Among the dolls

29
Posted April 24, 2009 by Kristian Lin in Blotch

Jimmy Fowler recently gave you his TV pick on this blog, so here’s mine. When Dollhouse started airing on Fox on Friday nights two months ago, I thought it was intriguing. Since then, it’s gone from “intriguing” to “freakin’ brilliant.” You need to see this. If you’re already seeing it, you need to tell your friends. With its ratings, there’s no guarantee it’ll be back next year, though further down in this post you can find out what to do about that.

If you’re new to Dollhouse, you probably know it’s the latest by Joss Whedon, who created the magnificent Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The show revolves around the Dollhouse, a secret business in L.A. that programs entire personalities into its human “dolls,” sends them out on missions, and then deprograms them afterward so that they forget everything they’ve done. It’s primarily an escort service, and if that icks you out like it did for some TV critics, well, it’s supposed to. (Here’s where I should mention that there are hot male dolls as well as female ones.)

However, the Dollhouse does more than satisfy its wealthy clients’ kinky sexual urges. The dolls are engaging in secret-agent espionage stuff, too, and the mystery of the Dollhouse’s true purpose remains to be unpacked. The main character is Eliza Dushku’s Echo (the dolls are assigned code names taken from the NATO Phonetic Alphabet), who’s starting to remember earlier experiences that she shouldn’t be remembering. The premise of the show lets the actors effectively play different roles each week, yet Echo does have an underlying self that is slowly emerging. That’s important; Whedon’s shows are about strong, complex female characters, and though Echo isn’t nearly as well-defined as Buffy yet, she’s developing.

The show’s got everything else: butt-kicking action sequences, plot twists that make you go “Whoa!”, creepy elements like The Attic (where dolls are sent when they’re defective), and a fascinating gallery of morally shady characters supervising the dolls. My favorite one of those is the Dollhouse’s amoral computer geek (played by Fran Kranz) who constantly calls himself a genius but easily comes unwound under pressure. Fans of Whedon’s trademark sense of humor should check Episode 7 (“Echoes”), when the Dollhouse staff gets spiked with a mood-altering drug. There’s even a haunting portrait of a client (played by Patton Oswalt) who uses the dolls to re-create a romantic moment that he never got to enjoy with his now-deceased wife.

Here’s my recommendation: Start with Episode 2 (“Target”), which is a better intro to the show than the pilot, then skip directly to Episode 6 (“Man on the Street”) and proceed from there. The pilot and Episodes 3-5 are of variable quality. They’re meant to be seen on their own.

If you’re already a fan of Dollhouse and want a second season, you’ve got two options. The first is the time-tested one of contacting the network and letting them know you like the show and want it back. The other one is newer: Watch the show on the internet instead of on TV. You see, when you click on Fox’s website or Hulu or other sites that stream TV shows, you’re actually giving the networks reliable figures on how many people are viewing their programs. This is in stark contrast to the Nielsen ratings that the TV industry has been using for decades, even though nobody believes them. As the song says, the internet is really really great!

Various notes: Dollhouse has two actors of Asian ethnicity (Dichen Lachman and Liza Lapira), with a possible third on the way (Tim Chiou as Echo’s new handler). Represent! Also, it features two actors of Albanian descent (Dushku and Enver Gjokaj). Uh, how do you say “Represent!” in Albanian? … Dallas native Amy Acker appears on the show as the Dollhouse’s in-house doctor who’s been physically scarred and traumatized by an attack from a rogue doll. … I must admit my favorite actor here is neither her nor Dushku (whom I like), but Lachman as a doll who’s had really bad things done to her. The actress’ name reflects her Nepalese-Australian heritage, and she’s good enough to carry her own show. … The 28-year-old Dushku is not only the star but also the show’s producer. There’s a lesson for the actresses out there: If Hollywood’s male-dominated power structure isn’t handing you opportunities, go out and make one.


29 Comments


  1.  
    Matthew

    Watch it on TV unless you have a Nielsen box. If you have a Nielsen box watch it on tv




  2.  
    Angela

    I love Dollhouse. When ever I miss it, I watch it on Hulu. Even if I’ve already seen it on TV, I’ll watch it again on Hulu for good meassure. I love the show, and I hope that it doesn’t get cancled! It’s one of the few unique shows out there, and it’s one of the few I’ll actually watch on Fox.




  3.  

    DVR it too! And make sure you watch the recording…best within the day




  4.  
    Ian

    Having just recently found its footing, Dollhouse is now one of the strongest shows on television and is poised to be one of the most intricately plotted and fascinating for years to come. With such a premise, the potential for story is virtually limitless, and I hope that Fox recognizes that. They aren’t going to get another chance like this again.




  5.  
    xxgatorxx

    love the show but on the wrong night with the wrong network
    hope joss learns his leasson about FOX

    friday night is a terrible night for any show as people arent home-especially the 18-30 age demographic they are trying to get.
    second Fox isnt known for letting a show find its footing in a long time-ironic that X files a show that was also thrown to fridays found its footing when fox had nothing better to fill its slot with and became a juggernaut
    no days no chance-Firfly anyone?
    i heard this and TSCC are already canceled
    shame they were fantastic




  6.  
    Angel

    Our entire family has been in love with this show since the first episode and every week we sit in stunned silence once we have finished watching it for the first time. It is by far the best thing on television. The withdrawal from it not being on last week was awful. We can’t wait for tonight’s episode!




  7.  
    Ellen

    You can also preorder the DVDs (bluray or regular) on Amazon. There’s nothing like direct DVD sales to boost network interest in a show!




  8.  
    Wil

    Terminator and DH are not “already canceled”

    FOX announces their 2009-2010 lineup in May. While TSCC is likely not to return (mostly due to it’s high end budget,) the executives have made some reassuring comments to Joss in regard to the fate of DH. However, it will likely hinge firmly on how the back 3 episodes play out, ratings-wise.

    So tell all your friends. It’s not over yet.




  9.  
    Anna Lawrence

    I love Dollhouse – I’m one of the few people who’s enjoyed it from the get-go and feels that it needed those first few more traditional episodes to lay the groundwork before it could jump up and sock us in the eye. I SO want it to get at least another season – if only so that I can see more of darling little Victor.




  10.  
    Eric G

    It’s good, but it’s no “Firefly”




  11.  
    Will

    @”DVR it too! And make sure you watch the recording…best within the day”

    Turns out that is a myth. Unless you’re a Neilsen family (and pretty much no one is), using your DVR or watching it live does not count one iota.

    The only way for people to show they are watching television is to skip television entirely and watch via Hula or iTunes or Amazon instead. I’ll be tuning in via Amazon this weekend.




  12.  
    Kristian

    I can’t agree with you, Eric G. “Firefly” was really interesting, but it was also confusing, and it never achieved the slow unfolding of secrets that we’ve been getting in the last four eps of “Dollhouse.” You may want to stay tuned for the May 1 episode, which features “Firefly” alum Alan Tudyk.




  13.  
    Page 48

    Freakin’ brilliant???? Let’s face it, DH episodes are alternating between boring one week and not bad the next week. ‘Brilliant’ isn’t on the table, yet.

    I’d rather be in Season 8 of “Firefly” or “Alias”.




  14.  
    Kristian

    Just watched Episode 11. (On TV, not online. I’ll get to that later.) If you don’t want spoilers, stop reading.

    I wish the episode had worked better as a family murder mystery; the pacing was a tad off. Still, we’re seeing yet more of the Dollhouse and how its technology is rife with opportunities for abuse. First Sierra’s handler was using it to rape her, then Adelle was using Victor to gratify her own sexual urges, and now Topher is implanting one of his friends’ personalities into Sierra so that he can celebrate his birthday by playing laser tag with her. I said the staffers were morally shady, but maybe they’re all just damaged.

    Like that client’s spoiled son, I hadn’t imagined that the Dollhouse’s technology could be used to give someone eternal life. I should have seen that coming, the way Boyd did. What’s that guy’s story, anyway? What’s a straight arrow like him doing working for the Dollhouse? I hope we get an answer in the next two installments.

    I guess it took Paul finding out Mellie was a spy to make the scenes between those characters interesting. They had violent sex in this episode, and though it wasn’t the most disturbing thing this season (that’d be Sierra being raped), it was in the top five. Okay, maybe ten.

    Next week: Alan Tudyk, as I mentioned. Paul fights Boyd. And Claire comes face to face with Alpha, the guy who mutilated her face. I can’t wait for May 1.




  15.  
    Erin

    Seriously it’s a shame that FOX is a horrible cancellation-happy network.

    Not being a neilson family it seems there’s nothing I can do for the old kinds of ratings. BUT I watch the show online ever week on top of on TV, and if they’re counting “New Media” ratings (the way that NBC does for Heroes), then the show might have a chance.

    But seriously, I’m very scared for a Whedon show on FOX after what happened to Firefly.




  16.  
    Eric G

    K-Lin, “Firefly” had 12 episodes, only 9 of which aired out of order. And it’s still more complex, layered, groundbreaking, and different than any of JW’s shows. And that’s coming from a full-on Buffy geek. It was both a western and a sci-fi show. What more do you want?

    I like what I’ve seen from “Dollhouse,” but it’s developing slowly. Not saying that’s a bad thing, just that they have more than 9 episodes to develop the story-line.




  17.  
    Simone

    I Didn’t care for Eliza as Faith until she switched to Angel.I never watched firefly because I didn’t know Eliza was even on the show. I loved Tru calling from the 1st episode I still watch the the reruns on the Scifi channel. Then I saw the Dollhouse ads and I was so excited. The 1st show was so so but I was still intrigued, then when echo played the hostage negotiator I was like Whoa, I was a fan when she became the backup singer , I became a diehard fan when she became the blind zealous occult member, I haven’t been dissapointed yet. I hope the show comes back next season.




  18.  
    Kristian

    I’m starting to think that we’ve all been making the wrong comparisons here. Everyone on this thread and elsewhere in the blogosphere has been comparing “Dollhouse” to other Joss Whedon shows and to “Alias,” which was also about a hot chick going on undercover missions. But “Dollhouse” is about unraveling a central mystery, and that makes it fundamentally different from either “Buffy” or “Firefly.” (“Alias” tried to incorporate a big mystery, but it was always weakest when it addressed that. What was the deal with Rambaldi again?)

    I think “Dollhouse” has more in common with “Lost” and “Veronica Mars”. Whedon was always a big fan of “Veronica Mars”, let’s remember. Maybe we should be thinking of the show in those terms.




  19.  
    Eric G

    I disagree, K-Lin. I think it’s appropriate to judge a guy based on his past work. I understand that “DH” is different, but it draws from the JW cannon.




  20.  
    Kristian

    I’m not saying “Dollhouse” shouldn’t be held to the same standards as Whedon’s other shows, but when we judge how successful the program is at what it tries to do, we might want to look at other shows that try to do the same thing and present us with riddles within riddles. Anyway, it isn’t necessarily more flattering to “Dollhouse” to compare it to “Lost” and “Veronica Mars”.




  21.  
    Aly

    joss whedon is brilliant! i love dollhouse!!!!!!




  22.  
    Max

    If you love Dollhouse, then you need to help promote it! get your friends watching it, get family members watching it! Whomever is reading this, start making a mission to promote the show!!




  23.  
    Beth

    I’d say the Dollhouse is fairly similar to The Pretender. And since I loved that show, and love Joss Whedon’s work, it’s not much of a surprise to find myself a fan of Dollhouse.

    How soon do they post episodes online, anyway? It’s 9:23 now and I want to watch tonight’s episode…




  24.  
    Wendy

    I love this show, even if I can’t watch it legally because Hulu/Fox/iTunes don’t stream the vids in Europe.

    I allready put the DVD-box on my wishlist and I really hope Fox has enough brains to ok a second season (at least).

    ‘Cause no second season means no DH on Belgian cable. We never even got the chance to see firefly because it got cancelled before we got the chance to pick it up!




  25.  
    Amythist

    I absolutely adore Joss Whedon’s work… Buffy was amazing and I still watch it religiously twice a year. Every season, every episode. I go through binges, chill on my couch for a couple weeks and just lovelovelove on it. A little obsessive, I know. I just cant help it.. its just that good!!!

    I completely agree that dollhouse is crossing into brilliant… there is so much room for the story to go. Its just like with Buffy…! Unlimited story lines. Unlimited plot twists. I think Fox really needs to pick up on this one… it is definitely right there where Buffy was.

    And speaking of… how could you not like Eliza as Faith? She was so complex. The actress is amazing and Im overjoyed that she has been given a chance to play a character that will challenge her on a weekly basis with Joss once again. If only Sarah Michelle could come back… :(




  26.  
    jess

    great summary of the show and how it has reached brilliance. hope and pray it’s back for another season.




  27.  
    helen

    The Dollhouse pilot is one of the most unappealing pieces of TV I’ve ever seen. The following four episodes were better, but not by much – I only continued to watch because I am a fan of Whedon’s other series. However, from episode six onwards, the show has improved immeasurably – it feels like a ‘Joss’ show now. I think those first five episodes lost the show many, many potential viewers. I gave up after five myself and only caught up on the last six within the last week, on the urgings of friends who had stuck with the show.

    I will be quite sad if Dollhouse is cancelled now, just as it has become compulsory viewing. It has become an intriguing and highly entertaining series with the potential to explore some serious themes. Fingers crossed that its renewed for season two. I can’t watch on the internet because I;m in the UK and Hulu won’t stream here. I watch via .. other methods. I will definitely buy the boxset that I hope Fox will be releasing after this season ends.




  28.  
    Kristian

    Still digesting the season finale that aired last Friday. Not as awesome as I would have hoped, but it sets up some interesting stuff for a potential second season. How does Ballard keep up his investigation of the Dollhouse now that he’s an employee? Why did Topher program Claire to hate him? And most interesting of all to me, how does Claire proceed now that she knows she is (or was) a doll? That revelation was set up beautifully, by the way. If the show is picked up, Amy Acker should be a member of the regular cast. Let’s cross our fingers and let the Fox execs know we want the show back.




  29.  
    Kristian

    Rejoice, fellow “Dollhouse” fans! Against all odds, the show has been picked up for another 13 episodes next season.





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