Friday, May 29, 2009

For the sake of argument...

It's amazing how much debate has been generated over the idea of remaking Buffy the Vampire Slayer without Joss Whedon. It shows how her fans have been very protective of her, and how the TV show, not the movie, has been recognized as canon.
As I said before, Fran Rubel Kazui can make her Slayer movie, but she can't be called Buffy.
We also found out the need for a Buffy movie actually comes from two sources. The first is the flood of vampire books, movies and TV shows. Maybe Harmony Keller has the right idea making a reality show about vampires in the Dark Horse comic series. If she walked into night, natch...and saw the flood of vampire book series aside from the Twilight saga, she'd jump on it. The CW is set to give us the Vampire Diaries, where a teenage girl has to deal with two vampire brothers in love with her, or at least her neck.
The other one is the new wave of movie studios trying to reboot familiar franchises. It's being done with Star Trek and Terminator. Why not try to re-imagine Buffy, and hope Joss Whedon is too busy to notice? Well, his fans have to time to say why this shouldn't happen.

But who could make a good Slayer? That's a tough question because the list of teen actresses who are funny and tough is very short. Some at the Whedonesque boards have suggested Katie Cassidy for her work in Supernatural, or Olivia Thirlby, who was a cheerleader in Juno. I'd like to throw in Leven Ramblin, who played Riley in Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles. She might make a good Slayer. Another choice ma sound odd...anyone remember Britt McKillip, who was Reggie Lass in Dead Like Me? She's 18 now, and might borrow a bit of Ellen Muth's deadpan style to be a Slayer.

It's easier to come up with Watchers. The list of future mentors of vampire Slayers can get long very quickly. I suggested at Whedonesque that Michael Emerson from Lost would be a good hoice. I also proposed Ray Wise, that fashionable Devil from Reaper. You can even look at a couple of Whedon alumni, like Mark A. Sheppard or Johnathan Woodward. How about Dennis Haysbert, who made a great president and insurance salesman, or Patrick Stewart? How about Joel Grey, who played a big part in season five of Buffy? If you think a woman would make a good Watcher, some possible candidates could include Jill Hennessey, Lena Headey, Jean Smart or even Glenn Close.
Come to think of it, get the cast of Burn Notice, and you have the coolest Watchers' Council ever.

So, if someone wants to remake Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I've given out some casting suggestions. I still say your Slayer shouldn't be called Buffy. How about Yohko? That worked in Japan nearly 20 years ago

Monday, May 25, 2009

Whose Buffy is she anyway?

Ask any Buffy fan, and that person will credit one person for making her a legend in TV or comic books...Joss Whedon.
He was the one who wrote the original script for the movie in 1992. He was the one who brought her to the WB, and make her the netlet's first big hit. She inspired a spinoff, Angel, and several comic books, including one about a Slayer from the distant future.

So, when news broke about someone planning to make a new movie called Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and that Joss wasn't involved, a lot of people were stunned. After all, they thought, Buffy belongs to Joss, right?
Well, yes and no.

As the Hollywood Reporter article pointed out Fran Rubel Kuzui and her Kuzui Enterprises have held onto the rights. She developed the movie in 1992, and directed it. She later got together with Sandollar Television to produce the show for the WB in 1997. Whedon may be the Father of Buffy, but Kuzui also has parental rights, in a way.

So, she is getting together with Roy Lee and Doug Davison of Vertigo Entertainment to create a new Buffy movie. It's a "reboot" of the Buffy story that she directed in 1992. In that Buffy-verse, she was trained by a weird guy named Merrick, but also got help from a cool guy named Pike. No details on a plot for the new version. It could start all over again, or the 1992 Buffy could die in battle, and make room for the 2010 Buffy. This would fit the old legend that "for every generation, there is a Chosen One." Also, the new version would be darker, and more ambitious, with hopes that Buffy will become a movie franchise like Harry Potter, Star Trek or Indiana Jones. Ironically, Joss' original version of the Buffy movie was darker, although the special effects were kept to a minimum.

Still, would people accept a movie called "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" is there is no Joss writing the words or directing the script? Would they accept someone else as Buffy Summers, or a movie without Willow, Xander, Angel, Giles, Spike, Drusilla or even Sweet hoping to create a musical number?
If you judge the reaction to regular visitors of Whedonesque, the answer is no. The only Buffy know is the one on TV, and the movie version just a first draft. If there's no SMG or Joss, or Scoobies, it's not the real Buffyverse.

This isn't really unusual. It wasn't too long ago that movie studios would make competing versions of a classic character, like Tarzan. While Peter Sellers is recognized as the one and only Inspector Clouseau, fans couldn't accept anyone else in that role, including Steve Martin and Alan Arkin. After quitting James Bond, Sean Connery came back for an unofficial remake of Thunderball, called Never Say Never Again. Also, let's not forget how JJ Abrams took the Star Trek Universe that Gene Roddenberry built, and renovated it for a new generation, thanks to a black hole and time travel. At least, here, Abrams tells us this is a different universe for current sci-fi fans, but the Old School Trekkies can hold on to the original show, and even the TNG, DS9 and Voyager timelines. Thus, no conflict, and you still get Spock no matter what you believe.

The idea of rebooting Buffy is to meet a need that her fans have had for a long time: to see her slay another day, and guide the next generation of Slayers, now that the "one per generation" rule has been tossed. We have that thanks to Dark Horse, but some say they want the old cast back just one more time, and establish new Slayers. Imagine Kristin Stewart, Emma Stone or even Ashley Tisdale picking up the stake. I am trying to avoid suggesting anyone from Gossip Girl being a Potential, but if Leighton Meester is interested, we'll see. Sadly, that won't happen, but will a new Buffy movie that Joss Whedon isn't writing or directing be acceptable? Apparently not, but people are going to try to see if it can work.

Actually, there is a way it can work. Just don't call the new Slayer Buffy. In fact, let's bring back Kristy Swanson and Luke Perry as a couple who are concerned about their 17 year old daughter, and how she's acting strangely. It could be due to that mole just below her neck, and that she's sneaking off at night. Once they find out that she's been battling vampires, Kristy will turn to Luke and say, "See? Our daughter does have the Mark of the Coven...just like me.
"She's the next Slayer, and we've got to train her."

Now I am saying "the next Slayer." That doesn't mean the old one died, and the new girl has to be trained fast. By having the story be about the next Slayer, you can have it mean that the new Slayer is the latest of a long line of Slayers already busy at work holding back evil and such. That, of course, means there's still plenty of room for Buffy in this movie Slayererse. If this is done right, Joss can give his blessing, and get involved somehow. With the reputation he has, respecting his definition of a Slayer is important.

Seeing if Buffy the Vampire Slayer can be reborn, even if her body isn't Sarah Michelle Gellar, will cause a big debate. It may lead to shelving the movie, or having a movie produced with a new cast, or the old TV cast. Whatever happens, Joss Whedon must have some say in the matter. Fran Rubel Kuzui may have helped Buffy's birth in the movies and TV, but it was Joss who raised her well to become the Girl Power Icon we know today.

Of course, it could be could be a direct-to-DVD movie, like the second sequel to I Know What You Did Last Summer or a prequel to the Dukes of Hazzard.

UPDATE!! Joss briefly talked to Mike Ausiello of Entertainment Weekly about this Joss-less Buffy movie....

What do you think about this Buffy movie they're making without you?
JOSS WHEDON: I hope it's cool.

Joss is still filming Cabin in the Woods, but when he has time, he'll have more to say.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

So, what does more Dollhouse mean?

It means sci-fi and Whedon fans will have something to watch on Fridays now that Battlestar Galactica is gone.

We also know that Joss, Eliza and their minions will have to cut costs. None of that fancy "turning Echo into a blind girl who's really a camera with legs". Maybe it's time to look at the staff, aside from the technology and the ethics behind it.

For one thing, we still don't know why Paul Ballard thinks bringing down the Dollhouse is so important. At one point on the show, even he admits he doesn't know. In "Ghost", he says he was given the job to look for the Dollhouse, but not why. He's also obsessed with Echo/Caroline Farrell. Why her? Did someone ask him to find her. Did he consider her the "poster child" for the mission? It seems this is the time to tell us.

Back stories are also a good thing. How did Boyd Langton, former police detective (we suspect), become a handler, and later head of security? How did Adelle DeWitt go from stem cell research to programmable people? Where did they find Topher?

There's one other story they may never tell: what happens when a person finds out he isn't real? Remember that Dr. Claire Saunders discovered that she used to be an Active called Whiskey, and that she's been given the imprint of the old Dr. Saunders. It's the ultimate in recycling. While she says "I know who I am", we wonder if she really does, and how this will affect her other relationships within the Dollhouse. Now that Amy Acker may be headed to another drama on ABC next fall, will this mean Dr. Saunders will be put in another body? If so, they have the Body Formerly Known as Laurence Dominic that they can use.

I also wonder if they will "layoff" some Actives. How do you do that? It would be equally interesting to see a former Active want to "re-enlist", which might be a first--or not. Maybe a few Actives are in a Witness Protection program? We already know at least one may have joined to avoid criminal charges, aside from, we think, Echo.

Another issue is whether the show should take turns with the Actives rather than just have Echo as the lead Active. Enver and Dachen have become very popular, and a story about Topher, Adelle or even Paul could be interesting.

It's very possible to make compelling low-tech sci-fi that beats the zillion-dollar-blockbusters every time. Fox can do this by giving Dollhouse every chance. They just have to let Joss be Joss, Tim Minear to be Tim, etc. They also have to believe that as long as people watch the show, either live, DVR or on the internet, it counts as actual TV viewing. After that, the other networks will have to admit it, too.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

How Dollhouse Really Got a Second Season

Episode 14: "Program"

The scene opens with Adelle DeWitt, supervisor of the Los Angeles Dollhouse, looking at a copy of the Hollywood Reporter. She looks at a small article, announcing that a certain Fox TV show will get a second season, despite low ratings.

ADELLE (wearing a soft smile of satisfaction): Now that is the definition of "Mission Accomplished", Mr. Bush!

She hears one of the Actives arriving from an engagement. It's Victor, whose plastic surgery after "Omega" went well. He is now Vic, an up-and-coming employee at the programming department at Fox. He's with Paul Ballard, who is only a private contractor for the Dollhouse, not an employee.

VICTOR: I'm telling you, Bal, soon we won't need TV to watch TV. iPhones, laptops, wrist TV's, Hulu...maybe we'll wear glasses that show us Survivor instead of some ex-lover we don't want to see. That's gonna change TV networks as we know them.

BALLARD: Really. Maybe next year's newspaper will be a foldable TV soon.

VICTOR: Say...I like the way you think. I'll get back to you after my treatment.

A Handler shows up, a woman about to reach 30 against her will.

VICTOR: Hey, babe, maybe my treatment can include a Sea Breeze, Stoli Vodka, of course. (He leaves).

Ballard approaches Adelle

BALLARD: I must say Victor is very good at his "job". I bet he'll convince Fox that it can live without American Idol and The Simpsons.

ADELLE: Please! No one's that good, and I like The Simpsons. Idol, not as much these days. Still, we got another 13 episodes, and he proved DVR viewers and internet traffic are just as good as watching us live.

BALLARD: So how come Topher didn't try this when Firefly was about to be cancelled? I heard he was nuts for Jewel Staite.

ADELLE: He wasn't working for us back then, I think he was reprogramming hamsters so he could have miniature Ultimate Fighting matches because his parents wouldn't pay for the PPVs.
But enough of his childhood, any updates on Alpha?

BALLARD: Well, I know where he is, but we may not be able to get to him.


BALLARD: He's part of the cast of V.

ADELLE: V?? You mean ABC picked up that attempt to remake that sci-fi mini-series from 20 years ago?

BALLARD: You remember that?

ADELLE: It's on DVD, and cable sometimes. Well, this is inconvenient. I thought ABC's sci-fi quota would be Lost and Flash Forward.

BALLARD: Well, some remakes don't work out. We can only hope.

ADELLE: Yes. (pauses) Alpha. He's more elusive than a leaf on the wind, and don't ask me to explain what I just said.

BALLARD: I don't have to. You know, it's amazing you trust me in your search for Alpha, considering I really don't like your business, turning people into dolls, making them do what clients want.

ADELLE: Well, you fell into temptation with November, didn't you? On the other hand, you're not the only one. (pauses again) Besides, we really do good works sometimes. Echo will be back tomorrow from her trip in Africa, helping orphans and rebuilding old homes.

BALLARD: That's good, but she could do that as Caroline Farrell, too. Just pointing that out.

ADELLE: Noted. Well, if there's a way to grab Alpha, or ruin his new TV career, let me know.

BALLARD: Noted. (He turns away, but turns around to Adelle) One more thing, how do I tell Echo the Celtics haven't eliminated Orlando yet?

ADELLE: How should I know? I watch soccer.

Adelle returns to her office. She watches "The Guild", and sees that maybe Victor has seen the future of TV. She also thinks to herself that if anyone could bring down the Dollhouse, she'd prefer it to be Paul Ballard rather than Lincoln and Michael Scofield.

Friday, May 15, 2009

OK, Agent Ballard, You Might Be Echo Master or Boyd's Assistant...

...but at least you will be something...BECAUSE THE DOLLHOUSE IS STAYING OPEN!!!

That's the word from the Hollywood Reporter. It took a lot of the old Navajo trick of begging and pleading, as Woody Allen would say, but we'll get another 13 episodes of Echo, Victor, Sierra, Boyd, Topher, Adelle DeWitt, and Paul "I'm really doing this to close you down" Ballard.

The word spread like wildfire on Twitter, Whedonesque, and a few other sites. Some are still skeptical, but they want the news in writing during upfronts on Monday.
I was hoping we'd have them move the show to Mondays or Tuesdays, because high DVR usage for the show may hint that people don't like it on Fridays, but on Mondays after House before January, or Tuesdays after Fringe. There was word it could be paired with a show called Human Target, based on the comic book about a guy who can impersonate anyone who is being targeted by other bad guys. You fans of the original Mission Impossible see it as Super Rollin Hand. That could still happen, if both are put on Fridays. Maybe with that lineup, and Fox letting Joss be Joss at long last, it may be cool to stay home on Fridays for the first time in years.

But that leads to another problem: after Paul Ballard has agreed to work for the place he wants to close down, Echo has "Caroline" in her mind, and an evil Active named Alpha is on the loose, what do we do now? I had some ideas towards the end of my review of "Omega", but that can't be the best ideas. There has to be more, and Joss will have a plan.

Whatever it is, he'll have to cut costs. Already, the episodes will be cut from 50 to 43 minutes each, but that's because Fox decided to dump "Remote-Free TV". That's because shows with fewer ads didn't generate more viewers. Expect shorter trips into the Fringe, too, but there will still be room for the occasional Leonard Nimoy.

In any case, in the words of Baskin-Robbins ads, YAY! More will be revealed come Comic-Con time. At least by that time, maybe I'll have another chance for Eliza to sign my DVD screener of "Ghosts", or the DVD box set.

Oh,and I just found out Castle will be back on ABC in the fall. That means more Nathan Fillion. Now that they have the kinks and Moonlighting germs removed, I'll give it another try.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Time for some lists

In a week, we'll know if the Dollhouse will open again. It doesn't seem likely, but we can always hope.
So, why not have a few lists on the show itself:

Best in Show
"Man on the Street", the first time we broke the "Case of the Week" pattern. Add a great appearance by Patten Oswalt, a challenge to Paul Ballard's "this is wrong" belief, some comments from the "public" on what they'd do with an Active, and a surprise confession from Echo, and you have a classic episode.

Least Best in Show

"Stage Fright", only because the diva needed some unexpected therapy from Echo

Most Valuable Active

Enver Gjokaj, who has been quite versatile as Victor. He's played a Russian mobster, DeWitt's boytoy, an NSA agent and a horse breeder. Runner-up goes to Amy Acker as Dr. "Whiskey" Saunders.

Horrible, but not hopeless

Obviously, we mean Olivia Williams as Adelle DeWitt, the tough supervisor of the Dollhouse who can fall into temptation, and Fran Kranz as Topher, who is quite aware that even super-geniuses should have a lot to learn.

We'll Miss You

Reed Diamond as Laurence Dominic and Miracle Laurie as ex-Active November, not just a girl named Madeline

"Say What?" Moments

1. Victor/Roger has his regular rendezvous with Miss Lonely Hearts...and it's Adelle DeWitt
2. Dr. Saunders was an Active, and the Echo of her day
3. Echo gets wiped via cellphone, thanks to Alpha
4. Adelle is shot by Dominic before he's put in the Attic, yet isn't phased
5. Victor does a perfect impression of Dominic
6. Paul "agrees" to help search for Alpha, but that won't be his only goal...if we get a season two.

Best Fight

Boyd and Paul in "Briar Rose", although I also like Paul vs. Echo the talkative assassin in "Man on the Street."

Most uncomfortable moment

Topher and Claire observing the Actives showering, looking for inappropriate behavior in "True Believer", but a close second was finding out Hearn taking advantage of Sierra in her neutral state in "Man on the Street."

Worst outfit

Whatever Echo was wearing at the start of "Echoes"

Best fashion

Boyd (Harry Lennix), always lookng good

Worst quote

"Blue skies!" by Sierra and Echo in "Gray Hour"

Best quotes (very tough to cut down to ten)

1. "Nothing is what it appears to be", the first line of the series, said by DeWitt
2. Topher: "She's living the Dream"
Boyd: "Whose dream?"
3. "God brought me here. He has a message for you,and that message is to move your
ass!", Echo from "True Believer"
4. "We're pimps and killers, but in a philanthropic way", Boyd in "Spy in the House
of Love."
5. "You haven't seen my Drawer of Inappropriate Starches", Topher in "Echoes"
6. "The Dollhouse is real", Echo in "Man on the Street"
7. "I have 38 brains, and none of them believe you can sell yourself into slavery.",
Echo in "Omega"
8. "The wrongness of this is so huge", Wendy with Caroline's soul in "Omega"
9. Claire: "Victor had an erection?"
Topher: "I prefer 'man-reaction.'", from "True Believer"
10. "If that technology exists, it'll be used. It'll be abused. It will be
global, and we will be over, as a species. We will cease to matter. I don't
know. Maybe we should.", a professor in "Man on the Street."

Your list may be different. I have left out at least 20 better ones. maybe you can decide what's the best and worst about the show.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Recap of Dollhouse "Omega"

The idea of playing God, or tampering in His domain (hi, MST3K fans) is a very old story. We all want to create a better world, even literally.
But what if a creation of science thinks he can create something better than the one who created him? What if the Bride of Frankenstein thought she could make a better husband, or Galatea make a better Pygmalion?
Well, that shows the original creator didn't do a good job, or shouldn't have tried. Maybe that would apply to God.
In this case, it applies to Alpha, a creation of the Dollhouse who decided one day he could create a more advanced creature. His model will be Echo.

We pickup where we left off last week, with Alpha breaking into the Dollhouse with Paul Ballard's help, and taking Echo away. The place is in confusion as Adelle and the staff deal with Alpha's escape, Victor's face being mutilated, and Echo leaving. This saves Paul, who was thisclose to being a Doll, or worse
Topher finds out Alpha has fixed it so they can't trace him or Echo. Dr. Saunders tells him that Alpha asked her is she always wanted to be a doctor, and how he didn't believe her. Topher wonders who can fathom a crazy mind. Dr. Saunders says "maybe the one who made him crazy". So why are we looking at Topher?

Somewhere on the 405, Alpha and Echo become Unnatural Born Active Killers, listening to a long forgotten '70s song. She calls him Bobby, a boyfriend who once took her out of a bad place at 13. That's not true, and he admits to that later, but they're having fun. Echo (because she has no name for this new self) then gets upset because her Tasty Couture t-shirt is missing. She yells at the store clerk they just kidnapped.

Switch to a few years ago, when an engagement goes wrong. Two handlers, Alvarez and Blevins, go nuts trying to find them. At an abandoned warehouse in San Pedro, we see Alpha torturing someone named Lars while a girl named Crystal dances to In Dreams by Roy Orbison. Lars is very upset he can't turn Alpha off, and end his David Lynch/Wild at Heart fantasy that he bought. Alpha is more upset this guy dared to say he's not real. Crystal then approaches both of them, and she looks a lot like Dr. Saunders. Yeah, it is her. She's Dr. Barbie.
So, as Alpha and Whiskey do their Lap Dance of Death on Lars, the handlers show up,and get them out of there.

Back in 2009, Paul Ballard is not a Doll. Actually, he's loving the fact Alpha is bringing the Dollhouse down faster than he ever could. He also doesn't like Adelle's explanation that this is a technological anomaly. She's more upset Paul brought him back here at all. Then, they find out the FBI has surrounded 23 Flower, where the Dollhouse is located. Alpha told them there's a bomb inside. Paul gets rid of them by telling Agent Brian Tanaka the Dollhouse is under their feet. As expected, Tanaka calls it a false alarm, and blames Paul. After all, Paul even suspects the FBI knows about the Dollhouse.
They do get more bad news: Alpha took all the imprints they used on Echo. Seems he has his own Dollhouse and imprint chair. Echo looks impressed, but needs a restroom.

What about Victor? He's worried he can't be his best anymore, now that he's scarred. Dr. Saunders says "Your best is past, a past you can't even remember." All he can hope for, she says, is pity, and she's not sure she can give them to him. Why does she suddenly have worse bedside manner than Gregory House?
Switch to a flashback, where we see the real Dr. Saunders, a balding old man who gives out lollipops. We also learn Whiskey, before her medical degree, was more popular than Echo. He's worried that she's working too hard. Just then, a new Active comes in, none other than Caroline Farrel. She's suddenly not too sure about the deal she made with Adelle DeWitt. However, one person is happy to see her...Alpha, who is in the middle of a massage. This is really a case of love at first sight gone horribly wrong.

Paul Ballard gets a look at the imprint chair, which is where the Dollhouse "steals their souls." "And then we put them in a glass jar with our fireflies," Topher sarcastically remarks. True, he's upset he was tasered earlier that night, but that remark could have gotten him two more zaps. Like it or not, though, Paul is needed to find the runaway actives. They also need Sierra and November as bounty hunters, which worries Paul. Sierra comes on to him a little, and November develops a new attitude that is refreshing. Too bad they had to be cut out of the episode for time. Paul later asks Topher what was Alpha trying to do. Topher can't answer because Alpha can't be profiled. He's like Soylent Green, made of people. He does recall the incident, and figures out Alpha did want something: the wedge that contained his original personality. He got rid of that quickly before the killing spree. They also figure out Alpha now has Caroline's original personality wedge and destroyed the backup.

What is Alpha's game, though? He plans to "wipe" Wendy, the clerk, and put a new imprint in her. Echo, still in her Wild at Heart mode, tries to understand, while Alpha tries to explain if his other selves don't interrupt him. What he does is "kill" Wendy, or put her in a wedge, and put Caroline in her place. Once that happens, Wendy/Caroline is stunned. "The wrongness of this is so huge," she says. Alpha, though, says he's doing Echo a favor. He wants her to ascend, and become an advanced being, just like him. He says Caroline, the soul, abandoned Echo, the body, and left Echo to the "jackals" to turn her into anything they want. So, he wants Echo to kill Caroline and become a new god, like him. He compares this to a blood sacrifice, which was done by early civilizations. It's the pattern of new life from death. Echo becomes new by killing her old self, Caroline. The old gods have returned, he says, and he and Echo can join them.
Echo just says her head hurts, as ours do. However, he points out he's always looked out for her, even in the Dollhouse. In another flashback, he was able to help Echo be the number one Active by mutilating Whiskey's face. When Blevins grabbed Alpha, Topher tries to figure out what went wrong...again. It also looks like Alpha is headed for the Attic, until he attacks Blevins and causes a major accident. Now, 48 brains are jammed into Alpha, and he winds up gouging Blevin's eyes out, saying "I understand Hell now." Then Dr. Saunders shows up, and the killing spree begins. It's well-described at the start of "The Target."

Back at the Dollhouse, Paul wants to know what Alpha was before his Dollhouse days. Adelle thinks that's not relevant, which means the truth is embarrassing. We find out Alpha was Carl Craft, who was a Ted Bundy in training, and could have killed someone if the victim hasn't escaped. Craft volunteered to be in Rossom's early experiments that led to the Dollhouse, which sounds very familiar. They find Craft's victim, and see his habit of cutting women had been happening for some time.

So, Alpha is all set to fulfill his Dr. Frankenstein fantasies. He injects all of Echo's 38 previous imprints into her, and she becomes Omega. She rises, and says "I get it." She picks up a pipe. She knows what must be done.
She clobbers Alpha. Well, Eliza Doolittle didn't like Henry Higgins at first sight, either. With 38 brains, and a better soul, she knows that killing herself, even in someone else's body, is no road to ascension. Alpha throws the Neitchze card at her, explaining this is how man evolves to a higher being, by getting rid of the lower forms. That doesn't work either. "We're not anybody because we're everybody," Echo says. What's more, she realizes she's really a container for whatever soul a client wants. Wendy/Caroline says the real "her" is right here, but Echo wants to know why Caroline wanted to be an Active. She only says, "it's complicated", but "Echoes" may be the real story. Alpha doesn't like this type of debate, and uses violence to make his point. Echo beats him, there too, and it looks like maybe Caroline will get her body back, especially since Echo argues no one should be a slave after signing a contract.
Alpha, though, may have the last word. He shoots Wendy/Caroline in the throat, and threatens to destroy Caroline's wedge. Seeing him point a gun at an imprint wedge, as if he was about to kill a hostage, is a sight to behold. What's worse, he plans to turn lots of girls into Caroline, then kill them. Echo does stop him, but he also gets away.

Topher, meanwhile, is trying to see which imprint Echo got before leaving with Alpha. He wonders if she was turned into a ninja/backup singer so that Alpha could create an evil band. Hey, if it gets rid of the Pussycat Dolls, it's a great idea. Seriously, he does figure out Alpha used an early Whiskey imprint...just as she's standing outside his door.
What happens is rather anti-climactic. Alpha does get away, but not before he tosses Caroline's wedge away. Echo nearly fails in saving it, but Paul is there to catch it. So, where are November and Sierra?

But what will Dr. Saunders think now that he's no longer an old man, but an attractive woman? Well, she figures it's an interesting way to recycle, but she doesn't understand why Topher also programmed her to hate him. Actually, she does, but it's Topher's way of making sure he never forgets. The doc isn't interested in what he was as Whiskey or even before that. She knows who she is. Still, how can someone deal with the fact of being someone else, and not being real?
Also, what do we do with Paul? Well, he'll be happy to help the Dollhouse...for a price. It will cost them the freedom...of November, now back to being Madeline Costley. Echo still has to stay, but does Paul have to pay a higher price? Or is it part of his original plan, to be the one that brings the Dollhouse down with fatal doses of morality? Well, he got to be the ideal prince by saving Caroline's real self. Maybe this is another way.
As for Echo, she's back to being just the container, and touches Topher's chest for some reason. It's soon back to her pod, and she dozes off after saying "Caroline".

Even if this looks like the end, especially after Prison Break failed again as a lead-in, there's plenty to talk about during a second season...
Could Echo composite with all those little memories of her past imprints, and become better than Alpha because she is good? If so, could Alpha come back, and make his own army of evil Actives, with hopes of making Echo the general of his dreams?

Could Adelle actually feel guilty about what she does, and the morality behind it? If so, would Rossom allow it? Well, no, but it would be interesting to see her try.

What will Paul's new role a Doll who helps Boyd, or as himself?

Will Boyd be a loyal head of Security, or decide that protecting a Dollhouse isn't as important as protecting humanity in general? It all depends on whether Paul's belief that you can't wipe away a soul, good or bad, is accepted by the Dollhouse. The example of Alpha will play a big role.

Will Topher admit he's not a super-genius, and that things go wrong? Will he try to get a real friend, starting with Ivy?

How will Dr. Saunders see herself, and what she does, knowing she used to be an Active? How will former Actives, not restored, deal with life? Could one actually remember, and ask t obe put back in the Dollhouse?

Could there be the possibility of a rivalry between Actives, played by Handlers?

And there could be more to this. Dollhouse isn't really about a girl trying to regain her true self and her soul. It's all about who we are, and how that is determined by many factors, from social graces to technology, and whether we have the final say on who we are.
Think about it. We exist as bodies. We walk, talk, shop and sneeze like a gal who tosses stakes around does. But we can also exist in cyberspace, talking to hundreds of friends all over the world as many different avatars and nicknames through technology. Can that same technology wind up changing us, robbing us of what makes us human, and turning us into Tupperware with legs that's ready for a new self to be put inside?

I don't know if that will be considered in "Epitaph One," but it should be.

Finally, the ratings numbers: 2.8 million viewrs and a 1.0 18-49 demo. That will probably double if you include DVR, iTunes and internet viewing, but it won't be enough to keep the show for the fall.
Not even the CW would save it with numbers like that.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Who's the Most Active Active in Dollhouse?

We all know the story about that famous lunch Joss Whedon had with Eliza Dushku. We all know how she complained that so many producers and casting directors thought they knew what kind of roles should could handle better than she did. We all know Joss thought Eliza could do so much more if given the chance. That chance of course, turned out to be Dollhouse

As we're about to wrap up this season, and maybe the series overall, it's time to see if Eliza has convinced people she can be more than just Faith.
So far, at least one blogger doesn't think so. Rich Greenhalgh, a student and guest blogger for David Biancuilli's TV Worth Watching is apparently disappointed that Eliza hasn't shown much range as Echo. He says she can't can't carry the show as Jennifer Garner carried Alias or Kristen Bell led Veronica Mars. This paragraph sums it up...

Dushku has three speeds: "vengeful bitch," "scared victim," and "cocky brat." She never really closes the deal -- it always looks like Dushku to me. She's easy to look at, and fun in an ensemble, but she's not the reason I would watch Dollhouse.

Rich has a point. Not counting the finale, let's look at the many faces of Echo.

"Ghost": Caroline Farrel, a girl over her head given one way out, a girlfriend for some guy, and Eleanor Penn, a hostage negotiator. I said I didn't really believer her in this role because she's too young. If it turns out Dr. Saunders may be an Active, she should have done this.

"The Target": girlfriend, and outdoors woman. Still, she's just a girl trying to avoid getting killed by her date.

"Stage Fright": Midwife for a few seconds, and backup singer for a diva who needed a bit of improvised therapy

"Grey Hour": Wise-cracking safe cracker who had a touch of Faith, then Echo herself

"True Believer": blind woman looking for inspiration. Here, Eliza was believable here as a girl who was also a camera.

"Man on the Street": an internet mogul's dead wife, and an assassin who does something that surprises the guy she attacks, Paul Ballard. Her second identity is a variation of the safe cracker.

"Echoes": girlfriend again, and Caroline through flashbacks

"Needs": a dominatrix who's similar to the safe cracker and assassin, and then Caroline

"Spy in the House of Love": an FBI interrogator that is again a variation on the safe cracker

"Haunted": Mrs. Bashford. Here, Eliza was very believable as an old woman excited to be in a younger body

"Briar Rose": social worker that could be similar to Caroline, Penn without the glasses or the backup singer.

Through all of this, the only two very different roles Eliza has had was the blind woman and Mrs. Bashford. The others seem a bit too similar. This was probably how the producers and Joss wanted to start what they hoped would be a long run. It's not like The Loretta Young Show fifty years ago, where she did very different roles from the start. Also, the original pilot had Eliza take a lot of different roles, from drug addict to assassin. If they took that approach, rather than Fox wanting it to start as a procedural, things would have been different.

The criticism over whether Eliza's range is too limited may be due to the fact that her co-stars have shown wider range. Enver Gjokaj is a perfect example. Although some fans knew he was supposed to be an Active, we meet him as Lubov, a Russian who was supposed to give Paul Ballard information about the Dollhouse and its purpose. Afterwards, he's taken many roles from an NSA agent and horse breeder to Roger the romantic ideal and Laurence Dominic, the former head of security. Dichen Lachman, who plays Sierra, has also had a better chance to show her range. Her first mission was a SWAT-type agent who rescued Echo and a child from kidnappers. After that's she's been a safe cracker, dorky music fan, dorkier temporary pal to Topher, a rape victim, and forensic expert. These two actors have made better use of their playground.

Maybe Eliza should have asked for a wider range or roles from the start, and put her stamp on this show. Maybe TPTB wanted saw the first season as an introduction of things to come. In any case, it looks like Eliza Dushku will still run into roadblocks into her efforts to widen her range as an actress. Dollhouse has been a good try, but maybe more roles in small independent movies may also help.

The final episode, Omega, may yet show that she is capable of different roles, but she should have had more time and more chances.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Recap of Dollhouse "Briar Rose"

Once upon a time, there was a prince who heard of a princess who had been asleep for years. She walks and talks like someone who is awake. She dances, steals, sings and saves lives. But he knows she is really asleep.
He goes into a dark castle, hidden underground. As he is about to wake her, he meets another prince who says she is better off asleep. While they fight each other, they fail to notice a third prince who wakes her up, and turns her into someone else. They run off to live happily ever after. As the princes wonder what happened, another princess who was asleep wakes up, and wonders why the first prince didn't kiss her instead.
Welcome to "Briar Rose", a fractured fairy tale of the Dollhouse.

The story, written by Jane Espenson, cleverly weaves the original version of Sleeping Beauty, Briar Rose, into Echo's current engagement, helping an abused girl deal with her past, and Paul's determination to free Echo/Caroline from the Dollhouse, as if he was meant to be Prince Charming. Throw in a guy who is a reluctant sidekick, and one incredible twist at the end, and you have a fairy tale that doesn't get any grimmer.

It begins with an old man dumpster diving, and finding a hand. He soon finds out the hand is attached to a very strong arm.
Switch to someone reading Briar Rose, and we see it's Echo. One of the kids thinks the story is crap, especially the curse that put the princess to sleep and the need for a prince to wake her. She angrily asks why couldn't she wake herself up, and tears up the book. We soon learn she is Susan, whose mom died of a drug overdose. She was also pimped out by the mom's boyfriend. She's been in fights and even used knives to attack others. Echo's engagement is to help her deal with the abuse, and get her to a healthier future. Surprisingly, this was Topher's idea...and it's actually a good one.
Meanwhile, Paul is about to move out of his apartment, and Mellie/November is very upset. He can't say he knows she's a Doll who could kill him. So, he goes to the "it's not you, it's me" excuse. She winds up wandering the streets, weeping, and even stopping at a freeway overpass. Thankfully, a handler is there to pick her up. You know Paul did the right thing, but it's still so sad seeing Mellie like that. We also find out Paul is following her, hoping to lead him to the Dollhouse. This may prove he really considers her a means to an end rather than a girlfriend.
At the Dollhouse, Boyd and Adelle look at a flash drive sent to Dominic. They decide they have to bring him back to see what's inside. But how can they do that without Reed Diamond?

The relationship between Echo/Susan and little Susan is very interesting. Echo/Susan tries to win the little girl's trust by talking about how she wanted to run away from her troubled youth, but couldn't. Little Susan admitted she had four attempts to run away, but couldn't. For one thing, the boyfriend told her no one could help her escape, not even the cops. Echo/Susan assured her it's OK to have someone else save you. She even points out that Briar Rose saved herself, in a way, by dreaming that a prince would wake her up. She advises little Susan to read the book again, but see herself as the prince. Echo/Susan tells the social worker she'll be back soon. She also says Little Susan is ready to go forward, but it will hurt. The hope, though is that little Susan will identify with Echo/Susan, and be headed to a better life...which Echo/Susan represents.

Paul meets Loomis at the FBI, very excited he's finally making progress. He says he got nowhere chasing leads to the Dollhouse, until they brought Mellie to spy on him. She led him to 23 Flower, where the Dollhouse exists. While the building above is not the Dollhouse, there must be something underground. He finds an environmental services consultant who could design such a place, something that is so self-sufficient, it's invisible. Loomis tries to accept this, despite the fact Paul is saying it so manically.
Back at the invisible Dollhouse, we see that Dominic is Victor's body. He's not too happy about this. It make take more to get hm to cooperate. Dr. Saunders injects a sedative before he says "Whiskey". Why he looked at her while he said that is unclear. Enver Gjokaj does an incredible job imitating Dominic. He's another of Joss Whedon's Stars of the Future.

Paul looks for the designer of the Dollhouse. He finds Stephen Kepler, an agoraphobic guy who's very scared of the outside world. He also looks like a guy who flew a spaceship while wearing Hawaiian shirts...and he should be since he's Alan Tudyk. While he doesn't soar like a leaf on the wind, Kepler's been able to be self-sufficient, generating his own power, food, water and "medicinal carrots" that are popular in Humboldt County. He's more concerned about keeping his carbon footprint small. Paul wants Kepler to lead him to the Dollhouse, so he can be the prince that wakes Briar Rose. Kepler is reluctant, but a gun in Paul's hand changes his mind.

Back to Victor/Dominic, he says he kept in touch with the NSA with phones, not flash drives. However, there was someone else....Alpha. After discovering the Greek letter "alpha" was the password, they discover the flash drive has a picture of Paul Bunyan, which Adelle recognizes as something located near "The Center" in Tucson. She doesn't admit it's the main HQ of Dollhouse Inc., but Topher figures it out. Sierra is sent to look at the body Alpha sliced. Posing as an FBI forensic specialist, she figures out the body doesn't look like a homeless guy who lived deep in garbage.

The story now centers on Paul getting into the Dollhouse, redeeming himself and getting the girl. Kepler's not happy about being in a buddy cop movie scenario where Paul's the hard-nosed FBI agent and he's the guy who hates buddy cop movies. Still, through some clever sneaking, they get inside. Kepler claims he thought he was designing the new Eden, but Paul says Eden was no prison. Well, it was supposed to be Adam and Eve's only home...until that apple. Maybe Paul will become that "apple" that turns the Dollhouse from Eden to a "prison". Kepler's surprised how the place is able to be self-sustainable, with no effect on the outside world. He also likes the "stone cold foxes" who wander around. Paul finds Victor, who he knew as Lubov, and declares "my whole life isn't real." Kepler says it's a small world, and that he was in grade school with Jenna Elfman. Paul also admits again the Dolls are not people, but Caroline is the one he has to save. The only problem is, if Echo/Caroline is "set free", who's going to help little Susan?

Kepler is able to disable a few things so that Paul can find Echo/Caroline. He finds Mellie first. While she looks so beautiful asleep, he knows she could kill him. She's a Doll. She's not real. Caroline, however, is real, and finds her just as she's waking up. Boyd finds them, too, and says Paul won't get the girl. It can't be done. Even if Paul and Echo/Caroline leave, the Dollhouse will kill them. But Paul doesn't care. He's the prince, and he's getting her a happy ending. He and Boyd fight, while she looks on. They even break Victor's pod, and he's shocked more than anything else. As Paul tries to get away with her, she seems him, and seems to recall fighting him. She pushes him off. Then she sees Boyd, the man who has saved her before. Boyd is her prince because she trusts him. Paul is the evil minion, and must be sent to the Queen. (namely Adelle).

Dr. Saunders finds Victor, who says people were fighting on him. She brings him to her office, and finds Kepler with a knife. He slices Victor's face...just like he did to Saunders a few months before. That's right...Kepler is Alpha!
She is scared out of her wits as he observes how her scars have healed, even if she hasn't. He asks her if she's always wanted to be a doctor. She says yes, but for some reason he doesn't believe her. He also asks her what it was like to see him for the first time. Was he healthy, intact, fine? She answers yes to all of his questions. He says he'd like to continue, but he's running out of time...but for what?

Paul finally confronts Adelle and Boyd, and tries to convince them... and himself... the jig is up. Stifling a laugh, she tells Paul he's nothing but a suspended FBI agent who can't hurt her. He still wonders why the Dollhouse put some interesting lies into his life and tried to kill him twice. She just says "It might be good for us both that I failed." She knows the solution is simple: just turn Paul into a Doll. After all, who would miss him? Boyd's not so sure about this, but then she gets a call from Sierra. Apparently, the old man who was killed was the real Stephen Kepler,and that his body was dumped in Tucson from L-A. Alpha was imitating him....and he's in the Dollhouse.
At that moment, he and Echo meet. She says he seems to remember him, while he knows he remembers her.
One treatment later, she remembers.....that she is Alpha's lover, or she thinks she is. The point is, Alpha is the real prince around here. He and Echo then leave, but for where?

This puts everyone is a very strange situation. Adelle and Boyd have to rely on Paul to find Alpha and Echo, even if Paul knows he'll probably be killed or join Dominic in the Attic. Still, what choice does everyone have? Also, what will Alpha and Echo do, and what will he really do to her? Will little Susan get caught in the crossfire? It seems likely because the show wouldn't just forget about her, and maybe neither will Echo.
Next week's episode,"Omega", is bound to end this season....maybe the only season...with a bang. The only mystery left is whether this story will continue beyond May 8th. In some countries, it will with the lost 13th episode, "Epitaph One", but not afterwards.

At least the ratings seem to suggest that. Since people aren't flocking to the final episodes of Prison Break, they're not coming to Dollhouse either. Even with high DVR and iTunes numbers, the real statistic that counts is how many people are watching on Fridays.
The answer; not enough. Slightly more than three million people, which is slightly higher than the week before. The 18-49 demo, though, is an all-time low of 1.1.
If only you can "imprint" people to watch this show when it's we used to do before TiVo and even VCRs.
Well, TV execs only count viewers to see shows live, despite the new technology that lets them wait until even Saturday afternoon to see 24 or 30 Rock. That's why Echo may fade away after next week.