In the spirit of continued Dollhouse mania, it was suggested that we post a review that said something nice (at least kind of nice) about the show. So we go into the wayback machine to a post from December 4, 2008 reviewing the first episode of Dollhouse (that airs tomorrow night, Friday February 13th on FOX at 9pm ET) from Time Magazine’s James Poniewozik. Mr. Poniewozik reserves the right to change his mind (but mostly didn’t, here’s an updated review that recently went into the magazine) and admits that if he weren’t a Joss Whedon fanboy, he probably wouldn’t be interested, he did have some nice things to say:
Yes, this is certainly Joss Whedon trying to do What People Think Works on Broadcast TV Today—the legendary serial-procedural hybrid. But the first episode—in which Echo is imprinted with a kidnapping-negotiator’s personality to secure the return of a rich man’s abducted daughter—is well enough written to be absorbing. Writing a crime hour doesn’t seem like Whedon’s thing, but the episode is tight, suspenseful, with intriguing psychological twists and flashes of Whedonesque humor.
And the more serial elements of the show seem promising, at least. At the same time, an investigator (Tahmoh Penikett, BSG’s Helo) is looking into the rumored existence of the illegal “Dollhouse” where the Actives are housed. A scene with a skeptical colleague addresses head-on a basic implausibility of the premise: why the hell does a billionaire need to turn to some kind of bizarre sci-fi brianwashing whorehouse to get the perfect date, or the perfect crime investigator, or the perfect whatever, when they can perfectly easily go out and hire one who hasn’t had their personality wiped? His response: when you have everything, you want something more—more exotic, more perfect, more specific. Not so persuasive on the surface, but if the show is well enough done, hopefully we won’t care.
But alas, all that glitters…
Now the minus. Dollhouse as conceived (a heroine plays a different “person” every week) is less a series concept than an actress’ showcase, a sort of extreme version of an Alias undercover premise. (In fact, the reports of how the show was conceived have said that Dushku essentially broached the idea as a showcase.) And the actress being showcased is Eliza Dushku. Now, I have nothing against Dushku. I thought she was fine on Buffy. But she’s not exactly Toni Collette (who’s playing a multiple-personality case on Showtime’s The United States of Tara, which I have not seen). Watching her inhabit her imprinted “personality”—a tough negotiator with secret vulnerabilities—I did not see her becoming another person. I thought: Oh, look! There’s Eliza Dushku with glasses and her hair in a bun!
If it weren’t for Whedon’s pedigree, I’m not sure I’d be dying to see a second episode.
Again, a different review dated February 5 from Mr. Poniewozik is available here.