The irony, I must say, is delicious.
Little did Joss Whedon know that his little catchphrase will become such an apt description for his latest breakaway hit/flaming wreckage of a show. But Dollhouse can be perfectly described using that little snippet of clever dialogue. The show, which aired its final episode last week, had a bumpy, uneven, harrowing ride through the world of broadcast television suffering threats of cancelation, actual cancelation, resurrection and a final cancelation once more.
I first heard of Dollhouse, back when its inception was first announced, as any other Whedonite would. By stalking Whedon with a telephoto lens reading about on a website. We all know the story, two old friends have lunch, catch up, one gets up to take a leak, thinks of a brilliant show starring the other while answering nature’s call. The rest, is history.
The concept, and this is something I still believe, is brilliant. People wiped of their personalities, for whatever reason, are imprinted with fake yet full personalities complete with abilities as custom made to order what-have-yous. The show was set to explore what makes us us, the true meaning of “personality” and “identity” in a way Buffy could only scratch. Does a person who is a different guy (or girl) every week truly have a self? What happens when the different personalities start clashing (as glitches in the system are the bread and butter of sci-fi tech-oriented shows like this one was shaping up to be). What about the morality of imprinting these living dolls? Is it wrong to people? How would this affect the people in charge? The people being imprinted themselves?
This, too, is a TV actor’s dream come true. I am not a TV actor, but I’m sure playing the same part for several years can get tedious and boring – David Tennant left Doctor Who for these reasons, as did countless others before him. This part, however, lets you be someone else every week. You get to shift things around, you get to completely showcase your range. Unless, of course…
… You have the range of a ferret.
Look, I’m not here to bash Eliza Dushku. I’m really not, I like her and Faith was awesome. But the honest truth is, she has no range. She does one thing. She does it well, but she only does one thing. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Others have made a career out of doing one thing well. The bottom line is – this part was too big for her. The whole point of the Dolls in the Dollhouse was that you become someone else every week. What we were treating to week in and week out is a “someone else” who’s really an ass-kicking bad girl. Sure it may be an ass-kicking bad girl Lawyer, or School Girl or Scuba Instructor, but the bottom line, it was the same character in a different outfit. We basically got Faith/Tru/That chick from Bring It On again.
What makes this so incredibly frustrating is that each and every other actor on the show was good. Especially the other dolls. Take any one of them and put them in the starring role, and this would have been a show worth tuning into. Each one of these actors has proven themselves on more than one occasion that they are capable of shifting personalities, of doing exactly what it is that the show’s concept dictates. This shows, as the show’s best episode were the ones with minimal to no appearances by Eliza Dushku, and you can clearly see that towards the end it wasn’t really about her anymore.
All in all, Dollhouse was a brilliant concept. We got to see that throughout the show, in snippets in between the more mundane “engagement of the week” episodes. The last several episodes, once the show had already been canceled, showed you exactly what kind of toys Whedon had to play around with, and I, for one, would have loved seeing each of these get its due time and space, rather than the rapid-fire burst we got to see them in. Dollhouse will forever be remembered as just that – a fantastic concept that suffered a horrible execution due to a main actress that simply could not hold the show together. It’s a shame, but live and learn I guess.
So long, Dollhouse. I will say you will be missed, but that’s not really the case, is it. Here’s hoping the remake in 25 years will be better.