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Dollhouse

March 9, 2013

So, I know Dollhouse has been off the air for some years now, but I just finished watching it and guess what?  I have some opinions.

Dollhouse never quite got its feet off the ground during the first season and here’s why.  It should have started with the second season.  Unlike Firefly, which failed to capture audiences because Fox never aired the pilot that set up the entire premise, Dollhouse established itself and its premise quite clearly, but failed to capture audiences because there was no forward momentum at the beginning.

For those who haven’t seen the show, the premise is that a person can volunteer to be a “doll” for 5 years in exchange for a huge load of cash.  Then their personality is wiped and they can be programmed to be whatever a very wealthy client would like them to be.  Now, for most dolls this isn’t a problem, but some begin to compartmentalize each personality until they have an ability to access the skills with which they’ve been imprinted whenever they want.

Only two dolls in the series have this ability.  One is Echo, the protagonist, (Eliza Dushku, who was also a producer on the show).  The other is Alpha (Alan Tudyk), the main villain of Season 1.  The writers tease us with tidbits about him until finally revealing him at the end of the season.  The problem was, by then, most viewers had tuned out. 

It reminds me a little bit of Buffy and Angel during the first seasons of each show.  Each show was trying to find what it wanted to be.  The difference is, Buffy set up the Season 1 arc with the Master and checked back in every once in a while.  It also had the distinction of being one of very very few shows that had a strong female lead back then.  Dollhouse didn’t face that issue.  And while Angel stumbled a bit out of the gate, it brought waves of Buffy fans with it and was able to do fun things like crossovers.

Dollhouse didn’t really have an arc set up.  It had interesting characters, a unique premise, and fun action sequences, but overall, it felt incredibly episodic at the beginning and wasn’t until episode 6 that it even started introducing some of the more interesting, conspiratorial elements of the show.  The elements that made Season 2 really fascinating. 

Season 2 took us deep into the world of the Dollhouse, up to the corporate level, giving the audience the us vs. the Big Bad that Whedon fans are so accustomed to.  But by then it was too late.  The show didn’t capture the audience it needed in its first season and so it had no momentum to propel its second.  And it certainly didn’t help that Fox scheduled it on Friday nights.  Who watches TV on Friday nights?  (For that matter, who watches anything when it airs anymore, anyway? But that’s another story.)

At the end of Season 1, I was at a take it or leave it place with the show, but my loyalty to Whedon kept me going.  By the end of  Season 2, I wanted so much more.  With a new Whedon show on the horizon, and more people knowing who he is than ever, I can only hope that audiences give him some leeway to show what he can do….and so will the network.

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2 Comments
  1. I loved Dollhouse!! I wish they could have continued, I was curious to see where they wanted to go.

  2. Me too! I believe the story continues in comic book form, as most of Joss’s series do.

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