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"I'm so evil, and skanky. And I think I'm kind of gay."
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December 29 2010

Tim Minear chats Dollhouse and what season 3 could have been. Along with Dollhouse, he also talks about the passing of actor Andy Hallett who Minear worked with on Angel.

Man, I wish Dollhouse had at least a back 9 or a season 3. Mainly because it feels like they botched the landing somewhat in the Hollow Men. Still, I am supremely thankful that we got season 2 at all, which really just felt like a gift. Even the writers weren't expecting it. And we got some amazing television, like Belonging and The Attic.
I think the problem in Season One was, you had this concept that sounds great when you’re pitching it, but when you sit down to write it, it’s, “Okay, so now we’re writing a show about a main character who can’t remember what happened last week.” Which I think was a little boring for the audience, because they’re so far ahead of her.
I remain unconvinced about this. That it might have been boring for (some of) the audience doesn't necessarily mean the premise is unsound or unsellable to an audience. It could just mean that in this particular instance, the powers that be couldn't figure out how to make it work.
The original pilot episode was good and not boring at all.

[ edited by JAYROCK on 2010-12-29 21:29 ]
See, I felt the original pilot episode was mediocre and intensely boring. Different strokes, etc.
Regardless of how boring or not the original pilot episode was, Tim's point seems to be more about potential episodes two, three, four, etc. than about episode one.
The thing I liked most about the original pilot was how fast it moved: at the end of the episode, Echo already remembered who Caroline was. Watching Echo grow slowly was interesting, and the slow pace of her growth did allow for some awesome payoffs, but I definitely understand Tim's point about the audience being so far ahead of Echo. It did get boring waiting for her to evolve and to finally be able to retain information the audience has known for 12+ episodes.

[ edited by JAYROCK on 2010-12-29 22:06 ]
Wasn't Dollhouse supposed to have been mapped out for 5 seasons?
By 'mapped out' it's a pitch and it's fluid. That's how TV works. You can tell shows which have tried to 'hyper plot' (that's my expression for 'not made things up a lot') because they tend to write themselves into a corner.

I was oddly not a fan of the original pilot when it was put together. Can't put my finger on why. I liked the script, but I think that pilot would have tested terribly.

I still think the greatest things about Dollhouse (eg it's fucked up premise) are both its strength and its weakest. Fans remember how twisted it got, but I'm not sure most people wanted to see that.

I loves me some Joss, but I do think Dollhouse will have been one of the most difficult shows around to write for.

[ edited by gossi on 2010-12-29 22:37 ]
Gotta <3 a Tim Minear interview.
I felt the problem with season 2 was that it crashed through all of it's five year / seven year pitch in 13 episodes. So the whole senate investigation, evil DC branch could have been a year of stories with Echo slowly becoming self-aware. It's got a nice mid-season twist (it's not his wife, but the senator himself) and a good ending (Summer Glau! Topher! Echo's on the run?), then next year would have been Echo on the run with Ballard while DeWitt was out of control of the Dollhouse with a finale of Echo coming back into the house and DeWitt retaking control but at the expense of Rossum having Topher's ray gun, then you could have the next season with DeWitt being evil, Victor being let out and then slowly being trailed as an ongoing plot before being snatched and being transformed, and the big climax with Echo freeing Victor from the clutches of evil only to be put in the attic (killer cliff hanger) and so on. Instead we got all that in five or six episodes. It felt mightily rushed.
The "Audience is ahead of Echo" comment reinforces my suggestion, that I made a year or so ago, that it would have been a great idea to sell the show publicly as "just" a Alias type show, no mention of mind wiping at all. See Echo being briefed (already programmed) and sent on a mission and so on, with just a few odd details. Maybe have her not be able to speak French in episode three when we saw her fluent in E1, to make people wonder. And then reveal the mind wipe/programming in episode five or so. Kind of like if someone started watching Buffy at the start of season 5 would have assumed Dawn had been there all along and would have been shocked to find out what she was.

Anyway, I think it would have been great.
Wow. I totally have to stop reading these threads so I'm not any more spoiled for Season Two than I already am. And, come to think, for quite a bit of Season One, as well. That's what happens when you're in a dead zone & your landlord won't allow you to mount a roof antenna - I basically had NBC and Universal Sports. (Now, though, happily, I have ALL the regular broadcast stations. And there's still nothing on!)

Wish I could afford to buy the series, but my Christmas money is for important stuff, like a stepladder, a toolbox, other household necessities. If I have anything left over buying what I need, then I can buy what I want. Like Seasons 2 - 5 of Angel.

Sigh. The joys of being a broke homeowner.
I hate to be a dick, but it is a season 3 thread, ShadowQuest. It definitely comes with the territory on this one.
Just caught up on both parts of the interview so far. I have to say, The Chicago Code looks really good from the promos.
It's funny how Minear framed the momentum the back half of Season 2 built as good. The mad race to the finish jettisoned me out of the story. To me, Dollhouse was great for the slow pace in the present while the dire future loomed in the distance.

Maybe it was easier to write those last episodes in Season 2 compared to earlier episodes where it seems the writers were wondering "how do I do this?", but it felt very rushed and I missed the nuanced notes from the earlier episodes.

The way Season 2 crammed in so many storylines near the end is why Dollhouse is my least favorite of Whedon's shows. Incredible concept, incredible actors, uncertain execution that peaked in late Season 1/early Season 2. It's one of the most uneven shows sadly.
Well, they were damned if they did and damned if they didn't. They could either shorthand several years of story in order to bring things to a conclusion, or they could just let it stop without resolution. Either option had issues.
I'm not entirely certain they were damned if they didn't. I think I'd rather they shorthanded it, but wrapped up what storylines they could in that season and leave an idea of 'what if'. It seems obviously foolish to me to jam several years of stories into a handful of episodes.

Gossi said above that he noticed some shows writing themselves into a corner. I think Dollhouse did that with Epitaph One. Having too many plans can hinder just as much as having no plan at all. If the show didn't feel the need to catch up to the future way down the line, we might have gotten a more solid, evenly paced Season 2. Whedon's often said he had a five year plan for BtVS when he first started it, but he treated every season finale like it was the last and he never tried to stuff all the years into that one season's end.

Watching Dollhouse from the very beginning, I was always on the verge of being totally in love with it, but I retained this unsettling ambivalence. When they got word of cancellation and decided to fit years of stories into a few episodes, my ambivalence outpaced my enthusiasm and all the chinks in the armor I'd noticed previously, they started growing (there were some serious execution gaffes there, just poor technical choices).

I think Dollhouse is Whedon's most ambitious show, but that strength is also why it's the most flawed. And no, I don't think they had to just let it stop without resolution. It might not have been total resolution, but I think there was a satisfying middle ground to explore. But Dollhouse's ambition came first and the show went for the gold--it just failed to stick the landing, so much so that while I can appreciate what they were trying to do on an intellectual level, I wasn't feeling it.

Dollhouse really disappointed me. There's much that I still love about it (beloved characters, how thought provoking it was, a few episodes, some brilliant dialogue), but the show overall fell short. It never quite clicked, never quite crystallized. Cue irony that a show about searching for identity never managed to fully settle into its own.

[ edited by Emmie on 2010-12-30 08:59 ]
I miss Dollhouse.

And I miss Andy.

Sigh. Now I'm sad.

Moving on... I loved what they did, and I probably would've loved whatever they would've come up with had they had more time. Maybe I'm easy to please, dunno.

That being said, Emmie, I too really enjoyed the slow build. I was not at all bored by the development of Echo as a character. She so clearly was one to me, right from the beginning. The second she started remembering things (in only the second episode) I was hooked to her story. Not to mention that there were plenty of other characters to latch onto.

Oh well. Doesn't much matter now, does it?
I don't know. I think it's probably a good thing that the show ended when it did. I'm one of the few people who loved the show from the very beginning, even though it was kinda flawed, but I liked the ideas behind the show, but with the structure of the show having been reduced to a action/superhero-show it might have been difficult to sustain the momentum if the show had been on the air for a longer period of time. I think they could have explored some of their storylines/ideas in more depth, but only if they had not been forced to ramp up the thriller aspects of the show as much as they had to.

The original pilot will always be one of my favorite episodes of the show. I loved the writing, the philosophical discussions and the noir-atmosphere of it. I also believe that Tahmoh's character was never written as well as in the pilot. In "Echo" you could actually understand his obsession with Echo/Caroline.

I miss Whedon writing on my tv. I mean, there are other great shows on the air (Weeds, Breaking Bad, Damages etc.), but Joss's shows have always been something really special for me.
The thing I liked most about the original pilot was how fast it moved: at the end of the episode, Echo already remembered who Caroline was.

That's probably the thing I liked least about it (though in general I thought it was good, Topher in particular started off with a more coherent, interesting point of view). We'd seen characters develop on Whedon shows before but Echo was a chance to develop a character from scratch and that's a fascinating journey to me. In the abstract in fact i'd rather it took even longer, except on TV I don't think you could really do it (i.e. the idea's fascinating but I doubt it'd make the sort of TV that most would want to watch let alone a network would want to buy).
...and cram a lot of what would have been in Season Three into Season Two, and what that ended up doing was, it gave it a certain amount of momentum in the second half of Season Two...

Not momentum like the little engine that could though unfortunately, more like a runaway train. Kudos to the gang for the attempt to resolve it to some extent but the present time-line resolution wasn't great (for me), not just the Boyd stuff which we've gone over ad nauseum but also things like the under/mis-use of Saunders (sure they didn't have Amy for long but when they did have her at the end they had someone else in her body which felt like a wasted opportunity) and the generally rushed "suddenly all pals" team dynamic. "Epitaph Two" 'resolved' its time-line much better IMO (though admittedly in some respects it didn't have as far to go WRT character arcs etc.).
Yes, and I think FOX wanted it changed because they thought it moved too fast for most of their viewers or something as well. Echo's slow growth was surely interesting but I would have liked to see Echo as the Buffy figure Tim describes in this interview, and we might have got to see her if they just sped up Echo's darn development a bit. :P
I would have loved to see a third season, especially one that delves deeper into the mythology of the show. Dollhouse is going to start airing on Croatia in January, I think it will do well here - it's not much of a consolation, but at least it's something.
...but I would have liked to see Echo as the Buffy figure Tim describes in this interview, and we might have got to see her if they just sped up Echo's darn development a bit. :P

Heh, yeah, fair enough JAYROCK, me too. How about:

INT. a bar

Guy who's like a 6 tops: Hey, woman I am married to in reality which is real !
Attractive Brunette who's like an 8 at least: Let's dance on a motorbike while bow-hunting deer from a rock-face and having sex !... Oooh, I feel funny... FADE.

EXT. sunny Californ-I-A outside a Circle K where strange things are occurring including but not limited to bread theft. Caption "3 Months Later".

Attractive Brunette: Wow, I can't believe how weird I felt while having my composite event, integrating numerous consciousnesseseses so that I now have multiple useful skillsets and becoming a superhero much like TV's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" but nothing like film's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" which is either unrepresentative of Joss Whedon's original intentions or an ill-advised reboot that doesn't even involve him FFS, yo ! Or also that I am called Echo which is a weird name. Now, to take down the dollhouse, the place that I do hate because of all of their evil offscreen shenanigans !

Quick enough ? ;)

(just to add BTW that I really like zz9's idea of initially showing us reality entirely from Echo's perspective and just dropping in apparent "continuity errors" as clues that something odd's going on until we get to the reveal. Only problem being, staying unspoiled for something that huge would be virtually impossible)

[ edited by Saje on 2010-12-30 12:08 ]
I'll add my weight behind the "I really would have prefered a slower season 2 that hit less major plot notes". I mean, we know what's going down eventually, that's why Epitaph One is so good. It shows us the natural consequences of the tech. It was scary. The informed viewer would watch season 2, and see Topher develop the remote wipe gun, and then the remote wipe mass phone call, and while it seems innocent (they just want Echo back okay!) we know what's going to happen with it. It would have made the "The senator is the doll!?!" pay off so much more sweet.
I just finished watching Dollhouse on DVD for the first time, and I love it more than ever. I never had an issue with relating to the characters early on, I found them all pretty much immediately fascinating, and I think Echo's path to self awareness moved at just the right pace.

My only issue with the show, start to finish, was the jumbled cramming in of a seasons worth of stuff into the last several episodes. And considering the circumstances, I think they did as good a job as possible.
I have no doubt that if Dollhouse had been allowed to evolve at a pace that allowed for smooth story arc development, it would have been my #1 favorite Whedon show.
I miss it like Browncoats miss Firefly. And yes, I miss Firefly too, but not as much as Dollhouse.

EF: half asleep typo

[ edited by Shey on 2010-12-31 12:20 ]
The end of the original pilot, where Echo says "Caroline", was (I believe) intended to suggest she'd retained the name Caroline, not remembered who Caroline was. Unless I'm remembering it wrong.
Some of the last episodes of Dollhouse weren't awesome. Stop-Loss and The Hollow Men were definite weak points of the show's mythological episodes.

Yet let's not forget that season 2 of Dollhouse gave us Belle Choose (the best MOTW episode of the show, easily), Belonging (one of the best Whedonverse episodes ever), The Left Hand, The Attic, Getting Closer and Epitaph Two. All were amazing episodes. Not to mention that Vows, The Public Eye and A Love Supreme were good episodes themselves.

Season 2 was definitely uneven, but it was sort of forced to be that way. We still got some amazing hours of television out of it.
For myself i'm certainly not saying season 2 was a dead loss, on average it was great TV. But the end was rushed. Even among 'Dollhouse's biggest fans I don't think that's particularly contentious.

The end of the original pilot, where Echo says "Caroline", was (I believe) intended to suggest she'd retained the name Caroline, not remembered who Caroline was. Unless I'm remembering it wrong.

It's ambiguous as to how much is in there but it was an earlier sign of the blank-slate Echo retaining anything than we got in the aired episodes (where it's the end of 'The Target' before we see "shoulder to the wheel" and the end of 'Gray Hour' before you could really say Echo was anything like a person). Unless i'm remembering it wrong.
I definitely preferred Ballard in the unaired pilot, because his obsession and motivation made sense in the context of what happens in that episode. I always had a problem with his character until I finally saw the unaired pilot. Alas, it can't be considered canon, based on how much was changed and reused.

While I agree that the show had its weak points, and the present timeline ending could have been better done, I really loved season 2 of the show, including the mad dash to the finish. Like most of us, I expected the show to be cancelled in season 1. I was amazed when we got 13 more episodes. I knew those 13 additional episodes were a gift, and that I could not expect any more than that. So I'm glad that Mutant Enemy took those 13 episodes and kicked the show into high gear, taking us on a thrilling tour of everything they had planned, even if it was in an abridged mode. I found the ending of Dollhouse to be much more satisfying than how Firefly ended (even including the coda of getting Serenity).

I only wish the Hollow Men had been better, and the first 5 episodes of season 1 weren't so slow to develop. But where Buffy and Angel got multiple seasons to grow and develop, Dollhouse had a brief 26 episodes to shine, and I think it burned quite brightly for that very brief time.
The way I look at season two is this - somebody suggested up thread they should have concentrated on certain things (e.g. Perrin) and left other things til later - the problem is, there was going to be no later. You could have done more Perrin, and taken out Bennett Halverson. But then you wouldn't have had Summer Glau, nor the relationship with Topher, nor the character development it lent to Topher. The show getting cancelled was totally an issue, in other words. They could have gone for subtle exploration of the premise, or they could go balls to the wall.

I actually loved what they did with season two, way more than season one. Considering they had next to no money - and this hasn't really been covered online, but their budget was effectively tiny that season - I think they did some really kick ass 'big' episodes (The Attic, The Left Hand), they did some really great premise study eps (Belonging, Belle Chose)... And that Amy Acker/Fran Kranz scene, I believe, is one of Whedon's best written and directed things ever. (Also the Amy/Harry scene - 'I guess I'm just built that way').

Personally, I would have loved to see Perrin's arc extended in presidency, the exploration of who Saunders was, dealing with gay engagements, and covering the fall of Rossum. I also wish it hadn't been cancelled.
I love how Dollhouse ended, and I'm glad it wasn't open-ended with a "What if?" feeling. Season 2 was a bit rushed at the end, but I felt they had no choice. Season 2 only made me wish for an Epitaph show. I could have had a whole season of stories in the Epitaph-verse. The finale broke my heart and warmed it at the same time. To me it was a *perfect* ending.
During Season 2 I felt like I was watching whole seasons pass by in minutes. It was a giddy exhilarating experience. Bit like watching Serenity in some respects.
Rollercoasters are exhilarating right up until they come off the rails then it becomes the very definition of "interesting" ;).

It was always going to be a bit rushed but they had a choice as to how much they tried to pack in. For me though it's not a "Therefore they are evil/incompetent" sort of thing, nobody on the creative staff needs defending IMO, they shot for the moon and unfortunately fell a bit short. That happens when you aim for "great" rather than just settling for "okay", there's no shame in it whatsoever.

...somebody suggested up thread they should have concentrated on certain things (e.g. Perrin) and left other things til later - the problem is, there was going to be no later.

Not sure anyone's said that though some (e.g. Emmie and Sparticus) are saying they could've tried to do less in the small amount of time they had and I agree with that. I also saw season 2 as a gift and (apparently unlike the creative team, hopeless optimists that they are ;) didn't think we had a hope in hell of a season 3 so whatever they were going to do they had to do while they had the chance. It's just that that doesn't mean you have to do everything you were going to do. Even Joss can't get a quart in a pint pot. Still, hindsight's 20/20 and it's easy to say these things now (at the time, after "Getting Closer", my attitude was roughly "If anyone can do it, they can", just turned out nobody could do it).

(feels like i've listed all the things I liked about season 2 both at the time and since so I won't bother with that again, suffice to say, I thought it was excellent in general but pretty poor in a few parts towards the end)

[ edited by Saje on 2010-12-30 20:05 ]
Epitaph two was the perfect ending. The Hollow Men was, sadly, a poor present-timeline ending. Personally, I would have loved if they used the episode to explore Whiskey/Saunders more, and perhaps end with everything going to hell (the tech gets loose, they can't stop Rossum). Also, Boyd as a more nuanced villain with motives that match his actions for the first two seasons. If they had only nailed that ending. But Dollhouse is still one of my favorite shows and they really did wonders with it in season 2. It's ashame so many people had already tuned out by that point, and even in geek-friendly places like at Cons, Dollhouse is not discussed favorably (most likely because they never saw season 2). Perhaps its time will come with people discovering it as a 'lost gem' on DVD in a few years, much like how everyone seems to love Firefly these days.

[ edited by AnotherFireflyfan on 2010-12-30 20:37 ]
During Season 2 I felt like I was watching whole seasons pass by in minutes.

In fact I remember getting to the end of specific episodes and going, "Okay, that was the end of Season X."
I found the ending of Dollhouse to be much more satisfying than how Firefly ended (even including the coda of getting Serenity).

Interestingly (or not), the Firefly DVDs are, to me, a perfect example of how to end a show that you didn't expect to have to end. Rather than forcing seasons of development (which I realize wasn't an option in that case) Joss shifted Objects in Space to the end of the show, and ultimately made the show about something else: River Tam's integration into the crew. And I love that. It's a story that can be told satisfactorily in 14 episodes. You have other elements there which would be great to explore, like those that Serenity went on to try to resolve. But in the space you have, you tell the story that fits in the space you have.

This is why, like Emmie, I don't buy that their only two options were, "Do everything Joss had planned, just super-compressed" and "Stop with no sense of resolution." There is, as she says, a middle ground, one which I think Firefly managed perfectly just on the DVD sets (I also think Serenity is a good example of how to compress a season of TV into two hours, but that's an aside).

Which is all a long way of saying, I agree with Emmie.

ETA: Oh, and I hadn't read Saje's post above carefully enough. What he said, too, a million times what he said.

[ edited by Jobo on 2010-12-30 23:29 ]
I believe that ending it small would not have been satisfying for a lot of people invested in the plot. It is true that the last 5 episodes (or so) felt rushed. However, if a show doesn't solve all of its mysteries by the end, the viewership will often feel cheated. Take 'Lost' for example. There is a strong split on whether that ending was complete or lacking. While it did give an "ending" to the show, it didn't tackle all of the mysteries that it set forth over it's six year run. So, really, you have to ask yourself. Did 'Dollhouse' do us a service by answering its mysteries or a disservice by putting too much into its finale?

If you want a closer comparison, look at all of the strong desire out there to know all the little details about 'Firefly'. 'Dollhouse' could have taken the approach of that show, and wrapped things up smoothly while leaving some loose ends. However, there would be the same desire for answers that we have had with that world for years. All in all, I think whichever way they went, there would have been dissatisfied fans on both sides.

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