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Humannequins
April 11, 2009 10:59 PM   Subscribe

Last night Joss Whedon received a Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism at Harvard, taking the opportunity to talk about religion and education (somewhat rough video), as well as taking questions about Dollhouse, his probably-soon-to-be-cancelled not-all-to-be-shown show. I wonder how these guys are doing.
posted by Artw (107 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Some more youtubage here
posted by Artw at 11:06 PM on April 11, 2009


The first five or so episodes on Dollhouse were awful (4 was okay, less terrible than the others), but 6 and 7 were really quite good. Given some time to develop, it probably would turn into a first-rate show.

I don't know why Whedon keeps signing with Fox; they screw up everything he does. They fouled up Firefly by forcing him to show episodes out of order, and have apparently interfered a great deal in this show as well. He does know how to make pretty good television, if they'd just leave him the fuck alone.
posted by Malor at 11:11 PM on April 11, 2009


Joss Whedon: Made for basic cable?
posted by Artw at 11:12 PM on April 11, 2009


Dollhouse is just not very good. After seven episodes it seems pretty obvious the mojo isn't there. Let it die a quick death.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:15 PM on April 11, 2009 [6 favorites]


The worst thing about Dollhouse is that I think it's going to kill Terminator, also. It was doing just fine in its old time slot.
posted by dirigibleman at 11:32 PM on April 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's not cancelled, it just hasn't been renewed yet, along with The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

The first few episodes of Dollhouse were stand alones, which are great to introduce people to the premise but don't necessarily build a fanbase, but stuff is happening now.

After seven episodes it seems pretty obvious the mojo isn't there. Let it die a quick death.

Episode 9 aired last night. Working that out ... yeah, there are spoilers at Wikipedia.
posted by Pronoiac at 11:34 PM on April 11, 2009


Last night's dollhouse IMHO was the best one yet. Maybe that's not saying much, but it actually made me kind of care about whether the show gets renewed.
posted by gyc at 11:36 PM on April 11, 2009


Episode 9 aired last night

Even more disappointing.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:40 PM on April 11, 2009


big whedon fan here, and while episode 3 of dollhouse was utter crap, the last few episodes have been very good, in that they are primarily dealing with the deeper interesting storyline, while using the dolls as props to this story line, rather than the other way round.
posted by spacediver at 11:49 PM on April 11, 2009


Malor: "The first five or so episodes on Dollhouse were awful (4 was okay, less terrible than the others), but 6 and 7 were really quite good. Given some time to develop, it probably would turn into a first-rate show."

Yep. My partner and I, both big fans of Buffy and Angel, went back and watched both series from the start on DVD a few months ago. We had real trouble getting through that first season of Buffy; it was pretty much terrible. But by the second season it started to evolve to become the hit show most of us remember it as. And the first season of Angel was pretty rough as well. But as I said, just like Buffy eventually became must-see TV for pretty much everyone, Angel got better by its second season and was an under-rated but brilliant spin-off show (in my opinion, better than Buffy).

It's testament to the fact that Joss' shows can get better if given time. I've not yet seen Dollhouse but I suspect it'll be much the same.

Malor: "I don't know why Whedon keeps signing with Fox; they screw up everything he does."

Yeah, didn't he swear never ever to work with FOX again after what they did to Firefly?
posted by Effigy2000 at 11:52 PM on April 11, 2009


This is a lazy post which takes our interest in the subject completely for granted. A shaky YouTube of a television actor? You gotta be kidding me.
posted by dydecker at 11:52 PM on April 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Josh?
posted by lumensimus at 11:56 PM on April 11, 2009


I was gonna quibble about the Joss/Josh thing, but then again Joss is a pretty weird diminutive for Joseph.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:03 AM on April 12, 2009


This is a lazy post which takes our interest in the subject completely for granted.

Everyone look at this. This is the pinnacle of a stupid complaint.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:03 AM on April 12, 2009 [10 favorites]


Take a look at the post again, Pope Guilty. If you a) haven't seen the show, or b) don't know Joss Whedon, the post is barely even comprehensible, let alone interesting for Metafilter's generalist audience.
posted by dydecker at 12:06 AM on April 12, 2009


Take a look at the post again, Pope Guilty. If you a) haven't seen the show, or b) don't know Joss Whedon, the post is barely even comprehensible, let alone interesting for Metafilter's generalist audience.

There may be some other posts still on the front page that is more to your liking. I tend not to click on, or comment in, the posts that don't interest me.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:12 AM on April 12, 2009 [9 favorites]


They should just start canceling Joss Whedon shows before they air. It would save everyone a lot of time.
posted by motorcycles are jets at 12:12 AM on April 12, 2009 [10 favorites]


Take a look at the post again, Pope Guilty. If you a) haven't seen the show, or b) don't know Joss Whedon, the post is barely even comprehensible, let alone interesting for Metafilter's generalist audience.

I'm not even sure how to respond, but it's a very strange complaint. Since when is it required that metafilter posts be immediately comprehensible? I'm no fan of "Mystery Meat" FPPs, but there are a lot of them. Even if you weren't familiar with Joss Whedon, let's look at what the FPP tells us:

1) He's being honored by harvard for his contributions to culture
2) He's talking about religion and education
3) He's answering questions about "Dollhouse"
4) which is a show that will probably be canceled soon.

That's plenty of information. Why would you bother to dig up a bunch of biological information that most people who care would already know.

Furthermore, I actually think this is a pretty good FPP. It avoids one of the things that annoy me most about a lot of FPPs, which is link padding. That's where a user finds something interesting, then does a google search or something and adds a bunch of random links to their text. Often, many of those links have nothing to do with anchor text. You end up only clicking a few of the links and probably missing whatever it is that actually inspired the FPP in the first place.

Here, it's fairly clear what each of the links actually point to.
posted by delmoi at 12:40 AM on April 12, 2009 [6 favorites]


I mentioned in the other thread how I've been disappointed in Dollhouse so far. Episode 7 and 8 were better but I loved episode 9. Clearly, new writers to the Whedonverse was the trick. Now I'm on board with the "Save Dollhouse" campaign, I need more Adelle DeWitt in my life!

(And seriously, Josh Whedon? Whaaaaaaaat?)
posted by liquorice at 12:48 AM on April 12, 2009


I don't know what you folks are on about, I really enjoy Dollhouse. It doesn't have the charm that Firefly and Buffy had, but that's because that trademarked Joss Whedon humor is not there. But what it doesn't have in humor it makes up for in sheer immersion. Yeah, the first few were shakey, but the recent episodes have been utterly engrossing -- my friends and I just watch it in silence, then frantically discuss it during commercials, then it's back to paying attention.

I don't think it's on the chopping block yet, contrary to the scares about the last episode being cut. That has been explained here and here.
posted by spiderskull at 12:49 AM on April 12, 2009


spiderskull - That eonline link was in the post. It was updated with "oh, actually, yes they will air it."

I also liked seeing Patton Oswalt pop up & get smacked around. I'm a fan of his.
posted by Pronoiac at 1:12 AM on April 12, 2009


Dollhouse is just not very good. After seven episodes it seems pretty obvious the mojo isn't there. Let it die a quick death.

Take it to MehMail.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:15 AM on April 12, 2009


Terribly rough video, but the good part is at the end (4:10):
The enemy of humanism is not faith. The enemy of humanism is hate, is fear, is ignorance, is the darker part of man that is in every humanist, every person in the world. That is the thing we have to fight. Faith is something we have to embrace. Faith in God means believing, absolutely, in something with no proof whatsoever. Faith in humanity means believing, absolutely, in something with a huge amount of proof to the contrary. We are the true believers.
posted by 0xFCAF at 1:16 AM on April 12, 2009 [16 favorites]


For those of you saying "The show isn't canceled, they're just not showing episode 13", that is just PR damage control.

Check out Dr. Horrible's twitter page (which is a part of Joss Whedon's Mutant Enemy):
Dollhouse Ep 13 bottom line: If more people watch Dollhouse LIVE, the higher our chances for a 2nd season(AKA airing 13).
So essentially, if 13 airs, they have a second season. If it doesn't, it'll be clear that there will be no second season.

Finally, for those of you saying that Dollhouse sucks, the first five episodes were really bad (there were supposedly mucked around with by Fox), please do check out the more recent ones. The one last night was the best episode by far.
posted by amuseDetachment at 1:19 AM on April 12, 2009


I've only seen the first episode, and I was pretty unimpressed. Nobody's mentioned that the real Achilles heel of this show is Eliza Dushku. She's certainly smokin' hot, but can't act her way out of a paper bag.
posted by zardoz at 1:49 AM on April 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


In the later episodes they limit the Eliza appearances to a minimum.

This does indeed improve the show.
posted by winna at 1:56 AM on April 12, 2009


Joss Whedon gets way too much credit and is vastly overrated.
posted by knowles at 2:04 AM on April 12, 2009 [8 favorites]


*sputters as monocle pops out*
posted by Pronoiac at 2:46 AM on April 12, 2009 [6 favorites]


The thing about the first season of "Buffy" is that, yes, it's not very good, but it's FUNNY. You can watch it expecting nothing more than a couple of good laughs and a good fight scene per episode. In season 2 it stays funny but you start to take bits of it seriously.

Season 1 of "Dollhouse" has not been very good, but there's no comedy to keep me interested while they figure out how to really grab me.

Having said that, the last 3 eps have been better. They made me think season 2 would have been awesome if there was one.

As for Eliza Dushku's acting ability, I'm not sure I can really blame her. Half the time she's supposed to play a dumb child and the other half she's supposed to be the random persona-of-the-week. It would take an amazing actor to make that work well. In most roles the actor has a chance to sink into the character after a few episodes, but here there's no character to sink into.
posted by mmoncur at 3:07 AM on April 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Joss Whedon gets way too much credit and is vastly overrated.

I would agree to the extent that there are so many flatters, minions, and apologists (this man can do no wrong, and anything that is wrong is somebody else' fault) that seem to make up a good portion of his fanbase.

It wasn't until recently that I realized why I just did not dig this guy as much as the next person, and perhaps why I like Dollhouse more than them also. It's his humor, just not that big on it. I also say that while also admitting I thought Dr. Horrible was great. His Darkhorse Presents stuff is good to.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Dollhouse, next to Dr. Horrible, is some of Whedon's most original stuff to date. Stop placing a freaking Buffy layout over everything he does, and then giving the okay whether he decides to color within the lines or not. Enjoy, or not, for what it is.

On preview: need I say more?
posted by P.o.B. at 3:19 AM on April 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


The enemy of humanism is not faith.

Even if the faithful assure us that it is?
posted by telstar at 3:25 AM on April 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Given that I'm on the other side of the pond and I have to jump the hurdle of er 'psychically channeling' the episodes I gave up after two (esp give the horrible horrible reviews of ep 3). No doubt I'll catch up, like Firefly, when I can rent the whole thing (probably in a couple of months...)

The rumour is that, given the success of Dr Horrible, Whedon is going to the interwebs in the future.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:20 AM on April 12, 2009


PoB, Buffy has been irrelevant to my liking/not liking the show. Dollhouse, taken purely on its own merits, was painful to watch at first. Dushku just doesn't manifest the range needed to convincingly 'be' new people on demand. Admittedly, that's very difficult. It would take an incredible actress to grab the fairly boring and uninteresting material in those early episodes and run with it. They're cardboard-cutout, throwaway characters, and she doesn't do much with them.

But the series really is getting better. The plots are much more engaging at episode 6 and later, and Dushku's limited range is less and less important, for reasons I can't get into without spoilers. Each episode has been more interesting than the one before. The actors are falling into their roles -- Echo's handler and the detective's girlfriend are particularly good -- and the show seems to be gelling.

Galactica it ain't. And it's very different from Buffy. But I think it could be better than Buffy ever was, given a couple of seasons and no interference from Fox. I doubt it would ever match Galactica, but that's probably a rather unreasonable expectation. :)
posted by Malor at 5:04 AM on April 12, 2009


Galactica it ain't

I was just thinking this watching the latest episode of Dollhouse.

I figure the problem is that Dollhouse is a vehicle crafted to try and please everyone and ends up pleasing no one. Galactica on the hand was crafted to try and blow the minds of its hardcore base and ended up pleasing more than just them.
posted by srboisvert at 5:10 AM on April 12, 2009


I'm really liking Dollhouse; my partner could take it or leave it. We both love, love Firefly while neither of us really got into Buffy or Angel.

By about episode 4 or 5, it began to feel like the story would be wrapped up this season. Things were escalating so quickly, that you can just see that the main story arc would be played out. Then that arc got disrupted. The most recent episode sold me, for sure. It is getting better.
posted by sadiehawkinstein at 5:43 AM on April 12, 2009


Malor, I was speaking more to the idea that his shows seem to get lumped together. I seen more than one person make comparisons.

SPOILER:I agree the characters tend to be throw-away, but there also seems to memory leakage and some retention as has been shown recently (shades of Alpha). My thought on that was they should extend the character/story to arc over a couple of episodes like Heroes. That would be kind of hard to do right out of the gate though. Some of the plot/storylines are a bit obvious and sometimes don't connect. I think it was the second time I saw Mellie, I called her as a doll.

I pretty much like all the episodes except 3. Although 5, 6 and 7 were kinda meh for me, but all in all I like the show.
posted by P.o.B. at 5:44 AM on April 12, 2009


Yeah, I'd more or less made the same observation that you had in your spoiler paragraph, but I didn't want to go there, and just stuck with generalities. Her (lack of) range matters less than it did early on, for precisely the reason you mention. (I'm pretty spoiler-averse, if you can't tell.)

As far as lumping together -- Firefly wasn't much like Buffy, except for the River Tam thing. Joss likes him some female superheroes. That was probably the weakest part of that show, IMO. But, other than the snappy dialog, I didn't see the two shows as being much similar at all, and I think of Dollhouse as being different yet again.

The dialog's not as good as the stuff in Buffy, but I'm guessing that he needs to see the actors at work before he can write speech that will fit their delivery.

OK, well, I just thought of another trope that Buffy and Firefly shared, 'intrepid team against all odds'. So far, Dollhouse hasn't really done that, although he could easily go that way if he wanted to.
posted by Malor at 6:29 AM on April 12, 2009


Given some time to develop, it probably would turn into a first-rate show.

Okay, seriously, what is it about Joss Whedon that his fans get away with this excuse for every thing he ever creates? This is the exact... exact... same argument I've heard from Firefly fans.

That EW article about going to cable is really insightful, and it makes tons of sense. It's not that he's necessarily bad, it's just that the shows he makes clearly are not workable for network television. The overall fan base doesn't exist and never will.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:26 AM on April 12, 2009


I bet people probably feel about Doll House like I felt about John From Cincinnati, I wanted it to be good so much that I was willing to give it the benefit of the doubt over and over again but and took every mistake as a proof of it's hidden brilliance. But I was wrong then, and I bet you're wrong now.
posted by I Foody at 7:27 AM on April 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have de-Joshed the post.

I'm a few episodes behind on Dollhouse, and have disliked it less than a lot of people, I guess. It's not a slam dunk by any means—one thing I can agree with that I've been hearing a lot is that Dushku-as-everywoman may be too tall of an order, though I gather that's not as much of an issue as the first few episodes suggest, or something—but there's a lot of premise and setting there so far that I'd love to see given time to bloom.
posted by cortex at 7:32 AM on April 12, 2009


I just can't see how Dollhouse can really go much farther with its premise. Either it just stays episodic with an unaware Echo going out on new unrelated adventure each week or the Dollhouse system breaks down/gets busted. The first possibility would get pretty boring in a '70s TV sort of way and the other would be interesting for a while but not very sustainable. The biggest issue for me other than the unsustainable plot line is the basic squickyness of the idea, most of the main characters are running a slavery operation. Where's that get fun?
posted by octothorpe at 7:48 AM on April 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


This:

When an audience member asked whether he saw it as troublesome that all the actives were unfailingly young and gorgeous, he acknowledged this to an extent, mentioning that early drafts of the show had involved actives of all shapes and sizes to reflect the fact that people's fantasies don't always adhere to Hollywood's conception of attractiveness, and the beautifying of the Dollhouse was one of the realities of dealing with Fox.

is worth picking out. The juvenile pandering beautiful-dolls-only element was an instant turnoff for me, making it hard to give a shit about what happened. They were all just...dull. When the show was first announced I said I can't believe Whedon would ever have wanted to work with Fox again, but took at face value his comments that he would be dealing with "a completely new bunch of people, and from what I’ve seen, a fairly impressive bunch." Seems obvious that was wrong.

And btw, this:

the first five episodes were really bad (there were supposedly mucked around with by Fox)

is a terrible excuse for some major missteps on Josh's part during those first few really shallow, dull episodes. And "but Buffy and Angel were bad at first, too!" isn't much better. He knew the stakes, he knew how Fox works, and he delivered product that had even most of his diehard fans going "Um, this is kinda lame." That's gotta be at least halfway his own damn fault.
posted by mediareport at 8:07 AM on April 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Okay, seriously, what is it about Joss Whedon that his fans get away with this excuse for every thing he ever creates? This is the exact... exact... same argument I've heard from Firefly fans.

It comes down to how -- frankly -- bad the first seasons of Buffy and Angel are, vs. how good both shows became later. In the case of Firefly (which I personally never thought was worth shedding any tears over, based on what was actually produced), the big disappointment for me was that its first season was so much better than the first season of either Buffy or Angel that, given time, it might have grown up to be a really good show.

That EW article about going to cable is really insightful, and it makes tons of sense. It's not that he's necessarily bad, it's just that the shows he makes clearly are not workable for network television. The overall fan base doesn't exist and never will.

Um. Buffy was on for like seven years. I think you may be wrong. Doesn't exist, perhaps. It obviously did exist, though.

I bet people probably feel about Doll House like I felt about John From Cincinnati, I wanted it to be good so much that I was willing to give it the benefit of the doubt over and over again but and took every mistake as a proof of it's hidden brilliance. But I was wrong then, and I bet you're wrong now.

I only got through an episode and a half of Dollhouse, but as wildly flawed as John from Cincinnati was, its flaws were...different? I can accept a pretentious/aimless show much more readily than I can a wonky underachiever like Dollhouse.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:08 AM on April 12, 2009


Whedon belongs on basic cable, let his fanbase nurture the shows where their numbers will matter more. The most recent episodes are indeed much better, and have opened up some interesting possibilities for long-term plot arcs that have made the show much more compelling.

And I am always happy to see people whose work (creative or otherwise) I respect advocate for humanism.
posted by LooseFilter at 8:10 AM on April 12, 2009


Ifoody, John From Cincinnati took chances. Serious chances. It challenged even the most sophisticated viewer with oddities of plot, construction, character, etc., and I'm still pissed that so many mainstream critics at places like the New Yorker (who didn't know what to think about something actually challenging their oh-so-jaded selves) almost instantly tagged it as "impenetrable" instead of "hey, interesting." I couldn't disagree more about the freaky brilliance of that show. So, yes, you're wrong about it, but not in the way you think.

There's no comparison with Dollhouse, which from its opening camera shot up Eliza Dushku's skirt took zero chances and offered almost nothing for even mildly sophisticated viewers.
posted by mediareport at 8:17 AM on April 12, 2009


This is the exact... exact... same argument I've heard from Firefly fans.

Um, no. I've never heard a Firefly fan say the show needed time to develop; it was pretty damn surprisingly top-tier from the get-go. It's still some of the best sci-fi television ever aired, and it barely got a season. So, no, it's not the same argument at all.

Whedon really did get screwed by Fox on that one.
posted by mediareport at 8:21 AM on April 12, 2009 [6 favorites]


One thing I mentioned before was the idea that Whedon's fanbase really likes his humor, and I think that is also one of major differences we're talking about here. The whole tone of the show is a departure from his previous stuff.
Malor, I don't think the snappy dialogue you mentioned will be a part of this show. Not because of lack of character development or acting ability, but because the show has a whole different flow to it. I think this may be one of the reasons most people who are tuning in are not getting their usual Whedon fix.

octothorpe, I'm not sure if I understand your comment. If you have been watching the show, there have been different storylines that have developed past what you are talking about.

I don't know what to say. I think this show has an awesome premise to it and everybody is just missing out on it. And I say that as someone who isn't a fan of Whedon.
posted by P.o.B. at 8:30 AM on April 12, 2009


I just caught up with all the episodes after giving up halfway through episode 2 earlier. The show is getting a little better, but what it hasn't shaked and what I don't think it can ever shake (without a dramatic plot and thematic change) is the enormous suspension of disbelief it requires. Yes, every show requires some but in Dollhouse it's been ridiculous from the start and is only getting worse.

We have the Dollhouse, a marvel of social, mechanical, and bio engineering. A facility and organization so incredibly advanced that it must be being protected by numerous corporations and government agencies interested in it's unrevealed true purpose. But it's staffed by bumbling idiots, psychopaths, the immature, and the unstable. That would never happen. Even relatively small companies use personality profiling and background checks to screen potential employees. Forget about CIA and NSA type agencies where the application process can run for months as people are interviewed and investigated.

The head programmer (that's totally a pun), is so immature that he can't even describe a man's erection. That doesn't strike me as a person I'd trust with the authority he has. Is he the best in the field? Maybe, but the show has already established that his assistant is a genius in her own right, emotionally stable, and can do pretty much everything he can. Put the dude in a lab doing theory work, and let the chick handle the real stuff.

The chief medical officer is so messed up that she doesn't ever leave the Dollhouse, and has essentially given up on her personal life. This was at least pointed out in the show, but not acted on. Screen these people out!

The Dollhouse has a drug injector that can kill or knock out a person in less than a second, before he or she can even shout. But when dealing with a violent, powerful, and well trained man they try and hold him down on a table and strap him while he's struggling. Which results in him grabbing a restrainer's gun. Dart that motherfucker from the other side of the room, then handle him!

Their field teams are ineffective and inefficient. Maybe at some time one or two handlers were good to cover an "active" on normal fantasy missions, but as soon as all this crazy shit starts happening in a span of a couple of weeks they should have reacted. Send out the regular support van, and another filled with rough men and big guns. The Dollhouse has the money and staff to do it. But as mentioned above, the staff are incompetent fuckwits who shouldn't be trusted with a lemonade stand.

Why are they not monitoring and recording every square inch of the facility at every time? Again, they have the money and the staff and judging from the personalities they have working there it would be a reasonable action.

Every episode reveals several glaring examples of this kind of thing, something even a shitty legal department or an actuary would have forseen and prevented. A willing suspension of disbelief is important in allowing a show some leeway. Let them have their wildly advanced technology etc. Buffy and Firefly both had parts that were hard to believe; Sunnydale's willful ignorance of vampires and other phenomenon for example. But with Dollhouse I get the idea that Whedon is sitting at home laughing, "You actually let me get away with that!? Fuck you! Wait till you see the shit I've got coming up next week! It's gonna make you think this week's show was well thought out! Asshole!"

Dushku has to go. She can't do this part well. Sierra and Victor are amazing, and though less used are so much more interesting and compelling. Sierra's recent infiltration scenes were probably the best scenes in the show, despite the glaring plot/logic problems.

I don't love Whedon at all, I do love some of his stuff. Buffy was OK, with a few genuinely great episodes and arcs, but went too long. I watched it on DVD years after it's run. Angel sucked and I regretted watching the DVDs. Firefly was awesome and when I finally watched it on DVD I regretted blowing it off when it aired. Dr. Horrible was mind boggling great. Dollhouse sucks.

I was going to start a blog detailing, scene by scene, the bullshit that this show thinks it can get away with. I still might.
posted by Science! at 8:30 AM on April 12, 2009 [10 favorites]


I will remind all the Firefly fanatics out there that it was a canceled show, and subsequently wasn't bought or picked up by anyone else. So how does that happen to one of the alleged all time best sci-fi shows ever?

Honestly, does anybody know?
posted by P.o.B. at 8:35 AM on April 12, 2009


Whedon was really personally hurt by Firefly's cancellation, and wrote about it on places like whedonesque. I believe he tried to find another network, and eventually got big a budget movie made. Why didn't any other networks pick it up? I don't know, but judging from the enormous amount of crap that is produced and still turns a profit in America, I guess a lot of networks figured it was cheaper to just keep producing enormous amounts of profitable crap that they don't have to pay FOX for.

Why didn't Arrested Development, widely and wildly praised by critics and fans, get picked up by another network?
posted by Science! at 8:41 AM on April 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm amazed at the amount of work some people are willing to put into liking this show.

Finding my next "Deadwood," "The Wire," or "Rome," can't be that much work. I'd demand a salary, and benefits. I wouldn't've gotten past episode 2 of e.g. "The Wire" if it hadn't sucked me in and compelled me to experience every second of it.
posted by Glee at 8:45 AM on April 12, 2009 [6 favorites]


Buffy and Firefly both had parts that were hard to believe;

Science! I really can't argue with you on those points. Seriously though, I could give you a long-ass list of inconsistencies that took place in Firefly/Serenity. I'm not going to though because it's like swimming in quicksand around here, and there very well could fanboy attack if I did.

Arrested Development ran for like five seasons? I don't know, seems kind of mature to pick up at that point
posted by P.o.B. at 8:46 AM on April 12, 2009


2 1/2 - 2 3/4 seasons; with a real concerted effort by fans, producers, and actors to find the show a new home. I guess we disagree with the number of inconsistencies in Firefly and Buffy, but for me at least those shows were good enough to be likable despite the problems. Dollhouse is not.
posted by Science! at 8:53 AM on April 12, 2009


Oh, and Stargate SG-1 ran for five seasons on Showtime before moving to Sci Fi for another five seasons. I don't really have point in that comparison other than to say that it can happen (though that was premium cable to basic cable).
posted by Science! at 8:56 AM on April 12, 2009


I was way off on Arrested Development.

Yeah, if anybody should've picked Firefly up, it would have been Sci-Fi. So my question still stands. Were the numbers not there to back it up? Was it to pricey?
posted by P.o.B. at 9:07 AM on April 12, 2009


I just can't see how Dollhouse can really go much farther with its premise. Either it just stays episodic with an unaware Echo going out on new unrelated adventure each week or the Dollhouse system breaks down/gets busted.

Right and this is where Joss Wheadon is. I found that his style is painfully episodic and characters set in a sitcom mold. I've seen little of Dollhouse, but what I've seen hasn't changed my mind. Walking around in an S&M outfit, giving a monologue about pain and trust? Then a snappy line at the corporate woman in a suit? Hey, that's sassy!

I think perhaps good sci-fi is too hard to do well, and Wheadon might be best if he side-stepped the sci-fi world and went back to vampires and werewolves. There's something about that world, that you can sort of give a wink and a nod to the audience and it is not so disarming. I find myself constantly questioning things I shouldn't, like how do you erase memories? How do they go between planets without some sort of faster than light drive? Why do they use cowboy attire in space? When watching Buffy I didn't constantly question how vampires came into being, and what processes keep them out of the sun.

I think the whole "first season sucks but the second season is great" phenomena is the result that Wheadon sucks at creating worlds and plots, but creates great character driven stories when he manages to flesh them out in the half-assed world he created.

Why do I have a secret desire for him to produce a television series based out on Fallout 3? It'd really be perfect for him, you have a great world already constructed that can be a vehicle for his characters running around trying to figure things out.
posted by geoff. at 9:21 AM on April 12, 2009


One last point I want to make about this show. To me Joss Whedon has always tried to take rejected B-Movie ideas and somehow legitimately use them. And I'm fine with that in a *winkwinknudgenudge* kind of way. If all you're going to show me is the main character beating up the bad guys with a wink and a smirk, then I'm not going to expect much from it. I'm not saying Whedon didn't develop the show past that or that they weren't layered, but he obviously wanted to have fun with the idea.
Take that and stack it up against the fight scene from the episode, as a matter of fact Hulu has it splashed across the front page.
So, personally, yeah I like the idea of a characterless character study (really I think the idea is bad ass and would love to mess with it as a writer). I want him to have the time to play with this idea, to actually try and pull apart the idea of what a person's nature is made up of. I'm going to say it again, it's not a bad show.

On preview: geoff, are you reading my mind...again?
posted by P.o.B. at 9:29 AM on April 12, 2009


Yeah, if anybody should've picked Firefly up, it would have been Sci-Fi. So my question still stands. Were the numbers not there to back it up? Was it to pricey?

SciFi's budget for the show wouldn't have even covered Whedon's bagel budget. Firefly was pricey and the show didn't do a good job of keeping costs down. Dollhouse is afflicted with the same illness -- I don't know who's line producing those shows, but from everything I'm hearing, every week they have too many locations, too many demands, too many extras, and they continually ran over budget. These were EXACTLY the complaints around town about Firefly. Say what you will about whether or not the shows were any good, but they all cost more than they were supposed to, and it's an affliction Whedon's shows seem to suffer from.

Remember how every other week BSG would do an episode where Starbuck is just sitting at a piano? That's how Ron Moore kept his costs low, really low -- BSG often just reverted to a submarine drama, everyone trapped in a tuna can. Whedon probably doesn't have any interest in doing that, but if that's the case, then he's gotta deliver in spades every week. His shows just haven't been doing that.

As much as everyone says, "Why didn't Joss see that Fox was going to screw up one of his shows again?!" I'm left wondering, "Why didn't Fox see that Whedon was going to screw up their timeslot again?"
posted by incessant at 9:30 AM on April 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ouch. Maybe that answers my question.
posted by P.o.B. at 9:33 AM on April 12, 2009


Echoing many earlier posters, I thought the first several episodes were painfully weak, and then the quality level jumped dramatically. (Haven't seen the last one or two yet.)

Granting the need for Pretty Girl Screen Time to widen the audience base, it still seems unfortunate that the really interesting part of Dollhouse-- not the premise (let alone the idea of Dollhouse-as-metaphor-for-acting-industry), but the plot and the question of what happens when there is a Dollhouse-- took so long to kick in.

Making Echo the center of the first several episodes seemed a bad idea, precisely because there's nothing there. As someone above wrote, she's either a child or a generic figure--she's not really a person, and therefore, she's not interesting.

I'd like to think there's some way the need to establish the baseline--what Dollhouse is, how it works, what it feels like as things run normally and smoothly--could have been better balanced with the interesting part: The suspense that follows from the attempts to stop it and sabotage it.
posted by darth_tedious at 9:37 AM on April 12, 2009


Dollhouse is definitely getting better, but I'm not sure that it's getting so much better that I'm going to mourn it when it's canceled.

The show I'm really going to mourn is Life. But I seem to have a thing for low-rated, alternately-funny-and-overwrought shows with patently ridiculous premises.
posted by craichead at 9:55 AM on April 12, 2009


how do you erase memories?

Like this.

How do they go between planets without some sort of faster than light drive?

The 'verse was weirdly setup (So, uh, these planets just all revolve around one star, but they don't get any hotter or colder depending on how close or near they are?), but was it ever definitively established that they don't have FTL? I don't remember it even being mentioned, one way or the other. I prefer to think that they have it, it's just comparatively slow (like the capsule drive in Independence War). That is, fine for traveling between planets, not so fine for traveling between stars.

Why do they use cowboy attire in space?

That's easy: because it's awesome and gives you a reason to dress that way at cons.
posted by adamdschneider at 10:17 AM on April 12, 2009


I think that Joss said in an interview at some point that they didn't have FTL. But I also think he indicated that he wasn't really interested in building a universe that was, you know, scientifically feasible. He wanted to tell a story, and he wasn't going to let the laws of physics trip him up. That's ok with me, but I'm not really a sci-fi person.
posted by craichead at 10:24 AM on April 12, 2009


craichead: "I think that Joss said in an interview at some point that they didn't have FTL. But I also think he indicated that he wasn't really interested in building a universe that was, you know, scientifically feasible. He wanted to tell a story, and he wasn't going to let the laws of physics trip him up. That's ok with me, but I'm not really a sci-fi person."

That's also why I think Firefly was so much better than any Star Trek franchise. In Firefly the technology was just used to put the characters a position where a human story could play out. In Star Trek the technology was the story.
posted by Science! at 10:35 AM on April 12, 2009


In Star Trek, the technology was complete gibberish, used to put the crew in positions of either power or peril. Star Trek was very much focused on morality plays.
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 11:09 AM on April 12, 2009


Yeah, if anybody should've picked Firefly up, it would have been Sci-Fi SyFy.

FTFY.
posted by hippybear at 11:27 AM on April 12, 2009


In Star Trek the technology was the story.

I don't agree with that at all. Star Trek's universe was a little more technically coherent than Fiirefly's, but saying the whole thing revolved around the tech ignores the cults that have built up around the characters. Any cults built up around the ships have more to do with militarism than technology.

Regarding Joss's quote about not being interested in building a "scientifically feasible" universe, I can't really sympathize. If you're going to ignore every bit of knowledge we have about how the universe works, you might as well write fantasy or tell bible stories. There are plenty of stories to tell that don't involve spaceships, so why involve them if they're just going to be window dressing?
posted by adamdschneider at 11:29 AM on April 12, 2009


To answer those asking why Whedon went back to Fox, and bemoaning Dushku's performance, it appears that Dushku was given a development deal by Fox; she then approached Whedon to do something for her. To quote Wikipedia:

Consequently, it was announced on October 31 that Dushku had lured Joss Whedon, famous for creating the Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Firefly series, back to TV, as they agreed to create a new show called Dollhouse.

Dushku is there because it's her deal; Whedon is there because she hired him.
posted by theroadahead at 11:34 AM on April 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Dollhouse has definitely improved over the last few episodes and I hope it gets picked up for another season. That said, I agree that the real problem is that it seems to have dragged Terminator down with it, and that would be a real shame. Terminator has really developed into one of the finest science fiction series ever on network TV. Something that I would never, ever, have predicted after the first couple of episodes where it looked like we were going to get some sort of kooky Terminator-in-high-school (!?!?!) crap.
posted by Justinian at 11:37 AM on April 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Another reason Fox may be looking to drop the show . . . episodes of Dollhouse are about six minutes longer than standard one-hour dramas on US network television, as the show airs with half as many commercial advertising slots.
posted by theroadahead at 11:46 AM on April 12, 2009


I just checked the ratings for Dollhouse. Stick a fork in it, it's done.

Shows like this are a complete non-starter until the Nielsen system gets scrapped. Until then it'll be nothing but endless permutations of CSI: Poughkeepsie and Law&Order: Parking Enforcement Division.
posted by Justinian at 11:50 AM on April 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I thought the first season of Buffy had some really good episodes, like "Witch", "The Pack", "Nightmares", and "The Puppet Show".
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:03 PM on April 12, 2009


But it's staffed by bumbling idiots, psychopaths, the immature, and the unstable. That would never happen.

Quite the contrary, I'm getting the impression that the Dollhouse is turning these competent, skilled professionals into psychopathic, immature, unstable idiots.

First, let's take the programmer. In the Dollhouse, he is God, and that's exactly why he's there. He makes some comment in the last episode about being able to do things his grad school profs couldn't dream about. This immature, brilliant, antisocial nerd doesn't have to kowtow to any scientific authorities in the House, where he can let it all hang out.

MASSIVE SPOILERS BELOW




Next, we have the boss and the rapist (forgot the character's name). They are guilty of the same crime, which is taking advantage of the Dolls. These people have absolute power over other humans in a system of control that makes slavery look like a preferable alternative. The lure of this absolute control is too much for them, or anyone else, to handle.

Which leads me to my biggest complaint with the show: I'm far more interested in the moral/ethical aspects of being able to completely rewrite someone's brain than any of the characters or the weak suspense/thriller plotline. Let's take the boss mentioned above. How is her turning one of the dolls into a fantasy boyfriend different from the rapist having his way with another? Why is her situation presented as so much more palatable? If you take advantage of someone sexually by overpowering them, it's reprehensible, but if you take advantage of someone sexually by programming them to enjoy it, it's not? What?!

But the show isn't really addressing these facets as much as focusing on its increasingly implausible plotlines and uninteresting protagonist. It's going to be cancelled, but I'm not sure it's worth saving.
posted by Ndwright at 12:18 PM on April 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you're going to ignore every bit of knowledge we have about how the universe works, you might as well write fantasy or tell bible stories.
Because the story he wanted to tell worked best on a spaceship. If it had worked best using the tropes of fantasy or Bible stories, he would have done that. Firefly is a story about a bunch of people from disparate backgrounds, sharing a vehicle, running away from various things, going to different places and having adventures. Space is just the setting, not the point.
posted by craichead at 12:24 PM on April 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


HERE BE SPOILERS!

REALLY, BIG SPOILERS!
Let's take the boss mentioned above. How is her turning one of the dolls into a fantasy boyfriend different from the rapist having his way with another? Why is her situation presented as so much more palatable? If you take advantage of someone sexually by overpowering them, it's reprehensible, but if you take advantage of someone sexually by programming them to enjoy it, it's not? What?!
I guess I thought the audience was supposed to make that connection and ask that question. I think the boss is supposed to be a really fucked up, evil character: she's deluding herself to think that what she's doing is somehow ethically justifiable, but she's really just as much of a rapist and murderer as anyone.
posted by craichead at 12:29 PM on April 12, 2009


But it's staffed by bumbling idiots, psychopaths, the immature, and the unstable. That would never happen.

You may nurture your fantasies of supreme competence and stability at the highest levels of government and business if you wish, but I think recent years have shown them to be just fantasies.

But the Dollhouse isn't government. It's not even business. The Dollhouse is basically a high-tech brothel, so the idea that would attract only the best and brightest is what would defy disbelief for me. And I think Ndwright is, well, right: The squickiest problem the show has is that it's dealing with an inherently sleazy premise without really dealing with it. Ideas of identity and exploitation are nodded to more than they're addressed, and what you get is a show that wants to say how women are exploited and how, you know, bad that is or whatever, at the same time it gives you upskirt shots and a lead who's basically a brainless hooker. You can't have it both ways: Either the show is about that stuff, seriously questions its own morality and explores its own concepts, or that stuff is just a lot of bullshit window-dressing and the show is about upskirts and the awesomeness of having a superhooker around your house, and your audience is Topher. I'm pretty sure Whedon intended for the first option to be his show, but the execution is just so fucking clumsy (in those first couple episodes, anyhow; I honestly was so grossed out and bored by what I saw that these supposedly improved newer episodes aren't high on my list of priorities), and the desire to appeal to one's inner (or outer) Topher just so blatant, that it feels like option number two.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 12:51 PM on April 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


If more people watch Dollhouse LIVE,

I've said it before (in the last Dollhouse thread, actually), I'll say it again... you mean torrenting my favourite shows might affect their chance of renewal? Inconceivable!

(Granted, here in New Zealand, I'm in a slightly different position, since shows often hit TV here months behind the States, but I don't get the disconnect when so so many people I know torrent everything they watch and then complain their favourite shows are never on the screen for people to enjoy...)
posted by rodgerd at 1:02 PM on April 12, 2009


Because the story he wanted to tell worked best on a spaceship... Space is just the setting, not the point.

If it isn't the point, why are they on a space-ship?

The reason they are on a spaceship is that the distances between planets reproduce the isolation of settlements on a frontier without sacrificing the trappings of modern technology. But the distances and the mode of traversing them in Firefly are a complete hand-waving fabrication, requiring a suspension of disbelief equal to that of fantasy or Bible stories, reliant on most people's ignorance of basic science.

If realism doesn't matter, then why do the people who focus on character whine about them being two-dimensional? Why do those who care about plot whine about MacGuffins?
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 1:06 PM on April 12, 2009


If realism doesn't matter, then why do the people who focus on character whine about them being two-dimensional? Why do those who care about plot whine about MacGuffins?

1). Even a three-dimensional character functions differently than an actual human being. Even the most "realistic" shows don't feature dialog full of the "um"s, garbled fragments and boring smalltalk that makes up huge swaths of actual human conversation.

2). People who whine about MacGuffins either don't know what the word means or don't understand a very, very basic rule about drama.
posted by Bookhouse at 1:17 PM on April 12, 2009


Dollhouse is entertaining and seems to be improving. But if the Sarah Connor Chronicles doesn't get renewed, I'm going to get all stabby.
posted by you're a kitty! at 1:24 PM on April 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


If more people watch Dollhouse LIVE, the higher our chances for a 2nd season

Why don't they count the FOX website views? Or Hulu views? Those are infinitely more accurate than Nielsen ratings, that is, you know exactly how many times a show's been seen.

...the television industry is seriously messed up if they think the oldest, most technologically backward audience, who have nothing better to do on Friday nights, are the basis by which show decisions are made. No wonder "Dancing With The Stars" will probably go on for thirty seasons.
posted by lou at 1:25 PM on April 12, 2009


Space is just the setting, not the point.

But space isn't really the setting, Whedonspace is.

But the distances and the mode of traversing them in Firefly are a complete hand-waving fabrication, requiring a suspension of disbelief equal to that of fantasy or Bible stories, reliant on most people's ignorance of basic science.

Yes, exactly. The sense of isolation, etc., could be easily preserved without throwing physics out the window. I mean, sure, FTL is impossible as far as anyone can tell, but the Firefly universe just plain doesn't make sense on near any level. That it worked for me nonetheless is due at least as much to the actors he got to portray his nonsense, I think, as it does his snappy dialogue.

I get the feeling that Whedon doesn't know jack shit about science or SF, nor does he care, and his emphasis on "character and story" is a smirking handwave. Don't get me wrong, I loved Firefly and Dr. Horrible, but sometimes he just seems really lazy.
posted by adamdschneider at 1:33 PM on April 12, 2009


No wonder "Dancing With The Stars" will probably go on for thirty seasons.

"Dancing With The Stars" will go on for thirty seasons because it is hugely cheaper to fit out a television studio for generic performance presentation, hire B-list and lower celebs to participate, pay dance coaches, etc than it is to hire writers and actors and everything which goes along with creating a scripted show (sets, etc). It's a sad fact of television that "reality" shows, which tend do display the basest of human impulses, make more economic sense than scripted shows which might explore more complicated aspects of the human condition.

I suppose this is a marketplace reflection of the fact that base emotions are quicker and easier than more complicated, perhaps "enlightened" emotional states. Sadly, nobody will ever make a dime televising spiritual awakening.

Unless you're PTL or 700 Club, I mean. (which begs the question of defining "awakening")
posted by hippybear at 1:33 PM on April 12, 2009


er, um... take a "do" and substitute in a "to"
posted by hippybear at 1:39 PM on April 12, 2009


Really couldn't make it past episode 3. Dollhouse was one of those shows where the runtime felt 20 minutes longer than the actual episode. Not sure how they managed that.

That said, a year from now I'll probably catch it on DVD and say: "Man, this is as good as Firefly! Why'd the cancel it, it was just getting good!"

--or, y'know. Not.
posted by Ct314 at 1:41 PM on April 12, 2009


kittens for breakfast, if you find the amount of moralizing in Dollhouse insufficient, may I suggest you tune in to one or more of the panoply of cop shows that infest prime-time. I think it was Aristotle who said "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it". Dollhouse is intended as entertainment. (And I happen to find Eliza Dushku in dominatrix gear highly entertaining.)
posted by Crabby Appleton at 1:46 PM on April 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Joss I always find overrated. He's got one big story which he's told repeatedly - and when given someone else's characters he tries to force them into the molds of his own. He likes big toys and special effects but if given free reign (as in comics) it seems to hurt the story. Even when you don't start getting "A Dawn for All Fetishes". (The Buffy S8 comics keep transforming Dawn - first she was a giant, and then a centaur, and there's at least one more transformation to come).

That said, his story is a good one. I've just seen it before. Repeatedly. (And re: Angel, S1 and S4 were both terrible (they even retconned S4 out of the characters' memories, it was that bad) - but I loved S5).
posted by Francis at 1:58 PM on April 12, 2009


kittens for breakfast, if you find the amount of moralizing in Dollhouse insufficient, may I suggest you tune in to one or more of the panoply of cop shows that infest prime-time. I think it was Aristotle who said "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it". Dollhouse is intended as entertainment. (And I happen to find Eliza Dushku in dominatrix gear highly entertaining.)

Well, I think when you have a show about human trafficking and you refuse to deal with the implications of human trafficking in any meaningful way, you fail. That's not the only way this show fails, though -- it's also just not real good, from what I have watched. I mean, I feel like the moral failure of the show (i.e., the failure to grapple with the hot-button subjects that it presents) is the most galling failure, but it's also just fucking boring and kinda dumb. If I were fourteen, then okay, Eliza Dushku dressed as a dominatrix would do it. But you know: The internets. Commercial TV can only be but so titillating anyhow. And really, if Faith in fetish gear is the best part of the show, you can get that from a Google search without the trouble of, like, having to wade through a crappy episode.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 2:18 PM on April 12, 2009


Why don't they count the FOX website views? Or Hulu views?

Probably for the same reason we don't hold presidential elections by tallying votes from CNN website polls.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:28 PM on April 12, 2009


You make some excellent points, kittens for breakfast. "Commercial TV can only be but so titillating anyhow." True, all too true. And I decided to test your claim about the Google search and, sure enough, I found this (NSFW), so thanks for that. (But would I have known about it had I not seen the episode? I probably would have read this discussion, so yeah.)

Still, for some reason, I think it's clever enough to keep watching. I wonder if Whedon is saving the heavy-duty moral philosophizing for later in the series. I mean, given his high-profile feminism, he's got to get it in sooner or later, right? Maybe he thinks he's teasing us. I hope we'll get to find out.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 2:37 PM on April 12, 2009


There is a significant amount of morality in the show, it just doesn't hit you over the head with it.

For example, the reason the dominatrix scene was there was to build the theme of episode 9, which is entirely about trust and the hurt when that trust is broken. Dollhouse doesn't stoop down and hit you over the head with it — that doesn't mean that it's avoiding the subject. They could've written it so that Eliza would've been a dominatrix at the end and talked about trust again to hit it over your head, but they let the episode speak for itself. Other episodes are similar, e.g. clearly showing the difference between raping a doll vs. programming them to be fake-girlfriends (showing that the biggest problem with the Dollhouse is consent, consent is more problematic than prostitution or violence that occurs in their missions), but they don't insult the audience have a character say "hurf durf! hey, that's bad!".

SERIOUS EPISODE 9 SPOILERS BELOW:
For the most recent episode, the trust being broken started out of the gate immediately, Mellie revealed that she was a Doll to Paul, which he had trusted her to let into her own home and show his Dollhouse research and opening himself up, and Adele using Victor (who I note, severely punished someone else earlier for raping a doll) to compensate for not being with Dominic. She trusted Dominic and was betrayed. The episode's theme appeared to be, "you can sometimes get hurt in love, too." Eliza's comments in the beginning were important and a good vehicle for communicating the story, and was definitely not gratuitous.
posted by amuseDetachment at 2:37 PM on April 12, 2009 [1 favorite]



I've said it before (in the last Dollhouse thread, actually), I'll say it again... you mean torrenting my favourite shows might affect their chance of renewal? Inconceivable!

I don't torrent television shows (unless they're made in the UK and won't be shown here for another year or so). My schedule doesn't allow me to watch shows when they air, so I catch them when they appear on Hulu or the like. All of my friends who haven't, like me, abandoned cable use DVRs. But as I'm not part of a Nielsen household, and I don't know anyone who is, it doesn't matter what we watch or how/when we watch it - we're not going to matter. The people they do measure apparently want "According to Jim" to run for eight fucking seasons, so either the current measuring tools leave a lot to be desired or I am simply not part of the demographic that TV advertisers want to reach. "Arrested Development," "Friday Night Lights," "Pushing Daisies," "Veronica Mars," "Freaks and Geeks," "T:SCC, " "The Wire," and "Deadwood" - to run through a list off the top of my head - had disappointing ratings and often an abbreviated run, despite critical acclaim and a dedicated fan base. But then, why should I expect quality from a medium that exists primarily to sell me stuff?

As I said in the last Whedon thread, I've tried to think of these shows as long miniseries instead of indefinite serials. Almost every show I enjoy doesn't last very long, and when they do, their quality always seems to decline after a few seasons. If they can entertain me for a few months and wrap up a storyline in a satisfactory manner, I'm happy.

Joss Whedon probably isn't, though, so I hope he, and others like him, finds a more amenable business model through cable or the internet or, I don't know, a nationwide system of repeatedly reprogrammed dolls simultaneously acting out his scripts in various public venues? Anything but broadcast tv.
posted by bibliowench at 3:43 PM on April 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Why do I feel like I'm with some rowdy friends who can't sit back and enjoy something really good?

"This sucks! Turn it off so we can watch the awesome parts of The Matrix again."

"No, seriously guys! La Femme Nikita is really good! Just relax and watch it a little bit."

"BOOOORRRRIIINNNGGG! Is that chick going to flip-out and kick some ass again or what?"

"Dude, just relax. It's more than her just fipping-out and crap. Just watch the movie."

"Man, I gotta go. I got better things to do, like go and raid some dungeons on WOW."

"Alright, bro. You're missing out though."

I will say that kittens for breakfast hit one of the most indefensible pats of the show though.
posted by P.o.B. at 4:15 PM on April 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


pats = parts
posted by P.o.B. at 4:16 PM on April 12, 2009


Why don't they count the FOX website views? Or Hulu views? Those are infinitely more accurate than Nielsen ratings, that is, you know exactly how many times a show's been seen.

Money. Sure, Hulu/FOX website views can show there is interest, but the revenue is dramatically lower than television. So their response would be, "why do we care if people love to watch it on Hulu, we don't make any damn money off that." The networks know they have to go online eventually, but nobody is making anywhere near as much money online as they are on TV. Seriously, CPC for online views is pretty low -- can make all the arguments you want about why online views are more meaningful but advertisers don't agree yet.
posted by wildcrdj at 5:00 PM on April 12, 2009


Dushku is there because it's her deal; Whedon is there because she hired him.

The hilarious thing about the show to me is the ways in which Dushku's marginalization continues apace. It might be her show, but in later episodes her share of the load is made less and less. This is probably the wisest course, really - Dushku cannot act her way out of a paper bag. The show where she and Lachman have the same imprint made it embarrassingly clear - Lachman was far more believable.

I'm wondering if by the second season Dushku would be showing up in the first thirty seconds and a cameo near the end of each episode. It looks like it's headed that way.

If Joss is doing it deliberately he is truly the genius his devotees claim him to be. He's the television cuckoo, pushing the legitimate chicks out of the nest! That is the most entertaining part of the whole show.
posted by winna at 5:05 PM on April 12, 2009


...the television industry is seriously messed up if they think the oldest, most technologically backward audience, who have nothing better to do on Friday nights, are the basis by which show decisions are made. No wonder "Dancing With The Stars" will probably go on for thirty seasons.

And you're seriously messed up if you think the television industry gives two shits about audiences that can't monetised.
posted by rodgerd at 6:07 PM on April 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think the mistake Whedon keeps making is in believing these shows even have a chance on (real) network TV. Buffy's ratings would have meant cancellation faster than you could blink on ABC, NBC, CBS, or Fox. There are very few types of hour-long dramas that can succeed on network television, primarily variants of cop shows, lawyer shows, or doctor shows. And unscripted reality stuff because of low cost of production, of course.

Something like LOST is about as out-there as you can get on network TV and even that is a success unlikely to be repeated and was rolled out very slowly and deliberately. If you started the show from day one with crazy weird time travel and so forth it would never have built the audience it needed to survive.

Dollhouse et al need a subscription model, not an advertising model. Look at the shows that succeed on HBO or SHOWTIME compared to the networks; niche shows that have a smaller but devoted following are more likely to succeed in this format. I'd definitely pay a subscription fee to get Dollhouse, Terminator, Fringe, Pushing Daisies, and other strange shows that don't have a chance to make it as it is.
posted by Justinian at 8:56 PM on April 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


(Note that Battlestar Galactica could never have made it on network TV either and that's considered a huge success)
posted by Justinian at 8:57 PM on April 12, 2009


A SPOILERIFIC POSTING


Next, we have the boss and the rapist (forgot the character's name). They are guilty of the same crime, which is taking advantage of the Dolls. These people have absolute power over other humans in a system of control that makes slavery look like a preferable alternative. The lure of this absolute control is too much for them, or anyone else, to handle.

I see no one else has addressed this point directly. The are not necessarily the same crime, nor are they portrayed the same way:

There is no doubt that Sierra was raped (though the show could have gone further in examining the idea left open by the theoretical conceit of the Dollhouse and had the Dolls be true tabula rasa live bodies, which would make them much more like living dolls, in which case, would it be rape? - after all necrophilila is not rape, since there is no living person suffering through it, so is a "wiped doll" a person? - anyways they showed the Dolls as having reactions and memories, so yes clearly rape there - especially since even as a Doll, she was clearly not consenting to the activity).

However, I think the show very much leaves open as a debatable point (at this stage of the plot, at least) whether Adele raped Victor. After all, the likelihood of Victor having any negative memories imprint from his time as Roger (at least sexually) is miniscule. And as pointed out, Paul had sex with Mellie (though at first he didn't know she was a Doll - does that mean it is retroactive rape, since according to the above viewpoint, there is no such thing as a consenting Doll?) So the imprints are consenting, but not the underlying people, or are they? So far, it has been stated on numerous occasions that the Dolls signed up for their duties (albeit likely with little alternative - but still voluntarily). Prostitution is not rape. So these Dolls are being paid to accept imprints that create in them the personalities that consent to the activities they engage in. Thus, unless we find out that the Dolls are involuntary participants, what happened between Adele and 'Roger' was more akin to prostitution.

Well, I think when you have a show about human trafficking and you refuse to deal with the implications of human trafficking in any meaningful way, you fail. That's not the only way this show fails, though -- it's also just not real good, from what I have watched. I mean, I feel like the moral failure of the show (i.e., the failure to grapple with the hot-button subjects that it presents) is the most galling failure, but it's also just fucking boring and kinda dumb. If I were fourteen, then okay, Eliza Dushku dressed as a dominatrix would do it. But you know: The internets. Commercial TV can only be but so titillating anyhow. And really, if Faith in fetish gear is the best part of the show, you can get that from a Google search without the trouble of, like, having to wade through a crappy episode.

I'm very much with amuseDetachment on this one. The show does address these points, and it is far from dumb. They may raise the points implicitly (as for example the issue of whether the Dolls are ultimately responsible for their actions if they have signed up for their duties, or the issue of whether sex with imprinted Dolls is 'voluntary prostitution' or 'forced prostitution'). Look at Ballard - he had a GREAT scene with Patton Oswalt's character where he got served as far as being morally superior. THEN, he finds out that Mellie is a Doll, and yet in order to advance and maintain his investigation, he now has to play the part of her 'boyfriend'. Is HE voluntarily prostituting himself (since we know what HE thinks of sex with Dolls) to protect his plans? What is the difference between someone who chooses to act that way, and someone who chooses to be programmed to act that way, and how can we tell the difference?

Those kinds of issues definitely are raised by the show, slowly, and mostly implicitly. But I would be hard pressed to call the show dumb. Sure, I'm as titillated by Dushku butt as anyone, but that's hardly why I watch the show. It doesn't MAKE you think, but it certainly gives you a ton of gristle to work with if you want to. AND it looks like the themes and moral quandaries are increasing in scope as the plot thickens. For a network TV show, it has had a couple of very entertaining /intriguing hours. I look forward to (many?) more.
posted by birdsquared at 9:19 PM on April 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


SPOILER

Sierra's case was pretty clear, & squicky because she was in a situation close to being drugged: not necessarily able to choose, not likely to remember.

Victor's case probably wasn't rape. He gave informed consent entering the Dollhouse. (um, probably.) His personality at the time was capable of choice.

I wonder how consent works in people with multiple personalities. It seems like sex with one consenting personality shouldn't leave one open to charges from the other personalities.
posted by Pronoiac at 10:34 PM on April 12, 2009


Damn. Sexual abuse is a major cause of multiple personalities. And "mentally ill" is a potentially applicable label. What was I thinking?

I was thinking of Matt Ruff's "Set This House in Order," which has a multiple-personality protagonist or two. They don't usually switch without warning, they've worked out boundaries for themselves, & they're more functional & interesting people rather than mentally ill. Reintegrating the personalities was presented as more unhealthy, actually.
posted by Pronoiac at 11:03 PM on April 12, 2009


"retroactive rape"? Oh hell, birdsquared, don't drop that term into AskMeFi or all hell will break loose...

OK: SHAMELESS WHEDON SUPERFAN HERE. Admitted, for the record, and your kind consideration.

Angel season 1 sucked so hard my boyfriend had me skip it and go back after I'd watched the rest. Buffy season 1? ok, but not as good as later ones (and looking at old eps now, I gotta say Boreanaz is much better looking the old he gets, but I digress). Firefly? Awesome from the get go. Dr. Horrible? Funnnnnny. Dollhouse? I like it! I really, really like it. Is it everyone's cup of tea? No. Is it a hell of a lot more interesting than the festival of suck that is Law And Order: Leash Law Violations and Southland: Oh God What A Stupid Cop Show, I Can't Look and Dancing With The Fast Food Cashiers? YES, IT IS.

So, I hope that if Dollhouse gets cancelled it, or Whedon's next project, goes straight up internet-only/subscription model (or to pay cable... I'd pay for HBO if there was Whedon there). I'm sick to death of the stupidity that is network TV. I can count the number of shows I willingly watch there

AND LET ME DIGRESS AGAIN AND SAY DUDE -- HEROES -- WTF? How does that piece of shit show make it into multiple seasons? I want to stab myself in the face every time I watch it, and yet Whedon can't keep a show on TV?

ok ok back to what I was saying....

I can count the number of network TV shows I find enjoyable on one hand. ONE. I realize the formulaic crap cop/etc shows and the reality shows are cheap to produce, but god, why are they so skin-flayingly bad, too? Is hiring writers who can actually write dialogue that doesn't make you want to juggle puppies with chainsaws THAT difficult to do? I mean, c'mon, Jane Espenson can't write everything.

In other words: I hate TV.

Back to your regularly-scheduled Joss-hating. Thanks.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 2:57 PM on April 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Joss Whedon on 'Dollhouse's' renewal chances, that missing episode, 'Dr. Horrible' and more
posted by Artw at 11:06 PM on April 20, 2009


In related news it turns out that the bloke who playes Spike is a whiney fucker who knows nothing about decent comics art.

That's actors for you: Can't make shows without them, can't count on them to be anything other than monstorous sacs of inflated ego offscreen, or something like that.
posted by Artw at 7:36 PM on April 23, 2009


From the guys that brought us the Save Dollhouse PSA mentioned previously, comes a follow up: Save Dollhouse PSA2.
posted by goshling at 10:54 PM on April 25, 2009


The Great Sci-Fi Divide: Why don't we want science fiction on TV?
posted by Artw at 10:50 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


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