Echoes Of Buffy

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Not every show a major name in the TV biz creates is gold. In fact, most TV production stars get their name from their first hit show, and carry it through several less awesome shows, until they are (hopefully) redeemed with an awesome show again.

Consider - Josh Schwartz rocked the world with the OC, which ended on a sour note, and landed a plum job at the helm of the TV adaptation of Gossip Girl, which truly pales in comparison to dear ol' Orange County.

JJ Abrams has built up a following over the years - first through Felicity, then through Alias, and finally through Lost - but he's also built up resentment by abandoning his projects towards the end and letting them suffer (as Lost currently is, and Alias did for S4 & S5). Don't forget, he's also had a couple of failed projects - What About Brian & Six Degrees, and Fringe isn't exactly storming the nation.

Then of course, we have Joss Whedon, best known for one of the best shows of all time - Buffy The Vampire Slayer. I'm not afraid to say I'm a fan of this show, I've watched the entire series several times over and love every second of it. As most fans will tell you, the show was an amazing mix of humour, introspectiveness, psychology, character development, passion, action, spookiness, and reality.

Things have not entirely fared well for Joss beyond Buffy (and its spin-off, Angel). His pet project Firefly (and movie Serenity) died out after one season - although I've heard it was a *great* season, and one I must watch. He's also laid pretty low on the radar since Buffy ended in 2003, and Angel in 2004, with his first major television project being launched this year on Fox - Dollhouse.

I decided to give Dollhouse a shot, mostly because my friend was rewatching Buffy at the time promotions started coming up, and I was craving a return to Buffyverse without actually rewatching the series. Well Dollhouse ain't no Buffy. If you don't know the show, essentially it's about a secret organization that signs people on for five years to have their minds reprogrammed to be whatever their multi-million dollar clients want them to. Although a fair number of the engagements are of the romantic (yuck) nature, they're also called upon for high-end thriller missions - from acting as security to helping to rob a secret vault to taking down a cult. When the 'dolls' aren't programmed, they are in a childlike state and simply exist in a very peaceful, zenlike, spa retreat.

Let me count the ways the show lacks in Buffy quality:
- There is no protagonist. In theory it would be Eliza Dushku's character, but Eliza doesn't have the acting chops, nor the character development required to make this work. She's either forced into some hokey role (with horrible costumes) each week, or she's a vacant doll, hanging around the compound. The alternative would be Paul Ballard, but the actor is wooden and the character can be downright annoying.

- The secondary characters fit neatly into Buffy-created roles, but they pale in comparison. Topher is a diet Xander (god, even their names are both short for another name), Sierra is a bizarre choice for proxy Willow (and equally as boring as Echo), Boyd is a boring version of Giles, and the other characters are wholly one-dimensional.

- There doesn't appear to be a solid direction for the show. While the same could be said of lots of shows, I've always at least felt like there was a purpose. I suppose on Dollhouse it would be for the dolls to realize what's happening to them and vive la revolution! but if that's the solution, the show would no longer exist - unless the dolls chose to continue on by choice, and be themselves instead of doll-like when not on engagements (unlikely).

- The show is rooted in science, rather than fantasy as Buffy/Angel were, which doesn't give it as much legs. Everything continues to be brought down to earth - but it's hard to envision anything on the show actually being plausible.

- It's just not as funny. The last episode this week did a decent job of being amusing, and Topher usually gets the show's rare funny parts, but as a 'forget who you are' episode, I could name 3 episodes off the top of my head on Buffy that did a much better job of being amusing in this same scenario (Halloween, Something Blue, Tabula Rasa).

That being said, I - like most other Whedon fans out there - am still holding out the show will manage to capture me once and for all.

I still feel like the characters are being underused, perhaps with too wide of a cast and not one unified location for them all to be in (like Lost), Whedon is struggling to make the time balance work. I also feel like Eliza Dushku was the wrong choice for this role - she's relatively one note, and having been in a previous Whedon vehicle in that very note, it's hard to seperate her into the myriad of roles she's asked to play each week. Finally, the blatant sexuality of the show is a put-off. The sexual aspect of the Dollhouse is creepy and hard to look past, and Eliza Dushku's wardrobe in general is horrible. This is definitely not appealing to all ages as Buffy once was.

Regardless, like I said, I am hoping for the show to go somewhere good and take me with it.

Till then,

Britt's On


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