Why Nobody Cared about Dollhouse

Echo, we never knew ye.

[To mark tonight’s series finale of Dollhouse, we present a guest article by Jon Eric offering a controversial take on the show’s cancellation. We’ve already had a lot to say about the series; see if you agree with Jon about the justification for the cancellation. And come back on Monday to hear the podcast panel’s analysis of the final episode and of the series as a whole.]

For real this time.

For real this time.

Today marks the series finale of Joss Whedon’s most recent baby, a sci-fi drama named Dollhouse. It was a rough two years, and perhaps the biggest surprise was the show’s longevity—Whedon’s last attempt at a weekly television show was cancelled after only half a season, so his fans were especially vigilant this time around: “Save Dollhouse” websites had cropped up before the show even premiered.

But in between the appearance of the first “Save Dollhouse” website and the airing of the first Dollhouse episode, Whedon’s fans seem to have turned on him. What happenedx? Maybe it had something to do with the promotional materials – how can you encapsulate such a high-concept science fiction show in a :30 TV spot? – or maybe the perception (justifiable, even if incorrect) that Joss’ Dollhouse was nothing more than a particularly highfalutin whorehouse. In the face of controversial subject matter, Whedon loyalists had a hard time coping, and some lost their faith. After all, it’s difficult to defend, let alone recommend, a show whose first-season advertising was dominated by this:


Look at how they repeat-edited the words “Dominatrix scene!” Like the network was salivating over this one little bone Whedon and Dushku had thrown them: “At last, something we can use to market this nerdy show to the hornballs who actually watch Fox on Friday nights!”

But in fact, the “Dominatrix Scene” in the show is little more than what we see in that trailer – it’s an establishing shot, a throwaway scene. She’s returning from an engagement we never see, for a client we never meet, and why should we? It’s just your standard submissive john. Why would we be interested in some standard dominatrix encounter when there are so many more interesting stories to be told?

Somehow, the die-hards missed the subtext. Whether it was Fox’s failure to communicate the concept, or the netroots feminist movement crying out against Joss’ handling an admittedly delicate subject matter (or both), Whedon’s already-small fan base fragmented itself and Whedon’s self-proclaimed feminism came under fire.

Here’s the problem: when a core audience as small as Whedon’s fragments, the resuling fraction isn’t enough to sustain a show on a major network. Especially when it airs on a Friday night. Dollhouse didn’t have a large advertising budget, Fox didn’t seem that interested in pushing the ads, and it’s not as though the concept were easy to pitch, so the series never really had a chance at an audience any larger than the supposedly-loyal Whedon fanbase. As it happened, they got something quite a bit smaller, and now the show is cancelled due to poor ratings.

It’s easy to blame Fox for all the mishandling. Fox has killed so many worthy series in the past; what’s one more? I don’t deny that Fox’s lack of care with their product helped to ensure an early demise… But some of the blame rests with Whedon, too. I submit that Whedon’s show was terminally flawed from the start, that its premise defied an audience, that its writing team is guilty of fatal sloppiness — in short, that unlike its predecessor, Dollhouse deserved to be cancelled.

Dollhouse‘s premise was strong, but the show was too easily distracted. In the beginning, the story demands we take it on faith that there’s something special about Dushku’s character Echo — that there is, in fact, a reason we’re following her around. In fact, during the show’s entire two-season run, we only meet three other dolls, and two of those three are still “sleepers” at the start of the series, so we are only introduced to Echo and Sierra. And they spend most of season 1 doing a whole lot of nothing. Echo becomes some dude’s hunting partner-cum-girlfriend, then she becomes a pop singer, then she becomes Patton Oswalt’s wife, then she becomes the reincarnation of her boss’ dead friend, but none of these personae inform or move the plot. None of them carry over. None of them give us any indication of the question that plagues any series: Why Echo? What’s so special about Echo that we’re being asked to invest in her emotionally, even though she has literally no character from week to week? We’ll find out eventually, the show seems to assure us, but it’s in these early weeks that it’s crucial to establish why we care about the main character.

If you don’t, for one reason or another, invest emotionally in the main character, there’s nothing to compel you to keep tuning in. And it’s impossible to invest emotionally in a character whose defining characteristic is her lack of identity [Ed. Note: Sounds familiar.]. This is no small nitpick; it’s a critical flaw in the very premise of the show. Remember what Fenzel said about the avatars in Avatar retarding the development of their characters? On Dollhouse, that happens every single episode.

Worse than that, in the Dollhouse world, Echo’s lack of identity isn’t even unique to her. If, at the beginning of the series, there’s anything in particular that sets her apart from the rest of the tabulae rasae around her, it’s not made clear to the audience until much later (i.e. when two-thirds of the audience has already stopped watching). It’s in these crucial first episodes that it’s most important to explain why we’re supposed to care. Whedon of all people should know by now that this is how you get canned.

The way Dollhouse‘s first season worked out, both fan and critical appeal seem to have coalesced around the show with the airing of episode 9, “A Spy in the House of Love”, when (spoiler alert) Echo began to manifest the first signs of the trait that would later set her apart from the other dolls, her self-awareness. She watches the technician imprint Sierra, and for the first time in the series, Echo makes the connection: “You make people different. I want to help. Make me into someone who can help.” Neither Echo nor any other doll had made this connection yet, and this is when we get the moment that we’d been waiting for since episode 1. This is when we see what sets Echo apart from the crowd.

Maybe I’ve got it wrong, though. Maybe I’m judging the series based on what I wanted it to be, and not on what Whedon intended for it. It might not have been Whedon’s intention, at least not initially, to build up a huge story arc. It’s entirely conceivable that Joss wanted to have his fun first, make Dollhouse an escapist adventure-of-the-week compilation series where our heroine gets a new disposable personality every episode, courts danger, and then comes home to get wiped and restore the status quo. Then, a year or two down the line, they could spring the heavy plot stuff on us.

If this was the plan, it didn’t work, because the audience clamored for more answers, sooner. And Whedon, with mounting audience pressure and the threat of cancellation, caved, making “A Spy in the House of Love” and the rest of the serial-based episodes through the rest of the season much earlier than he’d originally intended. This raises the question: How much is too much, too soon? How little is not enough?

For the answer, we can turn to the other superstar auteur of network TV, J.J. Abrams, who has exemplified this dilemma perfectly: his megahit Lost, which spawned a whole sub-genre of ensemble cast dramas with interlocking stories, has allowed its plots to become so cumbersome in its first five years that reruns are now aired with a running stock-ticker of explanations, in case you missed an episode or two. So Abrams decided to take a different angle when his new series Fringe got the green light. Fringe, which debuted a couple of months before Dollhouse, makes it clear that the incident at the heart of each episode is part of a larger pattern (called, appropriately enough, “The Pattern”), but most of these episodes can still be taken on their own with relatively few curveballs discouraging newcomers. So maybe this is what Whedon was going for. On the other hand, though, Dollhouse‘s premise offered several advantages that would have allowed him to sidestep this problem easily.

Maybe he could have simultaneously developed a weekly-adventure (episodic) action mood without sacrificing the larger (serial) story arc that would have kept those few viewers engaged. At the beginning of the show, Echo is the only doll we know. Later we meet Sierra, then Victor, then November. Each of these dolls is played by a competent actor, capable of playing any personality that might be thrust upon them. Suppose Whedon had decided, for the sake of the series as a whole, to sacrifice those big surprising moments when Victor and November got revealed, and just let us know right upfront that these characters are dolls? Or, if there must be encounters that don’t inform the larger story, the least Whedon could have done was give those encounters to someone who isn’t supposed to be as critical as Echo is supposed to be! Most episodes have an A-plot and a B-plot anyway, so why not divide your time up relatively evenly between the episodic material and the serial material?

As it is, the first eight episodes of the show are mostly filler. And that’s a ton of filler for a nascent show with a difficult concept and no mass audience. Given how the show turned out, it feels as though Whedon, for one reason or another, intentionally delayed what he knew would be “the good stuff.” I suppose he called it building suspense. I call it shooting himself in the foot. By the time he got to the big reveals near the end of the season, most of his already-small audience had already stopped caring — and stopped tuning in.

One wonders what might have been. Maybe word of mouth would have spread; maybe the skeptics in Whedon’s audience would have come around eventually had the show been handled better. But with the show as it was, even if someone had enjoyed parts of season 1 enough to recommend it to a friend, that friend would have to have an awful lot of faith in Whedon to sit around and wait for the story to get good. The diehards will wait like that, but everyone else… Well, they had better things to do on their Friday nights. Echo, we hardly knew ye.

Agree? Disagree? Try to be your best in the comments.

22 Comments on “Why Nobody Cared about Dollhouse”

  1. Matthew Wrather #

    I think you’ve got the symptom right, but the diagnosis wrong.

    That is to say, the criticism is apt that the show had storytelling challenges both in concept—Echo is a cipher, and she’s the main character—and execution—never managing to strike the right balance between serial and episodic storytelling. (I give Stokes a lot of credit for identifying the former before the show even started.)

    But I suspect you’re wrong in laying the blame at Joss Whedon’s feet (as in “Whedon originally wanted…” “Whedon caved…” etc.). Contemporary interviews with people involved in the show seem to suggest that it was the Fox network that wanted a heavily episodic, Dushku-of-the-week type show (these are easier to rerun and to syndicate and hence tend to be bigger moneymakers) and it was only about six episodes in that THEY caved and let Joss Whedon start making the show he wanted to make all along.

    I’m not the biggest Joss Whedon fanboy—I find the extreme stylization of his dialogue overly mannered to the point of being sort of prissy (though I did quite like Firefly)—so I’m not saying this out of knee-jerk defensiveness, but rather to overthink this style of argument, because it’s something we encounter a lot on a site like this one.

    As we discussed a couple podcasts ago, we tend to ascribe agency to people whose having agency would make our argument work or our worldview more easily comprehensible. In the case of a TV show, it makes argumentation much cleaner to see the show as the product of a single creator, a perfect realization of their vision, springing fully formed like Athena from their head.

    But this view is at variance with the facts, which form a far messier picture. Not only are there dozens of cooks in the kitchen for even a minor network TV show (not all of them really qualified to be cooks), but also anyone who has produced entertainment at any level knows that no plan survives contact with reality intact, and that the best shows, albums, movies, etc. are products of successful compromise as much as they are of compelling original vision.

    As you suggest (begging entirely the question of who’s at fault), it’s precisely this quality of successful compromise that Dollhouse lacked. Pity—it was a hell of a concept.


  2. Jon Eric #

    Wrather, I hadn’t thought of it that way before. Might be something interesting to Overthink in the future, though – some producers on TV have a lot more creative leeway than others. Why is that? Is it just because different networks micromanage to different extents, or is J.J. Abrams – who seems to get a lot more benefit of the doubt – inherently more trustworthy a producer than Joss Whedon – who has had to fight for every single project he’s ever helmed?

    Tangentially, I wonder if your enjoyment of Firefly wasn’t due in large part of Ben Edlund’s involvement. Edlund, who created The Tick, was one of the head writers on Firefly, and seriously, nobody else on this planet can devise an idiolect the way Edlund can. This man seems to have been put on this planet for the sole purpose of making characters talk plausibly weirdly.


  3. thinkwatchthink #

    I think one problem was that the first season episodic episodes were totally isolated from what would become the main story. It is possible to write episodic that seems to stand alone, but looking back is putting building blocks – either story or philosophy – into place for later.

    Take “The Hollow Man for example. When I heard Boyd saying that he wanted his “family” with him and that’s why he hauled everyone to Tucson, I connected that to the serial killer with family issues episode from earlier in the season. He wants his family, but only if they play by his rules.

    When we met Clyde 2.0, it was obviously an example of the the technology being used to make people “better,” just like they did with Senator Perrin.

    The second season stand-alone episodes fed into the underlying elements of the serial ones. The first season episodes were really almost tossed away – nothing they put out there came back around in later shows. It was just a waste.


  4. thinkwatchthink #

    Ha. I love that word “idiolect.” Where does that come from?


  5. Tim Peever #

    Jumping in briefly, before I’ve composed everything I’m going to say about “Dollhouse”… but an “idiolect” is kind of a portmanteau linguistic term, for an “idiosyncratic dialect”, a dialect of a language that is spoken by only a few people. Netspeak might be a good example of this, especially that form that uses “awesome” and “win” as substance nouns.


  6. Tom P #

    It always struck me that the pilot episode (or, at least, the first episode they aired) should have opened with the scenes where Caroline’s boyfriend dies during the break-in, followed immediately by her interview with Adelle, followed by the chair, followed by the Dominatrix scene… with bits and parts of things she remembered being sprinkled in as the season progressed. If Lost proved anything, it’s that you can hook an audience with just a huge dose of mythology in episode 1 and filling in the blanks as the series went on. Of course, I now find myself wondering if that scene with her boyfriend actually even happened or if it was implanted memory as her involvement with Rossum was retconned in the penultimate episode.

    I really think the show would have been better if Ballard played kind of like a Jack McGee character from The Incredible Hulk (the reporter who chased the monster around the country finding clues that didn’t add up). I thought Ballard would have made more sense if he actually DIDN’T know about the Dollhouse when the show started and started putting it together during the season. In that situation, Whedon could have got his heavy plot stuff in early, the network would have gotten its engagement of the week episodes (Ballard still could have found the hut where the shooting massacre occurred) spread out, and maybe TPTB could have had a little extra time to explain the high-concept idea to the masses.

    Anyway, it looks like Caprica is going to partially pick up this concept. So there’s that, at least.


  7. Matthew Wrather #

    @jon eric
    That’s really interesting. Firefly is the show where the Whedonspeak was least annoying, right? It may have started as a little bit annoying, but by the end it was kind of… um… “shiny.”

    One of the reasons it didn’t grate as much, I am guessing, is that there was a point of reference. The slight archness and slight vulgarity mixed together were recognizably Western. Dollhouse-speak had a much more technological bent, and IMO nobody has ever gotten “slightly futuristic tech talk” right.


  8. L33tminion #

    Dollhouse started out blah. The second season had promise, but was rushed due to the impending cancellation. The “return to (approximate) status quo” ending of Epitaph Two was pretty boring (if well-executed), and makes the whole rest of the second season weaker (since the entire message of the second season seems to be that the Tech, once created, can’t be “put back in the box” or destroyed). The second season starts to raise a lot of interesting concepts, but those concepts weren’t really explored.

    I wonder how much of how things turned out was due to executive meddling and what Whedon’s original plans actually were. But that’s sort of academic. Unlike Firefly, I won’t be recommending that friends pick up this series post-cancellation.


  9. Sean Nixon #

    The message of the super-villain insane crazy Boyd was that you can’t un-invent the tech. The show is more of the opinion that the tech doesn’t destroy who we are. Every doll we meet at some point overcomes their programing in some way or another. (Except maybe the Clyde 2.0’s)

    I don’t think Dollhouse would have been as good a show all together if it hadn’t been practically unwatchable to begin with. Aside from needing to establish the world enough for us to appreciate Echo’s uniqueness, it starts out like Vanity Fair with no hero, no one you can really get behind. These are the villains in any other show. That’s what makes season 2, so awesome. The stories where Doctor Doom is fighting with the Fantastic Four are far more compelling then when he fights against them.


  10. Gab #

    One thing I do remember from the buzz about the first season was how Whedon tried to emphasize that it wasn’t until episode six that it would get “good.” His admitting that spoke volumes. When it comes to the purpose of those episodes and establishing interest in and care for Echo, I had thought perhaps we were supposed to care for her out of pure sympathy. This poor young woman, being totally used, how dare they? Moral indignation seemed to be what was supposed to make us give a damn- she was a victim that was so controlled she didn’t even *realize* she was a victim. Whether we were to think she was a victim later didn’t matter, either- that status gave an initial “bond” with her character that would serve as foundation for any others that came after. That’s just what I was theorizing, though, and I doubt it has any credibility.

    With regards to the tech: It sounds, L33tminion, as though you’re suggesting the message was that technology is like Pandora’s box. If that’s the case, where is the Hope? Is it Echo? Is it Caroline?

    @Wrather: I think I personally found the lingo in Firefly tolerable more so than other sci-fi gobbly-goop because there was an understood change in culture that was clearly defined (and done well- the production and costume design alone did a lot of expository work, for example; nobody sat there giving a speech about it, which would have made it boring- superb examples of showing rather than telling). The fusion of Eastern with Western in all sorts of the various forms of life (language, dress, religion, ritual, etc.), combined with the futuristic setting with a clear before-and-after Event X (meaning before the war and after it) made the use of “shiny” alongside strings of Mandarin easy for me to accept. So I’d push your thesis a luttle further for myself, I suppose- not disagree, just expand.


  11. cat #

    The other flaw with the character of Echo was her development. Aside from Epitaph 2, on the whole I found Echo and Caroline incredibly unlikable and unsympathetic. Even when it was established that we should care and because of what was special, Echo would be some sort of savior, Eliza did not pull it off and she was unsufferably arrogant in a petulant child kind of way.

    @Sean Nixon. I found that overcoming the tech a little forced. It worked for Victor and Sierra and they built up Echo enough that I was willing to buy it. But Mellie? Where did she suddenly get the willpower and strenght?

    @Gab. Nice theory. Moral indignation was not enough for me. Especially since they didn’t build up the moral indignation of many of the characters. Oh sure, there were a few reproaches along the way but even Paul, the crusading hero didn’t seem that repulsed by it.

    I just didn’t care. Did anyone else find themselves really growing attached to the characters? I didn’t. Not to include spoilers, but I’ve been told Whedon fans are used to him killing characters so, for those character(s) who died…did it tear you apart? Affect you in the slightest? Nonsensical and unexpected because they seemed nonsensical or pointless. That characterizes most of the death and most of the plot for a good chunk of the show.

    The disregard for human life, especially towards the end, made it all the more difficult to sympathize when they expected us to care about particular people.

    I didn’t hate the show. Victor/Anthony and Sierra/Pria developed as much as they could and I enjoyed a lot of the time they occupied the screen. Bennett/Topher were very cute together. But all in all, I can’t say I’m devastated at the cancellation.


  12. C.E. #

    While I take your point that the first eight episodes of season one pose a problems to both audience-building and creating emotional connections with the characters, I don’t think that Whedon was necessarily aiming for narrative complexity (Jason Mittel’s term for what you describe regarding Fringe–a basic episodic narrative that ties into the overarching serial narrative; Supernatural is another great example of this).

    I agree with Wrather’s point that attributing an auteur-level of agency to Whedon, particularly with the first few episodes is a fallacy. Even if he (and his team) did gain more creative control toward the end of the season (and certainly by “Epitaph One”), the closed-narrative episodes may be formal reflections of the premise. This being OverthinkingIt, I can offer this reading: we’re supposed to be frustrated by those first episodes, feel the tedium and exhaustion of not having a stable character to identify with and thus be able to identify with the dolls who lack any such stability. When Echo starts to actualize, those of us who endured the frustration grab onto that evolution in the same way her incipient identity does.

    Moreover, the reveals of the second half of this last season, though certainly rushed, invite us to read more into those early episodes. If I go back and watch the bow-hunting Matt Keesler (oh, Middleman, how I miss you) episode, Boyd’s interaction with Echo will now have a completely different tone. I think the series as a whole will be enhanced by the endgame and what it can retroactively reveal about those early episodes.

    I can’t say the show was perfect, or even overall a great series (the characterization of Ballard was perhaps one of the weaknesses it never managed to fully overcome), but it was one of the most ambitious shows I’ve seen. And when those ambitions were fulfilled and realized, it was astounding.


  13. Sean Nixon #

    @cat I thought it was stupid with Millie, but it still happened. But, there’s the video of Bennet saying essentially: the things you learned the hard way are more dominant in your brain.


  14. Jon Eric #


    It might not be obvious from reading this article, but I didn’t hate the show either. Through most of season 1, I watched with quite a bit of anticipation waiting to see where they would take the concept, and I really genuinely enjoyed the last third of season 1.

    Still, @cat:
    I just didn’t care. Did anyone else find themselves really growing attached to the characters? I didn’t. Not to include spoilers, but I’ve been told Whedon fans are used to him killing characters so, for those character(s) who died…did it tear you apart? Affect you in the slightest? Nonsensical and unexpected because they seemed nonsensical or pointless. That characterizes most of the death and most of the plot for a good chunk of the show.

    I thought it would have done them quite a bit of good to kill of Mellie/November a lot sooner; her continued presence in season 2 just muddled the plot. The twist where Boyd is the big bad guy didn’t make any sense whatsoever. Really felt like he just picked the least likely character just to have a twist there, and it made Boyd’s character so flat that it was impossible to care when he died.

    But on the other hand, I did feel that tug of pathos when Topher died in the end. It made me realize, quite suddenly, that he and Adele were the only two characters in the whole show that I really cared about. And the writers seemed to spend most of season 2 actively trying to make us hate Adele.

    One thing I do remember from the buzz about the first season was how Whedon tried to emphasize that it wasn’t until episode six that it would get “good.”

    I was unaware that he had said that, but that is EXACTLY what the main article is about. When you’re trying to attract a new audience, you want to put your best foot forward, and it seems that someone (Wrather, we could argue for hours whether it was Whedon, Fox, or both) made a conscious decision to lead the show with 6-8 episodes of dull material that they seem to think they had to get out of the way before amping up to the good stuff that we’d been waiting for all along. Did they honestly believe that any audience in the world would put up with that?


  15. Jon Eric #

    When it comes to the purpose of those episodes and establishing interest in and care for Echo, I had thought perhaps we were supposed to care for her out of pure sympathy. This poor young woman, being totally used, how dare they? Moral indignation seemed to be what was supposed to make us give a damn- she was a victim that was so controlled she didn’t even *realize* she was a victim.

    Gab, you might be right. Moral indignation does seem to be a big part of what’s supposed to carry us through the first season. But this presents a contradiction in terms, right? Is it possible to both empathize with Caroline’s victimization on a moral level and tune in to see the doll-of-the-week action show? Can you be entertained by her exploitation and morally outraged by it at the same time? That’s a lot of cognitive dissonance.

    (Not trying to tear apart your logic; it’s just YET ANOTHER flaw in the premise.)


  16. Chris #

    I find this interesting in the light of reading “Everything bad is good for you” – the premise of one chapter is the evolution of TV series into more complex beasts, where each episode has multiple threads within it, and a longer overall story arc. Compare that to early TV series (e.g., Dragnet) where everything was self-contained.

    For me, what killed Dollhouse was getting too serious, too early. My hope was that they would start light with fun episodic, erm, episodes that built up a following broader than the fanboys before earning the right to tell the serious story. The closest comparator is really Quantum Leap. Remember that? How *fun* it was, not knowing who Sam would be each week? They could have done that with Dollhouse. The nod to the more modern series would have been similar to the X-Files (or more recently Fringe) – acknowledge a broader story arc, but don’t force it on you if you aren’t watching every episode.

    My hypothesis is that Joss Whedon had a story to tell, and didn’t have the confidence that the series would survive long enough to do it justice, hence pushing it on the audience rather than letting it play out. Ironically, this is what killed off the show.


  17. Gab #

    Re: Millie/November


    I knew she was going to off herself the moment she went batty and started shooting. And when she actually did, it felt completely empty and useless. I literally mumbled, “Whoopdie-frikkin’-doo.”

    There were a number of deaths that felt totally unnecessary or void in the series, actually. I think, for example, even when Ballard “died,” I was sort of “meh” about it because of how it happened (and the lack of real interest I had in his character to begin with- as has been touched on by other people posting). But the lightly-taken-death-of-a-main-character thing probably has to do with Whedon’s penchant for offing important characters to “prove the stakes are high” or whatever. I think he likes to do it, but he’s still not good at it. That sort of thing can work, if done right and well, but he doesn’t do it right or well- and therein lies the flaw with it when he does it. One of my biggest beefs with him was his totally, randomly offing one of THE COOLEST CHARACTERS in one of his movies. I’ve talked about it before on this site, and I’m sure Whedon fans know what I mean. Uh-huh. THAT one. Ham, WHAT!? Yeah but what I’m getting at is how while yeah, okay, people die in war/conflict/whatever in the real world in rather arbitrary ways; but when it’s inside a show, a universe over which *someone* has ultimate control, *nothing* should be arbitrary- not death, not life, not smiles, not frowns. It says the author/creator/whatever isn’t paying attention to what they’re doing, and it insinuates to me at least a little laziness on their part, or perhaps a lack of care.

    That’s just my most humble of opinions, though. Naturally.


  18. Tim Peever #

    My relationship with “Dollhouse”: the first episode made me think, “Huh, this is an interesting idea. I wonder where they go with it.” The first three or four episodes were indeed “meh,” but then it started to get really good, in my opinion. It felt like it was doing what good, classic sci-fi does: take a hypothetical technological advancement, and in playing that scenario, highlight or question something about human experience, and what makes us who we are. The first episode I can remember saying “holy shit, this is good” was the one with Patton Oswalt, where it seems like he’s a billionaire internet tycoon who’s using the Dollhouse to rent a high class prostitute once a year. It turns out, though, that his wife died on the very day that he made it big with his internet startup, and on the anniversary of her death every year, he “visits” her in order to tell her the good news, and see how excited she is.

    I will admit, of course, that I enjoy the show on a level that not many other TV viewers are, such as the philosophical questions it delves into. I really enjoyed all of the twists that it threw (though I did not at first understand the twist with Boyd that comes at the end of season 2… then in the following episode I was like, “Oh! … oh shit!”) When they release both seasons on DVD, boxed together, I will be buying them.


  19. Jon Eric #

    Tim, since you don’t seem as flummoxed as some of us about that twist ending, perhaps you might shed some light on the questions that Gab and I posed in the Jan.29 Open Thread? I thought it left some ENORMOUS holes in the plot.


  20. Dirk Pitt #

    I cared. The studio meddled and turned off the very people who should have cared. But for me I watched it online or through zune etc because I don’t have the time to live by the networks schedule. The new online on demand sources don’t count for ratings. So the networks balk. Fools. Same thing happened with Terminator. After Lost these were the two best Dramas capital D on TV but the networks don’t understand the new viewership. Good luck with your Til’ Death and Desperate Housewives episodes. Dimwits.


  21. stabbim #

    I also found it especially confounding that the show seemed to get the mix of serial/episodic so wrong, when that was one of the greater strengths of, say, Buffy & Angel. I would have thought a Whedon-helmed production would at least be successful in pulling that aspect of the storytelling off.


  22. kittiquin #

    I though Eliza Dushku was the weakest part of the show. She thoroughly undermined the concept of the dolls becoming different people by remaining her wooden self throughout. It was particularly frustrating to watch next to great performances from the actors playing Victor and Sierra, who managed to sell every character they played. Dushku was doomed as a headliner, she didn’t have the acting ability to carry the show.

    Beyond that… it wasn’t well written. The interesting concept wasn’t realised with much creativity. The second season was better, largely because it finally dealt with realistic applications of this kind of technology. Most of the dolls assignments were unrealistic (and nevertheless dull to watch).

    There were some great moments, but there were too many flaws for the show to ever work.

    Though to give Whedon some credit – he is an awesome director. Apart from Dushku (and Tahmoh Penikett now that I think about it), he pulled great performances out of his actors. He has consistently found amazing actors in unknowns, and given unsung actors huge breaks and wonderful characters to sink their teeth into. While Dollhouse was ultimately a doomed endeavor, I have faith in Joss Whedon – he can do better.


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