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March 01 2009

On US TV this month, there's trouble in Joss Whedon's new Dollhouse. "...a paranoid, science-fiction Secret Diary Of A Call Girl." Jonathan Bernstein discusses Dollhouse in the current Guardian Guide and makes a terrible mistake.

Dr. TERRIBLE'S Sing Along Blog? I think I missed that. I saw the Horrible one.
Hands up who wants to make Dr Terrible's Sing Along Blog?
Maybe he should have just watched 'Dr Terrible's House of Horrible' instead. After all, it DOES have a captain. Plus, lesbian vampires, too!
he seems to have watched Dollhouse, though.
Was that a crack at Dr H being a terrible show? That's how I read that.
Well as much as I want Dollhouse to be good, I have to say I liked T:TSCC much better last week. I keep reading just hang on until ep 6, but not sure the show is going to have that much time.
I love Dr. Terrible! Josh Wheaton is the best!

;-)
Can't say I disagree with his comments on Dollhouse. I am giving the show a chance due to my love of Joss. But I'm not crazy about the high priced hooker elements I've seen and I'm still waiting for clever dialogue and more interesting characters. Its hard to invest in the "dolls" when we haven't seen much of their true self yet.
Next on Fox Fridays The "paranoid, science-fiction Secret Diary Of A Call Girl", bet it would be a hit.
Interesting article, but man, unless that was an intentional slight, some really basic fact checking could've cleaned that up. Lazy.
I think we saw a lot of character development in Echo last week, when she started to take on the responsibilities of her own handler, and the climax of this week's episode showed her character developing in a disturbingly mixed manner.
I agree with him that the basic premise of Dollhouse is troubled. Suspension of disbelief is the responsibility of the work of fiction to instill in the consumer and Ballard's remark about why people would hire Actives just doesn't do it for me. It made more sense in episode 1x03 and 1x02 but I didn't buy it at all in the pilot. I really want to like this show but I find the premise illogical and the execution cheesy at times (the most dangerous game plot and the singer needed to face death to enjoy life). It totally makes sense why Joss slowed down production because of sub-standard scripts. I have faith it will get better around episode 6 but I have a bad feeling it's too late.
Sure, it's improbable, but if we accept the science I don't find the premise of people renting dolls to be that far-fetched. It certainly makes more sense than Friday's abysmal Terminator.

People pay money for sex. I don't know why, but some rich people pay a lot of money for high-priced prostitutes. So why wouldn't they pay for dolls?

I know a lot of people had problems with getting a doll as a hostage negotiator rather than finding a real one, but it makes sense to me. There aren't that many hostage negotiators, and I'm sure most of them work with the authorities. I'm assuming this guy's business isn't legal. You can't get a real hostage negotiator, but you can have someone with the memories of one. Works for me.
Ah, yes. The premise of Dollhouse -- that rich people will pay for obscenely pricey toys -- is indeed very far fetched. Joss should go back to those shows of his which were more grounded in reality, like the high school kid who fights monsters and the vampire PI.

Poorly executed I will grant you -- but Dollhouse's basic premise to me makes perfect sense. But then, I don't trust rich people.
You know what's a troubled premise? Vampires. A conflation of prostitution and AI, on the other hand, is a foregone conclusion as far as American society goes.
Indeed. The Dollhouse exists. Not just one - thousands, all over the world, in every country on earth. Just without the mind wiping. I could pick up the phone right now and get somebody hired to my door in an hour who would do whatever I want. Thanks to this thing called Google and Internet, you can even book online. (Note: I do not do this).

Not only is Sunnydale crawling with vampires, but hundreds of kids in one school are dying. And the government... sends in a bunch of college kids called The Initiative. Who's leader creates a robot monster.
Pretty much in line with what has been said before, I am getting more and more annoyed with those that keep stating that suspension of disbelief is required for this show, and that's why they dont like. These being the same people who watched Buffy and Angel and Firefly. Which of course required no suspension of disbelief at all.

And there was that article that talked about having to take things on faith ("it's true because I say it's true") and they specifically quoted Buffy as not being like that.

Seriously, WTF?

There was an entire mythology laid down, that Joss made up as he saw fit. The greatest part of which was that the Hellmouth drew in all the monsters of the world, yet clearly they werent all there, but it gave a reason for new badnesss to keep turning up. It was a great device and worked well for the show, but it's clearly a case if "it's true because I say it's true". It didn't harm the show and the show of course was fantastic, so why are people have issues accepting things they are told with Dollhouse?

And yes the idea that the uber-rich would want to pay to have precisely (and it's the tailoring to their exact specifications which really nails this) the companion/assassin/sexual partner/etc that they want is utterly believable.

I'm not saying everyone has to like Dollhouse, of course I'm not, but I just wish if they were going to attack it they wouldn't use such flimsy and poorly thought out arguments.

And now back to not posting for another year.
Hey, dev: I don't even have to have an argument at all to dislike DH.
And if you read my post you'll notice that I didnt say an argument was required to dislike it. I simply said that those attacking it were using flimsy arguments.
Indeed. The Dollhouse exists. Not just one - thousands, all over the world, in every country on earth. Just without the mind wiping. I could pick up the phone right now and get somebody hired to my door in an hour who would do whatever I want. Thanks to this thing called Google and Internet, you can even book online. (Note: I do not do this).

But, isn't that precisely the basis of the criticism of Dollhouse, Gossi? The problem (if it is a problem) is not that it is unrealistic that rich people would pay large amounts of money for someone to fit the specifications of their personal need/desire/kink. The problem is that rich people can already get people to do that without an elaborate mind-wiping procedure and all of the sci-fi rigmarole that goes along with it.

(Personally, I don't that is actually a problem, though it could be explained better than it was by Ballard in the pilot. People have desires, very specific and hard-to-fulfill ones. There is no reason that if it were available, something like the Dollhouse would not have clientele willing to pay to fulfill those desires. That being said, I think the most common and powerful specific and hard-to-find desire is probably the desire to be loved/desired. And since that is something that is not easy to fake (if it is possible at all) at any price, I would find it hard to believe if 90% of the Dollhouse engagements were not just that.)
I am really getting sick of reviewers blaming the fans for being overly critical of dollhouse before it's release. We were being overly critical of fox, not Dollhouse. Saying Dollhouse would probably be canceled and saying Dollhouse should be canceled are two totally separate things. We were just looking at the Joss' history with FOX and being realistic. But we still wanted to see the show and assumed it would be great since Joss was behind it. If they were bashing Joss or his work before it aired then they are not his fans.

I am also tired of saying that nobody would ever pay for the Dollhouse services, especially since they addressed this in the first episode.

Rich people will always pay for super expensive things because they want "the best" and think that lots of money will always get them "the best". Otherwise who would buy a signed piece of paper with some paint splattered on it sell for a million dollars?
They think it is good because someone else put a high value on it.

Of course with a few exceptions, like overpriced art, more money will usually get you the best. Actually it is not just more money, it is a LOT more money. Dollhouse is a full service company with helicopters and their own private army. Instead of calling the A-team, you call Dollhouse.

Did anyone ever notice that the A-team seldom charged anyone even though they were supposedly mercenaries for hire?
How could they afford to do anything?
Just fixing "the van" back to normal after a big job would have started adding up after a while.

At least they explain the money part in Dollhouse and Leverage.

[ edited by Jaynes Hat on 2009-03-01 18:04 ]
Not only is Sunnydale crawling with vampires, but hundreds of kids in one school are dying. And the government... sends in a bunch of college kids called The Initiative. Who's leader creates a robot monster.


Exactly. I think the largest difference there, is that Joss' other shows are very obviously "genre"-fiction. Suspension of disbelief is needed continuously, so that even things that require suspension within the premise, like your intitiative example, get a bit more slack. Because, well, it's all a big fantasy anyway, isn't it?

Dollhouse on the other hand plays in the "real world". Yes, a strange version of our real world, where a certain mind wipe technolgy exists and is being used, but the real world nontheless. There's no vampires or spaceships that scream genre to be had here. Apart from the basic mind wipe premise, I'm not even that sure Dollhouse is genre fiction at all. This grounding in reality means that one is instinctively less prepared to take problems with believability (like "why would people hire these Dolls for certain tasks") on faith and suspend disbelief, even if the show is quite prepared to offer up a semi-believable explanation and even if the premise is already more believable than many things we've seen in Joss' other shows.
The problem is that rich people can already get people to do that without an elaborate mind-wiping procedure and all of the sci-fi rigmarole that goes along with it.

Note the guy in the opening scene of the pilot. He didn't hire a high-end call girl for a weekend. He paid for a woman to fall in love with him during a weekend of sexy fun. She doesn't just have kinky sex with him and party into the morning for his birthday, she thinks he's awesome. She just met him, and had a great time, and now she's got these feelings she wants to tell him about. That's what he paid for, and it's way more than sex and motorcycles.

That's his birthday present. It's very disturbing. He could pay a call girl for the girlfriend experience, but he'd know and she'd know it's not the real deal. What he paid for is a REAL girlfriend experience, in the sense that she's totally into him and not faking it. That scene is everything the show's about, really. Paying for something you can't get honestly for some reason, and that can't be bought. Sex is easy to buy but the Dollhouse is the only place where you buy love.
Septimus, Sunfire,exactly so. Sure, anyone can hire someone right now in the Real World to pretend to be anything they want. But the key word is "pretend". Getting the Real AnyThing(tm) at a moment's notice is a bit more difficult, so getting the next best thing - someone who actually has all of the Real AnyThing(tm)'s genuine memories and knowledge and skills - seems to me like the best of both worlds: not only someone who will pretend to be whatever you need, but, for all intents and purposes, really be that person.

Dana, no one needs an argument to like or dislike anything, but if a reviewer says "I dislike ProgramB because of (*some structural point*)" and said structural point is very similar to the structure of ProgramA, which said reviewer was supposedly very fond of, then there's something peculiar about that argument, and I'm inclined to suggest that said reviewer not piss on my boots and tell me it's raining. Either be honest about what it is they don't like and why it worked on one show and not another (which would be useful information for someone who hadn't yet seen the new show,) or stop pretending to "review" a show. Just say "I just don't like it." Then everyone knows to ignore them; that kind of review is worthless, since, y'know, what one person likes or doesn't without any special reason doesn't tell me squat about the show (and I say this as someone who isn't really hooked on "Dollhouse" yet, either.)

[ edited by Rowan Hawthorn on 2009-03-01 18:22 ]
I, for one, am LOVING Dollhouse and don't see how most people can't see the potential in it. I mean, think of this: what percentage of TV shows are good in the 1st season? Few. Very few. Most hit their stride around the 3rd season or so.

Also, Actives have the potential to be MUCH better than anyone else a richy-mcrich could hire. Their personalities are built using amalgamations of other peoples memories and skills. Whereas a normal person just has their own skills (and to be THE BEST in their field usually means being less than that elsewhere), an active could be an expert in any (maybe even ALL) skills. I'd be interested in seeing what happens when an active gets imprinted with too many strengths.

Couple those facts with the idea that if, god forbid, an active dies, another EXACT REPLICA could take on the job within an hour or two. The rich aren't just paying for the best. They're paying for the BEST of the best. Possibly even better than that. And they're also paying for that skilled person they need to be, basically, immortal.

Hell, it's not only a juicy premise, but one that I could see ACTUALLY happening within the next 10 or 20 years. Suspension if disbelief? Bah!

[ edited by Caroline on 2009-03-01 18:32 , no need signing your posts]
The problem is that rich people can already get people to do that without an elaborate mind-wiping procedure and all of the sci-fi rigmarole that goes along with it.

I give you a billion dollars. Does this really help you in your quest to find a hot prostitute with a love of hunting and excellent rappelling skills? What you want may not exist. Hence, the Dollhouse.

Also, would you rather use a mathematician or a calculator to figure out your equations? The premise of Dollhouse is not just that the dolls are infused with other people's personalities, but that they're infused with personalities that are architected to be *better* than those that occur naturally in humans. Or at least can be if the job requires it.
Dana: Of course you can dislike anything, with or without reasons, entirely your call. But you come here to talk about a common interest in things Whedonian. I don't think you'd be interested if people didn't say why and how they disliked or liked what they are discussing. And then, if someone else thinks those reasons don't add up- you do want them to say so and explain- right?

Otherwise, why are we here?
I second Sunfire's post--I feel the same way. I also feel that the point of Dollhouse is control. We can't control other people, or the world around us. With Dollhouse's help and enough money, anyone can have whoever they want for as long as they want. And that person is exactly what they want them to be, without fault. As far as I'm concerned, Dollhouse is a totally amped-up spin-off of Buffy's "I Was Made To Love You", and I wouldn't be surprised to find out that Warrens in a basement somewhere, tinkering around with computer chips and playing WoW with Topher.

I have to disagree with GVH, though, because I don't think Dollhouse requires any more suspension of belief than Buffy did. Firefly was futuristic, which made it easy to cope with as a setting, but Buffy was not, IMO, "genre" fiction. Buffy took place in the real world as well. Yes, there were vampires and demons and ghosts and giant preying mantises (manti?), but the point was that only Buffy & co. knew about it. There were still plenty of average Joes walking around with their beepers, playing hackey-sack, and living life, blissfully unaware of what lived in the sewers.

As far as the article goes, it was either a lack of source checking or pure ignorance that brought about the "Dr. Terrible" reference. Either the writer didn't do his research, just plain doesn't know what he's talking about, or doesn't appreciate an internet phenomenon that changed the face of webisodes, possibly forever.

Not to mention that I am completely boggled by this part:

Whedon's asking us to buy that there are members of society so desperate and without hope that they voluntarily sign up to a Secret Organisation where all traces of their memories and personalities are wiped.


Oh, yeah. Well, there's no way that anyone could ever be so without hope that they don't want to be themselves anymore. That NEVER happens. That's why the suicide rate is--oh, wait. Would you look at that? I'll be a monkey's uncle. Apparently people *do* get so desperate and without hope that they even kill themselves, but, no. I couldn't see someone in that situation deciding, well, instead of being me, or being dead, I'll be someone else.

I just wish people would give the show a chance before writing it off, because as any true Whedonite can tell you--Joss has a story to tell, and he'll get to the point eventually. And when he does, it's going to blow you away. I'm not saying he's perfect, but I refuse to give up hope on a show that skeptics have been slamming since before they even started filming.
Not everyone seems to be aware of this - chiefly because obviously most people here don't read the Guardian, it being an English broadsheet, but John-boy Bernstein's "Aerial view of America" always has this tone. He slags off pretty much everything, and twists things around to make them seem more ridiculous than they are. Not out of malicious intent, just satire. If anyone's familiar with Charlie Brooker or Ben 'Yahtzee' Croshaw they'll know what I mean.

It's nothing personal. Let's face it, Whedonites are known for our 'rabidness' in most corners of the media. And re: the other bit - I'm almost positive that he was punning with the whole Dr. Terrible bit.
Addressing the general criticism of people engaging the Dollhouse's services, and Septimus' of there being many non-sexual engagements, I would observe that each of the episodes thus far has centered around a situation in which faking it wasn't good enough - not merely the sexual ones.

Sunfire eloquently defended why the initial engagement we see could have taken place, so I shan't attempt to.

In the pilot, the client likely had criminal connections (beyond the Dollhouse) and was also, as any father would/should be, very afraid for his little girl. Perhaps if he hadn't known about the Dollhouse for unrelated reasons already, he would have gone to some private negotiator... But I can imagine, and I suspect he could as well, what he would have felt if something had gone wrong, and he'd known he hadn't gotten the best he could.

In The Target, because the origins of the client are challenged at the conclusion, one of (at least) two things occurred, both of which are hypothetically feasible; either:
1. A serial killer, who had grown tired of girls not putting up a sufficiently good fight, created an elaborate cover in order to engage an Active - someone who would be guaranteed to be a challenge, because he would choose her skill-set to be so; or
2. Someone took an already psychotic man who had an established history of killing girls and gave him a thorough enough background to pass the Dollhouse's security check, possibly for the specific purpose of killing/frightening(/awakening?) Echo.

In the first case, only the Dollhouse could be certain to provide a worthy opponent. In the second, Dollhouse/Echo was the target for an as-yet unrevealed reason.

Finally, Friday's episode contained a client whose pop-star sensation was being targeted, and who had clearly exhausted other means before going to the Dollhouse. Hired security could never have been expected to notice the problem, because Reyna's emotional state was key to the stalker's success, and her incredible ego served to distance anyone who could have done so. Echo, and later Sierra, were programmed to be people who genuinely cared for Reyna, and so were uniquely positioned to spot the problem - and willing to go to any lengths to rectify it.

I would argue that in each of these cases, the Dollhouse was the logical place for the clients to go, given their connections, wealth and respective motives.
Ok, I get his argument (I don't agree w/ it), but the dude needs to lighten up (I took the "Dr. Terrible" thing as a poorly thought out pun. I think he was trying to be clever).
If he's content w/ Demi Lovato's new show, he can watch that instead of Dollhouse. Personally, I would choose Joss, Eliza and Tahmoh any day over the Miley Cyrus clones Disney is creating in their own secret, underground dollhouse.
For suspension of disbelief to be instilled in the audience a work must be logically consistent within it's own universe. The science of the Dollhouse I find entirely realistic people willing to pay an exorbitant price for something readily available now and likely more effective, what with how many problems the technology seems to have, not so much. I love Joss's other work but so far Dollhouse has been underwhelming to me and the premise doesn't survive close scrutiny which is why I'm loathe to recommend it to anyone to watch. That's not entirely true I recommended heavily until it actually aired. Lost is IMO the best pilot I've ever seen, everyone I've shown that to has been hooked into the show.
Also the mind-wiping insures there were be no tell-all book later from the doll, no chance of blackmail, calls to the wife or husband. No danger of being used by the doll. Can't trust non-dolls.

The dolls also probably have a very good retirement plan as part of their contract.
Maybe the second half (the parenthetical half) of my post was unclear.

I don't think there is a problem with the premise of Dollhouse.

I think that, among others, one of the primary (probably THE primary) advantages of hiring a doll to hiring a prostitute is that s/he will actually love and desire you.

There are, of course, other specific not-pretending attributes one would turn to the Dollhouse for, as we have seen.

When I said I would be surprised, I did not mean that I thought it was not the case. I should have worded it less elliptically. My guess is that 90% (or at least a vast majority) of the engagements involve getting a doll to love and desire the person who hired him or her. I'm not saying the show SHOULD do that. I'm speculating that it is already doing that, that it is the nature of the dollhouse. (And, didn't Joss say pretty much the same thing, that roughly 2/3 of the engagements are sexual/desirous in nature - and those are the ones they show, not the,presumably less interesting "I can have the twins ready" type.)
True but that assumes that the Dollhouse isn't saving the memories and can't re-implant them if they want to and it also ignores that every doll has a handler monitoring the whole thing. I don't see that the clients are particularly protected in this scenario because I wouldn't trust the Dollhouse people an inch to begin with.
Hey, if you can't trust your neighbourhood evil secret organization who can you trust ?

"The dolls also probably have a very good retirement plan as part of their contract." We were discussing this point in another thread and it seems that the fine print can be interpreted quite differently.
"Did anyone ever notice that the A-team seldom charged anyone even though they were supposedly mercenaries for hire? How could they afford to do anything?"

I think Face was a gigolo on the side.
Septimus,

Exactly. Notice how Echo says "I can't stop thinking aobut him" in one episode.

helcat,

I believe the "I think he is the one" implant was destroyed in the first episode. Topher said as much and put the drive in a seperate machine.

Maybe the client didn't have enough money to pay for keeping the implant disk. The twins might be a stored implant or not. The dollhouse might want to keep the negotiator implant around without a client paying a fee. They probably have a storage area like for film where they keep the original memories. The disks are marked so no one will erase/destroy them...and then somebody makes a mistkae like with Serenity and Grrrh Arggh!
I have to disagree with GVH, though, because I don't think Dollhouse requires any more suspension of belief than Buffy did.


Well, in all fairness, I didn't say it did. I actually said it required less suspension of disbelief but that because Buffy is genre-fiction and Dollhouse is based more in reality, it's easier to suspend disbelief on details in Buffy (playing poker for kittens? Sure. Adolescents sent in by the army to hunt vampires and demons? Right-o. Sunnydale High staying open despite massive deathtoll. Yes, sir. Etcetera).

Firefly was futuristic, which made it easy to cope with as a setting, but Buffy was not, IMO, "genre" fiction.


Wait, what? Buffy is not genre fiction? Now that's just silliness, Prophecy Girl ;).

Buffy took place in the real world as well. Yes, there were vampires and demons and ghosts and giant preying mantises (manti?), but the point was that only Buffy & co. knew about it. There were still plenty of average Joes walking around with their beepers, playing hackey-sack, and living life, blissfully unaware of what lived in the sewers.


True. But how does this not make it genre fiction? It's hard to pigeon hole Buffy in just one single box, but at the very least it was a combination of horror/fantasy/sometimes-science fiction. This doesn't change with some people being either aware or unaware of the things that go bump in the night in the fictional universe.
helcat,

The dollhouse is business. The clients THINK they know how to handle business.

The doll is love. Turns out money can buy love.

Do we think Ballard's neighbor is a doll?

[ edited by Anonymous1 on 2009-03-01 21:04 ]
The doll is love.


This should either be their slogan, or it should be a mantra on some kind of t-shirt :).
I guess I just don't see how Dollhouse is NOT genre fiction in the same way that Buffy was.

Both take place in the ostensible real world, but where certain rules are not what we think they are. Buffy had vampires/magic; Dollhouse has dolls/technology.

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Arthur C. Clarke
I think the Dr Terrible thing was just a mix-up. Steve Coogan had a show called Dr Terrible's House of Horrible, and the journo probably misremembered when typing.
You really don't, Septimus? Apart from the one plotpoint (memory wipes), there's not much that puts the "genre" in there. Buffy spent every single episode dealing with genre elements. Heck, even 'The Body' featured a vampire. It was an integral part of the show.

In Dollhouse, the mind wipe element is just a method to get to some interesting identity issues. At least: it has been so far. It might get more central, once we start focussing on the arc (and it also might not). Note that I'm not saying Dollhouse isn't genrefiction, by the way (because it is, if only just), but it's based in reality a lot more than Buffy ever was.

So far we've had "crazy pop star stalker", "hostage negotiator" and "crazy hunter guy" episodes. Things that could feature in any action show, with-or-without the genre element, whereas Buffy had things like "man-eating praying mantis", "hyena possessed teenagers" and "murderous internet robot demon" in its first season. There's an obvious difference there.

Now I'm not making value judgements here. I don't think "more genre" is better than "less genre" and it's not even so that I feel that Dollhouse needs more suspension of disbelief. I'm just arguing that with Buffy, people overlooked its little inconsistensies or the illogical aspects of the premise a bit easier than they're doing for Dollhouse now, because people tend to accept that more in a work of fiction that's more obviously "genre".
I'm leaning towards the theory that people overlooked the little inconsistences and the illogical plot bunnies because they felt a connection with Buffy and the scoobies that made people want to follow their adventures and see what would happen in the next episode, a bond that grew deeper with time. The Dollhouse so far haven't introduced me to anyone for which I'm willing to overlook anything. I'm willing to give them time though Joss credit is still good.

[ edited by jpr on 2009-03-01 21:50 ]
Buffy had a sister who didn't exist who was created by Monks out of a ball of gloo. It was pretty genre.
Honestly, I see the distinction, but think it's a distinction without a difference. I mean, the emphasis so far has been a little more on things that could have been in a regular thriller, but the approach is still decidedly genre-fiction-y. You could just as easily say that every episode of Dollhouse has dealt with the genre elements (the sci-fi mind wiping). It's early in the show, so Dollhouse doesn't have all of the complicated mythology that Buffy developed, but it has the potential to be there, and I only expect it to get more like that as the show moves on.

Now, maybe Dollhouse plays it a little cooler and doesn't hit us over the head with it. But I think that if it lasts, the world of Dollhouse is going to get less familiar and less realistic with every season. Also, the much-discussed seriousness of Dollhouse versus the humor of Buffy makes the suspension of disbelief thing harder to pull off. When watching Buffy one tends to forgive a little goofiness or illogicality because, well, everything is a little goofy and illogical; it's a romp. When watching Dollhouse, it's harder to forgive such things because everyone in the show is so serious about what's going on.
hey--did I miss something?--Bernstein thinks the Actives or Dolls are there willingly but I had the distinct impression that we were going to discover that these Actives had been kidnapped or forced into service as Actives? At the very least it is sort of ambiguous how one becomes an Active isn't it? (I get very little sleep these days so its possible I missed something.)
It's early in the show, so Dollhouse doesn't have all of the complicated mythology that Buffy developed, but it has the potential to be there, and I only expect it to get more like that as the show moves on.


Well, Buffy didn't have the complicated mythology that Buffy developed at first either ;), but it still started out as much more obviously "genre". Its first episode was "very old vampire raised by other vampires" and its second episode was "giant praying mantis eats teenagers", after all :).

Now I'm not disputing that for both shows these exteriors are just a way for Joss to explore the wonderfull characters that populate these worlds. In the end these exteriors are just that. But Buffy's exterior was much more rooted in genre fiction than Dollhouse is now. Again, not disputing that Dollhouse is genre now (it is) or might become more genre (it might), but just saying that - in my opinion - the current based-more-in-reality setup makes suspending disbelief on some things harder.

When watching Buffy one tends to forgive a little goofiness or illogicality because, well, everything is a little goofy and illogical; it's a romp. When watching Dollhouse, it's harder to forgive such things because everyone in the show is so serious about what's going on.


Agreed. This is also a big factor. In fact, I feel these two things are not mutually exclusive, in Buffy's case.
blognerd,

Caroline (Echo) said "Do I have a choice?" So that implies she had a choice but not one that she considered a choice.

Do they really know what will happen to them? Or are they just signing a contract with very tiny fine print? How much informed consent is there? Here sign up for this science experiment we will freeze you for a few years and make all your problems go away. And you'll be five million dollars richer. By signing this, you agree to all terms and conditions...

And all they are actually freezing is their original memories. Their bodies...

[ edited by Anonymous1 on 2009-03-01 22:51 ]
Re "genre"--Joss calls it a "genre show" repeatedly. I think some of you are bending the meaning of "genre" here to mean "fantasy" or something. Westerns are "genre" as are detective shows. It doesn't mean "has outlandish fantasy elements." That said, Dollhouse is clearly Sci-Fi, and as such squarely in the "genre" camp.

, it's easier to suspend disbelief on details in Buffy (playing poker for kittens? Sure.

Sidenote: actually that's a really good example of where my suspension of disbelief breaks down. I think because it's not a generative rule for the world we're watching. That is, I'm happy to accept the impossible economics of Firefly's space travel in a frontier world because it is what makes the storyspace of the world possible. Similarly I'm happy to accept vampires and people's ability to ignore the Sunnydale High death toll for the same reasons. But the kitten thing was just unbelievably lazy and stupid. It was a writers' room joke ("Ha! I know, let's have them gambling for kittens!!!") that should have been immediately spiked.

Why would they go collect debts in kitten form? Kittens can be purchased at your nearest pet store. Better still, if you're a vampire, you walk into a pet store or a humane society shelter and take all the damn kittens you want. The idea of a demon economy based on kitten exchange was almost as bad as having a loanshark demon be a man with a shark head.

Great episode that, of course, in all sorts of other ways. (Imagine if Dollhouse featured anything as heavy handed as that loanshark/shark-head thing in one of these first few eps; the "what has become of the Joss we used to know" brigade would have sprained their fingers in their eagerness to blog about how crap the show is).
That columnist can't seem to write a page without cussing. I read what he had to say about other shows and just thought, consider the source. He's just a journalist who seems like an angry person. His column isn't even published in the U.S., so I doubt anyone who would take Dollhouse off the air knows that the article exists.
If you are asking yourself if Dollhouse is "genre" because of the doll making machine, you should instead be asking yourself how you would feel if a similar machine showed up in something like "24".

I suppose some people might accept it as a possibly hidden technology, but most would say "hey wait a minute, this show just jumped the shark".

A genre show starts out by "jumping the shark" with a fantastic twist that we are asked to believe. So while Dollhouse might be more based in reality than Buffy, they are both "genre" shows according the the understanding of the word in the western world.
What did you think of 'Stage Fright' snot monster?
[play the ball, not the man] - Simon

[ edited by Simon on 2009-03-02 08:27 ]
I don't think anyone anywhere in this thread is saying that Dollhouse isn't a genre show. So we've now clearly established that ;). The only point I was making was that the impact of the genre element on Dollhouse is much smaller, it's much more rooted in reality. It's slightly more genre than Alias for instance (which had the whole Rambaldi storyline), but it's nontheless comparable as a show in how much those elements dictate the storyline (so far.. but "so far" is all we can talk about anyway). And this is one of the main reasons why I think many people have more trouble suspending their disbelief for Dollhouse than they did for Buffy and it's an effect we're now seeing in some comments on the interwebs.

I think some of you are bending the meaning of "genre" here to mean "fantasy" or something. Westerns are "genre" as are detective shows. It doesn't mean "has outlandish fantasy elements."


While I'm sure there's a myriad of conflicting definitions out there of what "genre" means (it's a vague term anyway, because everything has a genre after all), I always use it as a overarching term for science fiction, fantasy and horror. Others use SF (as in: Speculative Fiction) for the same genres, but I just find that confusing as I always read it as Science Fiction ;).

Anyway, snot, I'm with you on the kittens (and, incidently, on the loan shark). That one was a bridge too far for me as well. But I remember being one of the only people who felt that way back when that episode aired. All others had no trouble accepting it, because Buffy was often silly and because Buffy was a fantasy show and people regularly had to suspend disbelief already. Which is where I was going with this in the first place.
I think this comes down to not whether or not the shows are genre, but which genre they are in. Dollhouse is beginning in a much more sci-fi, tech-based place. Buffy was working in the tropes of horror and fantasy. They waited quite a while before springing the sci-fi trap on us, and much like the latest installment of Indiana Jones, it didn't feel right. Adam as a villain always felt weird or lame or out of place. The chip in Spike's head was only acceptable because it allowed my fav character to continue being on the show. But the science fiction of all the androids and the robo-demon Frankenstein monster that was Adam took extra, sometimes uncomfortable leaps, like getting midichlorians in my Force.

Sci-fi is always under greater scrutiny to be realistic and workable. But I think we're working with Science Fantasy here, like Star Wars. The tech will never be explained because that's not the point--in other words, stop worrying about how the Enterprise goes so fast and what the torpedoes are made of, and start wondering how Data's going to get them out of this one.
The problem isn't with how the enterprise is going so fast but why someone would hire Lore to do their taxes.
While I'm sure there's a myriad of conflicting definitions out there of what "genre" means (it's a vague term anyway, because everything has a genre after all), I always use it as a overarching term for science fiction, fantasy and horror. Others use SF (as in: Speculative Fiction) for the same genres, but I just find that confusing as I always read it as Science Fiction ;).

"Genre" as it's used in the term "genre fiction" means something a little different from what it would mean if you were saying "well, what genres would you say that John Updike is referencing in Rabbit Run." "Genre fiction" is any fiction that knowingly and consciously inhabits a given genre space. The easiest way to think of this is "where would I shelve this book in a bookstore"? Most bookstores have a big "Literature" section, but also have, say, a "Science Fiction" section, and a "Fantasy" section and a "Crime Novels" or "Mystery" section and so on. Now, it's not that a lot of the books in the "Literature" section aren't "sci fi" (say "Frankenstein") or "Crime Novels" (say "Bleak House") or whatever. But most of the novels on the "Sci-Fi" shelves were written knowing that that is where they would end up--knowing, in other words, that they were being targeted to an audience with a very specific set of expectations and knowledge about that genre.

So, you can write a novel or make a TV series that is set in the C19th American frontier and not have it be a "Western" (no shootouts, no posses, no "head 'em off at the pass," etc.), but if you consciously set out to inhabit (even if ironically or critically) that generic space, then you're producing a "genre" show.

Dragnet is "genre" TV, and so is CSI. Mission Impossible was a genre show and so is 24. In the big "TV Bookshop" you'd find the first two under "Detective Shows" and the second two under "Secret Agent Shows." Now, you might find a show like "The Wire" under "Detective Show" but more probably you'd find it under some equivalent of "Literature": say "Drama."

What did you think of 'Stage Fright' snot monster?

I've said quite a bit in the "Discuss the third episode" thread. I enjoyed it. I thought there were a lot of big payoffs on the season arc story (possibly TOO big--how do they come back from Echo's AND Sierra's apparent self-consciousness in their wiped states?) and the Client-of-the-Week story was passable.
"Genre" is used colloquially by many people as a shorthand term to mean a messy continuum of scifi/fantasy/horror. It's understood that there are many other genres.
"Genre" is used colloquially by many people as a shorthand term to mean a messy continuum of scifi/fantasy/horror. It's understood that there are many other genres.

Well, it's nice that they understand that, but that wasn't my point.

ETA: Perhaps it would help to add an example. The West Wing certainly belongs to several kinds of storytelling genres. It is not, however, "genre" TV.

[ edited by snot monster from outer space on 2009-03-02 18:58 ]
No, I see where you're coming from, snot. You're probably even correct that that's the way the term started being used. But words are fickle things and change meaning without one ever noticing ;). I think in this case the term has evolved to mean just sci-fi/fantasy/horror in a lot of places. That, at least, is how I've seen it most often used. And I find it to be a usefull shorthand. So when I say "genre", I don't mean 'western' or 'detective'. When you say "genre", you do. Neither of us is actually completely right or wrong, I'd wager. Such is the messy way of definitions :)

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