Saturday, February 28, 2009

New twists, old themes

Spoilers, if you're taping Dollhouse.

So, I enjoyed the Feb. 27 episode of Dollhouse, but I'm wondering if we're going to get an old plot served up for every show.

Protecting the starlet from the obsessed fan is not exactly new. Even the fan who wants to die at the hands of said fan has been done before – the one that comes to mind is in John Varley's excellent novel Steel Beach.

That said, there was a return of snappy dialogue, a couple of nice mini-twists, and the growing sense, verbalized this time by the Dollhouse masters, that Echo is developing a personality. And that personal growth is what led to serial slasher Alpha. 

In other Dollhouse news, the frenzy of worship for the show and the backlash against are both reaching insane fanboy levels normally only possible when discussing  who's more badass, Boba Fett or Wolverine?

Check out this interview question to Stephen DeKnight from io9, following the broadcast of the second episode.
Are you stoked that everybody's singling out your episode as one of the series' best, with the bow-hunting and the most dangerous gaming?

On the other hand, there's this little commentary from the Penny Arcade guys. I admit, the cartoon was pretty funny, but keep in mind that this was also written after seeing two episodes of the show. If that. 

New rule: if a respected creator of one of your favourite shows (Deadwood, Veronica Mars, The Wire, Buffy) has a new program out, you give it five episodes. You don't praise it unduly before that, you don't dismiss it as garbage. Individual episodes may be bad or good, but you give it a chance. It's the Five Ep Rule. Respect it.

Seriously, go back and watch the actual pilot of Buffy. Watch it and try to imagine you've never seen another episode. High concept, but how high a rating would you give it out of ten? (Me, I'm thinking seven. Six is possible, for having a happy ending after Xander just staked his alleged friend Jesse.) Television is a serial medium. You don't rate a show based on any one episode, or even two or three.

Also note that this is probably a moot discussion. Fox's decision to tie Dollhouse to the anthill that is the Friday night time slot means we're probably just previewing the show to see if we'll want to buy Dollhouse: The Complete Series next Christmas.


Mighty Fast Pig said...

Dollhouse's Achilles Heel may turn out to be the retreaded action/adventure/detective scenarios. There's a meta-fictional angle, wondering if Echo will break out of her programming and do the right thing instead of her job, but that's going to be tricky to do.

This makes me wish that Whedon had peddled this idea to HBO or Showtime, cable networks where he doesn't have to mince things down. That way he could deal with the kind of sex, drugs and violence the premise necessitates.

To me, Dollhouse should be promoted as a companion to The Sopranos, Mad Men and the like: dramas in which characters struggle to find or retain their humanity within inside a seductive yet dehumanizing institution.

Ouranosaurus said...

Agreed, especially on the HBO thing. Unfortunately, I understand he's back at Fox because the network has a deal with Eliza Dushku, and she brought Whedon in. So to Fox, it's not a Joss Whedon show, about SFnal ideas about identity and brain swaps - it's a show about a girl who's sometimes naked and exciting! So it's not going to get promoted as a cerebral show, it's a sci-fi/action/thriller/sexbomb show.