Friday, March 06, 2009

Why I'm not watching Dollhouse tonight

I'm not trying to bait Joss Whedon fans here. I'm one of you, believe me. But it's got to be said his newest TV offering, "The Dollhouse," is fraught with problems.

"Give it a chance," is a mantra I keep hearing from the Whedon faithful. Well, I gave it three. I figure if that's good enough for baseball, well. Yeah, three episodes.

The first one left me perplexed because I didn't like the show and I wasn't quite sure why.

The second one clarified my misgivings: Whedon is trying to say something serious in the show about the exploitation of pretty young women, while at the same time exploiting pretty young women.

In short, he's trying to have it both ways. On the one hand, he's showing us these situations--the Dollhouse is a service that gives short-term personalities to blank-slate humans and sends them out to do things with/for "clients"--and saying "isn't this twisted? Isn't this wrong?" But, at the same time, he's also saying "isn't this sexy? Isn't this hot?" There's so much about the show that's purely about sex and exploitation: near nudity, skimpy clothing, etc.

Basically, what happens in the second episode is that the main character, Echo (played by Eliza Dushku), is hired out to go whitewater rafting and have sex with a handsome, rich guy (why he needs to pay for such things isn't quite clear). But the guy turns out to be a psycho who tries to hunt her down bad-1980s-horror-movie-style with a bow and arrow. Nice.

And the third episode sealed the deal for me. It was just plain dumb. Bad writing, mediocre acting. The plot involves Echo portraying a backup singer to a diva who's getting death threats. It could've been a "Charlie's Angels" episode. Except that the Angels had more personality than Echo. The writing was completely out of touch with current pop culture. It was like something somebody's grandpa would write.

This, people, is a bad TV series. And I'm greatly disappointed to say so. I adored "Buffy" and loved "Firefly" (and never bothered with "Angel," to be honest. Just couldn't get into it). Those are two of the best TV series I've ever watched. Funny, thoughtful. And I expected "Dollhouse" to be at least one of those things. Sure, it's wrong to think it's gonna be a second "Buffy." But it could be good in its own way. It could have a point worth making, or dialogue to marvel at.

I even started an offshoot blog about the show, long before it began, because I anticipated being a big fan. But after last week's show, I decided to suspend it. When I announced there that I intended to stop making new posts because, frankly, I just don't like the show, I started getting nasty remarks in the comments section. I was gonna leave the postings up for anyone who was interested. But after things turned ugly I decided just to delete the blog. Click. Gone. Folks who like the show can find more die-hard sites to visit.

Back to my thoughts on the show: "Dollhouse," I think started with a premise that just doesn't work. Why was this Dollhouse created? Why do clients use its services? The show just can't supply enough believability to make me suspend disbelief. And frankly, Eliza Dushku is not a varied enough actress to pull off being a different person each week. She's got her thing, as displayed when she's played Faith in "Buffy" and somewhat similar characters. But she's not the sort of actress who gets lost inside characters. There's nothing wrong with that. It just demonstrates that she's not suited to this part, such as it is.

I see no point to hanging in there watching a show I thoroughly don't enjoy in hopes that it's going to turn a corner at some future point. "Buffy" certainly improved over its first few years, but it started from the get-go with a great concept and fabulous, groundbreaking dialogue. "Dollhouse" is a TV show. It needs to serve some sort of function, right off the bat, to make people watch: It's gotta be moving, or funny, or different, or suspenseful, or... something. But there's nothing there that makes me want to continue watching.

I sincerely hope this is a misfire and can honestly say I'm looking forward to checking out Joss Whedon's next project in hopes that it's one that resonates with me more than this one did.

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2 comments:

P said...

Well, you have asked a lot of questions of the show, yet you have only given it 3 episodes to answer all of them. I'm not sure that's fair. Then again, I'm not you. I trust Joss, he hasn't let me down yet. I will give him one full season to get me hooked, at least. If I had given up on Buffy after it's (Relatively) terrible first few episodes, I would have missed out on a lot of awesome. So I will stick with it. I have the same questions that you do, but I am willing to give it more of a chance. I think the show is good, but it's not great. Like I said, I trust Joss, and I think it will end up being great. I'm fully willing to accept that I may be proved wrong, but we'll see.

E. R. Torre said...

John, you've hit the nail on the proverbial head regarding Dollhouse.

"Whedon is tyring to say something serious about the exploitation of pretty young women, while at the same time exploiting pretty young women."

That, in a nutshell, is the ugly underside of this show. Never mind the fact that the concept itself is problematic (Even with its science fictional trappings, the show seems to want to be Alias with one major, fatal, exception: the main character HAS NO character).

Add to the fact that the idea someone would go to a very expensive organization to hire a kidnap negotiator or a hooker or a singer/bodyguard instead of, you know, going to organizations actually specializing in said services, and you've got one head scratcher of a concept.

Still, the show's pedigree was good, the staff behind the scenes had a track record themselves, but it would appear this one's a miss.

Too bad.