First- some background. I never watched Buffy. Or Angel. I did however completely fall in love with Firefly. But only AFTER seeing the movie Serenity first. (Which ACTUALLY, probably wasn’t a bad way to get into it all…it is a pretty great film.) And when Joss Wheedon came on board to write The Astonishing X-Men at Marvel, my new-found faith in Wheedon was rewarded with a great, great comic.
But- my interest in the new show Dollhouse over at FOX was …eh…tepid. BUT- through the miracle of HULU, and hours upon hours strapped to my drafting table, I was able to catch the first 3 episodes yesterday.
So, you have to at least give FOX credit for airing a program about million dollar super-powered ninja hookers.
The basic premise is this- The SUPER rich have everything they want…but sometimes, they want people who can fit their every need, and then go away. Like a million dollar one-night stand with NO reprecussions. Be it a bodyguard, hostage negotiator, or an AMAZING lay who likes extreme sports. Enter THE DOLLHOUSE. What they do is take people who want to escape from their past, completely blank their memories out, and these people become blank slates into which Dollhouse can dump a gestalt of pre-set personalities and talents on. These people are called “Actors”, and sleep in a crazy bed-thing waiting to get assigned.
And they’re all…uh…TV hot.
And by TV hot, I mean they fit the Joss Wheedon leading actress look of being unbelievably thin with goofy giant eyes normally seen on Disney forest-animals. (One of the reasons I was never into Buffy…that girl needed to EAT.)
There’s no need that in a country of plenty like the USA, that actresses like this should go hungry. Please send help. And ham sandwiches.
But that’s really an aside- once you get past Eliza Dushku’s impossible face and racing-dog physique, Dollhouse is actually pretty damn good. I give it…3 more episodes before FOX kills it. It’s too high-concept, the through-line for the characters are unclear (mainly because in each episode, the lead character gets blanked), the time-line is wonky (lots of flashbacks), no-one is really like-able or relate-able. Basically- it’s too good for broadcast TV, but not good enough for HBO. (Or, HBO 3 years ago…when it had shows worth watching.)
Now for me, the meta of the show is really fascinating. These ‘Actors’ wait around, empty and helpless, with no past, no personality…waiting for the idle whims of the super-rich to imbue them with purpose and goals. And then they come alive until their performance ends and they get put back in their creepy boxes until the next client comes along. Just like the casts of the whole TGIF line-up used to be.
Now…OF COURSE Wheedon knew what he was doing there. I can only imagine that somewhere out in LA, there’s some dim glimmer of realization in the eyes of some former People’s Choice winner, and they saying…”Hey…I really should call my agent. And eat some ham.”
But besides the obvious sideswipe of the emptiness of your run of the mill TV actor- Dollhouse does seem to have a lot going for it. There’s a pretty disturbing subplot of an escaped ‘Actor’ that had a download of some serial killer-skills who had (off camera) slashed his way through the doe-like unactivated ‘Actors.’ (Kind of like a chainsaw through the cast of ‘Facts of Life’ between scenes.) The episodic nature of the show isn’t TOO episodic, and the violence does leave it’s scars on the characters, who seem to be BRUTALIZED every episode. (The ‘most dangerous game’ style episode was rather vicious, all things considered.)
And of course, Eliza’s character (Echo) is working her way to regaining her memories slowly but surely, and we still don’t know what drove her to the program in the first place.
I’m going to stick with it for a while and give it a go. It might…JUST MIGHT pay off in a way that adventure TV never seems to. (Holy shit Battlestar, don’t let me down.)
Send Dushku some ham.