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March 06 2010

Dollhouse - A Post Mortem. A lengthy article in which the author posits that Joss' work is becoming formulaic.

This should be fun.
(Not being a member when the show aired I'll take a stab at this :-)

I think there are a lot of valid points in the article, and I enjoyed someone critiquing "Belonging" which I thought, like almost all Tacharoen-Whedon episodes, failed miserably at grasping the moral complexity which Dollhouse had at its best moments. Then again, I would disagree that it would be "a stretch to claim there's a ton of real-world relevance here". In the second season, okay, but the first, especially from episode six and forwards I would argue the total opposite. Before the writers seemed desperate to conjure up a Firefly-style family of good guys, Dollhouse was the most honest portrayal of how oppression and exploitation actually work that I have ever seen in a Whedon show. That the show did not allow us to excuse the horrible actions of Topher and Adele while still again and again showing that they were people just like us, was what made the show deliciously uncomfortable and, I thought, extremely relevant. And the original plot for Echo, which was so brutally condensed in season 2, about how to live within and somewhat reinforce an oppressive system but still somehow build your own identity and find a way to resist, is the story of everyone that has ever sought to work for social change.

The authors main point certainly holds true for most of the Epitaph One and forwards episodes though. I always felt that the hype about that particular episode did a lot of damage to the show, but that seems to be quite the minority position.
I can understand his frustration, but at the same time, it's partly his fault for not going to Showtime, or at least FX, with this idea in the first place.

Not finished yet, but I just hit this line and it's frustrating since A) Joss couldn't do it with Eliza and not on Fox and B) it's not as if he can put the show on whatever network he feels like.

But anyway.
I kind of agree with this essay. Dollhouse was supposed to be different from Joss's other shows but then Fox got scared. In order to save it, Joss had to basically use a lot of what he'd already done in Buffy, Angel, and Firefly. I think that the next show Joss does, as long as he has complete freedom to do whatever he wants, could be better than anything he's done before. I can't wait to see what he does after this.

I can understand his frustration, but at the same time, it's partly his fault for not going to Showtime, or at least FX, with this idea in the first place.


Not finished yet, but I just hit this line and it's frustrating since A) Joss couldn't do it with Eliza and not on Fox and B) it's not as if he can put the show on whatever network he feels like.
-----------------------------------------------------------------
Wasn't Eliza's arrangement with Fox the studio rather than Fox the network? If so the show could have been shopped anywhere.
@Printy: "I always felt that the hype about that particular episode did a lot of damage to the show, but that seems to be quite the minority position."

Agree with everything you said, but I thought that point was particularly good. And now that I think about it, I feel like this happens in a lot of fandoms. A creative work does something that really resonates with a lot of people, and from that point on all the fandom and even the creators can do is fixate on how awesome that one thing was. But in hindsight we are able to step back and recognize that the awesome bit worked so well because of how it was supported by the not-as-awesome bits. I know this has happened to me, particularly with Epitaph One.
Disagree. Really, if you think about it, the show had limited legs as far as storyline anyway. I'm thankful for the two seasons that we received.

With that said, I curious with what Joss is cooking up now(smiles)!

[ edited by Madhatter on 2010-03-07 03:51 ]
One minor point to add - there's nothing inherently wrong with being formulaic, especially if your formula is good (as Joss Whedon's most certainly is.) A well-mixed martini is gonna taste good no matter how many times it's been made before, and experience in the making usually enhances the final product.

For that matter, formualicity in itself has nothing to do with whether something is any good or not - it's the implementation that has the final say on that front (imo something Dollhouse proved in spades.) New formula, old formula - doesn't much matter to me as long as whatever it is manages to come off as being done well.

Personally I have a particular liking for the Whedon-martini of clever story-lines featuring (usually) miraculously well-cast ensembles of intertwining three-dimensional characters - always have, always will - and would be overjoyed at the news of Joss either expanding on a past work with life still left in it (ie. Firefly) or launching a whole new universe in which to tell the type of story that he seems to do best. Many artists spend their entire careers just trying to find what it is they excel at. I think Joss Whedon lucked out in that he hit on his artistic forte very early in his career, and I just hope he doesn't loose it due to the fear of being branded too 'formulaic'.
Good article. It has a strong point and it makes it well. I liked Dollhouse more than the writer seems to have (and I've got to emphasise how flat-out amazing some episodes were) but I ultimately agree that Dollhouse will come to be seen as one of Joss's minor works for largely the same reasons as the author

Personally I have a particular liking for the Whedon-martini of clever story-lines featuring (usually) miraculously well-cast ensembles of intertwining three-dimensional characters - always have, always will

If you define Joss's strenghts that broadly (clever story-lines, well-cast ensembles and three dimensional characters) of course noone will want him to stray from those strenghts. Who would object to clever storylines? But as with anything it's when you narrow in on specifics that disagreement becomes apparent. Everyone wants three-dimensional characters but the Dollhouse experience made it pretty clear that, for example, fans were divided as to whether those three-dimensional characters had to be in a close-knit family-type group a la the Scooby Gang or the Firefly crew. And to me, Dollhouse started off by bravely refusing to have any such group (or even have characters who liked each other much) and then in late season 2 frantically returned to Joss's past formula. I loved the moment when Adele announced they would take down Rossum as much as anyone but I honestly think it sapped the moral ambiguity that had made the show interesting from the show. I don't know whether Joss chickened out because of what a vocal minority had said about the show in season 1 (These characters aren't nice! Paul and Echo should be good guys taking down the evil Dollhouse!) or whether he always planned to go in this direction but it didn't work for me. And don't get me started on the unfathomably awful plot-twist where Boyd became a moustache-twirling villain from a much, much lesser show.
All of that sounded more critical of Joss than I really meant. We'll never know what sort of show Joss intended and I would vastly have preferred to see Joss's darker vision. It's pretty clear that the thriller we got wasn't what was originally envisaged but mostly the new version worked for me. But I'm very eager to see what Joss can create without the constraint of having to write for network TV
"But for all of Whedon's noble intentions at speaking truth to power, there's something a little simplistic in examining massive social problems by reducing them to a conspiracy involving a shadowy supervillain."

I think Joss was not necessarily going to give us the evil supervillain plot if he had had more time. For that matter I don't think we necessarily were going to get the shootout at the OK corral as the solve-everything ending, if he had had more time. But where I think Joss got formulaic - and I do kinda agree there - was in his plotting; because he decided to tell us his entire 5-year plot in about 5 seconds, and fast-forward us to the end, and this does not play to his strengths.

Joss' strengths are the slow development of character and relationship arcs over time, in a metaphorical context. We would, or at least I would, have got more out of Dollhouse if he had just told the story at the pace he originally had planned, so we would have got 2 seasons, and then perhaps a coda telling us how it was all going to end.

What we got seemed simultaneously cramped, hectic and thin - thin because we didn't get the character development, because he went for plot development and didn't have time for both; and I think he may have gone for rehashes of what he's done before, as far as plot was concerned, and for a rather simplistic good/evil moral universe, and would have done neither if he had had more time.

So, I blame Fox (of course), for not giving him more time; but I do also wish that Joss would realise that his strength is character arc, not plot.
Oh, and to Let Down - utterly agreed about Boyd. That just did not work. For that matter, we didn't need the LA Dollhouse to become the Scoobies, either.
Critical is ok. Joss is probably more critical of his work then we are.

I do think the Boyd was decision was probably the bravest he made in the entire run of the series. He quite simply took the most liked, most trusted charecter in the series and made him the bad guy. That is a gutsy move and COULD have worked if done well. It might not have been liked, but it could have worked. Where I think we are all critical universally is the execution which I think was hamstrung by the screen time available to get from evil boyd to Epitaph 2.

I also don't think he needed to form a "Serenity" style group either. I think the mistake that was made was in not having a primary protaganist to follow while we were waiting for Echo at the start. Every drama needs one. It was too slow developing and as a result, it was hard to watch as entertainment for the first half of season 1. And that's when most of the audience formed their opinion and started to leave.

I think the problem was, the dollhouse personnel couldn't be protaganists at first because the audience had to adjust to what they were doing which is (in most peoples judgement) just a tad unethical. I know the "liking" of Adele and Topher didn't really seem to pick up steam until half way through S1. Boyd couldn't be, because his story was tied directly to what Echo was doing and he was ALSO a Dollhouse employee.

Which really only leaves two choices. The audience has to identify with Echo initially (by starting her off more advanced like the pilot) or starting with a more sympathetic and heroic Paul Ballard and allow his charecter to be more poisoned after the audience had bonded with the rest of the Dollhouse staff. As it turned out, while people weren't ready to accept the staff, Ballard was stalkerish and Echo was a vegetable. One of those needed to not be true for the first 6.

[ edited by azzers on 2010-03-07 09:24 ]
Personally I don't think the Boyd move was all that brave since as a lot of us said from the start, it seemed clear that he had to be something other than he appeared to be, the character was set up for a twist from the very beginning. Braver would've been having his position actually make sense, having what he was trying to do actually be for a greater good (but his means be totally unethical). Having him just be a pure baddie out to save himself and a chosen few of his friends was a bit of a cop-out IMO (though the extent to which he was a "cackling villain" style baddie was very likely a lot to do with time pressure). Jasmine is one of my favourite Whedonverse villains for just that reason - she actually makes a fairly compelling case which still repulses us purely and simply because it involves giving up free-will (which in reality some consider an illusion anyway). She posed one of the more interesting means/ends questions in the Whedonverse, Boyd was a missed chance to do the same IMO.

As to the article, it makes some good points though there's also some wrongheadedness in there too IMO. A comment like
The technology in Dollhouse is just too theoretical to act as a metaphor for anything else, except maybe as a commentary on how actors and actresses play different roles for an audience that can be fooled into developing feelings for someone they don't know.
just seems to totally miss the point of science fictional commentary. It's a thought experiment, being "theoretical" is the object of the exercise - it gives us the necessary distance to strip all the extraneous attributes away and see only the point being made. And surely the journey from programmable people to culturally "programmed" people is a short and obvious one ? Or from characters ambivalent about their role in an ethically questionable company to us, ambivalent about our role in perpetuating exploitation ? Consent, complicity, the role of instinct and "higher" urges, all of these ideas (among others) map quite readily between 'Dollhouse' and the real world IMO.

It's also hard to separate valid complaints about Joss' creative technique from the simple necessities of working on US network TV (whatever it was intended to be, 'Dollhouse' became an action show and episodes of action shows are generally resolved by action, hence the name) or even just the necessities of constructing drama full stop.

But, assuming that the "go team" ending was just a compressed version of the originally intended ending, I do agree that the show to some extent bottled out on its own fascinating moral ambiguity and that might be true of Whedon shows in general. That ties into Boyd and even Jasmine too IMO - she presented a pretty good case but the rotting maggot face surely left us in no doubt who the baddie was in that situation. Maybe if you're a good person, trying (however subtly) to urge others to be good, it's difficult to avoid making a moral judgement. Again though, moral conflict is something that's usually resolved by the end of a drama because resolving conflicts in general is how dramas end and so again, is that a fault of Joss or just of constructed narratives in general ?
See this wasn't supposed to happen. We were supposed to get Dollhouse ending and Cabin in The Woods premering around the same time.
Then we'd be reading "The Cabin in the Woods: A Post Pre-Mortem".

Besides, the delay will help it to stand out more. Eh ? "Stand out" ? Geddit ?



... i'll get me coat.
Regardless of whether Boyd's Big Bad transition could have been done better, I think I like his non-evil-villian role in the story better. We as morally upright viewers are supposed to be very disapproving of what the Dollhouse is doing. Yet here we have Boyd, and to some extent Saunders, two morally upright characters who are outspoken about their disapproval, but who not only are not actively trying to bring the Dollhouse down but are actually working for them. There's a creepy and unsettling message in there somewhere, that however morally good we may be we can still end up complicit in something we think is unethical and wrong. It's a message that really falls apart when you give Boyd ulterior motives.
Still wishing to be spoiler free about the ending of Dollhouse I have not read the article, but have to post a short commentarie.

Noted creaters of great fiction Mr Shakespear and Mr Dickens were quite formulaic and episodic tv, especially the Fox kind, is by its very nature formulaic. So to say that it is automaticly bad, might be a tad unenlightend.
Surely the setup did not require Boyd's turn. Regardless of how you and I felt about it at the time (because we both saw that Boyd had large gaps in his story and it really wasn't that shocking) it was very noticable that within the fan comunity as a whole, it was shocking and accomplished that particular goal.

As I said, you'll get no argument from me that the execution of the idea was poor. But the decision to try it was in my book very brave. It simply did not work because the follow through was lacking. I think you're making the case that something that is brave has to be well thought out and executed as well. Ideally it should be, but I don't think courage actually requires that. It's only the commitment to do something risky with the idea that you can serve some good by doing it. In this case, they just took the risk and failed. And because they took the risk with what appeared to be the most trusted charecter amongst fans and made him not trustworthy without getting a moral reletavist get out of jail free card, that's why I say it was the bravest thing they could have done. It carried the most risk.

[ edited by azzers on 2010-03-07 23:15 ]
You know, the time thing is pretty crucial.

I like Serenity -- but I love Firefly. I love it for the quiet moments, the little character beats, that simply had to fall by the wayside when Joss took Firefly Season 2 and reduced it down to a two-hour movie.

And I like Dollhouse, but it was structurally very flawed and I've taken to simply ignoring "The Hollow Men" because it was such a screaming disappointment. Puppetmaster Boyd could have been brilliant if handled differently. It wasn't, no doubt because we needed more time than we got.

Thinking on all this, it occurs to me that Dollhouse was the first time Joss had had to tell a story like this with that amount of time since Buffy S1 -- and the story and characters suffered for being so accelerated. Joss, apparently, needs his hours. Which is why he should work on HBO.
I think you're making the case that something that is brave has to be well thought out and executed as well. Ideally it should be, but I don't think courage actually requires that. It's only the commitment to do something risky with the idea that you can serve some good by doing it.

Assuming that 'you' is me azzers ... ;)

No, brave doesn't mean well executed to me but it means (partly) unexpected and against the normal line of TV in general or the narrative in particular and it often means morally murkier or at least more nuanced (early Adelle was creatively braver than end of season 2 Adelle for instance). Good guys being suicide bombers and insurgents is brave, a morally upright character rigging an election is brave, having a character who was always very clearly more than he appeared be revealed as the Big Bad is ... not so much - Boyd was always a question, it's just that the answer turned out to be "Baddie". Having the bad guy BE a bad guy while actually still being right and then having the good guys stop him anyway would be brave (because it's less black and white) and they might have intended to present Boyd that way, that's where the poor (IMO) execution might come into it. If that's what you mean (i.e. if you're assuming Boyd was intended to be a less simplistic bad guy, someone who actually had a valid, coherent point of view that we as viewers might even agree with and poor or rushed execution ruined that effect) then, given that assumption, I agree. However, seeing the simplification of almost every other character by the end into polarised goodies and baddies, i'm not at all convinced that's a safe assumption.

As to the fan community as a whole, well I must admit I don't bother with fandom outside of here much, if at all. If there are people out there that genuinely believed from the start up to 'The Hollowmen' that what you saw was what you got with Boyd (i.e. it never occurred to them to wonder what such an ostensibly good guy would be doing there with all his knowledge of body disposal etc.) then to them it'd probably be very shocking and brave. Not to me though and i'm the only person I can speak for ;).

(Echo doing what she did at the normal timeline end was braver IMO because it was much greyer and grey is usually anathema to US network TV - Echo was the only character who was more ambiguous by the end)
Formulaic isn't the same thing as identifiable. Shakespeare is identifiable, so is the style of most of the greatest contemporary directors - Ridley Scott, David Fincher, Michael Mann (my personal favorites) - I was going to say "all", then I remembered Martin Scorsese. :)

As uneven as Dollhouse was - and as rushed, toward the end - I still believe it's Joss's most mature and ambitious work to date. In a perfect world, we'd have another two or three seasons before having this conversation. And if a run that long had been guaranteed and there had been no studio/network meddling, I feel certain that DH would have been far and away Joss's best work. All the components were there, just not the time and artistic freedom to execute them properly.
On the one hand of course we'll never know exactly who meddled in what, the little we hear is all filtered through sources with their own agendas. Even so, I'm reculant to absolve Joss too much from the problems that plagued the later half of Dollhouse. My main argument would be, as the writer of the article points out, that many plot devices seem to be taken more or less directly from his earlier work, and that most of the issues were evident already in "Epitaph One". Since FOX never even aired that episode I find it hard to imagine that it was a demand from their side that the show A - Had to sprint to reach that storyline and B - Should become more similar to it with regards to clear cut morals, Scooby gang protagonists etc. Those were creative decisions that seems to me to be largely independent of external matters.

Again I would point to the circumstances and hype around "Epitaph One" which created a perceived fan demand for more episodes in that vein. Which in turn seems to have led to a larger role for Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen who I'm sure are great people, but I would argue were just not suited to write the kind of subtle drama about power relations that Dollhouse was at its height.
At the end of the day, all we can judge by is what appeared on the screen, not what the creators' intentions may or may not have been.

[ edited by Hellmouthguy on 2010-03-08 15:21 ]
At the end of the day, all we can judge by is what appeared on the screen, not what the creators' intentions may or may not have been.

Well, not really. The article is about how much Joss has or hasn't grown as an artist and what he's likely to do next without network interference. There's no way of discussing that without considering the extent to which Dollhouse actually represented Joss's vision. I see no reason why critics can't look at both what made it to screen and what the creator intended.

That said, I think that as big fans of Joss a lot of us are cutting Joss and co too much slack on those last episodes of Dollhouse. There's a lot we can blame FOX for. According to Joss, even after Man on the Street the show had to 'dance around its own premise'. But the fact is that the writers got the show working and working really bloody well. And then they messed it up. We're just being childish if we blame FOX for the way Dollhouse ended. (I'll take all of this back if it turns out Kevin Reilly swept in and ghost-wrote the horrible dialogue in The Hollow Men)

I'm also with Printy on Epitaph One, an episode I'm ambivalent about. I did like it (though I do think it was hugely overhyped and that there were 3 better episodes before it and a string of better ones after) but almost every one of the rave reviews of the episode said it was so great because now we were able to see the evils of this Dollhouse technology. Basically, it made it simpler for us. The seeds of the neat, morally clear-cut ending of Dollhouse were present in Epitaph One but were disguised by an intriguing plot.
Well, not really. The article is about how much Joss has or hasn't grown as an artist and what he's likely to do next without network interference. There's no way of discussing that without considering the extent to which Dollhouse actually represented Joss's vision.


I was referring more to direct criticism of Dollhouse. In reviewing the show's strengths and weaknesses, you have to review the episodes as presented.

but almost every one of the rave reviews of the episode said it was so great because now we were able to see the evils of this Dollhouse technology. Basically, it made it simpler for us.


For myself, I liked Epitaph One because I was able to connect with the new characters in a way I never did with the originals--I would have enjoyed a series focusing on Felicia Day and her pals running around fighting Rossum in a zombie world--and I also found the original cast much more palatable and interesting when they were essentially playing new characters. Instead of, for example, seeing Dichen playing an infantilized slave every week, I finally got to see her playing a three-dimensional person. Kranz finally got to stop cackling over Topher's cleverness and was able to do something different and deeper. Adelle stopped serving people tea and making vaguely menacing speeches about how terribly efficient the Dollhouse was (just before the latest Dollhouse screw-up that week.) And as much as I like Eliza, the fact that her character was marginalized and we didn't have to deal with another Miss Penn helped the episode. And Boyd...well, who the hell knows. (What were those strings attached to his coat?)
That was a really good article! I don't agree with the conclusion - that Joss is becoming formulaic - but I agree with a lot / most of what he has to say about the shows, especially this re. Dollhouse:

With each new episode, my opinion of the show has jumped between considering it to be a slightly flawed masterpiece or a fascinating failure


Comparing Dollhouse to the Wire seems pointless, but the comparison to BSG is very apt. I think he's right that BSG was to some degree an inspiration for Joss, that he wanted to put on a "mature" and more "serious" drama that dealt with identity and Who We Are and all of that. I also thought BSG was a flawed masterpiece that ended badly, so lots of similarities from my POV. This was a great line I thought:

But more than copying Battlestar's plot twists or its aesthetics, Dollhouse is interested in the precise tone that the show created: a sense of moral freefall, in which its characters are forced over and over again to make tough decisions in situations where all of their options are bad.


But he goes on to suggest that BSG was more successful / more daring / more interesting and I'm not sure I agree with any of that (though I'm not sure I disagree... BSG was so tainted by its ending for me, but I was really into it for a long time). I thought both shows were occasionally brilliant and occasionally downright awful (very uneven writing). I think he's right that Dollhouse didn't do "morally grey" as greyly (?!) as BSG, but I don't think "Grey" necessarily equals "Awesome" or is even a necessary element of Awesome TV. I mean, I like me some good grey as well, and Dollhouse wasn't really the Feast of Grey it sometimes gets touted as IMO , but it was a really interesting show and, I thought, very different from anything else on TV or anything else Joss has done. All his shows, in fact, feel very distinctive, while being very distinctively Whedony at the same time. The author of the article draws a whole bunch of parallels between the fantastic episode "The Attic" (one of my absolute favorites) and other Joss Whedon shows / other movies, but the comparisons felt a bit thin to me. I'm not sure what plot point from Angel S4 he's referencing though (I've mostly blocked out Angel S4).

I've always considered him to be a fervent moralist, someone who truly believes that human beings cannot be happy without acting according to their conscience (or without being sociopaths).


That's really interesting and probably true. I don't think that when Joss describes himself as interested in amoral behavior that he means it rocks to be amoral. I think he means that he likes to have his heroes behave questionably, even badly, for complicated reasons. His stories are full of "good people" doing bad things.

If Whedon truly believed that a major network was going to air a primetime show about kinky sexuality and the nuances of sexual consent, told using a fictional business that combines human trafficking and prostitution, then the dude must have been hitting the crack pipe pretty hard.


That's a funny sentence, and easy to say in retrospect, but was it really obvious to anybody beforehand? They bought the show. They liked the pitch. They just didn't like the results, which isn't necessarily because they were so dumb they thought it was going to be HOT instead of disturbing and then watched it and went ohhhh, no. Or, maybe that's exactly what happened. But I don't see why Joss should have known they weren't going to like the very show they had so enthusiastically agreed to. I don't think it says anything about his crack use, at least.

Anyway, really interesting article but I guess I could sum up this lengthy post by saying "what shey said":

Formulaic isn't the same thing as identifiable.

I like that his work is so distinctively his work. I think the worlds in Buffy / Angel (and even those two worlds really), Firefly, and Dollhouse are each brilliant and so different. I don't feel at all that he's re-hashing anything, although I think he'll probably keep on returning to Powerful Young (& Hot) Women and Loss. The thing I found most exciting in Dollhouse was Blank Echo becoming Someone-Not-Caroline-Echo ("I made me") and I'll always be sorry we didn't get to see that play out the way it should have.
But I don't see why Joss should have known they weren't going to like the very show they had so enthusiastically agreed to. I don't think it says anything about his crack use, at least.

To me the most sensible assumption is that Joss pitched the show he wanted to make and Fox heard the pitch they wanted to air (with any initial misgivings possibly drowned out by the "kerching" that accompanies an installed "rabid" fanbase ;). He's said 'Dollhouse' was originally more a noir show for instance. Well, you can say noir to one person and they think "Everything's grey, even the goodies do questionable things, winners and losers aren't always easy to tell apart and every character's mired in the moral shit scrabbling to survive as best they can", say it to someone else and they think "The Big Sleep" i.e. "Thriller with a lone, moral hero, great dialogue and a cool, sexy vibe [which we can tone down to suit a network audience]". I'd love to know what Joss' pitch actually was but I bet the words "the possible appearance of supporting prostitution and/or human trafficking" probably didn't feature that highly.

But he goes on to suggest that BSG was more successful / more daring / more interesting and I'm not sure I agree with any of that (though I'm not sure I disagree... BSG was so tainted by its ending for me, but I was really into it for a long time).

BSG was daring in a more overt way IMO catherine (much as I love the show - though i'm also ambivalent about the ending - i've even referred to it in the past as obvious in some respects). Although 'Dollhouse' wears its sci-fi lineage (in the sense of being ideas driven fiction) much more than any other Joss show I still think the ways in which BSG was brave were easier to see as brave. I mean suicide bombers, curtailing civil liberties in the name of safety, torture for "good" reasons etc. It was very clearly commenting on our post September 11th world (which partly explains the numerous annoying mainstream critics - and even some within the sci-fi fandom, who should know better - talking about how great it was to finally see science-fiction that commented on our times. You couldn't miss it basically, it was very there). 'Dollhouse' did too but less overtly (Joss just can't help but submerge the ideas in character, even in his most overtly ideasy show). Or maybe it's just that its themes are less timely because they're basically timeless ?

We're just being childish if we blame FOX for the way Dollhouse ended. (I'll take all of this back if it turns out Kevin Reilly swept in and ghost-wrote the horrible dialogue in The Hollow Men)

"Childish" is maybe a bit harsh but I don't think "willfully blinkered" is too wide of the mark in some cases. Fox meddled, we know that. But blaming Fox for 'The Hollow Men' feels to me like political administrations that are still blaming the previous incumbents 3 or 4 years into their term - it's true at the start, it's true to some extent even after any arbitrary length of time BUT there comes a point where to keep using it as an excuse is just not accepting responsibility. Of course, blaming Joss for 'The Hollow Men' also might not be that sensible - we tend to credit him for everything when other writers were surely responsible for at least some of both the highs and lows of the show.

Basically, it made it simpler for us. The seeds of the neat, morally clear-cut ending of Dollhouse were present in Epitaph One but were disguised by an intriguing plot.

Agreed Let Down except I think the seeds of an ambiguous, murky, "road to hell is paved with good intentions" ending were also present in "Epitaph One", it could've gone either way at that point. But it's simpler in the sense that it's quite clear who the goodies are and what they're fighting against, like all post apocalyptic stories it's partly about life pared down to its essentials. And I also liked it but didn't think it was as rave worthy as many seemed to - it's maybe in my top ten 'Dollhouse' episodes, not my top 5 though.
To me the most sensible assumption is that Joss pitched the show he wanted to make and Fox heard the pitch they wanted to air


My thoughts exactly. I experience this kind of communication breakage every day, both at and away from work. That said, I agree with the author of the article that the show Joss originally envisioned had zero chance of survival on network TV. I loved BSG from beginning to end, thought its last season was among the best seasons of television I've ever experienced, and found the finale to be 100% perfect (it actually displaced Not Fade Away from the top of my favorite series finale list), but I shudder at the thought of what it would be if aired on network.

It's interesting that the author mentions another show created by Ron Moore, Virtuality, as an example of what Dollhouse should have been. The only difference is that Virtuality, as a show, has never seen the light of day. It was pilot-ordered by FOX and never picked up (not canceled after one episode, as stated by the article, they just aired the pilot during the dead of Summer after show's fate was already decided), so it never had a chance to face the same challenges Dollhouse did and either be better or worse at dealing with them. Would Ron Moore prefer for his show to be picked up on condition of retooling, and with hope to sneak in the points he wanted to make later on? I don't know, but I am glad that this happened with Dollhouse.

As for Epitaph One, I wasn't initially impressed with it that much, but now that I look at it (and any other individual episode) as a part of the big picture, I do really love it. For me the beauty of Dollhouse is that its sum was greater than the parts, and I am grateful that Joss got a chance (even an imperfect one) to give us something complete.
Brilliant comment Alpert, all objectiv-y about Dollhouse. But I gotta say how much I love seeing (on the Black) that someone else loved the final season and finale of BSG as much as I did. Right down to the "displaced Not Fade away from the top of my favorite series finale list". :)


I think the problem was, the dollhouse personnel couldn't be protagonists at first because the audience had to adjust to what they were doing which is (in most peoples judgment) just a tad unethical. I know the "liking" of Adele and Topher didn't really seem to pick up steam until half way through S1.


Aain we have the difference in "liking" a character and finding that character so fascinating that you're deeply engaged. Adelle and Topher were major hooks for me, from the very beginning. While Echo was just beginning to form some semblance of an individual identity, well before it became obvious that she was "different" and that her emerging persona was indeed heroic, I looked forward to every scene and piece of a possibly emerging arc, involving either Adelle or Topher.

I realize that I'm not the average TV viewer (I'm picky - some would say snobby - and there are few shows I stick with), but I think I'm a lot closer an average fan of Joss and his work.
So I've never understood the "no one to relate to for too long" argument.
I don't require "relating", I just require fascinating, well written characters.

We've been through this particular discussion before but with lots of new members, we get to do it again. :)
Hmm, Shey, long before I could post and was just lurking here, I started to suspect that you and me might be the same person. And the evidence keeps piling up - the second half of your last post describes me very accurately. On a slight chance that you are not me, thanks for calling my post brilliant.
Pretty sure we're not the same person Alpert, unless there's been some imprinting going on and ....... never mind, that's exploding head territory.

Welcome, anyhow. ;)

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