Saying What Needs to Be Said

The bottom line is that when you’ve got a show with a lead who can’t act and is consistently shown up by her supporting cast and occasional guest stars, you have a problem. When you’ve got a show with a sketchy premise that does not live up to the responsibility of that premise but simply shows us the worst kind of people and then attempts to make us sympathize with them, you’ve got a problem. When the audience has to wait until season 2, episode 5 to see some decent writing, acting, and direction, you’ve got a problem. When television journalists insist that an audience owes it to a creator of television to watch and wait and give a show time to go from crappy to not as crappy as all that, you’ve got a problem.

K. Tempest Bradford on the demise of Dollhouse at

About JE

James Enge is the author of the World-Fantasy-Award-nominated novel Blood of Ambrose (Pyr, April 2009). His latest book is The Wide World's End. His short fiction has appeared in Swords and Dark Magic (Harper Collins, 2010), Black Gate, the Stabby-Award-winning anthology Blackguards and elsewhere.
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16 Responses to Saying What Needs to Be Said

  1. fpb says:

    Oh, dear.
    I was beginning to suspect something was wrong because none of my more TV-loving friends had anything to say about this series.

    • JE says:

      I never managed to sit through an entire episode. Whedon’s enterprises are very hit-or-miss for me, and this one was farther off-target than most.

  2. scbutler says:

    Never have figured out why Whedon likes that actress so much.

    • fpb says:

      The trouble with her is that she always looks as though she might be really smoulderingly sexy and have an impressive Penelope Cruz-ish presence – and she never gets there. Also, she needs to be fed, to have someone to react to. She is naturally a second player (as we say in Italy, I don’t know the English term), not a protagonist. She worked in BtVS because she was always mainly reacting to others.

      • scbutler says:

        I never particularly liked her in Buffy, either. Always felt she had one register – sullen.

        • fpb says:

          Maybe you could see further than I can. But at heart, if the series has failed, I would say that the fault lies with the writer. I just hope that JW does not go the way of Chris Claremont, the comics writer, who, after one memorable run (Uncanny X-men 96-143), spent the next thirty years elaborately destroying his own talent in public.

          • JE says:

            There’s probably enough blame to go around on this one. But certainly the best actor in the world would have had trouble succeeding in the “Dollhouse” concept, which is inherently creepy (but seemed to be trying to echo the protean-heroine of Alias).

    • Anonymous says:

      In this case, if I recall the Joss interview correctly, the actress brought the show to Joss. Or rather, brought the opportunity of a show on Fox to Joss, who filled in the show.

      –Jeff Stehman

  3. burger_eater says:

    Yeah, it was a bad show.

    And the comments in that thread are HIGH-larious! “You wouldn’t mock someone who’d lost their best friend, would you?”

    • JE says:

      “You wouldn’t mock someone who’d lost their best friend, would you?”

      That’s a case-by-case thing with me.

      It is funny how miffed people get about this.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I don’t have a problem with Dushku’s acting, there are some fascinating characters I enjoy watching, and I love the moral ambiguity of many of the characters/situations. I think the problem with the show is that the forward progress has been way too slow. Combining that with not getting a new episode every week (Fox’s fault, I assume) is a sure way to dampen my interest.

    But we haven’t seen episode 2.5 yet, which has me a little confused about the rant.

    –Jeff Stehman

    • fpb says:

      Well, what you are saying is basically that Whedon forgot that he had a public to keep interested. He started taking his own reputation as a genius too seriously, and expected the public to follow him even if he took forever to get to the point. But it was TS Eliot, not just any hack, who said that to do anything with the public, you FIRST have to catch and keep their attention. Once you’ve got them, you can do anything; but woe betide you if you don’t do that first thing.

      • Anonymous says:

        I figure he put together a five-year plan for a three-year show. That’s a pretty big blunder.

        It’s the lowest-rated show in 20 years to get renewed. I wonder if that isn’t Fox showing some regret over their handling of Firefly.

        • JE says:

          “I wonder if that isn’t Fox showing some regret over their handling of Firefly.”

          I’d put a nickel on this. More than anything else, cancelling “Firefly” gave them the reputation of the network where good shows are killed to make room for more dreck.

          • fpb says:

            Which at any rate is wholly natural for anything headed by Rupert Murdoch. And yes, I know that he made The Simpsons. He still is the worst pornographer and vulgarian on earth.

  5. davidcapeguy says:

    One of the problems with Dollhouse is a concept that the producer/writer needs to set the story up, establish backstory, establish character, all before the main plotline can begin. We’re seeing that right now in the new Stargate Universe show, too. (It’s just now beginning to perhaps become interesting.) And that means that the viewer has to sit through week after week, or perhaps novel after novel, of vapid setup before things can get moving.

    But they’re wrong. Two classic examples: Hamlet and Zelazny’s Amber. Both begin at full speed, assuming that the story is good enough, and the viewer/reader is bright enough and tenacious enough to wait for the needful holes to be filled in later. The producers of Dollhouse lack that respect for their audience.

    Dollhouse’s other problem is that I never bought the premise. If a technology like that existed and was going to be used for profit, I’d guess that its owners would first make themselves indispensible to at least one major government, and they would be so protected politically as to be nearly invulnerable.

    Besides which, Miss Dushku, while definitely having the attributes that assure the continuation of our species, has the acting chops of a dead dog. And Joss Whedon looks more and more like a one-hit wonder…

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