Placing a show in a Friday night timeslot is the equivalent of preemptively sentencing a program to death. Combine the graveyard timing with negative publicity and multiple reshoots of the pilot episode and it seems that the show’s name has moved to the top of the list on death row. Not to mention some of lowest ratings for an hour-long drama with its opening episode. Sound appealing, yet?
Well, these are just a few of the problems Joss Whedon’s newest show ‘Dollhouse” has encountered throughout its preliminary stages. Unfortunately, they are problems that Whedon is depressingly familiar with.
In 2002, Whedon created ‘Firefly,” an extremely clever sci-fi western, critically acclaimed throughout the business. The show was cancelled after airing only 11 episodes, out of order, in the same Friday night timeslot that ‘Dollhouse” has been sentenced to today.
Despite Whedon’s seemingly hopeless curse, those fans who he has are some of the most loyal supporters of any television show out there. I am proud to say I am one of them.
Joss Whedon is best known for creating the successful series ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and ‘Angel.” After ‘Firefly” fell flat on television only to boom in DVD sales, he wrote and directed a profitable follow-up film, ‘Serenity.”
During the writers strike, Whedon created the online mini-series ‘Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog,” starring Neil Patrick Harris and Felecia Day. The unique blog-style musical became an instant hit, reaffirming Whedon’s genius creativity (not that I ever questioned it).
Two weeks ago ‘Dollhouse” premiered in Whedon’s second attempt to return to the television enterprise. Despite the negative energy floating around the show, I was pleasantly surprised by the delivery.
‘Dollhouse” stars Buffy alumni Eliza Dushku as Echo, one of the ‘dolls” or ‘actives” in a top secret underground facility. This questionable program wipes the memories of a person and replaces them with imprints containing specific skills so he or she can be rented out as a perfect date or a top negotiator. The show follows Echo on each of her assignments, while FBI Agent Paul Billard (Tahmoh Penikett) constantly searches for hints of the mysterious illegal facility.
Due to the fact that Echo’s memory is constantly wiped, making her a kind of mindless vessel, our connection to the characters is rooted in her handler, Boyd Langdon (Harry Lenix) and the other consistent characters surrounding the facility. Topher Brink (Fran Kranz), the science nerd behind the brains of the operation, and Dr. Claire Saunders (Amy Acker), the physician with some skeletons in her closet, are two such characters.
And despite Echo’s lack of a connection to the audience, I am drawn by that need to learn more about her past, which we so briefly glimpsed in the pilot. Where did she come from? Why did she feel the need to run away from her life as Caroline and join this program?
Speaking of the program, this past week’s second episode gave a much deeper look into the past of the facility, which is just as intriguing. What makes Echo more important than the other ‘actives” in the Dollhouse? Why is it that the program doesn’t seem to wipe her memory completely? How will that affect her future as a ‘doll”?
While there certainly are potential plot holes and problems that present themselves in a show like this, it wouldn’t be fair to write it off immediately. Yes, the show depends a lot on the versatility of Dushku as an actress. And yes, the premise is out there in a why-would-anyone-rent-one-of-these-dolls sort of way. But for now, I can accept Dushku’s multitude of personalities as well as Agent Billard’s answer that ‘people always want what they can’t have” response for the reason people would hire such a facility.
With all of the intriguing questions that a show like this presents, I will definitely keep watching for the time being. Not to mention my complete faith in Whedon to create a compelling story. Whedon’s creations have been known to gather a cult-like following. Months prior to premiere of ‘Dollhouse,” fans already created a Web site to ‘save the show.” If that’s not devotion I don’t know what is.
‘Dollhouse” airs on Fridays at 9 p.m. So if you decide to spend the night in, flip the channel to Fox to check out what’s going on in the Dollhouse. You can also catch the show on iTunes or online at any other point during the week to appease the procrastination I’m sure you’ll be having.
Rosenberg is a member of the class of 2012.