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April 15 2009

The Times' 50 Best US TV Shows. A Whedon show makes the cut, but maybe not the one you'd expect...

No Buffy, Angel or Firefly but Dollhouse comes in at #35

How I Met Your Mother, Bones, Chuck, Dexter and Mad Men all rank in this strange list. Though most seem to be current shows there are some that started and finished around the same time as Buffy et al.

I really like Dollhouse, but that has to be one of the most puzzling things I've seen in quite a while.
Curious list indeed. Could it be made up of shows that are currently or soon airing in Britain?
No Buffy? Surreal.
Septimus: I think you are right. It has to be a list of American shows airing right now/soon in the uk.
Whooh-hooh!
There are a few on the list that we're not up-to-date on but Sopranos, West Wing, Six Feet Under and others have long finished here.
Ah ah ah, really?! It's good for Dollhouse, someone really likes it! I'd put all four shows in the list..but I guess I'm not saying much new..
Still, Buffy remains the best to me..
Could be stereotyping but I imagine The Times is like one of those people who thinks Buffy is a frippery until you make them watch it.
No In Treatment either.
Dollhouse deserves it in my opinion. If it gets much better it may take the top spot in my Whedon-list.
Very odd list. Dollhouse has only aired 9 episodes, and the majority were problematic at best. If season one ends really strong (here's hoping), maybe then I could justify some sort of inclusion, but not right now.

...although I do agree with "The Wire" being number one.
I'm voting with the "very odd" crowd :)
Fantastic. I love left-of-field stuff like this. Makes a change from the usual 'best of' lists that get posted here.
ER was groundbreaking it is heyday. Should be higher on the list.

Love the line about CSI science being as real as magical beans.
I get what you're saying Simon, but still a list of all time best tv shows that has "House" at #18 and doesn't include something like "Twin Peaks" is hard to take seriously.
Im glad to see Dollhouse getting positive coverage now. Stuff like that might sway FOX's decision to keep or cancel.

Although like most people, I'm pretty surprised Buffy didnt make the list.
eyeboogers: it's not an all time best tv shows list.

The Times bloke sez:
With so many quality imports competing for attention, we've picked our 50 best US television shows of recent years to feed your episodic addiction.


Twin Peaks didn't make the cut cause it aired a while back.
It's not an "all time" list. The oldest (in terms of last ep aired) show on there, from what I can tell, is Six Feet Under and that ended in 2005 in the US, not sure about UK.
Yes, seems to be not necessarily current but all "recentish" shows, a category which excludes the other two 'verses.
Any good press for Dollhouse is great press for Dollhouse.
It may not have the mythos and legacy that make Buffy and Angel extraordinary, but it is very much a unique vision of the present just as Firefly is a unique vision of the future.
The first thing I thought was: someone wants to give Dollhouse a good image, and is trying to save it.
If Dollhouse started around episode 4 I would agree.
Okay, it makes sense that it is recent shows. Glad to see Dollhouse (and also Reaper) on the list since it is getting some good press.

I like a lot of the shows on the list, but I have to say my favorite right now is Braking Bad. With that and Mad Men, AMC is putting out some really good television right now.
I think "Buffy" isn't there because many British folk secretly consider it a British show ;) You haven't truly appreciate Shakespeare until you've read it in the original Klingon :)

[ edited by KingofCretins on 2009-04-15 21:43 ]
I guess it's at least a "best of" that wears its "recent years" on its sleeve, makes for a refreshing change - most of the time they're pretty skewed towards recent shows but just don't admit it.

Not a bad collection of current or recently broadcast US TV, been meaning to try 'Flight of the Conchords' for a while now (and I keep passing boxed sets of 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' in the shop and thinking 'Hmm' - loved the few individual episodes of it i've seen, not sure how it'd go in DVD marathon form though).
Awesome. It's great to see Dollhouse getting good press. :)
No-one seems to have mentioned who the Times is owned by... ;)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Times

Curious though :)
Nice to see Bones getting a little love :)
Don't agree with much he has to say (especially the Family Guy hate is quite ridiculous and why you'd even place it on a top list if you think The jokes are as tired as your granny after a particularly gruelling round of Bingo escapes me), though on the other hand I do like his praise of the West Wing (and find myself in his love for Whedon, AD and Dexter). Guess your always going to have some things you agree and some you disagree on with a list of 50 picks.
Isn't Bones another Fox show? ;)
I totally agree with this. Of all the Joss shows out there, I believe Dollhouse is the best. It's got everything I love, sprinkled with some Twin Peaks, and rolled up in such a tasty treat.

Glad I'm not the only one.
scottbert, I'm sure if a magazine or paper owned by GE had a list, it would have "Heroes" rated higher, too. And "Medium". And the "Bionic Woman" remake.
Well, this is curious. And therefore amusing :).

I don't think Dollhouse is Joss' best show. I'd pick all three others over it, currently. Although it has had flashes of greatness, it doesn't have the clearness of concept and excellent execution of Buffy, the constant quality of Firefly or Or the writing and dialogue of all three other shows. It's still the only Joss show to actually be outright weak in dialogue at times in the first few episodes (although it has certainly grown in that regard).

Having said that, Dollhouse is still a 'young' show. It could continu to grow and become Joss' best show. And although Firefly was beating it on all fronts in its first short season, one could make a case for it beating the first seasons of both Buffy and Angel (although I think it doesn't).

Anyway, I don't quite think it'd ever become my favorite Joss show, but the potential for it - in time - becoming the best certainly is there. Look no further than last weeks' episode for proof. But for the show to reach that point, it does need to get picked up for a second season. If not, it wasted its potential for the first bit of its run and had some bursts of ME-like high excellence in the second bit, making it worthwhile in the end, but still ending up in fourth place.
If you ask me, 'Man on the Street' and 'Spy' are every bit as good (or maybe better) than the best Firefly episodes (which to me means 'Serenity', 'Out of Gas' and 'Objects in Space').
If not, it wasted its potential for the first bit of its run and had some bursts of ME-like high excellence in the second bit, making it worthwhile in the end, but still ending up in fourth place.

You realise it's not finished yet, right? :)
I think Dollhouse certainly has potential to be Joss's best show...

Personally I feel like firefly had potential to be joss's best show as well, but then it was cancelled too soon to really judge it against Buffy (I'm not even counting Angel, sinced it was never as consistently great as buffy).

I think both firefly and dollhouse have started off better than buffy did, I just hope the Fox network allows joss to follow through on what could be his mastwork this time.
Arrested Development ended in 2003, so that's the oldest one I saw. But I'm not sure when it aired in the UK.
I don't know how to compare the Whedon shows altogether, but Dollhouse definitely has the best first 9 eps of any other Whedon show. Its thematic and awesomeness and heartbreak total for my fainty heart is already way beyond Firefly and is steadily approaching levels Buffy needed years to achieve. I can see it very well overcoming even the 7 years of the Buff by ep 12.

Wasn't The Times the first review of "Ghost" we got back then? Lukewarm, eh? Nice to see some buzz, buzz, buzz.
I can see it very well overcoming even the 7 years of the Buff by ep 12.

Woah, bold statement. I say give Dollhouse 3 seasons and it will be Joss's greatest show. Though even then I don't know - Buffy had such a huge impact on me emotionally that I'm not sure any show - even one better in most respects - could match it for me. But, still, so far I'm mesmerised by Dollhouse. It's extraordinary
You realise it's not finished yet, right? :)


I do, Let Down :). But as far as I'm concerned, Dollhouse had the weakest start of any Joss show. So even if these last 3 or 4 episodes are made of pure awesome, it won't catch Buffy's seven or Angel's five seasons. Those shows had more time to grow. As for Firefly: that show had such consistancy in quality and writing, that even if the high point of Dollhouse is higher than the highpoint of Firefly, I'd still, overall, give it to Firefly.

But, obviously, this is all a matter of opinion. Basically I'm just not as big a fan as, for instance, wiesengrund, who's loved the entire thing, pretty much, and as such I simply can't get on board with statements like "best first 9 eps of any other Whedon show". I don't just disagree with that, I heavily disagree with that, and I'm a person who feels that 'Man on the Street' and 'Spy' were two episodes that belong to the top part of ME's overall production output.

If one were to ask me, I'd say that Dollhouse's first 3 episodes were avarage television at best, even the much-loved 'The Target', which had some good arc stuff, but a weak and boring central engagement and some crappy lines. For ME-standards, these episodes were very much sub-par. Episode 4 and 5 offered steady quality: the kind of quality I expect as the basis-line for any ME-show, but they were nowhere near impressive. Only from episode 6, did the show start to find its stride and since then we've had two - count 'em - episodes I'd classify as amazing, one I'd count as good and one I'd say makes the cut but isn't stellar. This, to me, makes it nowhere near the best series Joss has made. It's solidly in fourth place.

If you ask me, 'Man on the Street' and 'Spy' are every bit as good (or maybe better) than the best Firefly episodes (which to me means 'Serenity', 'Out of Gas' and 'Objects in Space').


Well, certainly not better. You see, what made 'Serenity' so awesome was the way it introduced the characters and the world. It's Joss' best pilot episode and remains endlessly watchable. 'Objects in Space' may be the single best thing Joss ever wrote, but I find it mostly unengaging. Having said that: it's very, very, very good and the two Dollhouse episodes cited don't get close. The best episode to compare it to is 'Objects in Space'. And from the two Dollhouse episodes mentioned, I'd say 'Spy' is the best contender to beat it. Comparing them in quality of script, I'd say they're about equal.

Having said that, the story in 'Objects' has no real weak points, whereas 'Spy' certainly has a few (the easy entry into the NSA, for one, and a few others) that don't detract from it being a great episode, but make it lose on points here.

On dialogue front, 'Objects' is the clear winner.

Emotional resonance: again, 'Objects'. Simply because 'Firefly' did a much better job of creating and filling out these characters during its short run. It's often times hard to imagine that Firefly had a limited amount of episodes to play with. I'd say we know and care for our Dollhouse characters about as much after these nine episodes, as we did after maybe three episodes in Firefly.

The only place 'Spy' wins, is in the way it ties into the overall arc. It has huge twists and turns and we learn massive amounts of info. In that respect, Dollhouse has been a speeding train since MotS. It has flown through the arc and has revealed info at a dizzying pace. It's certainly the fastest Joss show in that regard. But then again, at least to me, however exciting the story arc can be, it's not what keeps me coming back to a show.

So, in the end, I'd say 'Objects' wins out.

And when comparing the first nine episodes of Firefly to the first nine of Dollhouse? No contest. Don't forget Firefly also had amazing episodes like 'Our mrs. Reynolds', 'Jaynestown' and 'Ariel' in those first nine. And that even the weakest episodes ('The Train Job' and 'Safe', in those first nine, as far as I'm concerned) are still better than any episode from the first five of Dollhouse, in terms of writing and character work. If the show had started at episode six though, then we'd have a contest on our hands (although I'd probably still give the edge to Firefly, based on its amazing character work and dialogue).

Now one could make a case of Dollhouse being better than the first season of Buffy and Angel, on the whole, which would be much harder to deny, although I still prefer the other two based on, again, the character work and dialogue. But those first Buffy and Angel seasons certainly did have their share of clunkers.

Now, obviously, one could disagree on all this. Because, in the end, we don't have a book where we can look up what constitutes 'great fiction'. What we're seeing here, I feel, is that Dollhouse is slowly establishing its own fanbase and that not all of us are ready to jump onboard yet. Because to me, the show still hasn't gotten to the level of the other three ME-shows we've seen, even though I certainly don't hate the show and even feel it could reach said levels if we'd get a second season. All in all I certainly like it, and love it in places, but I'm just not instantly-in-love-with-it, like I was with Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Dr. Horrible, and most of Joss' comic book work. Such is life.
I've liked elements of all bar one of the Dollhouse episodes so far and consider one or two to be genuinely excellent TV but I don't think as far as straightforward entertainment or emotional resonance any of them can (yet) touch 'Out of Gas' and 'Objects in Space' - OoG is one of my favourite "hours" of TV ever (I narrowly prefer it to the more lyrical 'Objects...' probably cos I was always - again, narrowly - more interested in Mal's story than I was in River's).

That said, I also apparently feel slightly differently to most people about 'Man in the Street' (probably because I thought the two episodes before that were pretty good) in that I like it but, despite what everyone was telling us, for me it wasn't a quantum leap ahead of what we'd seen before WRT quality, wasn't a huge turning point where the show "suddenly" got great (the episode after it for instance - which I also enjoyed - has a lot of the same weaknesses as the episodes before it IMO).

I do think though that Dollhouse is already Joss' most ambitious show in some ways.
Wow GVH, it took you a long post, but you managed to express exactly how I feel about Dollhouse and Joss other shows. Your feelings on the quality of Dollhouse and Joss other shows happen to be very, very close to my own. I wonder if this is the common opinion or if we just happen to be very much on the same page.

For me Dollhouse so far also is by far my least favourite Whedon show. But I also feel I'd might be able to see some merit in the claim that the first nine episodes are better than those of Buffy or Angel, because they admittidably had some "clunkers" in the MotW departements and I'd be less inclined to accept Dollhouse as better than Firefly because not only did Firefly have far less weaker episodes (the only ones I'd characterize that way are 'Safe', 'The train job' and maybe 'Bushwacked'), but these episodes still were also less bad than the ones on Buffy and Angel (f.e. 'I, Robot... You, Jane'), while Firefly at the same time did manage to reach the same high level the characterization, dialogue and mood as Buffy and Angel (or arguably brought those to an even higher level.)
In defense of Buffy/Angel however I'd say I think it's easy to underestimate the huge value of the way the first season of Buffy introduced the main characters and their relationships and the same thing goes for Angel and the different mood (from Buffy) that was created on that show very quickly. With those strong points IMO Buffy and Angel really nail the most important aspects of good television. When the basis is solid it's not so terrible to have weaker individual Monster of the Week like stories, while some (IMO) terrible Engagements in the first episodes of Dollhouse bothered me a lot more than those on Buffy/Angel ever did.

While I think 'MotS' and 'Spy' are really good (especially for Dollhouse). I would not call them amazing and don't think they are better than the best Whedon has done before. I don't even feel they compare with good early Firefly episodes like 'Our mrs. Reynolds', 'Shindig' or 'Ariel', or Buffy ones like 'The Pack' and 'Prophecy Girl', let alone the ME highs like 'Hush', 'The Body', 'Once more with Feeling', 'Out of Gas' or 'Objects in Space'. I do however have extremely high hopes for the two part finale by Jane and Tim and the 13th episode with Felicia.

This post seems more than long enough now, especially considering I'm just pointing out the ways I agree with what has already been said.

[ edited by the Groosalugg on 2009-04-16 18:04 ]

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