"What was that?"
That is the last line uttered in the Joss Whedon movie, Serenity. It can also be applied to the new Joss Whedon show, Dollhouse, a show that seems to have been heavily tampered with by FOX, from what I can tell.
I envision that final line as being something Joss finds himself continually asking every time someone from a studio wants to change his vision. And it takes a strong kind of character for a man to have his vision he's worked hard at, be mucked with.
DANGER, DANGER: CAST SPOILER ALERT IN THE SECTION: "Despite the Studio Interference" after the break.
Though the ratings for Dollhouse have been spiraling, that downward trend seems to have slowed: an estimated 4.42 million viewers tuned in to the broadcast last Friday. However, alhough this idea of Dollhouse might have spawned from the mind of Joss Whedon, this has not been his presentation style so far.
Joss Whedon himself says that the first few episodes were baby steps and that the episodes coming up, "Man on the Street" (airing March 20) and "Needs" (April 3), will be representing a stronger vision of what he himself considers the show to be about. I hope so.
If I am to read between the lines from this and other articles, I'd say that the show has been mucked with pretty badly from some other angle. In fact, the first 5 episodes were more from FOX than from Whedon himself, as they were formatted at the dictation of FOX... no... really... FOX mucked with Whedon's show. Yea, I can hardly believe it myself. (Heavy dose of sarcasm dripping from my monitor right about now.)
My Clues To FOX's Interference
I didn't need anyone to tell me that FOX stuck their fingers in Joss's cookie jar.
Joss Whedon's style does not consist of heavily-glossed-over, sex appeal imagery of women. In fact he empowers them, not weakens them with cheap sex appeal that distracts from the story. Either that or he kills them off (IE: Cabin In The Woods).
In Buffy The Vampire Slayer or its spin-off Angel, it wasn't all legs and bare midriffs. Dr Horrible's Sing Along Blog didn't have an overdose of skin. And in Firefly or Serenity, sex appeal was suggested in the classiest of fashions with the subtly hot Morena Baccarin (Inara), while Summer Glau is just a given: hot.
Yet, considering how much skin has been pushed onto the screen for Dollhouse, it feels like FOX had absolutely no faith in Whedon as they tried to snag the male viewer with whatever they could muster within limits. Thank god there are limits! Either way, this product on FOX can't be his doing... of that I am sure, not matter what he says in interviews.
Episode Order Mucked With Again?
Yet again, episode order is some sort of issue. The order of the episodes seem to be in question as I come across numerous sites where folks are pointing out how the numbering of the episodes are not consistent with their order of air dates. It's been claimed that the episodes were written in such a way that order did not matter in the airing. Good thinking Joss!!!
Despite The Studio Interference
Despite the episode ordering, Dollhouse still confuses and creeps me out. The premise of the actives is weird; the processes behind how they program the actives is freaky, and their simple-minded existence between assignments just tweaks me out. Kind of reminds me of some dates I've had!
[BEGIN CASTING SPOILER]
We have the Dollhouse. we have the renegade active, Alpha (Alan Tudyk), starting to step up his aggravation. We have the security chief Laurence Dominic (Reed Diamond), whose concerns are driving his actions in an insidious fashion as we saw last week. Now we've recently found out they have a high powered politician in the picture. And the most interesting aspect is that Echo (Eliza Dushku) is starting to remember things.
The show is interesting, but not interesting enough to nab a massive amount of viewers. I'm going to use my hindsight glasses and make some conjecture on what I would've done to make the show more digestible or interesting from the get-go.
How Would I Fix It? (If I had the chance)
First, I wouldn't have hit the viewer up front with the Dollhouse. I would have focused on Echo's assignments at first. I mean come on, the viewers didn't get it with My Own Worst Enemy, and that only dealt with 2 personalities.
Next, I would've introduced Echo's handler, Boyd Langton (Harry Lennix) and the odd way that she always recognizes him.
By the third episode, I would've introduced the process of a client hiring Echo. At this point, I would add FBI Agent Paul Ballard (Tahmoh Penikett) looking for this missing person.
After that, I would have introduced the Dollhouse, the processes, and then all the cloak-and-dagger corporate stuff (IE: Alpha).
But that's just me. I'm leery of the Nielsen families and their inability to absorb intricate details and I would have layered this story more slowly than it was.
On The Mark Or What?
I never want to say that I'm trying to second guess Joss Whedon. No way, no how! I'm just having fun conjecturing. How do you feel about how poorly Dollhouse is doing in the live viewing ratings? Is it FOX or is it the premise of the show?
If you had to pick one, which would it be? I'm not saying it is one OR the other, but just for fun. And please folks, let's keep the banter to the fun stuff! We all have perspectives to share and seeing them is really the fun stuff!