I consider FOX's Dollhouse a rare moment in sci-fi television. It's a highly intellectual and high-concept TV show with seemingly limitless potential that was set to be canceled, but was saved at the last minute by the fans. That's not the rare part. Happens quite a bit in sci-fi TV. What's rare is that, three episodes into the second season, it's clear to me that the renewal was a mistake. This is a show that is fundamentally flawed and will never survive without significant changes. The producers and writers failed to make those changes, proving that they'll never get it right with a million seasons.

The biggest problem with Dollhouse is one of character. The show's "hero," Echo, is at best a blank slate by design. Her personality changes every week in her missions, and when she's not on assignment, she is an intentionally bland and child-like figure. Worse yet, though the show constantly makes references to her being different and special, so far she seems no different than any of the other actives in the Dollhouse. As a result, we have no emotional investment in her. After a full season, I personally didn't really care about her. This hasn't changed with the new season.

Another problem is that the basic premise of the show is ludicrous. We're supposed to believe that millionaires across the world spend top dollar to hire these actives for missions no one else can do. But most of the missions that the actives have been on have been things that a normal person could have done with the right training. Hostage negotiation, infiltration of a fanatic cult, a bodyguard to a celebrity, these are the missions we've seen on the show. While they have been interesting, I've had a hard time accepting that the dolls would be worth the money in the real world. The only real advantage of using an active is that their mind is wiped afterward, so they won't reveal what they've seen. Prostitution is a much better use for the dolls, something that's been implied is the main source of revenue for the Dollhouse, but doesn't make for good television. At least not on the mainstream networks.

With the low ratings, it looks like Dollhouse will be lucky to survive its second season. And I think that's a good thing. Either the writers need to find a way to give Echo a personality, come up with real reasons to use the Dollhouse, and save the show or let's put Dollhouse out of its misery.
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Mauricem said...

Man, you hit the nail on the head. Great characters, but not much else. It's also hard to justify the cost if their not doing really, really sleazy stuff. Maybe it'll move to HBO or Showtime. They love stuff like that.

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