Thursday, February 12, 2009
I've Got A Bad Feeling About Dollhouse
I know that post title sounds harsh - I'm a big fan of Joss Whedon and his writing, and really want nothing more for Dollhouse to be a commercial and critical success. But I'm kinda worried about it with really nothing to base my feelings on other than my gut, and TV viewers time-honoured tradition of avoiding or abandoning much-hyped shows.
Look back at nearly every TV series that was a hit...they pretty much all became hits. TV fans are funny that way...they like to discover a series and fall in love with it, not be told to love it.
Whedon's first TV effort Buffy the Vampire Slayer wasn't a smash out of the gate. It arrived with little fanfare, but slowly and surely grew into one of the most acclaimed and influential TV series of all time. That said, it still never achieved CSI-like 'hit' numbers. But fans found it and fell in love with it and stuck with it. That's usually how it works, especially in genre television. The X Files, Battlestar Gallatica, Charmed, Supernatural, Smallville...some may have been quicker out of the gate than others, but it was the slow yet consistent growth of the fanbase that ultimately elevated them.
Look at the most of the recent or current hit North American TV programs on the tube --- The Sopranos, The Shield, Mad Men, House, Bones, CSI, NCIS, Grey's Anatomy, How I Met Your Mother, Two And A Half Men, The Office, even Corner Gas --- they all began somewhat quietly and slowly grew into what they became or are today. Sure, Lost started on somewhat of a bigger note...there are always exceptions to the rule...but I still don't remember it being touted as 'the next big thing!'
That said, I can't turn around these days without seeing an article or an ad for Dollhouse: premiering this Friday night on FOX! And I know its important to market and promote new shows...hell, it's better than no promotion at all! But there seems to be a fine line between creating interest and awareness for a program...and touting it as 'must see TV!' Strangely enough, unlike hyped movies, most people will resist if they are told they 'must' watch and 'must' love a TV show. But they are cool with it if a series becomes must see on its own.
Firefly, Whedon's last TV series before 'Dollhouse', was touted as the next big thing. It was expected to rocket out of the gate and keep going up. It never did...didn't even last a whole season. A lot of factors contributed, including network meddling and too-high expectations, but I will go so far as to say that it just never felt like I was watching something 'special' as much as I was watching something that thought it was special. Dollhouse is looking like it may also have that lack of 'specialness' working against it.
For starters, I feel I've already seen it before...either a show called Alias, or a show called Dark Angel, starring Jessica Alba.
Dark Angel: A genetically enhanced, 9-year-old female super-soldier who calls herself Max Guevara (also known as X5-452), escapes along with eleven others like her from a secret government institution where they'd been created and subsequently raised and trained to be soldiers and assassins. The series picks up ten years later as it follows the life of the now 19-year-old Max (Jessica Alba) as she searches for her missing 'brothers and sisters', and tries to live her life, evade capture, and learn to trust and love.
Okay...and the basic premise of Dollhouse?
Dollhouse: The show follows an organization that employs mind-wiped DNA-altered humans known as Dolls who are implanted with false memories and skills for various missions, fantasies, assassinations, and tasks. When they are not 'at work' they are living in a real life Dollhouse which gives the show the name. One of those mind-wiped humans, a young woman named Echo (Eliza Dushku ), is slowly starting to become aware of herself and what's going on - and wants to stop it and escape while helping the other 'Dolls'.
And then there's some of the posters:
Now maybe its just the same photographer at FOX who only knows how to take one pose (see also Fox's Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles)...
...but Dollhouse and Dark Angel sure look and sound the same. And 'Dark Angel', with all it's hype (brought to you by James Cameron), never really connected with viewers and thus fans in a big way. I'm worried that 'Dollhouse' may suffer the same fate.
And now, these new pics of Dollhouse's Eliza Dushku have swept across the net...
...and I fear when a show starts releasing tasteful but nude pictures of your star before the first episode has even aired...well, it smells of desperate.
Series TV fans want to discover the sexy (and the drama, and the funny), not have it shoved down their throats.