Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Dollhouse Needs A Reno

I'm waiting for Joss Whedon's new series "Dollhouse" to prove it's more than just plastic.

Sure there was an action sequence, and yeah it tried to create a couple of dramatic moments with confrontations with dangerous people and painful memories (sort of) and intense debates about morality, but, as odd as it sounds (especially with a Whedon series), there just didn't seem to be any life in it. All of the actors looked like they were trying to act their parts, as opposed to giving engaging performances where they were their characters. And characters that have a life of their own are crucial to a series like this that isn't giving the audience anything especially new in terms of concepts (we've seen artifically-implanted personalities many times over the years, most recently with Christian Slater's Jekyll & Hyde remake "My Own Worst Enemy" - and if you're looking for an example of people having multiple personality reprogramming sessions, think back to that episode of "Star Trek: Voyager" when the Hirogen turned the ship into a hunting preserve). In fact, it's characters and dialogue that make a Whedon series enjoyable, intelligent and memorable, but so far, nothing's at the level it should be.

Now you may argue that "Dollhouse" is a different type of show than Buffy, "Angel" or "Firefly", and that's true, and so the same types of dialect and terms of reference can't be rehashed. But creating a different mood, world and set of problems doesn't negate the need for characters who make the audience want to pay attention. And the characters in the premier didn't feel authentic enough and didn't say anything compelling enough to really make me care.

To be fair though, it was only the pilot. A lot of great SF shows are pretty wobbly for the first few episodes, or even the first season or two (the first season of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" is absolutely unwatchable, as far as I'm concerned). Maybe "Dollhouse" will get stronger once it gets a few more episodes under its belt. If it lasts that long (and the guessing game about Fox and the awful Friday night slot is a whole different discussion).

I didn't hate Friday's premier, but I didn't love it either. I'll give it another week or two to see if it gets stronger.

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