Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I'm Becoming a Fan of the Dollhouse

I know the future of Fox's Dollhouse is iffy, but I became a full-fledged fan with the revelations in the recent episode "Man On The Street," penned by creator Joss Whedon. I watched on Hulu since it unfortunately aired opposite the Battlestar finale. Friday night really is sci-fi night.

To me, Dollhouse's ongoing mythology has always been the most intriguing part, and certainly the most original element of the series, shining brighter than some of the hour-long stories that have sent programmable heroine Echo (Eliza Dushku) into somewhat familiar perils.

In one installment she was assigned to pose as the fiance of a hunter who tried to make her his prey. In another she was part of a heist team that wound up trapped in the vault they were pillaging, but those contained stories are really side dishes.

Revelations in "Man On The Street" suggest a much more twisty plot ahead for Echo, a college student whose personality was wiped in order to make her one of the "dolls" --human robots of the shadowy title organization that provides wealthy clients with hot escorts, body guards or backup singers, all customized by science-fictiony techniques that print new personalities and capabilities on the empty human vessels.

Some series might stop with just that premise, but Dollhouse stirs the pot with Paul Ballard (Tahmoh Penikett, Battlestar's Helo), one of those rogue, obessive FBI agents, working outside channels in pursuit of answers in a closed case tied to what many superiors believe is an urban myth.

Just as he did with the seemingly cheesy premise of Buffy, Whedon has crafted a unique and offbeat episodic serial. It's not given to the heavy breathing the premise might suggest, especially with the dual motives that seem to be simmering in Dollhouse franchise manager Adelle (Olivia Williams), who's flanked by Laurence Dominic (Homicide's Reed Diamond at his most sinister) and Echo's "handler," the earnest and ethical Boyd Langton (Harry Lennix). It's actually quite a well-rounded ensemble. Especially when nerdy imprint-wrangler Topher (Fran Kranz) is thrown in.

Top all that with generous doses of kung fu, and you've got an entertaining mixture.

Here's hoping the show gets the cable back-up deals needed to survive. It's TV-in-the-den-worthy viewing, for sure.


Charles Gramlich said...

I thought this looked intersting but I've so far not gotten around to seeing an episode. Lana has her shows to watch around the same time so I probably won't be likely to see it much

Sidney said...

I think it'll be worth the rental for the first 13 if it doesn't make it to a second season. I suspect there'll be a good wrap up, and I didn't even mention the scene in "Man on the Street" with Patton Oswalt as a mourning Bill Gates type trying to re-create memories of a lost love.

Steve Malley said...

I'm hoping they do a DVD box set, since Hulu doesn't work here, and the local stations have a habit of airing this sort of fun at like 3am on a Tuesday. Then they point and say, 'yeah, wasn't popular...'


Erik Donald France said...

So wait, they are like Stepford action figures? My Living Doll on steroids?

Lana Gramlich said...

Listen to Charles, blaming me...What a sillyhead!

AvDB said...

I agree wholeheartedly. I watched the first five because of Whedon loyalty, but the sixth is where the series took off and I appreciated it on its own merit. Patton Oswalt's character gave that familiar off-beat humor that is signature Whedon, but was seriously lacking so far. And my abhorrence of the goody-goody neighbor girl has significantly declined since the recent revelation.

If Dollhouse had started here--instead of trying to build up sympathy for a middling protagonist--the ratings would have been much higher and the struggle to stay on the air wouldn't have been as big as it's going to be.

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