Feb 16, 2009

Fox Friday Verdict

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.

13 comments:

sunandheir said...

Wow you confused the crap outta me for a sec :) I reckon you met Jonathan Jackson and not Joshua from Fringe, right?

WITA said...

Yeah, I totally thought that tech guy was going to be classic Whedon relief, too---but no go. :/

Patrick Rennie said...

The Dollhouse is Wolfram and Heart, not the Scoobies. So far, its been about masters and slaves - not family. Thus a notable lack of Whedon banter.

This is not the storytelling engine I was expecting. I expected the pilot would flop over to the "we're all in this together" dynamic of his other shows, but it didn't. So, I can't give it an automatic recommendation to Buffy/Angel/Firefly fans. I'll just have to watch it on its own and see if it holds up.

GeekBoy said...

I pretty much walked into Dollhouse NOT expecting it to have the humor of Buffy, Angel, or Firefly. The premise doesn't really seem suited to it.

The dynamic of those other shows is basically a group of freaks, geeks, and/or rebels fighting against some malevolent entity or organization. It's easy to mine humor from that, because underdogs are always funny, and almost need humor to survive the tragedy of their situation.

But Dollhouse is by its nature a darker premise, and doesn't really invite the kind of banter we saw in those other shows. Which I'm fine with, as long as the show works within its own tone ... but which may end up being the kiss of death if Whedon fans en masse aren't willing accept a darker, more serious story from him.

The Nerdy Bird said...

Dear god yes sunandheir. Sorry about that, edited now. At least I linked to the correct actor!

The Nerdy Bird said...

I think you guys are correct, it's not an automatic win for Buffy/Angel/Firefly fans so it's going to have to work double to keep them around. Then again, there could always be a new crowd that weren't Whedon fans previously who could love it and make it a hit.

zodak said...

i agree with everything you said about dollhouse. i don't know how many people are going to stick around. scc though, i thought was great as it was.

chadmany2k said...

I love it so far. Fran Kranz (who also does amazing character videos on showbizzle.com) is so awesome! He's everywhere I guess! How do you SAY showbizzle?

Andy said...

I was disappointed in the premiere of "Dollhouse" but because it was created by Joss Whedon I am willing to give it a few episodes to find its sea legs.
However, if this had been doen by ANY other creator than Whedon then I would not tune in for episode #2.

Rich said...

I wasn't bowled over by Dollhouse either. I know that Joss said that he wanted controversy, but having the Dolls being used for sex still skeeves me out.

Also, what kind of idiot programs asthma into an operative? And where do they get all these brain engrams from that they use to make an amalgam from?

I expected more, but maybe it'll get better. Also, did you get the
impression from Reed Diamonds "You're whatever she says you are" that Harry Lennix is a doll, or was that just me?

dancewithzombies said...

I agree with your views on Dollhouse. I was practically salivating for this show, as I pretty much eat anything up Whedon-touched. I thought it was enjoyable, but it definitly lacked a certain something. Where is the signature whedon humour? I'm in total agreeance with that.

The Nerdy Bird said...

Rich, I didn't get that impression about Harry but it would be very interesting if that were the case.

Calvin's Canadian Cave of Cool said...

They do seem like they are phoning it in with both shows. Enough with the gloom and doom attitude on SCC. I am tired of everyone bitching that their job it HARD. GET OVER IT. Crack and smile and kick some ass. The only one having any fun is the awesome Shirley Manson and she can't smile. And if I see John Henry play with his Bionicas one more time I will scream. Why don't we just put himin a puppy costume and totally neuter the whole concept while we are at it. At least Christian Bale has some PASSION for the property.