Saturday, June 6, 2009

Season One Re-Visited

OK - I'm caught up and back home for a little while, so I finally have time to comment. Overall, I think Dollhouse found its footing and I'm very glad Fox made a show of good faith in renewing the show. That said, I think the show has some problems to overcome in Season Two.

Let's see . . .

1. The show became far stronger once it moved away from the "who's Echo this week?" idea. That stands to reason; a common focus of Whedon's work is the formation of chosen families, which is a concept that lends itself to strong ensemble shows. Heck, even Season One of Buffy had to get past the "monster of the week" model. Once it did, the show blossomed, as Dollhouse did.
2. I like the murkiness of the show. Not all of the clients are nasty-bad people, which gave us some interesting explorations of what motivates the customers of the Dollhouses. (Sidebar: I recently saw the Liam Neeson thriller Taken as was repulsed by the subject matter, even as I enjoyed the action/adventure side. There, the bad guys were definitely one-dimensional bad guys. I not only didn't mind them being handed ugly death, I was rooting for it. I'm not exactly a sweetness-and-light sort with some topics, including human trafficking.) Whedon doesn't let me off so easily.
3. It's common for writer/directors to develop their own cadre of actors they work with over and over again. Whedon has done this so often that fans delight in naming the "hat tricks" who have appeared in multiple Whedon shows. Casting Alan Tudyk and Amy Acker in their respective roles was a stroke of brilliance. Just as Cary Grant was born to wear a well-tailored dark suit, Tudyk seems to have been placed on this earth to wear Hawaiian print. Then to make that quirky personality the Big Bad - wow! And Amy Acker had no trace of either Fred or Illyria, but instead brought something new to this role. Not to mention, the two of them together - well. That was something entirely else.

In short, Dollhouse has tremedous potential. Audiences have shown their willingness to enjoy (not just put up with) complex story lines with the success of shows such as The X Files and Lost, so it is not beyond possibility that Dollhouse will find an enthusiastic audience that goes beyond Whedon's fanatically loyal fanbase (and I'm including myself in there. In fact, I'm writing about Echo and the classical Greek Echo for an upcoming conference). But placement is everything and ratings are the sword that a show lives or dies by. It's not enough to be innovative and thought-provoking - eyes have to be glued to the screen on a regular basis.

So watch already!

In other news, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog is available on DVD now from major retailers, such as Best Buy. If you don't have a copy of this, really - you should consider it. Not only is the story a lovely twist on the usual triangle of hero/girlfriend/villian, but it's a musical. With a musical commentary. For about ten bucks. Really.