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December 30 2009

"Stage Fright" one of the Worst Sci-Fi TV Moments of '09? io9 includes the season one episode of "Dollhouse" in its countdown of the worst moments in science fiction and fantasy television of the year.

I'm glad they've included a lot of popular shows, and didn't just single Dollhouse out. It's too bad Dollhouse's musical episode is so poorly regarded, although I can see why it is. However, I still enjoyed it. "You can fire me but bitch don't think you can take me" is still awesome to me each time I watch it.
This is easily the worst episode of the series. Pretty embarrassing in parts, and if I weren't a Whedon acolyte, I may very well have given up on it after this. It's basically all of the show's faults, crammed into one hour.
Well, you've got to have an episode for fans to bitch about. There is no perception without contrast.
Yeah, pretty much. But at least the reveal of Victor was cool.

That list is also spot on. I'd almost be pissed if they didn't include a Dollhouse ep with some of those shows.
The hungry Master was awesome. Fact.

That aside, the perception/contrast comment is a good point, and prettily spoken. I just wish that the contrast wasn't so stark, so early on in the series, is all - it plays hell with my ability to recommend a show if I have to keep adding caveats.

That said, it wasn't exactly an unwatchable hour of television, and it certainly hasn't been forgotten.
Agreed, that episode was embarrasing, not just for a Whedon production but for any show. If it hadn't been a Whedon show I wouldn't have tuned in again.
I actually enjoyed that episode more than the one before it (THRILLER THRILLER THRILLS). I'll have to watch it again, I guess, because I'm not entirely sure what people don't like about it. I thought it was interesting that
Echo ended up having to save the singer from herself. Even though it looked like Echo was going crazy and off-mission (threatening the person she was supposed to protect), she was actually solving an unsolvable problem.

Am I missing something obvious, or do I just have strange taste?
I liked it too, and I liked how in the end, Echo wanted to save Sierra more than the singer: "friends help each other" while she knocks the singer out with a chair. The first inkling of their friendship was in that episode. But I do understand it's not up to the standards of the rest of the series. My least favorite episode is probably Haunted though.
I think Haunted really came at the wrong point in the series. And the murder mystery was just wrong for the episode, though I'm not sure how they could have done the episode without that facet.

I also wonder if we wouldn't have been as disappointed by some of these episodes if we didn't have the hype of re-watching them live and having to wait weeks for the next one. I'm sure some one who has never seen the show and gets the DVD wouldn't dislike it as much because they didn't have to wait a week to see a pop star get upset when she smells a mint.
I don't really understand the hate towards "Stage Fright". Maybe people will laugh at me for saying so, but "Stage Fright" was actually the episode where I started to fall in love with "Dollhouse".

Sure, the popstar plot was terrible and Eliza's crappy character too, but it was the first episode where the entire cast got more to do than in the episodes before. You had that awesome reveal of Victor, Sierra finally getting more screen time, Eliza's neat song at the end, as well as Echo's awesome "no" to Sierra at the end. I also loved the scene between Boyd and Saunders at the end where they watch over Echo and Saunders is like "Sometimes the best to hope for is good enough." If you leave the popstar-plot out, the episode had tons of intriguing scenes and many redeeming qualities.

In my opinion the worst episode of the show clearly was "Instinct", I did barely make it through that episode.
Hungry Master?! That was the highlight of a pretty poor Dr Who! (closely followed by Master in a Skirt). Got to agree with Stage Fright appearing on the list though. I can't imagine myself ever watching that episode again, it was so painful.

I preferred Instinct, as it was at least dealing with some deeper issues with regards to how the dolls work. Stage Fright stalled because the context allowed it to turn into a piece of fluff.
It was an OK ep imo. Obviously YMMV for a lot of you.
As far as Haunted is concerned, I loved the concept of using the Dollhouse tech to solve your own murder, but I didn't like how it was executed. The actual story was so boring, and so much focus on horses, and just... I didn't like it.

At least in Stage Fright, Eliza got to wear tiny outfits. If nothing else, right? ;)
I liked it, but I've been accused of being stupid and simple. Meh. Thought Dichen was brilliant.
Maybe I've read this wrong, but I don't think the point of the list is that whole episodes are the "worst moments", just those specific moments themselves.

So when people here defend "Stage Fright" for its positives (more ensemble, Victor reveal, etc), io9 aren't debating that. They've specifically pointed out the diva/singing parts as being amongst the worst moments.

[ edited by VaughnOfTheDead on 2009-12-30 11:26 ]
Yeah...I thought Stage Fright was bad...until I saw Gray Hour. That was the worst episode of Dollhouse IMO. I almost stopped watching. So very, very glad I didn't!
Aside from the A story being ridiculous the dialouge was really poorly written. You were just cringing upon hearing most of those lines. Sure "Haunted" was a bit boring, especially being sandwiches inbetween a string of great episodes, and "Grey Hour" somehow seemed like an episode from another show but nothing could possibly compare with "Stage Fright" in terms of being almost unwatchable. The way the whole celebrity aspect was dealth with was just unbelievably shallow and cliched.
Agreed- the list seems to be more about just how bad those bad moments are. And though there are nice aspects of "Stage Fright", the worst parts are, well, about as terrible as Dollhouse ever was.

I actually really like "Haunted", but with that sort of mentality- I just completely ignore everything Echo does and it's really pretty good! It's a great episode for Topher of course, definitely the first time I found him sweet and sympathetic.
I watched every episode of SGU recently, and I missed this infamous Boob Lens shot. What episode was it in? I need to see the Boob Lens!
dispatch -- if you watch the video on that page it has all the moments. Including Boob Lens(tm).
The clips bit on the I09 article plays through all the examples. You'll have to sit through Sylar's sexy face though, which was disturbing. The boob lens ummmm, stood out for me as particularly awful. Really put the bad parts of Dollhouse in perspective.

Any predictions for what the best moment from Dollhouse will be? I assume it's coming. My bet's on Topher's pod scene in Epitaph 1.
I'm just glad Jed and Maurissa got more opportunities to write episodes. If Stage Fright had been the only episode on their resumes . . .

They really redeemed themselves by writing some of the best episodes of the series.
curlymynci:
Any predictions for what the best moment from Dollhouse will be?


Topher and Saunders. Topher and Victor-Topher. Or maybe Topher and Adelle.

Actually, just Topher. I was never a Kranz hater, and fittingly now I'm a lover.

...That did not come out so good.
Oooooh-- all of the clips are together in that movie at the top. The picture was of Sexy Skylar so I never even clicked on it.

What does it say about me that I never even noticed Boob Lens(tm) until it was pointed out? It actually doesn't seem that bad, only a few seconds, but yeah, it is there.
I can't be arsed with Dollhouse on a whole, but I kind of liked Stage Fright. The way it's been reviled by most Whedon fans here kind of scares me. Feels like some kind of knee jerk anti-pop/r&b attitude to me. Stage Fright was set in a world I have more affinity with, I guess.
Seeds of greatness, people, seeds of greatness. And has there ever been anything like the moment we discovered Eliza Dushku can sing?
The way it's been reviled by most Whedon fans here kind of scares me. Feels like some kind of knee jerk anti-pop/r&b attitude to me.

Hmm, I love pop music and didn't like 'Stage Fright'. I don't revile it, just don't think it worked all that well. Thematically it tried to do too much (it has basically everything in there), the plot didn't interest me, some of the dialogue wasn't great and the "client" was barely developed (when she could've really been used to say something about the - forced ? - complicity of "co-exploitation"). But it had good moments too and though it was maybe a bit too ambitious for the frame it was hung on it's surely better to be too ambitious than not at all, right ?

Don't remember precisely (and can't watch the video at work) but wasn't the SGU "boob lens" through a Kino (sp. ?) ? I.e. it was meant to demonstrate the sexism/immaturity of David Blue's character ? Not great maybe and IMO it went over the line of demonstrating sexism by being sexist but also not totally without a point. Or i'm misremembering and it's just trashy.

I generally agree with most of the rest though (that i've seen) except I thought 'The Prisoner' remake wasn't bad (though admittedly I went in with very low expectations) - it'll date because it seemed (to me) to be too much about 9/11 (or the post 9/11 world) but at least it took the themes of the original and tried to do something relevant with them. And Ian McKellen is brilliant, end of chat.
Yeah "The Prisoner" was good, they could have avoided a lot of backlash by not branding it a re-make, it was more of a sequel re-evaluation than anything else.
I didn't think Stage Fright was that bad. At least it had the Victor-reveal and more Sierra. Personally I didn't like True Believer, that one just bored me so much. Nearly gave up on the show after that. I don't think Haunted was as bad as others are saying but its certainly far from the best. Didn't like Instinct either.
My issue with "Stage Fright" was with Rayna as a person, so I didn't much care what happened to her. When Echo/Jordan called her out with the, "Are there any drugs you're NOT on?" that made me happy.

I would've been more invested if at some point during the plot I saw something in her to root for, but she made her own cage that she could've gotten out of before (as the ending of the episode implies, she made the decision to), but she chose not to and to be a bitchy diva to everyone around her.

"Instinct" I have the same problem with. Your wife's dead so you can't be a father to your infant son because you blame him? Ass. No sympathy for you, pal. I know it's a complex, psychological thing and blah blah blah, but, he was an ass.

But that episode was a real showcase for Eliza, so there's a lot to love.

I love "Gray Hour," though. It's when we get our first long-term exposure to Echo as a character, and see her begin to grow from the childlike doll-state and deal with the world. Also, again, Eliza's great. The in shock repetion of, "Shall I...go now?" and "Where are the better rooms?" gets me every time.

[ edited by pat32082 on 2009-12-30 14:36 ]
Yep agreed pat32082, though I liked 'Ghost', most of 'The Target' and parts of 'Stagefright', 'Gray Hour' is when the show started clicking for me, plot holes aside, mainly because it's when Echo first truly appears and it turns out that, as I thought I might, I quite like her.

Liked 'True Believer' too, despite everyone telling us it was "Man on the Street" where the show started to work (and Joss and even Tim Minear, the ep's credited writer, apparently not thinking much of it), TB seemed to me to be the first episode where the themes and the story really dovetailed together without one or the other feeling shoe-horned in.
I also consider "Stage Fright" my least favourite episode. I did like the Dollhouse stuff of it. However the pop star bit has kept me from rewatching it. That part just constantly felt like I had seen it before and it was called "The Bodyguard" with Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston. Of course it wasn't exactly the same but it had many similarities.
I agree "True Believer" is underrated. It was a story of the week ep. but it didn't drag and had some really interesting elements to it. That and "The Target" was probably the best of the s1 stand-alones.
I'd also agree with your TB assessment, Saje.

Oh, plus, with "Gray Hour," and the whole opening sequence of, "She's a hooker, she gets beat on and nearly raped, the hotel tries to buy her off when she gets away, and...wait! Psych out!"

...was when we get our first real taste of the twisted nature of what the show could play with, and how disturbing it could get.
I really liked Gray Hour and True Believer as well, and the show started clicking for me in Gray Hour. It was our first remote wipe! I liked all the new elements that were being added. And I really enjoyed Eliza in both episodes.
Yah. "Stage Fright" is probably my least favourite too. I didn't mind Eliza singing or the assignment in general [the end of it was great & not just because it was ending]... But I could've happily watched it without the extra singing.

Ninsiima: I was never a Kranz hater, and fittingly now I'm a lover.

...That did not come out so good.

Have you dreamt you were dating him & he took you to McDonald's? :D 'twas weird watching the show after that. ;)
I also think that Stage Fright gets too much of a bad rap. It was the moment where I really saw where the show could go, although only really with the Dollhouse side of the episode. The pop star A-story was uninteresting (bar Eliza's singing) and cliched nonsense, but we also had the formations of a group dynamic between the dolls, Victor's reveal, Echo showing off her abilities to think beyond the mission and the fantastic head shake at the end (much better than the 'shoulder to the wheel' moment.)

I must admit that I found Gray Hour to be less interesting. It was at that point where I was beginning to really get tired of the standalone structure of the episodes and I just wanted the main plot to get a move on. Re-watching it, I did find it to be much more enjoyable, which also happened with Haunted.
I'm pretty shocked that "True Blood" moment was on there. I thought it was beautifully done.
Stage Fright and True Believer are probably the worst episodes of the series for me, but I still feel that they get unfairly criticized. I don't understand the backlash they get (nor do I understand the more generalized Dollhouse hatred due to a few weak episodes and a shaky beginning).

I liked Gray Hour and Haunted (and, yes, Instinct - although it was probably the weakest season 2 episode). The remote wipe in Gray Hour was an interesting twist, and foreshadowed a lot to come. Haunted was an interesting twist on using the Dollhouse technology, and I thought it was a fun romp if not overly brilliant. (And the Topher scenes were excellent).
People didn't like Gray Hour? Out of the 5 Fox-esque episodes at the start, I felt it definitely was the best. Some mystery of Alpha, using the core components of the show to create an interesting procedural premise of having Echo outside the Dollhouse.

Sure, for someone who waited five years for a new Whedon show to get a string of Ghost, The Target, Stage Fright, and then Gray Hour, I can see why people would be turned off at that point. But I thought it definitely was one of the stronger procedural episodes that Dollhouse did.

Now, Belle Chose was far and away the best. If only we had more procedural stuff like that from the get go.
payxshand, yeah I don't understand what the columnist's problem with that True Blood moment is either. It featured almost a season-ending level of pathos that surprised me four episodes before the finale ("almost" only because it was mostly peripheral characters who were affected, rather than the main cast). It was also beautifully acted by Allan Hyde, Anna Paquin, and Alexander Skarsgård (especially Skarsgård). But I kinda loved how Season 2 was structured, how we got the vamps' main stories over with by Episode 8 (Fellowship of the Sun stuff, mostly), with the Sam/Maryann/Tara story developing as the B-plot and then taking over by the end.
Yeah, I actually kinda liked the song. It's a silly ep in some ways--for one, having Echo basically threaten to kill Rayna makes it pretty hard to believe that Adelle would applaud what she did, even if it worked out. Capacity for insight blah blah blah, but, oh, she threatened to kill her. A little over the top there, guys.

I do think that the first five episodes aren't as bad as people say, but I understand the criticisms. I think "Ghost" has some wonderful resonances and a fairy tale quality, and a wistful sadness, that is often overlooked because of its procedural elements. The Boyd/Echo bonding in "The Target," and the Alpha hints, are good. "Grey Hour" has a look at doll Echo in the field, which to me seems necessary in order to show what a change it is to go to the present Echo. And the pretty great "True Believer" fails, as Joss pointed out, to develop the cult all that well from the cultist's perspective, but creates full-bodied characters in Jonas Sparrow and the ATF agent, one of Eliza's best performances as Echo/Esther, lots of resonances and dissonances with the cult and ATF/Dollhouse and Paul parallels and the garden of Eden material combined with resonant biblical parallels...it's very tightly constructed.

EDIT: Oh, yeah, Adama breaking down with the paint is kind of a reasonable choice I guess, although oddly I didn't mind it that much. There are other moments that I would pick over that.

[ edited by WilliamTheB on 2009-12-30 20:27 ]
Kris: Yes, yes, and YES. The season was just so damn well done, and the closing of that particular episode was the peak for me. Skarsgard's breakdown and his begging of Godric was just a fine example of how great an actor he is, and the subtle softness between Eric and Sookie, even after what he did to her, is insanely good character development. That season was, for me, the best of the year so far, and I think it's pretty silly that such a fine moment is on this list.

I didn't see a lot of these, so I really can't say, but the Battlestar moment seems pretty well acted. I only saw the mini-series so far, so I have absolutely no context to give it, but it plays nicely from where I'm sitting.

[ edited by patxshand on 2009-12-30 20:38 ]
Stage Fright was alright (in hindsight, it was on a par with Buffy season one episodes which weren't that bad). And I'd nominate Demons for having the bulk-share of the worst sci-fi moments of 2009.
Okay, Stage Fright was horrible as far a Whedon goes, and as far as Dollhouse goes, but still not that bad compared to most shows on tv now. IMHO.
Probably should have actually read the article before commenting. They complain about the song? That had a great resonance with the Dollhouse and gave the opportunity to hear Eliza sing.

Also, The Master's hunger in DR.Who was great. Having him scoff down a big turkey right after we were all recovering from our Christmas dinners was a fantastically evil move.
I agree with alot of you that the main story of Haunted kinda sucked, but the topher stuff rocked. Maybe if it wouldn't have been in the middle of an awesome 7 episode run, I wouldn't have minded. I really liked Grey Hour, more than the other stand alones anyway. I didn't like True Believer much. Instinct I've only seen once, and can't judge much. But as far as the main plots go without any b-story, for me the first season stand alones are, from best to worst, grey hour, the target, ghost, True Believer, Haunted, and Stage Fright.
I know I'm in a very small minority but I've always felt that "Echoes" has been the worst episode, I couldn't stand it. It was a mess and I found little laughs in the comedy. The Topher/Adelle scenes were okay but to me, their scenes just dont make up for the rest of the episode.

It remains to this day the only episode I havent watched more than once.

Oddly enough, Belle Chose comes in second, Only watching it twice.
I thought the Victor as the crazy guy scene was really good but, once again, probably the only one, but I hated the Victor as Kiki scenes. . and as a whole there were just to many things I rolled my eyes at and found myself wishing that I had never seen it.

As for Stage Fright, while not the best episode had some pretty neat moments. . Echo shaking her head No at the end is my favorite of the last second shockers that seemed to happen ever episode.
Some of these were actually funny (just because I'd never thought of them before) but in both Dollhouse and SG:U examples, it seems that they simply picked because a lot of people got mad rather than how bad they were.

"Stage Fright" reminds me a lot of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip bashing where people seemed to just fixate on the fact that the sketches were often not very funny. Apparently you're not allowed to tell a story about art/music/theater unless you nail the artistic aspect (also filed under "not the point") of the show. The drama is irrelevant if I'm not laughing my rear off or (in Dollhouse case) recording the pop songs because they're SO good. "Stage Fright" certainly wasn't my favorite episode, but it holds its own as a story. Now as a Pop career demo tape, not so much.

I hold my wrath for truly horrific dramatic moments rather than songs or boob cams. Especially now that we have a black president.
I hardly remember Stage Fright, so I can't comment on quality. I can say that dissing Godric's last appearance on True Blood is exceptionally off base. People see what they want to see, I guess. For me, that was a powerful and moving episode and was above and beyond what was depicted in the book.
Stage Fright is definitely my least favorite ep to date, either season. During the "no new DH" November, I did a complete re-watch. Stage Fright and True Believer are the only two eps I probably wont watch again.

I'm surprised at the lack of love for Gray Hour - in many ways, that ep is where the show really took off, for me.

Less surprised that so many dislike Haunted, although I liked it a lot. I think it's one of Eliza's best seasonn 1 performances (and that True Believer was her worst - the only one I really didn't buy).

For all the well deserved Enver love, when we get around to best DH "moments", mine will mostly involve Topher. And Alan, in both Briar Rose and Omega.
Which is not in any way a slight to Eliza, who has IMO been amazing, all the way.

ETA: As for 'worst moments', I think it's pretty obvious that we hold a Joss show to far higher standards than we would other shows - at least I do. Which is as it should be, 'cause .... hey, Joss. ;)

[ edited by Shey on 2009-12-31 07:00 ]
I quite enjoyed that compilation, though I'd question The Vampire Diaries one. I've seen four episodes of the show, and that clip pretty much sums up the awesomeness of Damon, doesn't it?

Stage Fright was the episode that was the most uncomfortable to watch, but seeing where we are now compared to then, I'm not bothered. I'd be interested in what actually was the problems behind that episode, though.
I didn't know people hated Stage Fright. It's not one of my favorites, but it doesn't stand out as being particularly bad to me.
This list is all wrong. Right off the bat they diss the Sylar nailing Parkman's wife scene which is a)hilarious and b)hot because it's Zachary Quinto. That could be my favourite moment all season on heroes (although, it IS Heroes, so I have to do some real stretching for "favourites").
Second, they didn't like Godric's death scene? Because, even though we only knew him for a little bit, I cried! Pfft. Plus, it's the only time a vampire has been allowed to sparkle, IMO XD.

So :P to this list. And though Stage Fright wasn't the series' greatest, it was fine, so stop hating!

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