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October 23 2009

What to Gain from "Glee" for "Dollhouse?" io9 suggests three areas in which Joss could take what he learns from helming "Glee" to take back and apply to his "Dollhouse" duties.

this article should be about what Glee could gain from Joss.
Well at the moment glee is doing much better than Joss
So basically, with the exception of pacing (I think Glee's is equally inconsistent,) this person thinks Joss should dumb down Dollhouse. Maybe from a business stand point that would be an idea, but I'd prefer a season two of integrity than a season two and three without. Don't get me wrong. I love Glee, but almost every other episode seems absolutely forced and unnecessary. I just don't understand. And some, if not most of the plot/morals are force fed to me like nothing I would ever watch. It's ridiculous. That being said, Wednesday's episode was one of my favorite episode of any show this season.

[ edited by marvelknight616 on 2009-10-23 18:41 ]
Not a fan of Glee--made it through the pilot and the start of the second episode before realizing it just wasn't for me--but I can't say that any of this is bad advice. Pacing is the biggest problem Dollhouse faces.

marvelknight616, I don't think they're saying Joss should dumb the show down, just take what's already there and spice it up a bit. It desperately needs some spicing, a la the second half of the first season.
As I said, I agree that the pacing can and has been way off for chunks of the show.

Adding "More fantasy sequences and montages" seems like a stupid idea for the sake of doing it. In fact, it is my opinion that the random fantasy sequences in Glee are out of place (ex. "Bust Ya Windows.") Fortunately, Glee gets away with it for most because of its musical genre. I feel these sequences have consistently spoiled the integrity of the episode, and more times than not in Glee's case dumbs down the plot to unbelievable levels.

I personally thought "A Spy In the House of Love" and "Man On the Street" (and "Epitaph One") were the best (and most well received) episodes of season 1. They had no "fun villain." I love fun villains like The Mayor, but villains who enjoy being evil tend to be one-dimensional or satirical, which would awkwardly fit with this show. Spicing is on the way in the form of season arc, which everyone who knows about Dollhouse seems to have forgotten tends to take Whedon and co a few eps to get to. Unless of course, none of these people have seen Buffy, which I'm assuming they have. I'm sick of people criticizing this aspect of the show when it's been the same pattern for Whedon's creative stride since the beginning of his television career.
Were there articles after Whedon's Office episodes about how Whedon should learn to add mockumentaries, funny road trips, and bats to his shows?

Marvelknight: right on on those episodes as the best of season 1. (The next tier down for me would consist of Needs, Briar Rose, and the underrated True Believer--also wonderful.)

[ edited by WilliamTheB on 2009-10-23 19:18 ]
I don't believe pacing is the Dollhouse problem.
I think it is inconsistency.
With season 2, episode 2 was enjoyable but instantly forgettable.
Episode 3 was amazing almost essential television.
I know I shouldn't expect every episode to be paramount, but , you know, well, Firefly was.
Really ? "Shindig" ? "The Train Job" ? Not every Firefly ep was A+ pure excellence, IMO, though it's easy to find something to like in all of 'em (but hey, "Bushwacked" and "Safe" are favorites of mine after "Ariel", "Objects in Space", "Out of Gas", and "Our Mrs. Reynolds", so make of my taste and quality grading what you will).

Re: the article, some huuuge disagreements:

"The pacing. That's actually the main thing that jumps out at me every time I watch an episode of Glee. They pack so much into one episode, and none of it feels forced."

It feels pretty forced sometimes. While they've managed to fit some quiet scenes into some episodes, give a moment a chance to breathe here and there, for the most part, most episodes, the characters barely get a chance to take a breath, much less the audience. I like the frenetic pacing sometimes, it really punches up the comedy at times, but other times it just feels like, "Slowww down Ryan Murphy, this show is renewed 100 times over, you don't need to cater to the ADD-crowd, don't rush past all the character development and earned moments just to get to the emotional thrills and 'big moments' so early".

I guess I've noticed Dollhouse pacing problems some episodes, but I don't want it to be as quick as Glee. Glee can get away with it.

"No other television show burns through plot lines as fast as Glee, and it's exhilarating to watch. It makes other TV shows feel like they're doling out story in little doses, with a teaspoon or something."

Yes, there is a lot of boring television out there that, even if not glacially paced, may come off that way due to ridiculously slow character/plot development (or little to no character or plot development, in the case of many cookie cutter shows and badly written dramas). So Glee by comparison, of course it's fun and exciting to see storylines that might've taken half a season on another series, just fly by. I don't see Dollhouse having that much of a pacing problem overall and as a straight-up sci-fi drama, rather than a dramedy/spoof that can liberally apply dream/fantasy sequences/internal-song-monologues to cut plot corners or speed things up considerably, it can't get too zany with the storytelling format in that way. It can do "Epitaph 1" and "Spy in the House of Love" types of less conventional TV storytelling, but it can't go to many of the places Glee does without going off the rails and betraying its nature.

I dunno about the article's hope for villains who're more aware that they're villains. I like gray or I like the kind of villain who thinks he or she is the hero of their own story. They can do the ends-justifies-the-means kind of villain (even if the ends is simply that of self-preservation/vanity-for-"immortality" like we've potentially already seen with Rossum higher-ups, that's still something the character justifies to himself without admitting, "I'm evil and I'm revelling in it and I know lots of folks think I'm nasty, but fuck 'em"). I don't think Dollhouse can afford to camp it up much with its villains, beyond what we got with nutty Alpha, and I don't want it to. The villains on Dollhouse should be terrifying and intimidating (hey I love Adelle, but she kinda is all that, with wit and bite as well), not "fun".

Not big on the idea of more fantasy sequences for this series. I love 'em on other shows (Scrubs, Buffy's "Restless", Glee). Don't really want too many more dreams either, despite this show dealing with the mind and dreams being a part of that. Didn't love Paul's dream sequence last season, aside from the sudden image of creepy dead-white Caroline. They're a waste of storytelling time a lot of the time and the writers are capable of finding other ways to let us in on what's going on inside the characters' heads, what's nagging at them.

The more "real" this show can be with its characters and storytelling, the better IMO. I love musicals and comedy as much as a lot of Whedonites and TV/film viewers, but that's why I watch a lot of different things, to get a dose from different sources. I don't need a Joss Whedon show to provide an all-in-one.

[ edited by Kris on 2009-10-23 20:45 ]
I agree quite a bit with this article. I'm desperately missing a Lilah-esque character who actually loves the power gotten from working for an evil organization. Not everyone has a highly developed moral system and in fact there are people who commit crimes like this everyday. Why do they do it? Show me some of these people. Because the bitter angst dripping off of every Dollhouse employee works too hard to make everyone sympathetic - instead give me someone who I can hate, but admire them for their ruthlessness and humor (Adelle comes closest, but they keep softening her edges). And yes, the pacing does feel sluggish at times (agree that the pilot zipped around more). And the montage idea - it would added some much needed energy.

I find myself watching Dollhouse and having thinky thoughts, but overall not really enjoying it because it's so heavy and depressing. The exception being Briar Rose and A Spy In the House of Love (great humor and pacing) where I very much enjoyed ever minute.
Emmie, I think Epitaph One probably gave you somebody to hate. The guy who took Victor's body?
I wonder when we are going to see Mr. Clive Ambrose again...
Well, to each their own I suppose. I'm literally going to have to force myself to watch Glee just so that the Joss episode will pay off.
Not everyone has a highly developed moral system and in fact there are people who commit crimes like this everyday. Why do they do it? Show me some of these people.

I think we are seeing these people. They're not gleeful (sorry!), mustache-twirling villains; they're real human beings -- albeit working in what we hope is still sci-fi land -- compromising their ideals bit by bit. A bit like the apocryphal frog in the slowly heated pot, although I do think they're at least somewhat aware that they're twisting themselves into something they wouldn't have recognized when they started out all fresh and shiny.

Lilah (and Wolfram & Hart) worked well as a metaphor for evil, but I don't see the Dollhouse or even Rossum as being that metaphor here. I think they're the logical conclusion of corporate power, pursuit of profit, and secrecy unfettered by a strong moral compass. More realistic, and, at least to me, more interesting in this setting. (Don't get me wrong -- I love Lilah.)
ETA: Exactly. Adelle at al aren't evil, even the guy from Rossum isn't evil. In that sense the dollhouse is more like the Alliance than Wolfram and Hart - it's what happens when people make bad choices and keep doing so (sometimes even for good reasons).[/ETA]

Not everyone has a highly developed moral system and in fact there are people who commit crimes like this everyday. Why do they do it?

They do it for money. In real life people doing that sort of thing don't love power for power's sake (though they may enjoy it as a side effect), they aren't gleeful or reveling in their situation, they just don't care enough about other people to avoid hurting them. It's not like a story where everyone has some clearly developed, understandable motivation or hidden depths to their character, it's just business. Which is a lot more disgusting when you think about it.

('Dollhouse' doesn't give us villains, it gives us people which is more interesting)

As to the rest of the article, I pretty much agree with Kris. 'Glee' can do all sorts of things 'Dollhouse' can't because it's not meant to be serious. In a straight drama you can't keep having dream sequences because it undermines the onscreen peril - viewers stop believing anything they see is real and shortly after that they stop caring. Likewise the sort of "magic realism" you see in e.g. 'Scrubs' is out for similar reasons - it's a constant reminder that what we're watching isn't real.

[ edited by Saje on 2009-10-23 21:22 ]
Glee is an average show with very good details. The music is great, though in the earlier episodes the sync was completely off. The writing sometimes is great, sometimes is sloppy. The directing is always good. The storytelling is the main problem. They had a hard time figuring out the balance between music, drama and comedy. Now, the show is better because they are worrying more about the story than the music, so it became much more consistent. I like it.

Dollhouse doesn't need to learn anything from Glee. It's not a superb show, like Buffy or Firefly. Sometimes is mediocre, sometimes is spectacular. Doesn't have the consistency of Buffy or the brilliancy of Firefly.
I actually thought Mr. Ambrose and the state of Rossum he represented in "Epitaph One" were exemplary of the most awfully human and far-reaching kind of evil. Dollhouse's metaphor of human trafficking turned literal, by a man whose highest priority after stealing a body is to eat a delicious food his own biology denied him. He calmly delivers an ultimatum that is disturbingly understated in corporate-speak. It was exactly what Dollhouse does best.

Glee's not without its own plot and pacing issues. But I keep watching anyway, because just when I start to get annoyed again there's singing and dancing.
I actually thought Mr. Ambrose and the state of Rossum he represented in "Epitaph One" were exemplary of the most awfully human and far-reaching kind of evil.

Sure but the "evil" is incidental to him just being incredibly selfish and amoral, that's what (as you rightly point out Sunfire) makes it "awfully human". He wants what most people want if we're honest - i.e. to not die - he's just willing to cross a line and sacrifice other people to achieve it.

(the fact that it seems instrumental in the end of the world is also incidental ;)
Fun villains

Do BSG and Lost have fun villains? Dollhouse isn't a shopw that lends itself to that concept.
Simon says:
Do BSG and Lost have fun villains?

BSG certainly does, from where I'm watching. Cavil is an awesome, scene-munching bad guy.

Lost too: Ben! Maybe he's gotten morally less-black-more-grey over the seasons, but maybe not. It's so hard to tell with Ben. But early seasons - excellent bad-guy-ness.
By fun villains I sort of interpret that to be mostly the clients. It'd be nice to actually care about any of them at all, even if they're just sort of broad parodies of the wealthy elite throwing money at frivolous actives.(Steve Martin playing his 30 Rock character?) Right now they're all pretty much non-entities to me, even if they ended up sneaking a repeat customer into the series without me even realizing until long afterward. They just stabbed one in the throat and there are so little stakes we don't even get a throwaway line about "oh he died so Rossum won't have to be sued" or "he's all better so long as we comp him."

The current "baddies" of the series are basically just anti-heroes we're meant to somehow relate to since they're part of the lead cast.

And while fantasy sequences are pretty well out of place on Dollhouse, I do like the idea of punchier and more varied engagements. There's generally no stakes in the current 44 minute missions other than exactly what manner everything is going to fall apart, so they might as well go ahead and use the imprints for a more thematic purpose to reflect whatever the "arc" story or theme happens to be. Like the latter seasons of Alias credits sequence expanded to full episode length. Wait, in hindsight by that I could basically mean the current Dollhouse title sequence.

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