Thursday, July 30, 2009

Dollhouse's First Pilot: Can It Fight a "Ghost?"

When Fox announced it would bring Joss Whedon back to TV with a new show called Dollhouse, fans were very excited.
A pilot episode called "Echo", after the main character, was filmed, then Joss decided to start over because of what was called "a few clarity issues for some viewers"

Fans can now see the original pilot as part of the season one DVD box set. They'll notice the plot is very different, and Echo herself is treated differently. If you remember in "Ghost," we find out her real first name as Adelle DeWitt tries to convince her to become an Active. After that, we see her in action as a "negotiator" trying to save a kidnapped girl.
In "Echo" we see her in different roles right off the bat, then the plot tackles three issues that were supposed to be the main themes: how the Actives should be used, how the Dollhouse tries to prevent FBI agent Paul Ballard from finding them, and whether Echo is "evolving" beyond the imprints and developing her own personality. Many Whedonesque posters have said they liked "Echo" better than "Ghost".

Was Joss right in deciding that a pilot that looked at Echo as an Active was better a pilot where we see her many faces, but threw in three plot lines at once..and had some great lines, too?

"Echo" starts with the title character underwater, while we hear this from the head of the L-A Dollhouse, Adelle DeWitt: "The world is a very simple place, at first. Then as we grow up, it grows around us, a dense thicket of complication and disappointment." Then we see her, complete with tea, make her pitch on why a man should use an Active. She insists that an Active is the "truest soul among us", and will do whatever the client wants within reason. Then, we see Echo in many roles: a woman who tries to lead a girl away from drugs and prostitution, a date for a man who wants to make his ex-girlfriend jealous at her wedding, and a tough cookie negotiating with Mexican gangsters. This is the job of an Active, to fulfill the needs of the client. Adelle calls this "a treasure, one I guarantee you will never, never forget."

Now, could this segment replace the one in "Ghost", where we see Caroline/Echo recruited, then as someone's date, and then back to the Dollhouse for her treatment? It would be a tough fit, but it would be possible. The scene in "Ghost" would be used again in "Echoes", while the start of "Echo" would be used in "Epitaph 13".

In fact, some of the scenes in "Echo" will be recycled in future shows. The scene were Paul Ballard meets with Lubov (Victor) is in "Stage Fright". A later scene where he gets Caroline's picture at the FBI is in "The Target." Topher's "little bit bison" speech is in "Grey Hour". Except for Paul getting the picture, the other two scenes were different than the ones we remember. When Paul talks to Lubov/Victor about the Dollhouse, Paul says he's "seen the reports" that show such a place is possible. When Topher notes Sierra, Victor and Echo are meeting at the same lunch table more than once (being a little bit bison), he thinks it proves that Echo is evolving beyond the wipes, which is bad news for her. He also gives a great argument about how everyone is programmed in some way. "This is cutting-edge science," he tells Boyd, "in a house full of hot chicks. Morality is programming, too." In fact, Topher seems to be smarter and a little less arrogant in the original pilot.

We also see Sierra for the first time. It;'s clear she had been with the Dollhouse for sometime. She's dressed like she's in Mad Men, except she has a cut above her left eye. She is treated by Dr. Saunders, who we see in shadow for most of the episode.

The "A" story looks at how DeWitt and then-Security Chief Laurence Dominic tries to stop Ballard from finding the Dollhouse. They even have a direct link to his FBI office. They decide to use Echo to find out what he knows and, as a last resort, kill him. She poses as a woman who is looking for her sister. She gets to his house, where he talks about his file, and how his search for the Dollhouse cost him his marriage. She also sees her picture on the ground. He then gives a speech on how the case has affected his life:

Nobody thinks it'll make, which is a pattern with me. Everybody tells me "no, give it up, back off"...Is it real? Am I anyone? And then you show up, and I remember. I remember yes, I remember connection

Then he surprises Echo by pulling a gun at her, and says "who tells me exactly what I want to hear? Who gives me just what I need? Nobody. So I think maybe that's who you are, nobody."
Echo says, as she grabs the gun, "I'm not nobody." But are you Caroline, he asks? She answers by shooting him twice.
So, the Dollhouse has eliminated Paul as a threat, right? Well, Adelle suddenly gets a phone call from her boss, saying that killing Paul isn't a good idea. She sends Boyd to pull Echo off the case.

Meanwhile, Topher is trying to sneak into Dr. Saunders' office to get Echo's file, which he can do anyway. We also see the doc's face, which is scarred because of what happened with an Active named Alpha. We later learn she doesn't fix the scars because she wants to remember what happened. She also mentions that Actives are healthier when they're doing good deeds. "There is a physical need for something other than fulfilling the whims of the rich," she says. Topher responds: "I program them so that it feels good...So, I'm a monster, right?". Maybe, Topher, but maybe you're a selfish Henry Higgins. However, it does create an interesting issue: what is more important, the needs of the clients or the needs of the Actives. The quick answer is maybe the clients because they have the cash, but what good are Actives if their roles are killing them? Too bad this wasn't part of season one, but it may be considered this season, especially since Dr. Saunders knows she was an Active.

The episode ends with Boyd stunned that Topher actually programmed Echo to kill Paul. "We live in the Dollhouse, which makes us dolls," Topher says, "and the people playing with us little children. Children break their toys, Boyd." Adelle is surprised, too. She wonders how Echo could shoot Paul and not kill him...unless that was her decision. That's what Actives don't do, but Echo may be doing. "We're all in this together," she says. "The day we forget that will be our last."

But Echo has the last word..."Caroline." That was also the last word in "Omega", too.

It's interesting to note that in "Spy in the House of Love", Echo volunteers to be imprinted to find the mole...and she does this while in her Active state. When Adelle is told about this, she's actually intrigued rather than worried. What a difference a pilot makes.

If "Echo" did become the aired pilot. We'd have a much different show. The story would center more on the Dollhouse, and how it's trying to battle Actives slowly becoming real people, a doctor who thinks they are people, and an FBI agent threatening to find it. That would have taken some of the spotlight away from Echo's story. Thus, it's just as well we got the season that Fox aired. It created a very interesting story that continues on two tracks, the present and the possible future in 2019.

The fans can decide for themselves when they get a copy of the DVD set, now available everywhere.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Comic-Con: To Dollhouse and Beyond

Smiling Joss

A year ago, people got excited about Joss Whedon's return to TV with Dollhouse, about a woman who can be anyone except herself.
When Joss came back for this year's Comic-Con, the excitement was still there, and not just for the show.
It was for Dr. Horrible, the Buffy and Angel comic books, and everything he's done for the past 12 years.
However, Joss showed he was excited, too "There's never been a time," he said, "when the public can make its voice heard, like now."
He means how the public overrode the ratings, thanks to Twitter, MySpace, internet postings, and most importantly TiVo. All of that gave Echo and the Dollhouse a second season. However, Joss joked that it also ruined his summer vacation...and got a few apologies from the crowd. He's now busy making the first few episodes for season two, starting with "Vows" on September 25th. He also has his comic books, from Buffy season 8 to Dr. Horrible and a certain horror movie he just finished about some house in the forest or something. He says the future is in good, and calloused, hands.

This was followed by the showing of "Epitaph One",which was reviewed here earlier, and then Eliza Dushku.

A smiling Doll, who's active

And why shouldn't she smile? "I'm so thankful the lost episode was found," she told the crowd. "Every time I show up on a job, even though I know Joss loves me, I show up and I feel like it's the first day of school, and I wonder if I can still do it. And then I get to come here, and you guys like fuel me. So thank you for fueling me." She also says she's grateful Joss has given her the chance to be a producer as well as an actress.

Then, we got some insights, although he warned some of the answers would be oblique or French. He did say Victor would recover from Alpha cutting his face, and they'd deal with Dr. Saunders learning she was an Active at one point. He also said he had no doubt Alan Tudyk would do a great job as a villain, thanks to a Shakespeare reading he did with Joss.
Joss also had great things to say about his staff, which he called the best "first-year" staff he's had "So much of everything you've seen," he said, "including a lot of what you saw didn't come from me. I really feel like this, more than any to her show, is a real round table, and it's always open to the next idea."

The crowd got some surprise details, like Alexis Denisof coming as a guest star, and more of the Epitaph One trio. John Cassaday, who collaborated with Joss in the Buffy Dark Horse comics as an artist, will direct an episode. Joss says season two will be all about giving people chances to do something different, which is always good for TV.

But Eliza had a surprise of her own. She Twittered a couple of friends, and asked them to come down...

Friends Drop By

Fran Kranz, aka Topher and Dichen Lachman, aka Sierra. Enver Gjokaj was also at the autograph session when the panel was over. Joss talked about when Topher would get his comeuppance. That is in "Epitaph One", in a big way. Dichen also said she liked being the fangirl in "Stage Fright" and Topher's best bud on his birthday.

Eliza was later asked if her role as Faith on Buffy has helped her in her career. "It's part of me, I think", she said. "Everything that I've done is part of me in this role. Every character that I've played in my career and in my real life, somewhere in this.
"Faith inspired me as an actor," she continued. "It's one of my favorite roles I've ever done, and I feel like she's always, always sort of in me and helping me."

Finally, someone pointed out a possible similarity between the world of "Epitaph One" and the world of Firefly. Could there be a link between Rossum and Blue Sun, or Butchers and Reavers? Joss admits that "evil corporations are my cup of tea in the morning", but it's more than that...

"The entire structure is designed to mess with your minds, to combine selling you things with entertaining you. To keep you in line. To make you think that you need the things they want you to need, and to stay away from the things they want you to stay away from. To keep them in power, to share none of it. This is all happening."

He even says while there is "lights in the darkness", it is also almost like running day care in the Death Star, but his final point is this: "There is power and manipulation that is controlling almost all of our every thoughts, and that is why I love this show so much."

Maybe this is the show that our times really need. We'll see when September comes.

Comic-Con Recap: Epitaph One

For a TV show that some feared wouldn't last, Dollhouse had a big presence at Comic-Con. Fox released a special version of the DVD box set, including a special letter from Joss. It was available for 5000 customers, and it sold out quickly.
Also, thousands of people filled Ballroom 20 to see the U-S premiere of "Epitaph One", the episode Fox decided not to air. Some who got the DVD set already saw the episode, and discovered it's a very different story.

It's an illustration of what the professor said in "Man on the Street" about the possibility of technology turning people into Dolls: "If that technology exists, it'll be used. It'll be abused. It'll be global, and we'll be over. As a species, we'll cease to matter."

And what will we have? We'd have a young woman named Mag, patrolling to the corner of Spring and 5th, talking about how a party was crashed. We'd hear about butchers, dumb shows and Actuals.
Mag weeps a little, but toughens up quickly. She has to. This is Los Angeles, ten years from now. She's part of a group who has disavowed anything electronic, because they say it ruined their world. They just want a place to be safe, and "keep our own voices."
She is joined by Zone, Griff, Mr. Miller and his daughter Iris, and Lynn. They wind up at the Dollhouse, which they think is an underground spa. They mistake Topher's office as a day care center. However, they see the imprint chair. They recognize it as the chair that changed everything.

They decide to give Mr. Miller a specific memory. It turns out to be from a man who asks about what the Dollhouse really is. The clip is from the unaired pilot, "Echo", which is also in the DVD. We see Adelle DeWitt make her pitch about using an Active, compete with tea. That's how she got Caroline/Echo.
Zone is surprised that this technology, which eventually ruined the world, was originally made to make more believable hookers. Actually, it's more than that.
Miller is given another memory, Topher's first day. He's being his arrogant, know-it-all self. Right off the bat, he's giving tips on how to cut the process of programming actives from two hours to five minutes. He'll also need a refrigerator.

Elsewhere, Lynn takes Iris to the nearest restroom. They wind up finding the showers, which Lynn immediately uses. However, someone finds Lynn and kills her. Iris sees her body and screams.

Miller gets another memory: Echo is turned into a Russian girl, but what's Paul Ballard doing there? Is he her new handler, and why? Well, we later find out Echo can be herself and the Russian, and they are trying to take down the Dollhouse internally. However, it's taking a toll on her brain.

The group decides to "birthmark" Iris, which is tattooing her name on her back. So, if she suddenly acts strange, and forgets who she is, she has her birthmark to remind her. In the next memory, Boyd is trying to leave the Dollhouse, while Dr. Saunders is worried about what will happen to him, and them. Did they become a couple after all, as Topher predicted? Looks that way.

But in 2019, the years have taken a toll on Saunders. The group find her in a white dress, calling herself Whiskey (her Active name). She also says she's always been in the Dollhouse. As Zone suggests blasting her to the Bush years, she asks if they're looking for Safe Haven. She also says she can lead them there. Zone still wants to blast Whiskey, until she tells them they can find the kitchen

It's also where we discover how everything went wrong. Victor is seen eating lobster, while Topher and DeWitt look on. She is looking for Clive Ambrose, co-chair of Rossum, the company behind the Dollhouse. She discovers that Ambrose has somehow injected his mind into Victor. This fits Rossum's motto "Because Minds Matter." Ambrose/Victor also announces it's part of the company's upgrade that allows more of the rich and powerful to use Actives. "Everybody who matters is either a client or one of ours," he tells DeWitt. With a look on her face that says "I'm fired?", she asks how could he do such a thing. Well, he can because he's got the technology. Topher and Adelle has to choose to join him, or become his dolls.

Back in 2019, Iris asks Griff if the chair can really put people in other people, he says yes, and gets shot to Iris. She puts the gun in her dad's hand, then screams.
Whiskey still says she can lead everyone to Safe Haven. Mag says there's no such thing, but Whiskey says "not for everyone", as she's about to imprint herself. The next memory is Dominic taken out of the Attic, and pulling a gun at DeWitt. He's upset, but also satisfied that his warnings that the tech could be abused turned out to be true. DeWitt says there is still a solution. Someone's brain can be blocked from being imprinted. It's Echo/Caroline.
We later see Sierra and Victor, now with their memories wondering what to do next. We also see she has "birthmarked" herself with her real name. He does reveal that the personalities of all the Actives have been backed up, which means everyone can be an "actual" eventually.

Back at the Dollhouse, Iris is still upset over what her daddy "did." Zone decides to give her a gun, which is a mistake. Just before they imprint Whiskey again. Iris pulls a gun on Mag and Zone, and calls them bigots for only liking Actives. The real issue is the person inside Iris wants out, and the chair can do that. As she's about to shoot them both, she finds out the gun's empty. Zone knew.

The next memory shows the Actives gathering, appreciating their real memories. We also see what happened to Topher. The genius has had a major breakdown, as he writes out endless equations. He then talks about how it's possible to program someone through robo-calls. It's like when Echo was wiped by a phone call in "Gray Hour". He thinks making instant armies through a cell call is brilliant. He wonders why he didn't think of that, or that he did. If so, is that curiosity or arrogance? Well, we know whose arrogance let this technology run wind. As Topher weeps, "I know what I know" over and over, DeWitt does her best to comfort him. Then someone tries to break in. It's Echo and Paul, looking almost like Browncoats. Echo suggests that she should be in the chair to make a backup of her self. She also sees DeWitt, and there's no love lost. "You've come to save the innocent lambs," Dewitt asks Echo. "They're not lambs, DeWitt," she answers. "I think I've mentioned that before." The last thing we see if Echo getting her pistol ready to fire...but at DeWitt? My guess is Echo just shoved DeWitt to the outside world, and let that decide her fate.

So Echo is now in Iris' body. She notes it's puberty all over again. She is also happy to see Saunders again, even though she calls herself Whiskey. Mini Echo knew this would happen, but now she can lead the survivors to Safe Haven. However, a bunch of Butchers break into the place. Zone, Mag and Mini Echo get away, but Whiskey stays behind to gas the Butchers, and herself.

As they are about to climb a ladder to the unknown, Mag wonders how it had come to all this, just to give people what they need. "Kids playing with matches," Mini Echo says, "and they burn the house down".
Mag sees a bunch of pictures on the wall. They are all Actives, as they really are. Mini Echo looks at her own picture, as she really is. It's the same one that Paul used to find her. "I hope I find me alive," she says.

It's a pretty bleak future, but is it inevitable? Joss Whedon said in the panel that we'll be meeting Mag, Zone and Iris/Echo again in season two, with more details on how our present led to their world. In fact, they'll be there in "Vows" in September. "What we intend to do," he said, "is honor what you've seen here today, but also question the veracity of what you've seen here today. A lot of it, of stuff involving our main cast, were memories from imprints. Whether or not all of those memories were completely true is something we will get to flux a little bit, and some of them may have appeared to go one way and actually come out very differently."

That may be a good point. Every imprint is really missions of memories, rather than what really happened. Joss plan to show that the world that's in Epitaph One isn't the whole world. It's an interesting narrative, and let's hope it has a long life.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Comic-Con: Just Take Their Avatars

What if the Guild was a LARP group?

Somewhere, there is at least one Guild fan who wonders how the show's logo would look like it it were really Felicia Day, Vincent Caso (Bladezz), Jeff lewis (Vork), Amy Okuda (Tink), Sandeep Parikh (Zaboo), and Robin Thorson (Clara) instead of their cartoon selves.

Well, that photo above will give you an excellent example. But they went one better and showed up in the flesh for their panel during day two of Comic-Con. This came after one unforgettable video called (I think) "Take My Avatar". Felicia said afterwards she wanted to write a song with the style of Stacey Q. Maurissa Tanchareon and Jed Whedon, two of many behind Dr. Horrible, helped out and produced the video. Jed directed it as well. It will go into general release a week before season three begins, about August 25th. Those on X-Box can get a preview if they know who to ask. One thing is for sure, you haven't lived until you see Jeff and Sandeep rap. Take that, Lady Gaga. That MTV Moonman belongs to Codex and her crew.

The Guild, dressed for fantasy

BUT....that wasn't all. The crowd got a look at the start of season three. In short, the gang is still trying to deal with the events of the party. That includes Clara and Vork having a moment, and Zaboo necking like crazy with Riley, the tall chick Codex hates. However, one moment will sweep it all away.
The Guild is about to be challenged by a group of gamers so ruthless, they cut ahead in line when a new game is released...or worse.
They are the Axis of Anarchy, and their leader is.....Wesley Crusher?

Sitting With the Enemy

Yep, that's Wil Wheaton. He said afterwards he was going nuts not being allowed to say he was part of this.
Someone else was under stress, too...

Guild Director

Sean Becker, who introduced the season three opener. He also mentioned how hard they worked: 12 episodes, 13 locations, more than 100 pages in script, all in 15 days.
Then comic book writer Scott Allie announced a Guild comic book, where the gang is seen in game mode and the real world, and how they often crash. It's amazing no one's tried that yet.

So, how has the cast enjoyed their massive boost in fame? The year before, a few only knew of Felicia and her little show. Thanks to Sprint and Xbox, it's very different. She admits thanks to Sprint and X-Box, their show has been exposed to millions of people. Those without X-Boxes can rely on MSN video.

Felicia was asked how she was able to make the gang ethnically diverse. She says she write characters for her friends. Jeff agreed, and explained why he went bald for his role, but not really. She was also very proud to get people who buy X-boxes, and not necessarily for the games, to see the show. She also gets a lot of female gamers aboard, too.

She also had a lot of nice things abut Twitter, which she did last year during Dr. Horrible's panel. She says it's great it allows her to communicate directly with the fans, and they she doesn't like celebrity culture where people deify others for not much. That, however, is OK with Sandeep.

They have had the experience of fans recognizing them. Jeff said it happened to him at a Steak and Potato Hut in Tuscon. Amy said the new popularity has gotten them a party bus. Vincent says he's a few people who are a little like Bladezz. Wil admitted he was into MUDs, which are like Worlds of Warcraft but it's in text rather than graphics. He's moved away from that, but is looking forward to being a big part of the fate of the Guild in 2009.

The new season, including the video that will be the MTV Dance Video of the Year in 2010, all starts August 25th. More at

Comic-Con: A Tale of Two Sing-A-Longs

It looks like Comic-Con has created new traditions, thanks to Joss Whedon and his fans.

Along with the Saturday Masquerade, the Eisner Awards and the Preview Night that has become the real start of the annual event, Whedonopolis has established itself with the annual showing of the classic Buffy musical, "Once More With Feeling" as the official closing event. It's also the closer for Wondercon in San Francisco.
However, Joss Whedon's other musical extravaganza, "Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog", is also becoming a tradition. It was a big hit last year, and filled up one of the bigger rooms this year.

I was barely able to sneak into the Doc H showing after hundreds were turned away, but I noticed the California Browncoats, who set up the screening, had a different idea on how to show the musical. They gave everyone cardboard goggles, and a book that had the lyrics.

Inside the sing-a-long

That's a look inside. Anyway, they added a dash of MST3K to the viewing. Some examples:

During Freeze Ray song: Hand gesture "stop every time he says "stop". Shoulder jam along with the horrible doctor.

Opening shot of episode 2, where he wonder why Penny would consider dating Captain Hammer: crowd says "awwww, poor baby"

Dr Horrible: "Captain Hammer threw a car at my head": crowd says "only a Yugo"

And...when we see Penny die, the crowd says "Dammit Joss, not again".

There were also plenty of Dr. Horrible Captain Hammer minions, dressing like him and liking the weird stuff...

Sing Along with Horrible

Captain Hammer..and a Bad Horse singer?

Arch-enemies, except in line

That was followed by the Commentary musical. If you have one of the songbooks, use it while you listen to the DVD sometime. It's the best way to get the words right, and have an interesting experience. Better yet, do this as close to any Emmy voter as possible. Nothing like a little electioneering to help the doc win an Emmy for the Evil League of Evil, and every other internet-based show out there. Fake Thomas Jefferson can only stuff so many ballot boxes.

Compare that to what happened when "Once More With Feeling" was shown on Sunday afternoon. No songbooks are needed here. People just read the words on the screen,

They sing a theory

Or they jump up and dance crazy...

She's dancing crazy

These two sang along with Buffy and Spike's parts...

Not sure where this is from

In any case, this event filled up Ballroom 20 again. The should also be thanked for sponsoring this event now, and in the future. Maybe this event will be the new Rocky Horror of the 21st Century. We should know if people jump up and dance at San Francisco next year.

During the Dollhouse panel, Joss pointed out that there is an interesting connection between sci-fi and musicals. Both exist a step away from reality, and a bit bigger than life. Can we expect real guys dressed in lab coats and goggles fighting with muscle-bound jerks over a woman's love? Can we expect to burst into song, and then into flames? They can only happen in musicals, even those that are really our deepest nightmares. They also also exist in sci-fi, which can also be a fantasy. Joss Whedon has proven that with his two musicals, which are traditions at Comic-Con.

Of course, fans of Xena may point out her musical episode, "Bitter Suite", predates them both. Maybe we should make room for her, too.

Comic-Con 2009: Drusilla and Illyria's back and IDW has them

In an institution in Los Angeles, just before a monumental event, some doctors discuss a strange patient who has been delusional, having problems telling the difference between sex and violence. She has been found with cuts on her body, talking about weird things like her son/lover choosing a cheerleader.
Oh, and she also claims to be more than 150 years old.

Drusilla in flight

This is how Juliet Landau has brought back the character we know her best. In shades of blue, black and red, we find out what happened to Drusilla before and during the days Los Angeles was in Hell. Those at Comic-Con got a preview with a special issue that also includes some fantastic pictures of Landau on the back.

Meanwhile, there is this picture....

Dru in the shades

She was at the IDW panel with Bryan Lynch, who's writing the comic with her. He was surprised how quickly she adapted to writing for comics. She said when she was asked to do this project, she had a clear vision on what type of story she wanted, and what it would look like. She also said the story also presents an interesting juxtaposition. "I really want the feeling that the world, this institution," she says,"is very oppressive and stark and cold, and that Drusilla is undead and is more alive and vibrant than anyone else who is indeed alive around her." Just see how she interacts with the staff at the hospital, and she uses that to her advantage. The fans also got a chance to ask a few questions, such as her favorite episodes. She said they were "School Hard" (her debut), "Surprise" (when she becomes strong, and "Reunion" (when she reunited with Darla and turns her back into a vampire).

The IDW panel revealed more info about the Angel series. After the Drusilla arc, we'll find Angel and Spike at an event not unlike Comic-Con. Seems they'll be there to promote a movie version of their adventures in "After the Fall." The movie is called "Last Angel in Hell", and I would think the perfect theme song is "Los Angeles is Burning" by Bad Religion. What's more, we'll get a special issue that would show what kind of movie we won't get. After that, Angel will be leaving for a while, giving Spike a chance to make his mark...with his own comic book. We'll see a new character, Eddie Hope, who has a demonic secret.

Illyria will also be back in two series. One will be called "Only Human", where she and Gunn attend the funeral of Fred's uncle (and yes, Illyria poses as Fred, her old self). While he still has issues with her, she wants to know why humans are so obsessed with death. Then, she'll be part of the Fallen Angel series. Here, Illyria meets up with Lee, hoping to reclaim the powers she once had before they were taken away at the end of the Angel episode "Time Bomb". The first pages of the series shows why: Illyria in full-fledged demonic form, ruling over her domain. Who wouldn't want to reclaim their glory? The key is going to Bete Noire, where Lee presides. The series will be four issues.

Peter David, who created Fallen Angel, said he asked Joss Whedon for permission to use Illyria, and he was on his way. He admits this is a way to get Whedon fans to try out the series, while long time fans will get a chance to know Illyria, which may get them to check out her adventures in the Angel TV series and comic books. It's the ultimate in geek synergy.
It just may work for Drusilla, too.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

See Spike Have The Right Stuff

With all the TV specials honoring the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon, one show didn't get a lot of attention. There's still a chance to see it, because it's the only time you'll see a vampire with a soul...the other one...make space history.

I had known about Moonshot for some time ever since James Marsters mentioned it on his blog. It's the story of how the crew of Apollo 11 met and took on the challenge of landing on the moon. The History Channel aired it this past Monday night, 40 years to the day Neil Armstrong took that one small step for a man. Marsters portrays Buzz Aldrin, the second guy to walk on the Moon. He was portrayed as a bit of a hotshot,and a bit off beat. What other astronaut would have a monkey for a pet? Still, he's also shown a man who was eager to meet the challenge. Marsters cuts quite a figure as the young Buzz Aldrin. Compare that to Daniel Lapaine's portrayal of Armstrong, who is shown as a quiet and humble man, nothing special about him. However, when you see him and Aldrin try to land the Lunar module, you see that Armstrong was something special, too.

The movie admits that the script is based on transcripts, first-hand accounts and a bit of dramatic license. That may explain why they had to imply that Armstrong and Aldrin had a bit of a rivalry before the mission, or we see the crew have a certain body function you wouldn't think should happen in space. However, it does include the reason why NASA decided that Armstrong should be the first man on the Moon. Basically, they preferred a humble hero that a guy with an ego that's a bit too big. That part is true.

The film may slightly disappoint people who have seen the HBO mini-series about the space race, From the Earth of the Moon. However, that had a big budget. Moonshot is more modest, trying to preserve a 1960's look with a limited budget. It also uses in film clips from that era including Walter Cronkite anchoring CBS' coverage of Apollo 11. They were also careful to synch up the actors' lips with the words their real-life counterparts said when they talked to Mission Control. The depiction of the landing is a mix of the actors with NASA film of the Moon landing.

Moonshot will air again on the History Channel at 10 PM Saturday, Eastern and Pacific, and 2 AM early Sunday.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Why Dr. Horrible Made History At the Emmys

Here lies everything
The world I wanted at my feet
My victory’s complete
So hail to the king

Fans of Dr. Horrible recognize those lines as the musical climax to the Sing-A-Long Blog, where the doc finally achieves his goal to become part of the Evil League of Evil....but at a very high price.

However, you can take those words and give them new meaning. This time, you can picture him singing those words after finding out that his story has made history as the first original web show to earn an Emmy nomination.

In the past couple of years, the Academy of TV Arts and Sciences has recognized internet content, mainly webisodes. Now, Dr. Horrible has stopped the world not with his freeze ray, but his own musical. When you think about it, the Emmys couldn't ignore the Doctor. He's been a hit on the internet, iTunes, and even his own DVD. No one else has gone that far.

However, some may think the "victory" isn't complete: Dr. Horrible is under "Outstanding Special Class - Short-format Live-Action Entertainment Programs". It's competing against the Super Bowl Half-Time show, and webisodes linked to 30 Rock, Battlestar Galactica and The Daily Show. Some may wonder why a half-time show would compete with web content. Maybe it's because they tried to come up with a category that almost fits the nominees. In this case, guys, not quite. Besides, Super Bowls win Emmys in sports production and announcing, not for entertainment. The last Super Bowl half-time show I liked was Super Bowl XXXVII,when Sting sang "Message in a Bottle" with Gwen Stefani.

Also, since Dr. Horrible did get an Emmy nomination, why didn't its songs get nods for "Original Music and Lyrics"? Yes, the Emmys have that category, which has been won recently by "I'm F*cking Matt Damon" and "D*ck in a box". Surely, "It's a Brand New Day", "My Eyes", "Everyone's a Hero" or even "Bad Horse" could have competed with songs that did make the Hugh Jackman's song that opened the Oscars, Stephen Colbert's Christmas song, or Flight of the Conchords' "Unnatural Love.".
And...I think Hugh could win because his production number did more with less, and even plugged his movie. (Take that, Colbert!) Still, the Whedons' and Maurissa's songs should have been considered.

That being said, let's recognize the real victory: an original web series, unconnected with established TV shows, won an Emmy nomination. Once the precedent is made, the Emmys will have to change with the times, and make new categories specifically for web content. One could be for webisodes connected with regular shows, another for original shows. Maybe other categories like Best Actor in an Internet Drama are a few years off, but you have to start somewhere. Dr. Horrible's nomination is good news for web shows like The Guild, Web Therapy, Cell Fulldose, Childrens' Hospital, Rockville CA, and many other original web shows out there. It shows the Emmys are starting to recognize web-based original shows as a true genre. Full recognition will take a few more years, but it will happen.

Dr. Horrible may see himself as a super-villain, but he is now a hero to those who make original web shows. They know that getting an Emmy, or even being considered, is no longer an impossible dream.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Happy Birthday, Dr. Horrible

To most people, this is the day we see the latest Harry Potter movie, and some people say it is the best one yet.

However, this day is important for one less magical reason....
it was the day the world met Dr. Horrible, and sang along with his blog.

A lot has happened since the first part of the legendary musical was broadcast on the internet on July 15th, 2008. It became it hit on the Internet, iTunes, and DVD. Its first big-screen showing at Comic-Con last year was a big triumph. The soundtrack charted on the Billboard Hot 200 Albums. It won a People's Choice Award, and lots of Streamy Awards. Even today, it does brisk business at Amazon, and can be found at the local Best Buy.

That's impressive for a little musical where we root for the bad guy for a change. After all, he just wants to join the cool Evil League of Evil and the heart of a crusading girl named Penny. However, he has to battle Captain Hammer, the finest hero and the perfect role model. Just ask him.
But this is also a Joss Whedon production. Thus, expect catchy tunes, a chuckle here and there, and a very sad ending that turns into a dark beginning.

The cast is surprising, too: Neil Patrick Harris as Dr. H, Nathan Fillion as Capt. Hammer, and Felicia Day, the gal behind the Guild, as Penny.

Joss made this project because he wanted to prove that it's possible to produce entertaining shows that exist on the internet rather than traditional TV, and also make money. Dr. Horrible is an ambitious effort that proves his point.

While Dr. Horrible hasn't led to more internet musicals, except maybe that Prop. 8 musical sketch from, it did draw attention to other web shows. Many fans are enjoying shows like The Guild, Web Therapy, created by Lisa Kudrow, and Angel of Death, a ten-part film noir that is about to become a DVD. It also helps if you have sponsors like Sprint, Lexus and Sony Pictures.

This year, fans of Dr. Horrible and the ELE are preparing for the return of Dr. Horrible to Comic-Con. Some will be dressed as the Doc, while others will be Captain Hammers. No matter what, they'll be singing the same tune, and it's one that will last a long time.

Besides, Dr. Horrible should get a gift for his "birthday". I can think of the perfect gift, something that pleases a Slayer, or a Vampire with a soul.

It's called an Emmy.

Now, I admit that's a real long shot, unless the TV Academy has found religion, and creates a special category for web series. That also means Codex and the Gang would have a chance.

But if not Dr. Horrible or Codex, then the future stars of Web TV should be recognized sooner or later. It took years for the Emmys to admit cable TV is just as important as the traditional networks. They have to give the same respect to web TV shows, or as Kevin Pollack calls it, "intervision"

So Happy Birthday, Dr. Horrible. Remember, today the Emmys, tomorrow the world...or maybe the Grammys.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

OK, it's been too long

Things have been slow in June. People are busy awaiting what happens in July, especially Comic-Con (two and a half weeks away!!). What's been happening in my life in mostly in my other blog, The Notorious IG.

Enough of this, though. Yahoo has finally announced that it's getting rid of the Geocities web sites in late October. Naturally, they offered me my own AT&T website for seven bucks a month until June 2014. That's two dollars more than what I pay now. Not too bad. So, to take advantage of that offer, I upgraded last week.

While all my pictures and files make the transition, the webpages themselves did not. I spend the last three days rebuilding all of my web pages. I finished late last night, but I did it. It's a little different from the old site, mainly because I decided to get rid of a few pages. I got rid of my old trophy page that shows all the awards I got in my early days of having a website. I got rid of pages devoted to the Buffy-Angel love story, and Spike and Angel. I did, however, keep pages that looked back at the WB staking Angel before its time, the Bronze, and the original Buffy movie (soon to be shown on the big screen in Sacramento). I did some slight upgrades to some of the pages, including one from the Browncoat Cruise.

I also noticed there were some "orphan pictures". I will move them to a scrapbook page. A couple are from the first con I visited where I actually talked to cast members, including a funny Mark Lutz (Groo, that is) and Amber Benson (wow!).

As you notice, there aren't any pages for Comic-Con...yet. I have two blank pages ready to go.

I have had a web page since the start of season five, way back in 2000. Since then, trying to make a mark in the internet has changed big time. Back then, I had Homestead as a free site, complete with marquee. I switched to Yahoo less than two years later, and that lasted a long time. Now, with Yahoo Geocities about to expire, I have moved to AT&T Web Hosting. Through all that time, I had that website to express my thoughts about the Whedonverse.

Now, I have my choice between Facebook, MySpace and Blogger to express myself. The webpages I would make for my Geocities site in 2000 are now the blog entries of today, complete with pictures. Still, I have an obligation to keep my website going because it has pieces of very personal history. Is a MySpace entry the best place to put a memorial to the first great internet watering hole? Is a Blogger post the ideal place to show how people were upset with Angel getting kicked off the WB, or put links to other sites? I think not. Sometimes a website is the best place to keep your memories. It's a very special attic, because that sounds better than "storage space".

Anyway, I'll announce the Grand Opening of the new Impaler General's Home Page tomorrow morning, usually after my attempt to get that Dollhouse Special Edition DVD.