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Hercules Has Seen DOLLHOUSE, The First Television Series From BUFFY/ANGEL/FIREFLY Creator Joss Whedon In Five Years!!

I am – Hercules!!
Tonight’s premiere of Joss Whedon’s “Dollhouse,” the tale of beautiful young people who repeatedly have memories extracted and implanted for fun and profit, turns out to be a big disappointment. It brims with giant ideas and cool Fox action but lacks the big laughs that lure many to Whedon’s work. Also, I’m not sure its premise makes appreciably more sense than NBC’s similar, sillier “My Own Worst Enemy.” Were your young daughter abducted by kidnappers, would you hire seasoned negotiators or would you pay extra for a hot girl somehow programmed with the minds of seasoned negotiators? The Dollhouse organization, at least in the early going, doesn’t strike me as the greatest economic model. (There’s more real-world dough, I’d imagine, in the other role Echo/Dushku plays tonight, that of somebody’s perfect, gorgeous, willing date.) The kidnapping plot at the center of tonight’s episode, nowhere near as compelling as the one in “Ransom” or NBC’s “Kidnapped” pilot, too often feels like generic cop-show fodder. The good news is episode two, which – among many other things – delves into a mystery tied to the Amy Acker character’s scars, turns out to be a big improvement. Give the series points for being one of the stranger things on TV. Lead actress Eliza Dushku’s character, Echo, isn’t remotely the main character; Dushku spends most of her screen time playing different guest star roles each week. This makes for a great actressy showcase – but TV anthologies haven’t been popular for a while now, and it’s easier to build a rooting interest in a character who doesn't disappear for good after 30 minutes. The closest thing the series has to a regular main character is the handsome but troubled FBI agent (Tahmoh Penikett, also playing “Galactica” hero Karl Agathon on Friday nights) determined to prove the Dollhouse exists. It took me more than a season to warm up to Whedon’s “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”; it took the sneery vampire Spike’s season-two introduction to convince me “Buffy” was actually the Best Show Ever. One of the things “Buffy,” “Angel” and “Firefly” have in common is each got considerably more interesting as it went along. More reasons to stick around: Fox execs apparently took a heavy hand in “helping” Whedon fine-tune this series’ first episode (hopefully “Dollhouse’s” orginal, never-to-be-aired pilot will find its way onto a DVD or Blu-ray disc at some point), and future episodes are scripted by world-class TV writers like Jane Espenson (“Buffy,” “Battlestar Galactica”) and Tim Minear (“Angel,” “Wonderfalls”). Entertainment Weekly gives it an “B-minus” and says:
… Dushku's acting is dexterous and beguiling. Given the artfully vague hints of an intriguingly desperate past for Echo, as well as Whedon's track record, we ought to cut the show some slack. Let's see if Whedon can bring this doll to greater life. …
USA Today gives it two and a half stars (out of four) and says:
… an empty-vessel premise that probably couldn't support a series even were it more adroitly cast … The result is a show that his most devoted fans will debate and embrace, and a mass audience just won't get. … We love you, Joss, but please, build something else.
Time Magazine says:
… If it weren't for Whedon's pedigree, I'm not sure I'd be dying to see a second episode. …
The New York Times says:
… has an amusing premise, but the universe it inhabits in the early episodes is thin and bland. The sinister corporation behind the Dollhouse is ill-defined, and the show’s main characters are one-dimensional, including the real-life dolls. …
The Los Angeles Times says:
… beyond disappointing. Overcrowded with plotlines, high-tech gimmicks and ambition yet empty of emotional connection and purpose, "Dollhouse" tries so hard to be so many things it winds up being nothing much at all. …
The Chicago Tribune says:
… is "Dollhouse" worth watching? Though Whedon fans no doubt want the answer to be a slam-dunk "yes," I can only, at this point, supply a more tentative "Yes, but …" …
The Washington Post says:
… a pretentious and risible jumble … Slices of mumbo don't come much more jumbo than this … it's enough to make one long for the days when TV dramas were criticized for being too pat, too predictable, too much like one another. Whedon, who directed the pilot, certainly dressed it up stylishly, but I'll take simple coherence over fancy-pants trappings any day. …
The San Francisco Chronicle says:
… a major disappointment. … judging from two additional episodes - one a step forward, the other a step back to the underwhelming quality of the pilot - it could be that Whedon has invested too much hope in his muse, Eliza Dushku, the star of "Dollhouse." It could also be that the premise is too flawed for anyone to elevate.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says:
… isn't awful, but neither is it remarkably good. It's a passable hour of entertainment that shows potential to improve but flails and confuses (and occasionally bores) from the start. …
The Salt Lake Tribune says:
… The kidnapping story is standard criminal fare, and we are given little to no information about Echo's background, which might give viewers a reason to latch on to her character. … I'll watch a few more episodes, but I'm afraid it won't be any more watchable than one of "Star Trek's" worst episodes ever.
The Newark Star Ledger says:
… The idea seems too complicated by half … it looks like a slate that keeps getting half-wiped as Whedon struggles to decide what to draw. …
The Boston Globe says:
… doesn't stand up to the broad interpretations it invites. … Ultimately, you'll want to think about "Dollhouse" more than you'll want to think about watching "Dollhouse." …
Variety says:
Joss Whedon's cult following is no secret, but he seems assured of attracting the faithful and little else with "Dollhouse" -- a series that exhibits a kitchen-sink mentality, throwing in a half-dozen assorted plot threads that intertwine to create confusion. … attempting to unravel this convoluted package suggests that by the time "Dollhouse" finds itself, there won't be anybody but hard-core Whedon worshippers left to play with. …
The Hollywood Reporter says:
… it's easy to see the high aspiration and grand potential of the series but far more difficult to develop any sort of attachment to either the conceit or its enchanting young star and co-producer, Eliza Dushku. … Although Whedon infuses "Dollhouse" with an impressively detailed story line and social structure as well as nifty production values, the show lacks something for viewers to grab onto. Having a personality-shifting protagonist makes for a rooting challenge and, at its core, a disappointingly soulless exercise. On the other hand, Whedon knows how to build a story like few others, and Dushku is an uncommonly talented performer who breathes vibrant life into the ever-evolving blank canvas scheme. So this could definitely turn into something special over time, if the Friday night ratings can justify the patience.

Lena Headey loves this Grindhouse promo: 9 p.m. Friday. Fox.

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Season Eight: Volume Four!!

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