I want the fire back February 15, 2009Posted by dolorosa12 in fangirl, reviews.
Tags: dollhouse, fangirl, joss whedon, review
So, unless you were hiding around an internet-variety rock, you’ll know that Joss Whedon’s latest show, Dollhouse, aired for the first time on Friday night. I think it must have been the most eagerly anticipated show in the history of television; no other TV writer seems to generate as much slavish adoration as Joss Whedon. As a fellow Whedonista once commented on Whedonesque, ‘you realise if Joss were to tell us to take to the streets and riot, our only question would be ‘torch or pitchfork?'”Whedon’s fans are not only devoted, but also incredibly skeptical of the networks, in particular Fox. We worry, with good reason, that the mercenary Network Executives In Suits will fail, yet again, to recognise Joss’s genius and mess his latest show up, making it impossible for it to succeed. When we heard about the rewrites, about Dollhouse airing in the ‘dead zone’ of Friday night, we knew we were in trouble. ‘Save Dollhouse‘ campaigns sprang up even before the show went to air.
Now that you have all that background, I hope you’ll understand the near-insane levels of excitement among Whedonistas on Friday night. As one we (or at least those in the US and those watching online) sat down to watch the latest creator of our beloved Joss.
Is it possible, from this perspective, to view the show objectively? I’d say no. Our mindset is already ‘In Joss we trust’. Joss can do no wrong.
This is why it’s so painful for me to say that I was completely underwhelmed. The premise of Dollhouse had sounded amazing: people with their personalities removed have new personalities implanted so that they can fulfill assignments for clients. The whole thing’s meant to be a metaphor for being an actor, how to be a successful actor one must be an empty vessel into which a writer and director can pour whatever personality is required. The show also stars Eliza Dushku, who has worked with Joss before, bringing the character of Faith to life with great pathos and poignancy. It should have been a winning formula.
But something is missing. Where is the snappy dialogue? That’s what I look for in a Joss show: the witty one-liners, the trademark slang, the mixing of pop culture references and literary allusions, the slightly different lexicons that distinguish one character from another. It’s the dialogue that sets Joss shows apart from their more mundane cousins. It’s Joss’s way with language that makes his shows the thing that other TV series can only aspire to be: shows with a heart.
I fall in love with Joss’s characters for their humanity, and it is through their words that this humanity shines through. Without memorable language, they’re nothing more than the mechanisms that drive a plot. It’s language that distinguishes River Tam from Cameron Phillips, Angel and Spike from Mick St. John and Cordelia Chase from every other queen bee to be found on the TV screen.
It’s not enough to have a cool idea, even if your previous cool ideas included:
- being sick of horror movies where the little blonde girl got killed by the bad guy (usually in ‘punishment’ for being promiscuous), and created a series where the blonde girl chased the bad guys into the dark alleys and beat the s*** out of them. Oh, and having the bad guys represent the horrors of highschool;
- a vampire with a soul seeking redemption by acting as a supernatural private detective in the anonymous, uncaring streets of LA;
- what the Star Wars prequels should have been: a band of lost souls looking out into the blackness of space, all seeing very different things; and
- an aspiring supervillain charting his quest for a place in the Evil League of Evil in a vlog.
- oh, and releasing the story of said supervillain in three acts, streamed free online and later available for download, made on the smell of an oily rag and bypassing the grasping networks altogether.
These brilliant ideas have earned Joss a crazed, hopelessly devoted gang of fans, who will love him no matter what. Whether we love Dollhouse, will, unfortunately, be another matter.
I’m reserving judgment until I’ve seen more episodes. And if I do end up being disappointed, I’ll likely blame it on the meddling of the Fox network. But I’d really like to have another group of characters whom I can care about as much as I care about Buffy and the Scoobies, Angel and his gang, Mal and his crew and Billy/Dr Horrible, Penny and Captain Hammer the Corporate Tool (whose fists are not the hammer). Here’s hoping.