Fox practically bashed us over the head with their new Friday line-up - Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and Joss Whedon's Dollhouse. They even went so far as to create Grindhouse-style trailers and have stars Summer Glau and Eliza Dushku host the first night. So, did Fox's "D-Girl" team-up put asses in the seats?
The answer? Eh, sorta. SCC managed only 3.7 million viewers while Dollhouse grabbed a million more. It's not bad but it's not a home-run either. For a mid-season return and a full blown premiere, the shows lacked a certain "wow" factor that is crucial to keeping viewers around for the long-haul.
Let's start with SCC. Last we saw the crew, Sarah was suffering from a gun-shot wound, John's girlfriend Riley had slit her wrists and Cameron, Derek and Jessie weren't really doing much at all. Riley, unfortunately, ends up at the hospital where she quickly runs off with Jessie. Sarah wakes up in another hospital and escapes with the help of her dead lover. Most of the episode consists of Sarah speaking to Reese while slipping in and out of consciousness from the blood loss and pain. Now, I've loved Jonathan Jackson since he played Lucky on General Hospital so I can't complain about seeing more of him but it's heavy, emotional dialogue and absolutely the wrong kind of introduction to this new era as it were.
The highlight of the episode is when the murder and destruction finally get going. It comes, not at the hand of Cameron who does practically nothing the entire episode, but from Catherine Weaver, the bad-ass redhead T-1001. After tamed Terminator John Henry informs her ZeiraCorps cover has been compromised, (not to mention him revealing he's aware she's a machine) she "cleans house." She violently murders every employee with her multi-function stabby hands and blows up the building all the while keeping her chic white dress spotless.
I'm sad to say Dollhouse was severely lacking and that's what I've been hearing and reading everywhere else too. Besides coming from a very successful and talented man, the premise has a lot of potential. It's similar to Alias in a way, the main character takes on a new role each week varying from the mundane to the extreme with a secret organization behind her pulling the strings. The only difference is, SD-6 didn't mind-wipe Sydney Bristow after each operation.
Besides being extremely bland, Dollhouse didn't provide the type of groundwork usually laid out in a premiere episode. We're given a brief look at Dushku's character Echo's previous life before she's whisked away to begin work. The general sense is, it's not a good thing to work in the Dollhouse, but the sense of urgency to get free everyone wasn't there. The fact that they shower together and get daily massages doesn't help things either. Technically, they're helping people but of course, there lies the dramatic seed for the entire series.
Speaking of drama, they might want to lighten up a bit. Another component that Dollhouse seemed to be lacking was humor. In a big way. I thought for sure the tech guy was going to be our comic relief but it seems like he'll be going the creepy "you're all my darlings" route instead (like the dude who took care of the precogs in Minority Report). My hopes rose again when Amy Acker stepped on screen but she's got serious Peter Petrelli scarrage going on and it looks like she may not even know how to laugh.
I'm sticking with SCC no matter what because I'm a huge Terminator fan but Whedon and Dushku are going to have to do some heavy lifting in the Dollhouse to keep me around for more than a few episodes.