off the role of professional negotiator masterfully: sorta half-nerdy (yet still never failing to stay attractive) and showed true character when being chased. So, here's a Whedon girl I really like (unlike, for instance, Sarah 'Cruel Intentions' Michelle Gellar), who is beautiful to boot (or reboot, as the case may be); and now she gets Dush'-bagged by a woman who, her own self, would like as not never even be admitted to said Royal Academy. Motive, Your Honor.

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