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January 18 2010

Dollhouse: (Briefly) The Best Show on Television. A PopMatters writer argues that the show "has turned out to be a rich, complex, and fascinating successor to Buffy and Firefly".

I love the idea of "The Abrams Line." Makes total sense, like the Mendoza Line in baseball...
What's baseball?
The Vicky Mendoza Diagonal, wait what? The JJ Abrams Line? I see numerous flaws in that, but for Terminator and Pushing Diasies, they had pretty popular first seasons but died in the second. It's incredibly hard to say what will be successful, for any network, because so much come into play. The complexity, likeable characters and even the timing. It's amazing we get anything that lasts longer than a season, really. ;p

Nice article.
Let's not kid ourselves. Dollhouse wasn't "too intelligent" to be a success, it was too boring.

I like the show, it's better than most stuff on TV but to compare it to Lost is folly (as is partnering Lost with Fringe to make an Abrams line work, Lost is far superior to Fringe, and it's Lindelof and Cuse's Lost, not Abrams').

Not only is Lost far more dense, more challenging, more surprising, and more ambitious than Dollhouse ever has been, (like Buffy, Lost will be studied and re-examined for generations, Doc Jensen will run out of internet one day trying to make sense of the literary and intellectual puzzles planted within that show's weave) it manages to be so whilst being enourmously entertaining. The stories are tense, the stakes high and the characters are complex, heroic, menacing, and above all we CARE about them. I couldn't summon much affection for any character beyond Boyd in DH, and looked how that turned out.

We can moan about Smallville, or Heroes, or other limited shows which Dollhouse outstrips without breaking a sweat, but Dollhouse itself was too predictable, and simply didn't enthrall. We get it. He/she is a doll. That twist only works once, before it's easily spotted. Like Mission Impossible masks.

The show tried to ask questions of the soul, about nature/nurture, the right to live, the force of will, and transcendant love. These are GOOD questions, and worthy ones, but only sporadically was the show thrilling to watch whilst asking them (usually when Alan Tudyk was on). Buffy managed to be one of the best shows on television because its smarts were the hand in a very fun and watchable glove. Same with Angel.

Dollhouse is no Firefly (a wonderful show), and although it does not deserved to be cancelled in terms of quality (again, still better than most stuff on TV, it's numbers are fair. Ultimately, given it was from one of the great screen writers of today, it wasn't that good.

[ edited by Andy Dufresne on 2010-01-18 20:32 ]

[ edited by Andy Dufresne on 2010-01-18 20:33 ]
I didn't think it was boring. I'd say this season rivalled Angel season 4 in terms of twists and rollcoaster rides.
What's baseball?

Rounders with beer ?

Y'know, I don't watch it but I get the impression 'Lost' has quite a lot going on - is 'Dollhouse' really that much more intellectually demanding ? Its themes are endlessly fascinating to me (they're not [some of] the "big questions" for nothing) and quite often subtly teased out by the show but at the same time, they're pretty much the contents of any Intro. to Philosophy book, "meaning of life stuff" for sure but also the kind of thing a lot of people wonder and think about IMO. Just a bit leery of this idea within the fandom that most people are simply too stupid for Joss' shows (and the self-congratulatory attitude that sometimes goes with it).
I think Angel season 4 was much more fun. And rewatchable. I doubt I'll revisit Dollhouse.
To be fair, the "he/she's a doll!" twist was only really used twice, with November and with Perrin. I suppose you could count Victor as well, but that wasn't as much of a "reveal"--deliberately understated.

I find that this article doesn't describe my reaction to the show. For me, the second half of season one and the first few episodes of season two were very strong, and, if not the best show on television (that's Mad Men), were up there. The last few episodes of season two have felt so rushed that it's hard to figure out what's going on (a problem that was present in, e.g., "Omega," "Vows," and "Belonging," but to a much lesser extent). This has been increasingly problematic, episode-to-episode, until "The Hollow Men," which...yeah, problems. So I think I disagree with the premise of the article. To be fair I do think many of the last few episodes have been very good, just by no means clearly better than the show in the second half of S1 or the first half/middle of S2.
Saje,

I would argue Lost has MUCH more going on, as you infer. It tackles all the literary character depths we expect from a novel, let alone a TV show. And that's just character stuff, that's before we go onto the physics, the existentialism, and the spirituality of the thing.

All that of course, is bobbins if it's not a fun and thrilling show which makes you invest in the character journeys.
I have revisited Dollhouse already more than I have revisited any other show while it was still airing. I'm really obsessed with it, even with the stand-alones from season one. In case Joss is going to do another series with F/X, I hope it deals with as much philosophical themes as Dollhouse did.
I agreed with "Best Show on Television" part.
If Dollhouse had stopped at S1, I might've agreed with you on balance, despite a few good/fun episodes, Andy Dufresne. But S2 - especially the run from 'Belonging' onwards, hit it out of the park. Also from an entertainment standpoint and I'll certainly revisit those episodes. In the end, the entertainment value is highly subjective, but I do believe that if more people had made it through the muddled beginning, Dollhouse would've been more widely accepted as a good, maybe even great, entertaining show.

Y'know, I don't watch it but I get the impression 'Lost' has quite a lot going on - is 'Dollhouse' really that much more intellectually demanding ?


Nope. In fact, I'd argue that 'Lost' is way more complex; certainly from a plot stand-point (I think Dollhouse holds the edge in real-world relevant thematical complexity). It's certainly the most complexly plotted major hit I've ever watched on television and it's a unique television show for it. It certainly does have some problems (but then, Dollhouse did as well), so in a pure 'intelligence run-off', I'd say 'Lost' wins. It is also one of the most entertaining shows in the history of television and you really should be watching, Saje ;).

I do agree with a lot of the linked article, in why and when Dollhouse became great, essential television, but the author loses me in the comparisons to other shows and in the way FOX's influence is desribed (I'd agree they had a major hand in changing the show and as someone who massively prefered 'Echo' to 'Ghost', I don't think they did it for the best - but it's impossible to know which elements were Fox' idea and which changes were Joss' - unless one was present at the meetings and/or saw the notes).
I haven't been so into a TV show as I am with Dollhouse since I was about 13.
WilliamtheB, Whiskey also on the list of "surprise" dolls. But I agree with Jayrock - I looked forward to seeing this show every week, a rarity for me.
Agree about the similarities of Dollhouse S2 and Angel S4.

And I LOVE Angel S4.
I don't think it really makes sense to compare Dollhouse to Lost. They are completely different types of shows.

Yeah, it started off slow. It has its flaws. But episodes of Dollhouse are easily up there with Whedon's best even in its short run. It's definitely going to be remembered a lot better on re-watches.
I also believe the second half of Dollhouse S1 and the first half of Dollhouse S2 are the best. I have not been a fan of the latest Dollhouse episodes. I hate how everything was rushed, though I can't blame the writers for wanting to tie up loose ends for the fans. Still, it's hard to watch at times. Also, I'm one of few (maybe even the only?) who didn't like Epitaph One, so for everything to be leading to that is a big letdown for me. As far as Joss shows go, Dollhouse is my least favorite, but I think it had some incredible moments that I won't forget, and that I will rewatch on DVD.
Wholeheartedly agree.
Right, I forgot about Whiskey. OK, so I guess that's quite a few reveals. But I do feel that each was interesting in its own right.
I think there are a number of better shows - Lost, Mad Men, Dexter... But Dollhouse did become good. And it's always sad to lose a good show.
I didn't like Epitaph One that much either johanna. I might have been expecting too much of it, but it certainly was disappointing.

I haven't seen anything after The Public Eye yet, but I'll definitely give it a chance. Headlines like this certainly make it sound worth my while. Though the Angel S4 comparison is pretty discouraging (that was by far my least favorite season of Whedon-tv before Dollhouse came along)

So far I would say the second half of the first season has been my favorite part of Dollhouse. The string of episodes from "Spy in the House of Love" to "Omega" were particularly strong. But with the exception of "Belle Chose" I haven't been blown away with episodes that followed.

I still have some hope the second half of season 2 will be better, but for now I'm with Andy Dufresne in the 'too boring rather than too intelligent and ultimately not that good' camp.

[ edited by the Groosalugg on 2010-01-18 23:49 ]
Right, I forgot about Whiskey. OK, so I guess that's quite a few reveals. But I do feel that each was interesting in its own right.

Saunders/Whisky was a big reveal to me, as was Perrin. November/Victor maybe not so much, partly because of early casting sides (which I foolishly read before really knowing too much about what they were and the spoiler potential contained within) and partly because they weren't really presented as big reveals IMO (and given how simplistic Mellie seemed as a character, we pretty much knew something was going on there).

It is also one of the most entertaining shows in the history of television and you really should be watching, Saje ;).

Yeah, I know GVH, it's on my pile ;). Watched (and enjoyed) the first season and then other things came up and to be honest it felt like it might all go a bit ad hoc (a la X-Files) which turned me off slightly. I didn't become a "hater" or anything (hating a TV show being fairly hard for me to grasp, given, y'know, the current state of the art in remote controls ;) and my mental deal is/has been, if i'm not too spoiled by the time I have time to really sit and watch it properly then i'll, well, really sit and watch it properly. There's a helluva lot of decent TV around right now though, it's a good time to be a fan (or it would be if we had infinite free time ;) and 'Lost' isn't right at the top of the list.

All that of course, is bobbins if it's not a fun and thrilling show which makes you invest in the character journeys.

I agree with that up to a point Andy Dufresne. TV shows should be entertaining (and in fact around here I may be in the minority since I think TV that's "just" entertaining is a perfectly fine end in itself) BUT entertainment doesn't necessarily have to mean investing in characters for me (it usually does but not always). Ideas are pretty entertaining for instance and a good idea or a new take on one can carry a show past a lot of characters i'm not invested in emotionally. Never had an issue with Echo's slow development for instance, in fact, contrary to this article (and maybe even Joss et al themselves) I preferred the gradual emergence and thought "Echo" showed their hand too early. I was invested in the idea of Echo I guess, the abstraction, what she could become. Likewise the morally murky characters were worth watching for the "gleamings", the little hints, gradually building, that there might be more to them. It felt like getting to know real people where (unless this is just me ;) you don't know someone after spending 42 minutes with them, it takes time.
"Dollhouse has never actually been a bad show, but far too often it has not come up to the level of Whedonís previous efforts like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, or Firefly."

I disagree - occasionally fabulous and very gripping, it has actually been a BAD SHOW on occasion. Far more often than the earlier trio, and not just due to Fox interference (e.g., well within the 'let them do what they want' timeframe). JMO
I really wish people could just watch a new Whedon show without constantly comparing it (mostly unfavourably) to his earlier shows.

when it was on, there was a lot of "well, Firefly is good, but it's no buffy", now it's "well dollhouse was good, but it's no firefly"

Of course dollhouse was different from Buffy and Angel and Firefly... and If you come into a joss whedon show expecting it to be the same as his last one, then of course you're going to be dissapointed.
If you come into a joss whedon show expecting it to be the same as his last one, then of course you're going to be dissapointed.


You'll also be disappointed if you expect every episode to be as good as the best episodes of previous series. I've seen a lot of criticism of Dollhouse that has that feel to it, but is that ever a realistic expectation?

Dollhouse has had its ups and downs, but I don't think it ever dipped to the worst of Buffy or Angel ("Bad Eggs", anyone? or "She" from Angel S1?) Aside from any interference from Fox, Joss has almost always taken his time early in each season of each show to lay "infrastructure" of character and mythology under standalone episodes. The themes are laid out without pushing them under your nose. The standalone episodes of Dollhouse do this just as effectively as the early-season standalones of any other Joss show.

The A-stories in those standalones weren't exactly terrible, either, but they were totally incoherent with regard to character development. Yes, you'd miss a lot in season two if you didn't know who Eleanor Penn was, and the other standalones mostly get a moment or two of total recall as well. But early on, it's not obvious why these stories matter in any way.

I do see the problems that Fox saw with the original pilot; in its own way, it was as rushed and sloppy as "The Hollow Men". Dollhouse needed a slower buildup, but it also needed better stories to do it with.

As uneven as it has been, there have been at least 10 episodes that I'd rank among Joss's best. For a 26 show run, that's not bad. Not bad at all.
when it was on, there was a lot of "well, Firefly is good, but it's no buffy", now it's "well dollhouse was good, but it's no firefly"


Well, that does kind of make sense, though. Also: I'm not sure that unhealthy expectations are the only explanation for this effect (though they are certainly a sizeable factor, possibly even the dominant one).

Given that 'current_fandom' consists mostly of fans who are really in love with Joss' previous works, there's bound to be a few that just honestly dislike the_new_show. Not because of unhealthy expectations, but because there's a sampling bias in the fandom make-up. People who definitively love one type of show, won't necessarily and automatically like something else, if the style changes too much (DHSAB, for instance, didn't change styles too much and was nearly universally loved - which makes perfect sense, as it caters to the tastes of this not-randomly-selected group).

Buffy fandom was huge, Angel fandom was smaller (and grew with people from outside Buffy fandom), but those two still merged quite nicely into one fandom on the whole, given that they share a universe. Then Firefly was something completely new - people were mostly just Buffy/Angel fans, not Whedon fans, back then - and some people hated it, some were indifferent, etcetera. Heck, even the people heading the save firefly campaign did it out of loyalty, instead of love for the show. Then that fandom exploded and the overlapping parts, which were still major, reformed to a general Whedon fandom (giving us a group with a new selection bias). Then comics happened, movie scripts, Serenity (which made some people leave and led some people in) and finally DHSAB (which was great and well-loved, but too minor to have a big influence on fandom make-up).

Now something very different comes along again (even more different than the step from Buffy/Angel to Firefly) and we've again witnessed new fans coming in with Dollhouse (there's a few posters here who seem to have come in with Dollhouse and consider it their favorite among Joss' shows) and I'm sure that, over the years, as people watch that show, love it, and come into the fandom, the opinion on it will level out (as people who really really hated it, leave general Whedon fandom and remain within specific_show(s) fandom).

I do think this was the first long-term show that started airing after the Cult Of Whedon[tm] formed (which we're all more or less a party to :)) and reactions have been different because of it - although it certainly resembles the reaction established Buffy/Angel fandom had to Firefly. But in this case I think the self-identification as Whedon fans is strong enough for the not-huge-Dollhouse-fans to remain (which probably means it'll never get as popular as slightly-less-newcomer Firefly within the general fandom, because it'll probably have a smaller effect on fandom make-up).

All of this, of course, analyses this as a group thing and the individual viewpoint can (and will) differ - I, for instance, didn't really like Dollhouse, then liked it, then really liked it and finally fell in love with it in the second part of S2 (had it gone on to a S3, it might've started to resemble my love for previous Joss shows, now it remains a close, but still distinct, 4th favorite).

Of course, I have no numbers or research to stave this theory, but I do think that it's a big part of what we're seeing.

ETA: just thought of this: because we're self-identifying mostly as a Whedon fandom, I guess it also makes sense that Dollhouse'll remain a well-liked-but-not-favorite addition to the Whedonverse. It seems that Joss is quite content to let it go (despite emotions running high, this end had none of the drama or continuation frenzy we saw with Buffy, Angel or Firefly) and his involvement with the show became ever more minimal (if never irrelevant) as it progressed. This probably did not go unnoticed, even if only subconsciously.

[ edited by GVH on 2010-01-19 02:57 ]
Have you seen the last episode yet, GVH?

As uneven as it has been, there have been at least 10 episodes that I'd rank among Joss's best. For a 26 show run, that's not bad. Not bad at all.


I don't know if my count would be that high, but I agree MissKittysMom, that when the show is good, it's very good. But when it's bad... etc.

I loved the first season of Lost. It was totally original and enthralling. But then I got bored with the second season and stopped watching. My honey kept up with it and assures me it got way better. I'm waiting for the series to end, and if he still says it's worth watching maybe we'll get the DVDs and start over together. I never know what people are talking about, though, when they say that shows are too smart to find an audience. That just sounds silly to me. A smart show may be missing a good or widely accessible hook, and thus miss out on a potentially larger audience, but I don't think people watch / hear about it and say "duh, sounds too confusing" and tune out. But then what do I know, maybe that's exactly what happens.
Yeah, catherine, I have :). Just haven't gotten through all the comments on it yet, and by the time I have, I might not post on it as everything might've already been said (although I think I'm slightly less down on it than everyone else seems to be, despite its faults ;)).

Also: your husband is most wise re: Lost :). And yeah, I can imagine holding out for the final season, as that could yet prove to be a huge disappointment (though given how great the second part of S3, S4 and S5 have been, I doubt it :)).
Oh, just skim the comments and then post! I want to hear what you made of it. (I disliked it so much that I'm actually mad, which is silly of course, and I'd be interested to hear a more positive spin).
i love the fact that Firefly was very different from Buffy and Angel and that Dollhouse is different yet again, but i came to the first three on DVD after they'd finished their broadcast runs because i don't watch a lot of tv. in my fantasy Joss develops Terry Moore's Strangers in Paradise for cable and does internet projects and movies and comics on the side because in my fantasy he's a superhero who doesn't need to sleep. ever.
See, the perspective on this site is great for me, because I would say that LOST excels in the plot execution but fails to make me engaged with the characters, while I would say Dollhouse does the exact opposite, so it's really interesting to hear the other side of that.

Also, for the sake of argument, "The Wire" will always be the quintessential "too smart for a large audience" show for me.
If you come into a joss whedon show expecting it to be the same as his last one, then of course you're going to be dissapointed.


The same - in terms of specific themes and content - certainly. But when it comes to expectations pertaining to the general quality/effectiveness of delivery - that's something else entirely.
I loved the first season of Lost. It was totally original and enthralling. But then I got bored with the second season and stopped watching.


Lost didn't really hold my attention until the third season when I totally addicted. On the other hand, it only four or five episodes in with Dollhouse till I considered it essential viewing. I will miss our Friday night discussions.

Buffy fandom was huge, Angel fandom was smaller (and grew with people from outside Buffy fandom), but those two still merged quite nicely into one fandom on the whole, given that they share a universe.


It was a segregated universe. Many Buffy fans did not watch Angel and vice versa. It was only until Spike came onto season 5 did some sort of crossover occur.
Wasn't until I got on here that I discovered big fans of Buffy and Angel that hadn't even tried 'Firefly' (at the time). Hard to understand for me, why not give it a chance at least ? When I flicked over and caught it accidentally that was one of the reasons I watched - the EPG blurb said "from the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer". That and spaceships ;).

But when it comes to expectations pertaining to the general quality/effectiveness of delivery - that's something else entirely.

Yes brinderwalt but a lot of the complaints about 'Dollhouse's quality could be laid at the door of just being different. People complained about the lack of identifiable characters or a "family" for instance (like, several people said, 'Firefly' or Buffy had) and pointed to that as an actual flaw, a technical lack of quality (we saw this time and time again on here, in reviews etc.), when all along it was a workplace set drama with deliberately murky, complex characters that were revealed more gradually than in any previous Whedon show. How many of us see their work colleagues as family ? And how many of us actually believe that (in the real world) good people are always and only good and bad people are always and only bad ? All Joss' previous shows have been hero stories, for a large part of its run 'Dollhouse' wasn't - or at least the main hero didn't know she was one and the other, minor heroes were "pimps and killers".

Which isn't to say I totally disagree BTW, I think the quality's generally been patchier than previous shows (for a variety of reasons though and not usually the ones most people give).
It was a segregated universe. Many Buffy fans did not watch Angel and vice versa. It was only until Spike came onto season 5 did some sort of crossover occur.


I've heard you say this before, Simon, but my experience back then was different. I was, for the most part, a newsgroup poster back then (although I used to hang out over at The Bronze as well) and frequented Buffy and Angel groups - and those had a lot of cross-over. Plus, the Dutch fandom wasn't segregated at all (our fanclub was for both Buffy and Angel and the Dutch and British mailinglists I subscribed to talked about both shows).

My feeling was that there was a significant portion/core group of fans who watched both from day one - these were, like me, usually the fans who'd come in with season one, watched Buffy and Angel's story in S1-3 and then followed both characters on their respective shows. The latter seasons introduced bunches of new fans to Buffy, who were - I think - for a much bigger part 'Buffy only' fans, of which a sizable portion were 'Spike fans' (who did indeed only jump over to Angel when Spike appeared in S5). Angel drew in new fans as well - the Angel newsgroup has a sizable amount of posters who came from Buffy fandom when it started and that grew with new posters who were - sometimes - Angel only fans.

So I'm not saying there were no Angel/Buffy only fans, there certainly were, but from my experience there was a non-negligibly large group of core fans who watched and loved both shows.

Unfortunately there's no numbers or actual data to fall back on for this, as I'd be very interested to clearly see how the larger fangroup movement and make-up changed over time, instead of relying on these kinds of subjective memories of those days.
Two very sad but true quotes:

"Dollhouse will end with almost limitless untapped narrative potential".

"There will never be more than a limited audience for (Joss's) shows, because there are simply not enough Americans who value intelligent TV."

Call me a snob for agreeing with that one of you will. Then take a look at the majority of network shows that get the huge ratings, and what that says about the majority of American viewers.
I would however, qualify that by applying it mainly to broadcast network fare. There is obviously an audience out there that values intelligent shows, because there are/have been a lot of them on cable that have done very well. But still, by cable standards.

Waiting patiently for news of the joss/FX ex. lunch. :)
Wasn't until I got on here that I discovered big fans of Buffy and Angel that hadn't even tried 'Firefly' (at the time). Hard to understand for me, why not give it a chance at least ?


I totally agree, Saje. And for me, it's not a question of "faith" in Joss, but just a rational conclusion - it's the same creator, and he's bound to bring the same storytelling techniques and defiance of expectations that he brought to other shows. (Techniques that include laying 'infrastructure' for future surprises, and setting up premises only to blow them up, such as "Buffy is a show set in a high school about a girl trying to save the world without her mother knowing" only to have them removed in Becoming.)

I admit I was a bit doubtful of Firefly when I was watching it on DVD, and then I watched "Our Mrs. Reynolds" and then got officially hooked. But that was verification for me that whatever Joss did in the future would be something original, surprising, and amazing.

Yes brinderwalt but a lot of the complaints about 'Dollhouse's quality could be laid at the door of just being different. People complained about the lack of identifiable characters or a "family" for instance (like, several people said, 'Firefly' or Buffy had) and pointed to that as an actual flaw...


I agree with this, too. When I read the complaints about the lack of identifiable characters, I immediately thought, "Well, that's the 'arc' of the show isn't it? Solving a problem, this time the problem being realizing one's own identity and humanity, and fighting to solve it under the most dire of circumstances?" Sure, I agreed with the comments to the extent that it made it more difficult to attract viewers, but I completely disagreed with the implication that this would be a permanent aspect of the show.

A friend of mine who loved Buffy, Angel, and Firefly stopped watching Dollhouse after around the 4th episode. He said he was frustrated by the little "reveal" at the end of each episode, said it was stupid and predictable. He seemed to really want the overall story to move forward. I told him what I said above, but he still lost interest and patience. I completely disagreed! It's the same frikkin creator, I said! I could understand where he was coming from, but to me it was so utterly illogical and wrong lol.

[ edited by Ronald_SF on 2010-01-19 14:08 ]

[ edited by Ronald_SF on 2010-01-19 14:09 ]
People complained about the lack of identifiable characters or a "family" for instance (like, several people said, 'Firefly' or Buffy had) and pointed to that as an actual flaw, a technical lack of quality (we saw this time and time again on here, in reviews etc.), when all along it was a workplace set drama with deliberately murky, complex characters that were revealed more gradually than in any previous Whedon show.

The thing is being compelling - for whatever reason - is kind of one of the hallmarks of a well-done tv show; if your show tends to breed apathy in viewers that's a pretty good sign it's poorly constructed. Things like identifiable characters and co-dependent character subgroups (weee!) are just obvious ways of introducing compelling hooks into your narrative. If the central premise of your show specifically involves avoiding the most commonly utilized methods of hooking viewers (ala Dollhouse) obviously you're going to want to find some alternate method to hook your viewers into what's going on (such as casting actors in your lead roles who are so mind-bendingly sympathetic that they could be kicking the dog all day and you'd still feel sorry for them.)
Assuming you want viewers, that is.

And is it just me or is it a little early to be doing a total post-mortem on the show (what this article essentially is) seeing as the show hasn't even finished airing yet?

There will never be more than a limited audience for (Joss's) shows, because there are simply not enough Americans who value intelligent TV.

There are few things I find more disheartening than the good old viewers are morons trope; one of them being when my fellow viewers actually by into it.

[ edited by brinderwalt on 2010-01-19 14:23 ]
The thing is being compelling - for whatever reason - is kind of one of the hallmarks of a well-done tv show; if your show tends to breed apathy in viewers that's a pretty good sign it's poorly constructed.

OK, I read a lot of non-fiction for instance, which usually doesn't have sympathetic characters (although there's often a "narrative" to non-fiction too) or too much of a hook beyond exploring ideas but non-fiction can still be very compelling. 'Dollhouse' is more overtly "ideas TV" than Joss' previous shows IMO. They all had "big ideas" too but deeply submerged in the stories - 'Dollhouse' did that but much less, it wore its ideas on its sleeve and was much more about the ideas. Maybe it turned viewers off because it's more traditional sci-fi in some ways (of which i'm a fan and many aren't) ? Which might explain the 'Firefly' thing too - it looked too much like traditional sci-fi for a lot of Buffy/Angel fans (who might - and this is just speculation - skew towards the 'F' end of the SF&F spectrum).

And it's surely also partly to do with expectations - from the earliest threads I just kind of assumed Echo would gradually emerge (like a child develops) and looked forward to that exploration. As Ronald_SF says, I never thought Echo would always be hard to identify with or that the characters would permanently feel like people I didn't know or couldn't identify with, I always assumed it would just take a bit of time (meanwhile the morality was - in the abstract - interestingly murky and the ideas were interesting).

And is it just me or is it a little early to be doing a total post-mortem on the show (what this article essentially is) seeing as the show hasn't even finished airing yet?

Yeah it probably is. But then we had post-mortems back when the show was officially cancelled and we still had a third of the episodes left to show. [Even more] bonkers.
I watch very little network programming. IMHO, the broadcast networks have 'dumbed down' the viewers by offering far too many cop, CSI and reality shows. I absolutely refuse to watch American Idol and other shows of this genre. I want quality drama.

And THAT Joss Whedon believes his viewers should be given--an alternative, a drama that makes viewers THINK about life and it's consequences

Dollhouse and NCIS are the only two dramas I watch, and mostly because of the character development and superior writing.

It's no wonder the broadcast networks are losing viewers. They fail to recognize innovation. When you see better quality drama on cable, it's time to give up on networks. Please get the hint, Joss. This is an intervention and we love ya.

[ edited by Riverine on 2010-01-19 16:07 ]

[ edited by Riverine on 2010-01-19 16:08 ]
I've had several arguments with my mother about a setting of something. She quite like science fiction; watches Fringe, Dollhouse and everything else I shove in front of her but if they took the same characters and stuck them on a spaceship, she wouldn't watch. Due to the fact that they are on a spaceship, it makes it unrelatable to her (which is even more puzzling is that she seemingly enjoyed Star Trek '09 when I shoved that in front of her - I must be breaking her down!).

I think people assume tones/settings/characters of certain shows, and then conclude they dislike something because of it. There's the few that can't believe that shows that are American and feature teenagers can be intelligent, probably because of BH, 90210 exposure years ago. The same way cheesy '70s sci-fi turns a lot of people off the genre for good. "Nah, I don't like things like that [when referring to Star Wars or Avatar]"

As for broadcast telly being stupid, I don't see it as being any more dumb than cable in all honesty. I wouldn't say something like Bones or House makes me think any harder than an episode of Burn Notice. There are brilliant cable dramas, like Sons of Anarchy, but then there's broadcast alternatives like Lost which are also intelligent. I really, really don't get the hate for the networks, they show reality and I expect they must be somewhat overexposed (I'm in the UK) but Bravo shows The Real Housewives... and FOX shows Idol and CBS shows Survivor. One is hardly better smarter TV than the other. (Though I do like Idol).
I think lost built a lot of the plot on mystery which makes it really hard to rewatch.
I could argue that some of the writing on Dollhouse season 1 was better than Buffy season 1, not better overall though. If Buffy had been cancelled after that first season, which was close,it would have been forgotten, fast.
I think lost built a lot of the plot on mystery which makes it really hard to rewatch.

I rewatch Lost. Then again, I love the characters.
OK, I read a lot of non-fiction for instance, which usually doesn't have sympathetic characters (although there's often a "narrative" to non-fiction too) or too much of a hook beyond exploring ideas but non-fiction can still be very compelling.

That's because fiction is just a re-working of reality with an added emphasis on the particular elements that the author finds interesting.

'Dollhouse' is more overtly "ideas TV" than Joss' previous shows IMO. They all had "big ideas" too but deeply submerged in the stories - 'Dollhouse' did that but much less, it wore its ideas on its sleeve and was much more about the ideas.

To use an analogy, Dollhouse's predecessors are like beautifuly ornate houses built upon sturdy stone foundations made from ideas; Dollhouse is a sturdy stone foundation made from ideas with a tarp throne over it.

[ edited by brinderwalt on 2010-01-20 06:03 ]
Dollhouse's predecessors are like beautifuly ornate houses built upon sturdy stone foundations made from ideas;


Apart from the sixth and seventh levels of the Buffy house which are in danger of falling to bits :P.
That's because fiction is just a re-working of reality with an added emphasis on the particular elements that the author finds interesting.

Been wondering about this a bit recently, particularly in relation to 'Dollhouse'. Because is it, really ? Or are there some things in fiction that we only wish were actual aspects of reality (but differently emphasised), myths we tell ourselves about the world to make it liveable ? I say that because i've been wondering since early in season 1 if 'Dollhouse' is a kind of "anti-fiction" in that it (possibly) deliberately examines and maybe even subverts a lot of the things we take for granted in fiction, or Joss' fiction anyway and reality to a lesser extent (meaningful character changes, identifiable characters, heroes that act heroically, the basic idea that the world is, ultimately, fixable, the reality of the volitional self, the usually unexamined idea that personal autonomy is automatically preferable to the alternative etc.).

I think it could be read that way BUT my main problem with doing so is, a lot of those "deliberate" features are indistinguishable from a show that's just not very good traditional fiction (or traditional fiction of inconsistent quality at least since i've liked 'Dollhouse' from the pilot). And the unfortunate rushing at the end just muddies those waters even further (though i'm still really grateful to the creators for making the attempt to resolve it for us).

... Dollhouse is a sturdy stone foundation made from ideas with a tarp throne over it.

Sounds weatherproof to me ;).

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