This Friday debuted on FOX the new TV series created by Joss Whedon, Dollhouse, and I watched it.
The episode was good and entertaining, good screenplay. I think the concept is a little weak and there’s only so much you can do with it. With the elements they have I think they have done a good job.
In general I don’t like much this kind of series that are based around one “cool idea” and then examine it from different perspective and in various contexts. I like a lot more series that have a point. An overall plot, continuity, growth, development. Something that moves as it goes and links all the threads together. Dollhouse is instead a concept that works well with standalone episodes. I think that with every episode they’ll tell a different story with a different lead. For a TV series this is risky because usually the good authors only write directly a few key episodes and then let other writers fill the rest. If the personality and flow of a series is strong, then the quality is smooth across all episodes, but if the quality is more dependent on the whims of the single episode and its plot, then the outcome is more uneven and risky. Today all TV series have to juggle with these two aspects: from one side the cool idea that the defines the single episode, and from the other the continuity that builds the characters and overall plot. You need the perfect balance because if you rely too much on the continuity you risk that spectators forget details and the show is hard to follow, from the other if the episodes are too standalone they finish to “carry over” less audience, have more high and lows, lose fidelity and end being all the same.
Dollhouse falls in this second category, with execution being superior to its premise. Its ongoing quality is going to depend more on the quality of the writing of the single episode and less on the overall work with production, cast and so on. As I said I thought the first episode was good, but the idea at the base isn’t new nor interpreted in an original way. Mostly used as an escamotage so that they can explore completely different “flavors” with every episode. So it can be thriller one time, love story another, action, spy games etc… Mixing different themes as they like and see fit. So while getting freedom, this also keeps things a bit “loose” and not too compelling on their own. It risks to run dry and without inspiration.
For now it works. Fairly well done series but that lacks something that “grips” or makes it unmissable. A good execution that could have been used for something more poignant.