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February 25 2009

Dollhouse is 'not so shiny'. Pajiba reviews the first two episodes of Dollhouse, it's not exactly a glowing review. However the latest /Filmcast podcast gives high praise to the second episode.

There are some particularly harsh words for Eliza.

Has anyone "Echoed" this thought: Are they watching the same show I am? lol
Harsh is an understatement! And I think that reviewer's opinions are completely unjustified and I struggle to figure out what they're actually watching - clearly not the same thing I've seen. I had no preconceived ideas about Eliza going into this and I don't know if that makes a difference or not, but other than a couple of minor moments that bugged me in the pilot episode I think she's doing a fantastic job so far. What's unsettling is how many people are agreeing... unsettling and sad that people have to spew such hatred.
The entire cast is wooden and flat.

Wow. Well I completely disagree.

There are no Captain Reynolds in “Dollhouse” or a Jayne Cobb or Captain Hammer or a Willow.

Can't he try something new? I think that it's a bit soon to judge the characters in this series, as they are all pretty much shrouded in mystery at this point.
What's unsettling is how many people are agreeing... unsettling and sad that people have to spew such hatred.

Should people not have the right to an opinion? Everything is subjective to critisism and Dollhouse is no exception.

The only thing I disagree with is some of the pre-emptive writing off the show from it's pilot because shows can often greatly change in quality from that point on, especially proven with Joss' past work. But even then, the pilot IS supposed to leave an impression and with Dollhouse, it hasn't exactly left the best one.
'Dollhouse' bashing- the next Olympic sport...
They are just watching it without the rosy glasses of a fanboy.
Pretty much Hanselel.
I don't mean to seem like I'm attacking this guy just because the review is negative, but he sounds like he's missing the point. He makes no mention whatsoever of Echo's developing personality, and in fact claims that it isn't there.

Not to mention the way he talks about Eliza's acting makes it sound like she beat him up in high school.
They are just watching it without the rosy glasses of a fanboy.

Well, first off, I'm a girl. And I like the show, with or without the rosy glasses. It hasn't blown my mind, but I'm interested in seeing what happens next, and I can definitely see potential.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, of course. I just happen to disagree with him.
Oh so we got Far Cry 2 instead of Halo 2, it's still good.
Honestly, I never knew there was this much hate for Eliza out there until these last couple of weeks. I've always thought she was a talented actress, her performance of Faith was one of my favorite performances in the Buffyverse. Am I the only one?

Seriously though, why all the hate? There are much, much worse actresses out there currently on television and elsewhere. I don't get it.
If I may make a bit of a ranting comment here, I'm not loving all this critical glumlitude I'm seeing lately. The industry of chewing people's food for them has always been a bit self-important and vitriolic, but there seems to be more bile and a quicker gag reflex than normal. Maybe it's just the brittle economy's effect on the networks coupled with people's natural tendency to try to protect themselves from disappointment that makes all the critics warn people to not get too used-to or give in to liking a show, but it seems to me to be a bit of a vicious cycle; all these links to unhappiness are taking the joy out of watching programs for the constant cloud of cancellation looming overhead. You watch a show one night and even before you can decide you like it, the next day (or even long before it's shown) you read that it's got no chance and there's already a pre-mortem autopsy done.

Reviewers stamping a "verdict" on a show after only two episodes and claiming that's being generous? Yeah, that always works, reading the first two pages of a book and writing a review of it. Got an A doing that in first grade, did they? Aren't we past dust-jacket assessments of series by now? Or do we really want to go back to Kinder-Block walls of programming with nothing but stand-alone episodes where the title sequence explains the entire premise, plot and likely outcome and the only glimpse of "nuance" we see is the word written on a hair-care product prop bottle on a shelf in a bathroom set? It seems the TV Safety Reports are just full of wave after wave of the instant gratification crowd cacking on shows with little good news from the networks to offset such, and it isn't making for shiny times for me. I'm not about rose-colored, one-eyed, tunnel vision versions of things but there's a difference between casting the runes and just throwing stones.

Worse, this plague of shortsightedness is infecting even those places that traditionally have been immune. I'm having to stay away from even the foamy-fan sites because of the smell of sick being everywhere.

Seriously, this isn't fun.

I want my WebTV! I don't wanna have critics and networks driving entertainment (into the ground) anymore, or haters blowing chunks all over the cake before I get a slice.

...Sorry. I'm still awake with barely three hours left for sleep on a workday morning and I'm probably overly cranky, but I had to say it.
Grotesk, I thoroughly agree with everything you said. The vitriol I've been reading on the web (particularly around Dollhouse but it's just as common for other shows) does not read like any of these people have actually considered the show, or any show, but more that they enjoy being vitriolic. I think Dollhouse and other shows with a solid fanbase get it worst because there's people on the other side sticking up for it, which makes the haters even more determined to destroy it. It's a sick state of affairs. It does probably have a lot to do with the fact that the networks cancel shows all too easily in the US, but in a way it's creating a vicious cycle. I also think it must have something to do with the anonymity of the internet that people can express their deepest anger without any fear of the consequences they would have in the real world. But that doesn't explain why some websites attract it more than others: TVbytheNumbers is full of trollish, vitriolic commenters, whereas you get hardly any on Whedonesque.
I believe the reason that some of you are noticing so much Dollhouse 'hate' from people is because of the fact that fans and critics alike expected more than this from Joss. I find many teen shows on The CW to be more compelling than Dollhouse is at this point (Shhhhh! I don't watch Gossip Girl). I am certainly going to give it time to play out but based on the first two episodes I would say that this is a very fair review.
Grotesk & Flugufrelsarinn, a suggestion for promoting mental health. Treat reviews as you would potential spoilers and, if the headline seems negative, don't read it unless you happen to share that opinion. Thus you can avoid that nasty cognitive dissonance.
They are just watching it without the rosy glasses of a fanboy.

Hanselel | February 25, 09:38 CET

Pretty much Hanselel.

Rhodey | February 25, 09:39 CET


So the reviewer's just expressing their honest opinion but when people who are enjoying the show and see potential in it do so they're rose coloured glasses wearing fanbois ? Hilarious.

It's an opinion piece and as such I have no issue with it. I disagree with nearly every major point it makes and don't think it in any way substantiates its claims but such is life - the only difference being I guess, my opinion isn't making money from advertising hits. Apart from that we're both just internet posting farties.

-1 (Troll) basically.
I agree with some of the points he makes, but don't forget this is a website which uses the patricularly brainless tagline "Scathing Reviews, Bitchy People". He's clearly looking to rile some people, probably reading every single comment here and getting some satisfaction out of it.

The description of Boyd as a "stoic stock black character" is racist and unnecessary to my mind, and yet he accuses Whedonites of being myopic!

However, I'm afraid I have to agree with him when he says that Eliza is the weak link in the show. I think she has too much character baggage from other roles and I would have liked to have seen a newcomer as Echo. But she's the EP, so she's there for good, which is the other thing that bothers me - if she was terrible (and she's not terrible, I just don't relate to her or like her in this) what would happen? They'd start fiddling with things to try and make people change their minds about the character.
Tsk tsk. So much loathing on just two little episodes. The pilot didn't completely wow me, but I really enjoyed the second episode, and I have enough faith in Joss to know better than to dismiss a show. Also, I really don't want early reviews encouraging the cancel-happies over at FOX.


Graahhh. I feel a headache coming on. This is why I don't read reviews on the internet. People are so angry for no reason.

Also, Eliza? I'm going to wait and see where her acting range lies, since there have only been two episodes. No need to hate *insert hand-holding, general frolicking, and hippy songs here*.
(and she's not terrible, I just don't relate to her or like her in this)

In fairness though, we're two episodes in. So far the only signs we've seen that there even is an Echo worth considering as a character is when she wanders up to see Sierra being wiped and when she hits her shoulder in a semi-conscious gesture of defiance at Dominic (all other signs of "something more" have been while she was imprinted, so an ambiguous amalgam of the character she is and her leaking memories of the woman she was). What i'm saying is, surely we're not meant to like her yet ? There's no her to like.

It's the rush to judgement I find baffling and in that respect I broadly agree with this reviewer - this is Joss' most ambitious show to date IMO and unfortunately people (even some of his fans) don't seem willing to give it any chance to find its feet.
When all is said and done and we get to see the whole story I'm hoping we'll find something very interesting to digest, Saje. I'm already invested.
I can understand the criticism to Dollhouse to some degree, it doesn't seem very "Whedon-y". Some people went in with high expectations expecting more of the same witty dialogue etc and its just not there.
Don't get me wrong I AM enjoying it as a new series and thought the second episode was great, it just if I didn't KNOW it was a new Joss Whedon show I don't think I would have guessed.
To be honest, I haven't seen much hate at all. I think we're in danger of seeing honest criticism and seeing it as "OMG this is a personal attack against Joss and all that's holy". The common there I am seeing is disappointment. Aside from the usual suspects, no one out there wants a Joss show to fail.
Simon, how boldly heretical of you!
I'm not sure I agree with that assessment, Simon. It seems like there are two (maybe three) categories of people who are criticizing Dollhouse. One is disappointed Whedon appreciators who expected more (though this seems like a fairly small number and they tend to say that the show is not as good as it could be or will be). Two is people who were pre-disposed to dislike Whedon alread, either because of his fanbase or they didn't like Buffy or whatever (these people tend to be really vocal). And third is a superset of #1: people who were Firefly fans but did not really like Buffy/Angel and who are angry that Dollhouse is not Firefly.

(Of course, there are critics who are honestly doing there best not to be colored by their pre-conceptions about Joss shows, but those are few and far between and they tend not to really hate the show.)

I really feel like the higher-expectations-for-a-Joss-show thing is influencing a lot of reviews, though. You're right. People want this to be the second coming of Firefly and Buffy all rolled up into fully realized in two episodes.
To be honest, I haven't seen much hate at all. I think we're in danger of seeing honest criticism and seeing it as "OMG this is a personal attack against Joss and all that's holy".

I think that might be true. I just don't think this is that honest criticism you're talking about Simon (or not a very good example of it at least). It's criticism with an agenda IMO, despite what it claims.

I understand folk not finding it funny (and I certainly understand folk not finding it as funny as e.g. Buffy) but to say "The show has zero humor" isn't just saying "I didn't find it funny at all" it's saying "I didn't even see places where other people might find it funny" and that doesn't seem very fair to me (or, charitably, maybe just really unperceptive).

To say
When she’s not programmed for one of her clients, she’s vacant — she walks ethereally around the Dollhouse offices with a bored, oblivious expression. In other words: She’s Eliza Dushku, the dimpled female version of Keanu Reeves... it’s hard to tell the difference between when Echo is the listless vessel or when a programmed personality is inhabiting her.
doesn't seem very fair to me either (note, I realise bitchy is the "house style" of this particular site, my issue is with the idea that there's no difference or a barely discernible difference between Eliza's normal personality, Eliza's normal performance and Eliza's performance as Echo - that just seems, as far as these things can be, objectively false to me).

But of course, the reviewer covered their bases nicely at the top of their piece - any criticisms we level can be easily written off as either myopia or humourlessness.
Maybe not hate against Joss per se Simon, although I have seen some of that in various places lately, but there did seem to be an overabundance of vitriol against Eliza in that review, and even more so in the comments below the article. People seem to be verging on making it personal with regards to her, rather than just criticizing her performance, which is what I can't understand.
Eliza said on Ryan Seacrest's show (i think thats where it was) that she reads all the reviews. I feel bad, then seeing that one video from the Spirit Awards where people are saying crap to her face makes it worse for me.

People seem to be criticizing Eliza herself, not the acting, and thats what bothers me.
I can. They're your typical internet user who has to act all tough and nasty on the net because in reality they'd never have the guts to speak out and bash people in real life. The internet is an avenue for people to express themselves without fear of repercussion, so you get all the sad pathetic meek people coming on the net and trying to act all tough by making horrible comments about people they'll never have to face or meet.

Criticise the acting, don't make personal comments about the actor. That's my rule.

Personally I think 'Dollhouse' is great and Eliza is a very good actress but I guess I just have those “rose coloured glasses on” being a “fan boy” and everything…
People seem to be criticizing Eliza herself, not the acting, and thats what bothers me.

I haven't seen the video of which you speak, but most if not all of the criticism I have seen is about ED's acting ability/performance. I can't say that I have seen anyone criticizing her as a person (e.g., who she dates, what she reads, how she dresses, whether she parties too much or too little, what political views she holds, etc). I think they just believe she is not a very good actor based on whatever metric they are using. For example, I think the Keanu Reaves comparison was also about his assessment of dubious acting skills (that one I wholeheartedly agree with BTW) and not about Reaves as a person. And clearly there can be honest disagreements about that. I mean, they're not dissing your grandma, people !

[ edited by baxter on 2009-02-25 14:23 ]
I think there's so much more to the show.

ETA The
USC Vanguard feels the story and actor joy
.

Thank you kindly, GVH!

[ edited by Pointy on 2009-02-25 14:57 ]
I was not a fan of Eliza as Faith in Buffy, but she was better in Angel and really enjoyed her in Tru Calling. But in Angel she had a wonderful actor, David Boreanaz, to play against. Kind of like SMG who I don't think can act at all unless she has a strong actor to play against, James Marsters or David brings out the best in her. I am looking forward to the next ep of Dollhouse and the music video has clips from new eps and looked good. I will stay with Joss until the bitter end, no matter how many years it takes.
Criticise the acting, don't make personal comments about the actor. That's my rule.


And, in a funny twist, it's also this site's rule :). I too think that it's sad that many of these reviews are verging on the personal with regards to Eliza. I don't necessarily think she's perfect right now (especially her performance in "Echo" seemed "off" to me in places), but she's without doubt a talented actress that deserves some slack and at the very least deserves to be critiqued on just her work (which would still be the case if she was an incredibly bad actress as well).

Anyway: I've certainly agreed with a couple of the criticisms I've read (mostly elsewhere, not so much in this linked review) and I feel there's some certainly some value in reviewing a show's pilot, second episode or early-string-of-episodes even if there's still a chance for change-in-quality later on, so I don't see much value in the "why are these people talking negatively about Dollhouse after only two episodes" argument. No, it's not fair to write off the entire show, but many of the reviews I've read so far are not doing that: they're just expressing that these first two or three episodes are not up to par in their opinion. Which - like I said - I even tend to share in places. Or, basically, what Simon said more efficiently upthread ;).

Pointy, I really liked your insights into the second episode there. Especially the fairy tale bits, which have been swimming around in my head for a while now, trying to form into some coherent thought or opinion ;). Some other bits I felt were stretching things a bit (but were still very insightfull, which made them at the ver least worthwhile). A good read, that.
In case anyone wants a breather and fancies talking about fun Dollhouse stuff, I've created a new thread above.
... so I don't see much value in the "why are these people talking negatively about Dollhouse after only two episodes" argument. No, it's not fair to write off the entire show, but many of the reviews I've read so far are not doing that

True GVH but my specific issues in that respect are a) talking about how "shallow" the mythology is (as in this review) or how badly the arc's being handled and b) talking about how little we identify with Echo. Neither thing can possibly be judged after two episodes IMO and, further, i'd suggest we're actively not meant to identify with Echo yet because as I say, there's barely anything there to identify with (if we insist on having a character we like in there then Boyd is probably meant to fit the bill - he's apparently basically decent, tough, loyal etc.).

And that's regardless of what we personally think about those two episodes (both to some extent but ep 2 in particular are not flawless by any stretch IMO) or the mythology/arc (which has real promise as far as i'm concerned).


ET pay at least lip service to correct pluralalisation and that other nifty grammar stuff ;)

[ edited by Saje on 2009-02-25 15:06 ]
. Kind of like SMG who I don't think can act at all unless she has a strong actor to play against, James Marsters or David brings out the best in her.

Okay. Can't let that stand :)

David was terrible when he started on Buffy. Angelus gave him somthing to play with, because (besides the homicidal maniac part) the humour is much closer to his actual personality. He grew greatly as an actor, but that was more through working on his own series, not with Sarah.

Sarah's a good actress. I agree with the James bringing out the best part, but that's what he does :)
My primary reaction to all this early rush to judgment style criticism is to wish some of these folks would wait a bit, to see what develops. Which is kind of what I'm doing; I see possiblities for amazing complex, rewarding developments, as well as plenty of possible pitfalls. My hopes are pretty high, because Joss has earned these high expectations and some patience- in my book.

I have my doubts about the extent of Eliza's acting abilities myself. Though I enjoyed her thoroughly as Faith, truth be told,I thought Tru Calling was just dire. But I'm willing to give her an extended chance too, because I'd love her to be good, for many reasons, not the least of which is that she seems an appealing sort of person.

But all my hopes aside, I really think that if I had stumbled upon this show anonymously, without expectations, I'd have been hooked enough to check back in on it for several weeks, to see how it was panning out.I'm thinkingand hoping that the average viewer- if there is such an animal- who does not read a lot of tv criticism, may do the same. Sadly, mainstream media tells us what we think so fast, that few shows get a chance to be popular, or unpopular entirely on their own qualities.

It's a bit like commentators after political speeches and debates, who offer such instant analysis that a person has to be pretty strong minded not to be influenced to some extent by their summing up- or the old and largely discarded practice by tv pundits of calling of elections before the polls closed.

When they try to tell us so quickly what the popular response is, they influence that response. Likewise, when critics tell you a show is disppointing and/or in danger of cancellation so fast, sometimes before you even see it-well, that has an effect beyond that of stimulating and thoughful analysis and criticism.

Maybe it would be better for the viewer and the industry if there was less advance access to programming for the media. There is obviously a desired free publicity aspect, but maybe it costs the industry more, in the end, than it helps. Still- not likely to change now.

[ edited by toast on 2009-02-25 16:17 ]
I wouldn't get so worked up over the reviews. I've enjoyed the show so far and look forward to watching the mystery unfold. I've got faith in Joss' ability to tell a story.

And what the hell is wrong with the tv viewing world anyway? When shows like Biggest Loser and Super Nanny are enormous hits, it tells you something stinks.

I just read yesterday that the average American watches 151 hours of television a month. The average! Those Hulu commercials where they talk about turning the viewers brain to mush might not be too far off.
I was worried about Eliza coming into the show. Despite her hotness, I never cared for her acting. In the first episode, I thought she was average. In this last episode, I think she did quite well. Some of her facial expressions (loved her face when she says, "You'll just let me go?!" its funny looking), delivery of her lines was quite good. Once they surround her with 'friends' in the Dollhouse, which I believe they're building towards, I think she'll do even better.

Anyway, I've stopped worrying about reviews like this. We're going to get 13 episodes atleast. I'm going to enjoy the ride while it lasts... there's plenty to like about this show. Plenty for me, anyway.
“Dushku first appears in a micromini dress, showcasing her most formidable assets.” - Brian Lowry / Variety

“...the primary qualification that Dushku brings to the part is that she graduated with honors from the Royal Academy of Cleavage.“ - Nancy Franklin / The New Yorker

“She looks pretty, but the pebble rattling around in her head must have knocked out the light.” - Dustin Rowles / Pajiba

There is a phenomenon where if a woman is perceived to have overachieved due to her looks/body, she is immediately marginalized to being “the substanceless pretty woman” - having little or no intelligence, ability, morals or worth as an individual. At this point, no level of scorn is off limits – in fact it's almost culturally encouraged to pile it on. This is exactly the type of person we're supposed to hate – a skin deep beauty who has coasted to success on the body she was given without ever earning it. I suppose it's easier to lump women into this stereotype and let loose with the venom than to take the time to address each unique situation and person, but obviously it doesn't make it right.

If reviewers don't have a good opinion of Eliza's acting ability, that's absolutely their right – I simply think they're wrong. What I really object to though is the type of comments above that have nothing to do with her acting ability. It's the embodiment of the phenomenon I've just described. They didn't appreciate her skill as an actress, but apparently did notice her body and then decided it was okay to be derisive of her intelligence and demean her as a human being – and based on what? A couple episodes of a show they didn't care for? That's not the way you treat people – it's just not acceptable.

Stepping off my soapbox...
Yikes, those quotes all lumped together really do show how the "criticism" has moved beyond Eliza's acting ability. Lovely. :-/
^yeah, pretty much. :(
So the reviewer's just expressing their honest opinion but when people who are enjoying the show and see potential in it do so they're rose coloured glasses wearing fanbois ? Hilarious.

It's an opinion piece and as such I have no issue with it. I disagree with nearly every major point it makes and don't think it in any way substantiates its claims but such is life - the only difference being I guess, my opinion isn't making money from advertising hits. Apart from that we're both just internet posting farties.

-1 (Troll) basically


I'm not saying that people who are enjoying the show are wearing rose tinted glasses Sage. What I'm saying(er...agreeing with really :P) is that a large majority of these people(critics) are not reviewing Dollhouse wearing them.
Yeah Rhodey but the fact a reviewer isn't wearing rose coloured glasses doesn't mean they're not wearing shit coloured glasses i.e. [both of ;)] your implication is that they're neutral and we're not when in fact, nearly everyone has a bias of some description. And that's most definitely true of this reviewer IMO (so it's not that they're "just watching it without the rosy glasses of a fanboy" - my emphasis).

Yikes, those quotes all lumped together really do show how the "criticism" has moved beyond Eliza's acting ability. Lovely. :-/

It's interesting in a depressing sort of way that the tenor of some of the reviews validates the worth of a show like 'Dollhouse' (which is partly about objectification) in the first place.
"hard to tell the difference between when Echo is the listless vessel or when a programmed personality is inhabiting her"

I do not see that as an honest criticism, but someone indulging in hyperbole for its own sake.

I gotta agree with redeem147 about SMG's acting. She had great comedic timing, and Joss mentioned how much she gave to other actors. You can tell what Buffy is thinking or feeling in most scenes, without a lot of drama and often without any dialogue. To be able to communicate that, is acting.

I think some of the critics see a flakey or goofy character, and dismiss the actor/actress. But as the saying goes: dying is easy, comedy is hard. (I think the speech in "Tropic Thunder", about what wins awards, nails on the head what a lot of people consider "acting".)
I think a lot of the critics are watching this show though Joss colored glasses. They are coming into the show with expectations and what they find is a show not really like Joss's other shows and that brings on the disappointment. The disappointment makes it easier to see what isn't working instead of seeing what is and isn't working and judging the show like any other new show.

I think Eliza is doing okay. She could be better. I think she wants to be great because this is her chance to show she's more and we(I)can see that a little. I do think she was better in The Target. I don't think she's the only character that matters though. Echo's handler has been a big part of the two episodes and he really shines imo. I think Echo is coming a long nicely and I can't wait for Fridays because Dollhouse is one of the better shows to premiere in the last few seasons imo.
I think Eliza's doing great. I don't see any of the problems with the acting that people keep pointing to. I can tell when she's someone new because her body language and inflection change. The weekend girlfriend in the pilot is very different from Eleanor Penn, and Jenny in the second episode is not really like either of them. I couldn't see any differences between some of the flashback engagement stuff and the original weekend girlfriend, but I'd expect that to be a popular engagement type and for those imprints to converge on one personality (or a complex of them), just with some individual variations.

When she's Echo, she's very different from any of those and it's creepy how docile and open to suggestion she is, even when she's showing some innate curiosity that the staff clearly finds unsettling.
I think that claiming you can't tell the difference between blank Echo and imprinted Echo is extremely disingenuous at best. I can't imagine saying that with a straight face. Its hyperbole of a pretty drastic order.
I want to throw in my 2 cents or too sense- whatever. We must remember that these "critics" are paid to write the reviews they write. Some are paid to write hate reviews, some are paid to write the reviews that are quoted in movies and TV ads "best new show all year!"

They are paid to rile people up, that is, attract readers/viewers so their media companies can charge higher and higher advertiser fees. In other words, they aren't real critics who discuss the genuine artistic merits of a project, they are entertainers whose focus is to move product and make a profit. I don't put any stock in what these jerks say. Real criticism is dead. Long live the French New Wave! Long live DOLLHOUSE.
I don't put any stock in what these jerks say.


Play the ball not the man. We try not to bash people here.
Calling them jerks actually doesn't help, let's not bother with that, please.

ETA - What Simon Saidtm

[ edited by zeitgeist on 2009-02-25 19:25 ]
It's interesting in a depressing sort of way that the tenor of some of the reviews validates the worth of a show like 'Dollhouse' (which is partly about objectification) in the first place.

Was just thinking the same thing, Saje. I hope that these reviews inspire something on par with Smile Time. Perhaps a TV/Movie critic will fall on hard times and be forced to become an Active. And then die on a mission because their Imprint was a bit faulty and they didn't act the part well enough.


Edited by the grammar gnomes.

[ edited by Emmie on 2009-02-25 19:29 ]
True GVH but my specific issues in that respect are a) talking about how "shallow" the mythology is (as in this review) or how badly the arc's being handled and b) talking about how little we identify with Echo.


Check, Saje. I'd agree with you that the first part is pretty silly. An arc - almost per definition - is formed by multiple episodes and can't really be judged beforehand. What one can do is judge how the seeds are being sown for later arc-y-ness in these early episodes. In fact, I'd pretty much say that that's the strongest point of the show so far. I'm highly intrigued by the overarching plotlines that have been thrown out there and I feel they're well-dosed and timed greatly. The "watching Caroline on tape with dead guys in the room" scene at the end of episode one gave me the shivers and really "upped the ante" for me (while others already had that with Sierra's entrance) and the realisation that Alpha was behind most of the stuff happening in episode two was arguably the high point of the second episode for me.

As for your second point, I'd disagree. I think that it's a valid criticism. Not one I'd agree with, mind, because I feel we've already seen enough bits and pieces of Echo to start caring what happens with her. And I'm not even talking so much about when she's in her empty state in the Dollhouse (although some of her slighty-elevated-awareness-scenes contribute to the character), but about the hints that she's "exceeding" her programming and/or remembering things, which we've had in both episodes so far and her making, for instance, more of a real connection with Boyd. It's also through his reaction to her in episode two (when he says that he'd trust her with his life) that we get more of a feel for the character beneath these one-off imprints.

But having said all that, there is a valid criticism there. If one is not able to identify with the main character after three episodes (which is still about 25% of the episodes this first season), that's something that's worth noting. And I can even imagine people feeling that way. If I was writing a review of a new show and found that I felt that way after the episodes I was sent, I'd be certain to mention that.

My primary reaction to all this early rush to judgment style criticism is to wish some of these folks would wait a bit, to see what develops. Which is kind of what I'm doing; I see possiblities for amazing complex, rewarding developments, as well as plenty of possible pitfalls. My hopes are pretty high, because Joss has earned these high expectations and some patience- in my book.


Yeah, toast, that certainly makes sense for us fans. I know it's what I'm doing. But imagine not being a fan - then this is just another new show on television. There are a lot of new shows on television each year. If the pilot fails to impress, I sometimes try a second episode, but certainly not always. Maybe I even try a third. But that's about it, if it fails to engage. Not because I'm certain it won't pick up later (there's examples of shows that do, after all), but because I'm not enjoying it enough to keep watching. Time for television - at least, for me - is limited and I mostly like to fill it watching things I enjoy and find worthwhile and engaging. If it turns out I was wrong to drop the show, I might come back to it later on DVD, but I'll still have "dropped" it in the first case.

And yes: it'd suck if people did that with Dollhouse. But only because I'm emotionally involved with this fandom and have huge respect for the creator, writing staff and lead actor. If I wasn't, Dollhouse would probably just be about engaging enough to keep trying it for now, but I wouldn't be surprised if it didn't meet that treshhold for others.

As for professional criticism, the story becomes even more different. It's not a critic's job to say "well, it's not so great now, but maybe if you stick with it...". A critic is there to save us time and critique stuff for us beforehand. I do use professional reviews by critics I trust for movies or books for that purpose, though usually less so for television (but that's beside the point). Now we're all free to disagree with any of these critics or even be insulted if we disagree or a little bit angry if they write shallow, unfounded or overly demeaning reviews. But I'm getting a sense in this thread (and please note that I'm not singling you out here, toast, in fact I'm not even saying that you think this) that some people feel that critics shouldn't be reviewing this at all, or if they were doing so, they should not be writing negative reviews, simply because they haven't seen the first season in its entirety yet. With that, I disagree. Just for the record :).

ETA:
Real criticism is dead.


I'd disagree heavily with that. Both as a parttime critic and as a reader of reviews. I've been reading - for instance - SFX's "five star special" this week (an overview of the best reviewed sci-fi movies and television shows in their magazine) and if people feel the need to check out a publication with great - layered, insightfull and sometimes impressive - reviews, look no further. Highly recommened.

[ edited by GVH on 2009-02-25 19:55 ]
I went to high school with the reviewer, and I can assure you he is NOT a jerk. A super sweet, very smart guy. I disagree with him on most of his points about Dollhouse, but I won't hold it against him :) He's a great guy.
What GVH said!

As for the job of the critic... it's fascinating reading these reviews, partly because it's the first time I've read a TV review of a new show. I do read book reviews, and there are particular reviewers I trust, and I'll read what they've loved and bypass what they've trashed. But for TV, I've always followed the recommendations of friends and whedonesquers, coming to every party a few seasons late, until now. Basically, until the past couple of weeks, I'd only read TV reviews of shows I was already really into (and so... well-established, relatively successful or "proven" shows).

Anyway, it makes me wonder about the general practice of reviewing a pilot or the first episodes of a new show. Is this level of negativity common, or is the show really getting hammered to an unusual degree? Buffy and Firefly seemed like critical darlings that just didn't catch on with a larger audience, but then, I didn't read the early reviews when the shows first aired.

I can see not really getting into Dollhouse. I like it, though I'm not blown away yet, and I always find Eliza Dushku so engaging. But it really surprises me that the show might inspire such active dislike, given all the crap that's on TV. I know that "meh, didn't hold my interest" does not a review make, and maybe in trying to make the case stronger and more specific the vitriol starts to flow more freely, but in any case, I'm surprised (she repeated, repetitively).

Glad your old classmate has someone to defend his smarts and sweetness here, Harmalicious :)!
The thing about Buffy being a critical darling was the critics were expecting something like the movie (complete camp, no depth, a critical flop), so the pilot was a breath of fresh Joss air. I feel like expectations of this are warping perspective here and FOX-hindered-Joss cannot immediately reach the expectations of God-Joss-who-created-Buffy-and-Firefly.

Has everyone here read the script for the original pilot "Echo"? Now there was an amazing piece that introduced the concept and the characters with the clarity and complexity I expect from Whedon. I very much enjoyed the action in the third and fourth acts also. And this was the script that was largely acclaimed critically, as I recall.
I haven't read the script for the original pilot. Though I'd like to if I could get my hands on it ...

I think you're right, though about the expectations. People want this to be Buffy or Firefly right off the bat. And, the thing is, Buffy (and even Firefly) weren't really Buffy (or Firefly, though it was more fully-formed) right off the bat. I think, for instance, it's really unfair to say that the mythology behind the show is not deep enough. How much mythology was there in the first episode of Buffy? There are vampires; Buffy kills them; Giles is a Watcher - that was about it.
Lots of good points being made in this thread. It got me thinking a bit about what is "just a matter of taste" and what it's fair to argue about.

I think the question of whether or not someone is a "good actor" is pretty much "a matter of taste." I mean, sure, you could say that if someone gets rave reviews from almost everybody then in some "objective" sense they are clearly "good" at the job. But if you personally find them unconvincing, there's no way you could be argued into a different p.o.v. I think with acting it's a little like sketching a likeness: we all cue onto different parts of a face when we 'recognize' it. Some people will see a sketch of someone they know well and completely disagree as to whether it captures that person's look (see most of the threads on the Buffy and Angel comics here). I think acting is probably similar: no one simply "is" the character they play--they bring that character to life with a whole range of factors (tone of voice, gestures, stance, the way the eyes move, facial expressions etc. etc.)--we key off those different components in different ways.

Thus, if a critic says "ED is unconvincing in X role" there's nothing much to say about that other than "I agree" or "I disagree."

Similarly, if a critic says "I find this story unengaging" there's really nothing much you can say about that. You either were engaged or you weren't--and you're the only person who can testify as to which. But, of course, as soon as you add in a reason to support any of these "matter of taste" issues, then there's room for fair argument. If you say "I find it unengaging because there's no room for character growth in the Dollhouse world" or "because there's no humor" or "because there's no continuous character to care about"--well, then you're making claims that can, in fact, be falsified. Of course, I might succeed in convincing you that you're wrong about the why of your lack of interest in the story, but that won't necessarily (or even probably) change the fact of that lack of interest.
catherine: having read a few television reviews in the past, I'd say Dollhouse is getting more negative reviews than most shows I end up watching, but certainly not record low or anything. I've seen worse receptions.

Anyway: I remember the reviews for Buffy being great (although when I started watching in The Netherlands, I think season two was just starting in the US, so I may have missed the initial bunch of reviews), the reviews for Angel being quite good and the reviews for Firefly being somewhat more mixed at first (but still much better than the Dollhouse ones we're seeing now) - but anyone feel free to correct me on that.

I think there is some of what Emmie is talking about, going on here. In fact, I've seen the same type of reactions in a non-Whedon genre group I frequent. The expectations surrounding Joss have risen. And there's probably some Whedon-dislike feeding a couple of reviews and a little bit more of the non-professional blogs and opinions getting flung around the net. But I don't think that effect is so big that it has had a major impact on the overall scores/reviews of the early episodes, although I have no way of proving that.

Also: right, I almost forgot I had that script, Emmie. I was saving it for after I had seen "Ghost", just to see if I'd have preferred the original. Guess it's about time to read it now :).

ETA: exactly, snot monster. I've had long arguments about the objectivity that can be mustered in criticism of fiction here (usually with Saje if memory serves, where we'd always end up agreeing in the very end ;)). Is there such a thing as "objectively good or bad" fiction, etcetera? While I think the answer to that is obviously "no", I do still think that one can be able to be as-objective-as-possible by staving an opinion with facts or arguments-based-on-facts. Then there's still the matter of what constitutes "good" or "bad" (is a storyline "good" if it's complex, or rather if it is simple, etcetera), but I'd argue that there are larger-concensus-states of overlapping opinions that help define what makes something good or bad in general. I.e.: a layered story is usually (but, critically, not always) considered better than a wysiwyg tale, etcetera.

All in all, when applied to professional criticism, a good review, staved with arguments, can be as-objective-as-possible and even still very much worthwhile in its inherrent subjectivity, because of the objective arguments used. I've even been known to want to see a movie because of a well-written negative review which cited factual reasons for not liking it which I then used to form an a priori positive opinion of the same movie (which turned out to be "true" ;)).

[ edited by GVH on 2009-02-25 20:45 ]
The thing about Buffy being a critical darling was the critics were expecting something like the movie (complete camp, no depth, a critical flop), so the pilot was a breath of fresh Joss air.

What were the early reviews for Buffy like? I'd be surprised if there were raves from the get-go. Anyone know if they've been collected anywhere?
Where can I find the script for the original Dollhouse pilot? Anyone know?

Snot, I saw a few early reviews, and they were mostly positive from what I remember. I got the sense that Buffy was a critical darling from the start.
I do think Buffy and Firefly both started out a lot stronger than Dollhouse - with an ensemble we could love after a single episode, for one thing, but they were also just so unique, so unlike anything else on TV, from the get-go. They both had a kind of charm and immediate lovability I'm not getting from Dollhouse, which seems a little more generic in a way. I guess I'd be curious to know if reviews of S1 Buffy in particular (given Joss Whedon didn't then have the reputation he has now, and the blessing / curse of high expectations) immediately tagged it as something with immense promise, something really special. Or just a quirky fun little show. Or total crap?

Also, where are you all getting copies of the original pilot??? (I don't want to read it, I'll wait to watch it on the DVD ;), I''m just curious - is it floating around and anyone can read it, or are you guys special?)
Just a heads up - do not link to the original pilot.
I don't think the original pilot is going to be on the DVD. Yes, please email me if you have a link to the script.
There's a new link up on the front page suggesting the unaired pilot will be on the DVD.
Thanks, Catherine. I assumed because it was chopped up and put into different episode, the original pilot would never see the light of day. Here's hoping!
I think they just recycled bits of certain conversations and such, not a whole lot, if I'm remembering interviews about it right. But I imagine it would be an "extra" for the curious, not included as a proper episode.
I found this review to be too snarky but, then again, I am "a humorless Whedonite."

I s'pose if the reviewer had said something funny I would have laughed and proved him wrong. But snark is not a form of humor.

Hopefully these critics jumping on the Dollhouse-bashing Bandwagon will atone for their initial write-ups with a positive review once the show kicks into high gear and becomes crack-tv (like all of Whedon's other shows did). However, I doubt they will. It's tough to be snarky in a positive review and I think the web-critics these days get paid by the snark.
I just calibrate such comments about Eliza's acting to the supposition that she is "even worse" than SMG.
So if that is your benchmark, I know where to file your opinion.
a little myopic, perhaps, and occasionally humorless... not that any of what I say matters here or anywhere in the universe,

:: glumly surveys the artistic landscape in general :: but I will see your myopic/humorless opener and raise it to, all my taste isn't in my mouth, either. I can't let another, and this time, extremely vitriolic review go by without comment.

Reviewers often put a bad onus on entertainment and in fact, are capable of sinking theatre productions, movies, and television. Sure, it's not like the days of Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons having heady Hollywood power, but it happens, oh boy, does it. I'm glad the New Yorker didn't sink(hole) to this level because if the big institutions all pan it, what do you think Fox is going to do? Suddenly, everyone panics and it's "albatross around my neck time." Personally, I think writing for effect is despicable when not supported by the facts in evidence, your Honor. Where is responsibility? Because I'm pretty sure that pieces like these are designed to stick it to the fandom. I'm grateful that at least this time, Pajiba didn't hoot about another Whedon actor, in this case, a she, being "bangable," and yet, unwatchable.

[ edited by Tonya J on 2009-02-25 21:30 ]
haters blowing chunks all over the cake before I get a slice

A little too descriptive to read when I'm eating lunch, but it serves its purpose of showing that we are definitely living in the "now", and our demands are as such. We should be the only ones to blame when we don't see the natural progression through a series because we've "now'd" it to death. For an illustration on how this is not only applied to television, and does truly exist, see Twitter's infection during Obama's speech. Thanks to QuoterGal for link.

It's interesting in a depressing sort of way that the tenor of some of the reviews validates the worth of a show like 'Dollhouse' (which is partly about objectification) in the first place.

This is what I've been thinking as well, Saje. I don't know if this has even crossed the critics' minds. If so, I wonder what the back-lash would be.
Oh, no doubt even thinking such a thing is a sure sign of myopic humourlessness korkster ;).

As for your second point, I'd disagree. I think that it's a valid criticism. Not one I'd agree with, mind, because I feel we've already seen enough bits and pieces of Echo to start caring what happens with her. And I'm not even talking so much about when she's in her empty state in the Dollhouse ... (my emphasis)

This is something i've been pondering for a few days - do we need a different name for Echo in the default state and "Echo" when she's Jenny or Miss Penn (or Jenny/Miss Penn remembering bits of Caroline/previous imprints) ? See, when I was talking about Echo above I meant Echo GVH i.e. the "person" we see slapping her shoulder to Dominic or stumbling into Sierra's wiping or sitting in the shower after Alpha's done his thing (as distinct from the imprint of the week who we should empathise/sympathise/identify with - if the reviewer isn't i've no issues with them talking about it and even better telling us why). She's the hero IMO (or could be) and what enamoured me of the concept from the get go is, not only could we see a character arc comparable to a Spike or Wesley, we get to see a person develop basically from the ground up, we get to see Joss (+ gang) build a human. And it's that Echo we barely know and that Echo that's gonna take time and, consequently, patience.

Fair points though, someone just stumbling in with no prior knowledge won't get that. But then shouldn't critics (who should have that knowledge) at least mention it, even if only to give folk that aren't interested in that sort of thing a heads up ?

(and also fair, the episodes have to be entertaining in and of themselves, that sort of critical comment also seems perfectly reasonable to me)

I think that claiming you can't tell the difference between blank Echo and imprinted Echo is extremely disingenuous at best. I can't imagine saying that with a straight face. Its hyperbole of a pretty drastic order.

I think that might be nice-glish for "not true" ;).

(BTW, if we do need a new name i've already trademarked iEcho so hands off ! ;)
iEcho? Blech. Would that make blank-state Echo bsEcho? ;)

Seriously, though, Echo cannot be summed up in name... which is how it probably should be.

The Echo that Richard knew is not the Echo that Davina knew. The Echo Topher knows is not the Echo that Boyd knows. The Echo that Boyd usually knows is not the Echo that he sometimes sees.

She doesn't fit into a box, and she shouldn't. People build boxes; they don't go in them.
Agreed, Saje, that there's a distinct difference there. It's just that she's "pure" Echo there, whereas there's a "bit" of Echo, a diluted version say (or, one might say: an "echo"), in her imprint-of-the-week (IotW) persona.

So while, yes, pure!Echo and diluted!Echo are not the same, there's still "echo" in both of them and I think the moments that are seperate from the IotW-persona, clearly belong to "Echo", i.e. when she's remembering things she shouldn't or exceeding her programming. That does add to her Echo-persona and adds to the overall notion I have that we've already gotten to "know" Echo a bit, even though - right now - there's not much on the surface to see when she's pure!Echo.

In fact, one might even state that there's a meta!Echo, or possibly even a Caroline, hiding beneath both pure!Echo and diluted!Echo, which causes her to behave differently than expected in both cases (i.e.: her shoulder-push and her unexpected puzzlement at another active's treatment in pure!Echo state or her memories of said treatment and her reversing her imprinted routine with Boys in diluted!Echo state). In fact, if that meta!Echo does turn out to be Caroline - which I think I might be "feeling" when seeing scenes with Caroline in those first episodes - we have even more material to form an impression of her persona in these first two eps.

In fact, I think the meta!Echo we see develop in the show will probably be in constant flux, and will be constructed from several parts. There's pure!Echo, the various diluted!Echo's and caroline herself (whose remaining personality might either be the basis on which the rest gets grafted, or might be adding bit-by-bit to meta!Echo, influencing that persona more and more, as ever more "original" character traits get restored - depending on which way the story goes).

As for if a critic should point any of this out: I'd say it's too complex for most short reviews, but I'd probably try hinting at it or simplifying/summarizing for my readers. I'm not really sure all reviewers should get it though. We're very much in the know here, and even we can't agree or decide on the exact nature of identity in this show. But having at least a basic notion of the issues on display: yes, essential. If you're unable to grasp themes regularly in your reviews (you might get by with just the once or twice), you're probably going to get a bad review of your own from your editors ;).

ETA: a bit more sense

[ edited by GVH on 2009-02-25 22:46 ]
She doesn't fit into a box, and she shouldn't. People build boxes; they don't go in them.

Only when they're dead anyway ;).

(in reality, romantic notions aside, people fit in boxes very easily IMO. Most people fit in more than one box but we're all very boxable, despite what we might tell ourselves about how we're all unique little butterflies)

The Echo that Richard knew is not the Echo that Davina knew. The Echo Topher knows is not the Echo that Boyd knows.

See, that's the thing I reckon, Davina knew Miss Penn (with bits of Echo/Caroline). Richard knew Jenny (with bits of Caroline). Boyd's met Echo and saw her as a shell until Topher pulled her (and his) strings. None of them (or us) know Echo (yet) because she's not real.

ETA: As for if a critic should point any of this out: I'd say it's too complex for most short reviews, but I'd probably try hinting at it or simplifying/summarizing for my readers.

Well, your (wonderfully) expanded explanation is too complex for most reviews GVH but "Unimprinted - between engagements - Echo is a blank-ish slate that the show will probably gradually write on until, finally, there's something worth reading there" doesn't seem that hard to grasp (or explain).

[ edited by Saje on 2009-02-25 22:49 ]


[ edited by m'cookies actual on 2009-02-25 23:10 ]
Regarding Blue Gloves, he got banned from this site three years ago. I don't make a habit of talking about banned posters on this site or elsewhere but I thought I would give some background info. Feel free to discuss with me what he said via email.
If it's human nature to try to box people in, I think Alpha might be the ultimate Destroyer of Boxes (TM).

ETA: Or maybe that's going to be Echo, actually. Either way I think the interesting thing here's going to be about how two different people wiped of their basic traits break free and who they become in that process.

[ edited by Sunfire on 2009-02-25 23:11 ]
Blue Gloves also makes it sound like Joss showed us all the original pilot and then we all voted on whether to change it :). Which still doesn't make sense, because the pilot that aired was not the original pilot that so many of us read the script for and loved. Weird.
BringItOn5x5, I agree with everything you said, and thanks for taking the time to put the quotes side by side. They are already similarly arranged in my head. But I think you hit on the nail.
*scratches head*. Zeitgeist, are you now replying to m'cookies actual's deleted message (I assume that's what Simon was replying to as well, but at least his reply - judging by the timetags - was posted before the message got removed - which means zeitgeist's got uncanny timebending powers ;))

Anyway: I know I've now pretty much lost what our friendly neighbourhood mods are talking about (which is probably the point, but still ;))

but "Unimprinted - between engagements - Echo is a blank-ish slate that the show will probably gradually write on until, finally, there's something worth reading there" doesn't seem that hard to grasp (or explain).


Well, to be honest Saje, I'm not sure that without more expansion on the nature of the show itself, I'd really get what that meant at all :). But agreed that it should be possible, yeah.
Also true of your more complete explanation ;). I mean, every review's gonna have to explain the premise before they explain anything else.
I chose to remove the post, no harm, no foul. :)

I still want to know which one of you mods is, in fact, Dr. Horrible, though! ;)
I doubt any of the Mods are Dr. Horrible; however, one of them may be a wee little puppet man.
And one of them may be moist... Err ...
This show is surprisingly boring out of the gate. I see hints of great potential but I am wondering why the pace of the first 2 episodes are so methodical??

I mean the point of a pilot and early episodes is to draw an audience in and hook them. These episodes feel more like mid season fillers then episodes to draw viewers in.

Now I really want to know what Joss's pilot and first few episodes originally looked like.
What were the early reviews for Buffy like? I'd be surprised if there were raves from the get-go. Anyone know if they've been collected anywhere?

I've been looking at the early reviews on Lexis Nexis. You might be surprised by the tone. The reviews are positive, but mostly in "hey, this isn't as crappy as it sounds" kinda way.

Just don't judge the show by its two-hour premiere, scheduled to hit the airwaves Monday evening. Slow-moving and a little awkward, it takes a little too much time in setting up the premise, based on the movie of the same name - which was almost as unlikely a success.

For those who let the title convince them to avoid it, the film's concept unfolds like a demented afterschool special. Buffy, a high school student, learns she is actually a slayer - one of a long line of superstrong warriors whose advanced physical abilities must be used to fight and kill vampires.

The strength of the Buffy concept is that it never takes its premise too seriously; an approach that transfers to the TV show, penned by Joss Whedon, writer for Speed, Twister, Toy Story and the upcoming Aliens 4 movie.


With the cult suicides in California, these aren't the best of times for television entertainments to be peddling supernatural fantasies. Series like "The X-Files" and movies like "Asteroid" might take a deeper breath before leaping into the mass-market imagination, a notoriously delicate thing, with their scarifying ploys. What then to make of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," the new Monday-night series on the fledgling WB network? Not to worry. Nobody is likely to take this oddball camp exercise seriously, though the violence can get decidedly creepy.
...
As Buffy changes from one skimpy outfit to another, Giles gleefully promises: "I'd say the fun is just beginning. We may stand between the earth and its total destruction." The series is fun, but that's a thought to make you really shudder.


In its TV incarnation, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" plays like an uneasy cross between "The X-Files" and "Clueless," with a slightly harder edge than the original, if less outright gore.
...
if story sags a bit in the second half, it's a script problem (feature ran a trim 85 minutes). Series has potential for early-teen viewing, though a second episode viewed was far less amusing than show's original seg.


Think of it as the dark side of Sabrina The Teenage Witch. Better still, Clueless meets The X-Files. Its real source is the 1992 movie of the same name, a nifty little satire that skewered high school and monster flicks with a single blow.


And that's where the TV version comes up short. Satire is fine in a one-shot project, but it's tough to sustain in an ongoing series. We're left with the amusing but unexceptional tales of Buffy (Sarah Michelle Geller), a perky Californian chosen by the Powers That Be to fight humankind's fanged foes, with tutoring by snooty, mysterious Giles (Anthony Stewart Head).

Luckily, a few glints of humor manage to shine through, especially in situations where Buffy is torn between dating a cute guy and helping her conspiring classmates (Nicholas Brendon and Alyson Hannigan) to thwart the latest maurauding menace.


A new American television series - based on the cultishly appalling film Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992) - sheds intriguing new light upon British academe. In the pilot episode (due to be screened in Britain next year), teen vampire-hunter Buffy is assisted by a crusty professor described as none other than "the British Museum's expert in vampirology". Anxious to learn more, I ring the museum for confirmation. "We didn't know we had a vampire department," a source says warily. "But anything's possible in our basement."



Almost, but not quite type-A, "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" (8 tonight, WLVI-Ch. 56) nevertheless sinks tongue and fangs deeply enough into the blood-sucker spoof genre to earn distinction. This show is better than the 1992 big screen movie that inspired it. The fledgling is the WB Network's first passable show (unless you count last year's animated "Pinky & The Brain").

In fact the only objection to this well-made comedy is overfamiliarity. After the Valley Girl fixation of the '80s, its grafting on to Jane Austin via "Clueless," and similar exploits, there's not really much new fun to be had from a seemingly superficial but-really-quite-bright teen heroin like Buffy. This show's title is its own punch line and can't help but trip over it after a few episodes, even when it's this nicely produced (by Joss Whedon, who wrote "Speed" and "Twister").


There were some more outright raves as well, but had we been following the reviews back then as closely and obsessively as we're doing now for Dollhouse I don't think we'd have been all that thrilled.
1) I very much like Eliza's acting in Dollhouse. I think she plays both broadly and with subtlety, which ain't easy. Joss has mentioned it, and I agree - her ability to convey vulnerability in a second is just as impressive as her tough, sexy gal persona. I've always thought she radiated a kind of intelligence, sensitivity and power that's a very rare combo. I've never gotten the strong negative reaction to her, and I probably never will.

2) I didn't like Tru Calling, but I didn't think it was Eliza's acting that was the problem. I thought it was too safe/predictable/contrived/unfocused - didn't think the writing got us there. Maybe the directing lacked something, too - harder to tell.

3) We're all just, as Saje points out, "internet farties." So is this guy - so was Pauline Kael, essentially. An internet (or otherwise) reviewer doesn't carry much more weight with me than some commenter on a thread, or some person in the street. If they reason and express themselves well, if they're obviously intelligent, sensitive and observant, that will affect me, but that's what does it - regardless of the publication, etc. Sadly, this does not appear to be the case with other members of the public, or, apparently, TPB.

4) From behind my rose-colored FanGirl glasses (they're Foster Grants) and in my humorless freak kindof way, that can never make or take jokes about Joss Whedon or his productions *sigh* I, too, am tired of the rush to judgment. Maybe if I could just get ahold of a sense of humor...

5) Everytime a reviewer mentions that Eliza is pretty/sexy/hot/whatever as if it's all she's able to provide in Dollhouse (or in some other reviews, as if it prevented Eliza from being a good actor) I've thought (as apparently have some of you'all) - "ahhh - that's actually illustrating one of the depressing attitudes that influenced Eliza and Joss in the creation of this show in the first place." Some folks can't see past her beauty, or something like that. Or so it seems to me. Meta-metastasizingly craptastic!

6) Dorothy Parker and a few others were funny (and cruel) when they dismissed actors - and the rest of whichever production was under review - in such a grand and sweeping fashion. Snarky reviews are so last Tuesday. For that matter, so is snark. I mean this as distinct from "humor."

I might be just about done reading reviewers/reviews like this. They're too broadly dismissive, they seem to be missing stuff or unobservant, they're impatient - and frankly, unsubtle - that is, they seem to only catch broad strokes.

I'd rather re-watch the show than read a whole lot more in this vein. If you don't get Eliza and how she's pulling it off, in my book, you're likely to be missing other stuff, as well.

ETF: a humorless typo. ETF: and then a Freudian mixed metaphor.

[ edited by QuoterGal on 2009-02-26 00:56 ]
"This show is surprisingly boring out of the gate. I see hints of great potential but I am wondering why the pace of the first 2 episodes are so methodical??
I mean the point of a pilot and early episodes is to draw an audience in and hook them. These episodes feel more like mid season fillers then episodes to draw viewers in.


See, now that's a (somewhat-negative) criticism that I can agree with, although I think The Target was a step in the right direction. Kinda like the SSC they were building back in the '90s. Physicists getting excited about the potential device being built, but unless it continues to be developed you were left with a (billion dollar) hole in the ground.
Catherine, I think the original pilot's script was posted online somewhere. But it's been removed since. I read it this past weekend. A very entertaining read and if it is going to be shown in its entirety on the DVDs, color me happy.
I was thinking, that maybe it would of been better if FOX started off with a 2-hour premier, and then a couple weeks later, show another 2 episodes (like 24). That way, FOX can blow off the early episodes fast, and get to the better episodes much sooner.
I understand that people's opinions will vary on Dollhouse, but there really is some unnecessary bashing out there. It's as if everyone expects the show, because it's another Whedon brain-child, to have the success of Buffy, Angel right from the off! Furthermore, they seem to expect it to have the same humour of other Whedon shows but the point is that it isn't. Dollhouse is a completely different idea. In some ways, it's a bit more adult. There was some Joss humour in the second episode, just a bit more subtle than that of the Buffyverse. I think if it did have Buffy-like jokes, it would detract from the seriousness, and of course, the actives wouldn't be able to react to it.

I really think the reviewer has some sort of vendetta against Eliza. IMO her acting wasn't bad (ok, so I wasn't too keen on the Caroline portrayal), but it must be tricky to act completely blank and the second episode was much better than the first. And how can you expect character development based on the very first two episodes of a show, especially where the whole idea is that the main character has no character?!

I also didn't like his description of Boyd as a 'stoic stock black character'. That was just rude. I don't see any need to mention his race, as it bears no significance to the character or the show.
Shep, I agree. Nothing in that review reflected even a negligible percentage of what is real. The whole piece is designed to create controversy, and of course, for us over here to comment on it. By reading the comments there, you see the sort of furor it's creating. Only a very few people objected to the tone, while some wrote very well-reasoned rebuttals. In other words, the writer achieved their goal. Thanks for the Buffy reviews, snotmonster.
Cool, snot monster, thanks for that blast from the past.

Shep, I've argued a part of that point in previous threads and elsewhere. Right now, after reading (part) of the original pilot script, I'm not so sure. That script's dialogue flowed much more like the Joss Whedon scripts we've seen before and that didn't detract from the seriousness. In fact, the opening is very dark, but also very witty. We know Whedon can do that, as he's done it before, so I refuse to accept that it can't mix with "serious". I have argued before that because of the more realistic setting and because of the fact that there's no "constructed family" here, the language should feel more distant and different as well. But, again, after reading "Echo", I've partly changed my mind. I still think it may be part of the reason why the style and language is as it is right now, but I also think it could have worked in another way. In fact, I'm now officially hoping the dialogue and feel will work towards that first script in the later parts of the season, when Joss and co. start firing on all cylinders.
Glad some of you enjoyed the Buffy reviews. I found them interesting. Shows how hard it is to "get" the potential of a series from the first few episodes. Clearly none of those reviewers had any expectations of "greatness" for that series. And yet now some of those same reviewers are savaging the first few eps of Dollhouse because it fails to measure up to the greatness of Buffy. There's probably a lesson in there somewhere.
Hee, thanks for posting those bits of reviews, snot monster. Nothing as sharp as some of the reactions we're seeing to Dollhouse, for sure, but I'm not surprised that most reviewers weren't seeing glimmers of greatness. I think I've read / heard Joss saying that it was throughout the course of S1 that he began to realize what he could really do with the story and the cast he had. So it sounds like even he didn't immediately see the full potential of the show! I'm discouraged by the number of Dollhouse reviews that are just awful. I think that's a first for a Joss Whedon show, though it doesn't mean much at this point (except, possibly, that readers of those reviews will be less likely to tune in, of course).

But I think I too may be burning out on reviews. I've probably spent more time reading / writing about Dollhouse than actually watching it. That's a wonky ratio.
Nothing as sharp as some of the reactions we're seeing to Dollhouse,

Yeah, but don't you think these reviews would be pretty savage if the reviewers had had high expectations?

I'm discouraged by the number of Dollhouse reviews that are just awful. I think that's a first for a Joss Whedon show

I think most of the "bad" reviews I've seen say "what a disappointment for a Joss Whedon show" more than "this show is a terrible outrage perpetrated against the human race!"

I don't remember the reviews for Firefly being very good. Heck I was pretty "meh" after "Train Job." Of course, two or three eps in I was head over heels.
In fact, one might even state that there's a meta!Echo, or possibly even a Caroline, hiding beneath both pure!Echo and diluted!Echo, which causes her to behave differently than expected in both cases (i.e.: her shoulder-push and her unexpected puzzlement at another active's treatment in pure!Echo state or her memories of said treatment and her reversing her imprinted routine with Boys in diluted!Echo state). In fact, if that meta!Echo does turn out to be Caroline - which I think I might be "feeling" when seeing scenes with Caroline in those first episodes - we have even more material to form an impression of her persona in these first two eps.

I agree with most of your assessment, GVH (because I think the same), but the meta!Echo we see I don't think is completely Caroline. Maybe she's more of a strippedofemotionalturmoil!Caroline. Meta!Echo to me has more character than pure!Echo, but lacks the distraught that brought Caroline to the Dollhouse to begin with. She's like a non-emotionalcarolinew/knowledgefromimprints&distancefromhumanity!Echo. :)

She doesn't fit into a box, and she shouldn't. People build boxes; they don't go in them.

Only when they're dead anyway ;).


I left that joke open just for you. And in you walked. ;)

people fit in boxes very easily IMO. Most people fit in more than one box but we're all very boxable, despite what we might tell ourselves about how we're all unique little butterflies)

Ah, Saje, that's why I said she couldn't into A box. Singular. One. Because there are parts of her that fit into many boxes (like you said, boxable). However, the people at the Dollhouse (Topher, Boyd, Dominic) expect pure!Echo to behave a certain way... even though their experiences with her are quite different.

For instance, Boyd had pure!Echo pretty much boxed up (i.e. he had her figured out that she would *always* trust him) until "The Target" when she flips that on its head. Boyd then finds himself trusting a person he thought he knew, but is now aware that there are things that he doesn't quite understand. His perception of her has changed (she doesn't fit the box he had her in). His behavior to her is seen when Echo wakes up from her engagement and Boyd is there. (Eps 1 & pre-Target did not have Boyd in the room when she woke up, only Topher.) Not only is Boyd there, but he takes Topher's phrase "for a little while" and takes Echo's hand (which he resisted from doing before).

To put a person in a box would require to know all of the contents of that box (kitchen tools box= kitchen tools). It is not possible, because labeling a person, and identity, a soul is not possible (you may label parts, but not the whole).

The only thing that gets put into a box is a body.
I think most of the "bad" reviews I've seen say "what a disappointment for a Joss Whedon show" more than "this show is a terrible outrage perpetrated against the human race!"

True enough, though there have been a few reviews, including this Pajiba one, that really do seem to think the show is a terrible outrage perpetrated against the human race! It's hard to know how critics would have reacted to early Buffy if they'd had higher expectations. If, say, it had followed Firefly, I would imagine really warm reviews - "another funny and oddball and yet completely different creation from TV-genius Josh Whedon!" Then again, if he'd made a previous show like The Sopranos, the reaction might have been more, "huh?"

I didn't fall completely in love with Buffy or Firefly right away either, it took a few eps for sure, though I found them both more original and engaging than what I've seen of Dollhouse so far. Bad reviews don't help the show and maybe hurt it, but in the end, if it catches on, it catches on. I'm just surprised at how negative some of them are, towards what seemed to me a couple of entertaining hours of TV.
I really don't think so, catherine. If the first two episodes of Buffy had aired after Firefly there would be considerable disappointment. I actually agree with some of those reviews that snotmonster dug up where they say that the second half of the two-part Buffy premiere sags. I very much enjoy 'Welcome to ...' but 'The Harvest' is actually quite bad in my opinion and probably the worst thing Joss has written.

As for how well Dollhouse has started in comparison to Buffy - it's a difficult question. I do think 'Welcome to the Hellmouth' was a much smoother introduction to the show than 'Ghost' was for Dollhouse; it really nicely sets up the characters, the world and it has a funny and charming script. But I saw it after I was already hooked on the show, and I'm now not sure whether it would have really got me all that excited about the show or made me want to keep watching. 'Ghost' did get my excited and would have even if I'd never heard of Josh Waldron. Plus Dollhouse has a much more complicated premise to establish and 'Ghost' was attempt number two. All of that is why my initial reaction to 'Ghost' was 'not as smooth as Buffy's premiere but in many ways more impressive'. And on a comparison of episode 2's: though I didn't care much for 'The Target' it was much better that 'The Harvest' IMO
Speaking of The Sopranos, someone needs to start a fan campaign to get Joss to watch it. He needs to check out the competition :)
Oh, and Pointy, I really like your blog. ;)
Favorite quote from those Buffy reviews:
Nobody is likely to take this oddball camp exercise seriously
LOL.

I'm giving up negative Dollhouse reviews for Lent (and beyond!). I've heard the gripes, I still like the show, and I'm a lot more interested in reading Whedonesquers' takes on what it all means and where it might be going. There has been a lot to chew on in only two episodes, and it's just going to get meatier.
I'm not half way all the comments here (and at pajiba.com), but I'd like to second Grotesk and Baxter.

I'll try to watch the rest of the episodes and enjoy the process.

Two highlights for me:
- the three opening sentences of the (revisioned) pilot.
- the short skirt on Echo, while dancing to Lady Gaga's Just Dance.
They might seem trivial, many people will have forgotten those after a first viewing. But to me they really are deep. And good.
I'm quite sure this kind of thing is what I will be liking in any Joss production.

But I'm having great difficulties with the grotesque violence... Shooting a person in the leg, twice. Bah! And how was he -or Echo later with her hunter- able to turn the tables anyways!?
Too incredible for me. But hey, it's tv!

Take care, and peace (literally).

[ edited by Mel_Anton on 2009-02-28 09:46 ]
I have to admit, it's taking a while for me to get properly into but so did the Wire. Make your own conclusions.

On another note, their words for poor Eliza were OTT, but I don't really think that she was entirely...believable as Faith. She's not the best actress Joss has ever used by any means but you've got to give the poor girl a chance. I hope in a couple of episodes she'll find her feet. And Keanu Reeves is a shitty actor and he still totally was right for the Matrix :/
Can we please avoid referring to folks with descriptives like "shitty"?

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