Okay, so we're two episodes into Joss Whedon's new project. Now, before I saw anything except commercials this is what I was thinking: "Okay, it doesn't look very good, but it's Joss Whedon's new baby and so I should give it a chance...". Then I saw the first episode and I found another reason to give it a chance. It has Helo from Battlestar Galactica. Oh, and Badger get's to play a cop, that's cool too (I think he actually fits as annoying cop better than a gutter prince anyways).
Otherwise, there's just not very much to like about the show. And that's my reaction after the second episode, which was a fair bit better than the first. At the moment, my main problem is the cast, I think. Now, I'll be honest. When I was watching/obsessing over Firefly, it was not because of the girls. I had not yet fallen in love with River, Inara is hot but unattainable, even in my imagination, Zoe is married and kinda scary, and, okay fine, I did have a moderate crush on Kaillie. So, I'm not holding my ambivalence about Eliza Dushku against the show (read as: I don't really think she's hot).
No, my problem is with the guys of the show. For example, Firefly had Alan Tudyk playing Wash. Dollhouse has some dude with messy, uncut blonde hair playing Topher, the tech geek. They have similar jobs: when something goes wrong, they tell people that everything's gone wrong, usually in a humorous, Whedon-esque way. When Alan Tudyk does this, it's funny. Not so much with the other guy. In fact, I'm already at the point that whenever he says anything, I imagine how Alan Tudyk would deliver it, and then I like it. If I didn't do this, then I don't think I would realize that this show actually does contain the sarcastic comic relief that Joss fills his scripts with.
On the other hand, I do like Helo's character, who doesn't really have an equivalent in Firefly. Which is okay, by the way, I don't need Firefly 2.0 (that is a blatant lie, in case you couldn't tell, but please bear with me). If the show lasts a while, I think his character could be fun. I'm curious to see him meet Echo. I'm also curious to see him interact with his neighbor, who seems to be a variation on Peter Parker's neighbor in Spiderman 2 (don't ask me why that makes me like her, just trust me that it's a good thing and go watch Spiderman 2 sometime to remind yourself why you like it, because, trust me you do). My immediate concern with his character is that I can't see that much future for him in the show, unless he gets recruited by the Dollhouse (which would be interesting too, now that I think about it). But, yeah, I like him and so I have to give him credit for that.
Then there's Alpha. Alpha is someone that Firefly actually needed, so I like that he exists here. The big evil corporation/government just doesn't work as well as the crazy dude who can cut a person up with surgical precision in 8 seconds (of course, Firefly had a culture of people like that, but they were only relevant as this Western's savages and in the big screen adaptation). And I like that he has a plan for Echo and that he's clearly trying to pull her consciousness out (we all know that hunter dude didn't know just what was in the poisoned water). He's a good bad guy and I look forward to looking for his finger print on everything that goes wrong.
And, lastly, there's her handler. In most ways, he's the typical cliched newcomer character getting acquainted with this world for the benefit of viewers everywhere. This means he doesn't have to actually be a main character, although it currently seems like he is (although I wouldn't mind Helo taking his job someday, just throwing that out there). Personally, I'm withholding judgement. I feel like we're going to keep getting background on him and maybe he will get a story of his own.
But, compare them to the guys of Firefly.
For one, Firefly had Nathan Fillion playing Malcolm Reynolds. Not only does this show not have Nathan Fillion playing Mal, it doesn't have Nathan Fillion playing anyone, nor does it have anyone playing a character even remotely as awesome as Mal. Mal and his relationship with Serenity was the core of Firefly. That was established in the opening theme for goodness sake. The core of Dollhouse is some variation on the question: What makes a person unique and can it be given to or taken from us? And, I feel like this show is already suffering from the lack of a real core. It already feels directionless and it's only just started. With Firefly, there was a very clear direction for the show: Mal's desire to believe that he's free.
Plus Firefly had Shepherd Book. Who doesn't like a wise, world-weary priest that can kick some major ass? Even Simon as the obnoxious, uptight prick was cool. And of course there was Jayne as the stupid muscle, but oh, so much more. I guess his counterpart is the head of security guy that I recognize as the annoying brother in Journeyman (and I hold that against him, by the way).
So, in summary, none of the guys provide a rock upon which to build the TV show. But, technically that should be okay, since Eliza Dushku is the star. Except, at this point, she's almost the hardest character to build the show upon. Unless she's going to start pulling her pasts forward a lot (which would mean essentially breaking the basic concept of the show relatively early on), then Eliza doesn't have a regular character on the show. She has a new role every week. Her character arcs are necessarily one episode long, because she starts back at the blank slate (Tabula Rasa if you prefer) next week.
To put it in perspective, this means that Echo essentially cannot be much more complicated than Homer Simpson without breaking the framework of the show. Or, maybe another way to think of this would be if you imagined Firefly's main character was River and it all took place prior to when Simon helped her escape from the evil dungeon place (and none of the other characters are around, except for a bored, drugged Alan Tudyk manning the controls prior to quitting his day job and taking up piloting for fun and profit).
So, Joss is either going to break the show and let her continue carrying stuff forward, or he's not going to build the show upon Echo. I'll let him choose. I don't know what the right answer is, but he's already made the decision and I'll just have to wait and find out what it is.
Okay, so is there anything in particular that I like about the show? Well, I actually kind of like that core question, but I don't really like that it seems as though Joss feels like he has to break the framework of the show in order to explore that core question. The whole idea of the show is that you can program people to be anything you want them to be. I'd like to see someone pay a lot of money and find out that their perfect person is really just like the person they left. Or, even better, that their perfect person just left them (no refunds baby, you should have known). I think it'd be cool to have scenes of the tech guy at work, pulling memories and experiences to build the person who's perfect for the task at hand.
In short, I want to see Joss play with this idea of programming people. I'm fine with him slowly working towards that programming sneaking into the default personality (or even the experiences they're supposed to have forgotten), but that shouldn't be the core exploration strategy. Right now, we're supposed to believe that it's a glitch, albeit, a glitch that's already happened once and is slowly starting to happen again.
So, yeah, I'm not going to give up on the show, it does have Joss and Helo and Badger, which I guess is good enough for now. And it still has hope, that's for sure. And, thankfully, episode two wasn't quite as ridiculously full of red of episode one, I certainly appreciate that.
That is all.