Dollhouse: It’s Not That Bad?

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I’ve been watching Dollhouse. I’ve also been reading the critical reception for it, which has basically been like a mass public wake. There is a sense of mourning. It’s not just that Dollhouse isn’t that good, but that its very not-goodness seems to prove something more sinister about the universe — the very fact that Joss Whedon can produce something non-awesome suggests that something has gone terribly, cosmically wrong.

I put off watching Dollhouse. I don’t watch a lot of TV anyway, which is part of the reason I outsource reviews of Lost and Battlestar Galactica and such to Tuned In. Also I always had a problem with Eliza Dushku. I never liked Faith on Buffy. That whole tough on the outside, tender on the inside act — annoying. I like my tender people tender all the way through. Whedon’s loyalty to Dushku was hard for me to fathom. She’s just not that hot or that good of an actress — it’s like she’s an evil siren, luring Whedon to his doom on the rocks of her talentlessness.

That was before I saw the show. Now that I’ve seen it … I’m still not a fan of Dushku. There’s something flat and heavy-lidded about her that she can’t seem to shake. But there’s other good stuff going on. Olivia Williams is icily English, and I have good associations with Reed Diamond from my days as a Homicide fan. And the guy who plays the lead geek, Topher, has this really hypnotizing blend of creepiness and warmth. I get a queasy-excited feeling every time he says his signature “for a little while.” I don’t know why.

And duh, each episode has at least some of that sharp Whedonian dialogue, than which there is none better. It’s pretty much impossible to fall in love with any characters on Dollhouse, which is weird considering that I was basically in (chaste) love with every single character on Buffy, and most of them on Firefly. Maybe it’s just that it’s jumping from genre to genre every episode. It needs some time to settle down. Then I can fall in love with it.

But chastely. Always chastely.