Did anyone else see "The TV Set," written and directed by Jake Kasdan. It was a pretty good little movie about pilot season, and it starred, among others, Fran Kranz as an aggressively terrible actor. Young Mr. Kranz is now in Joss Whedon's "Dollhouse" as a fidgety scientist guy, and I think someone forgot to tell him that he doesn't have to pretend to be a bad actor for this particular role. Or maybe that's just the best he can do.
And, sadly, Kranz isn't the worst part of "Dollhouse."
Maybe "Dollhouse" could work, or could have worked thirty years ago -- it has kind of a vapid, 1970s air about it -- but the premiere episode certainly doesn't give me much faith. Ah, Faith. I guess I could make a "Buffy" joke or something, but that would be more wit than "Dollhouse" displayed in the entire first episode. It doesn't have to be witty to be good, of course, but it isn't good either. Eliza Dushku absolutely fails to carry the weight of this show, and she -- along with so many other cast members -- seem as if they're playing dress up. Even with the darkness of the subject matter, and the violence and murder on display, this is a strangely naive show. It feels as if it's written and directed by someone with no contact with the way humans actually interact with one another. It's all play-acting. All phony as hell.
And maybe that fits the theme of the show, ultimately, but I'm not going to come back next week to find out, because the first episode was shockingly bad.
I also got caught up with the two most recent episodes of "Lost," and while it's fun to see the writers play the game of "hey, look how THESE pieces of the puzzle fit together," some of the apparent explanations are not actually explanations at all. Like the smoke monster, which is "explained" as "oh, it's not a smoke monster, it's the temple's defense mechanism." Those words don't actually explain anything, though. It's still a smoke monster, even when you call it by another name.
Still, it's better than "Dollhouse" by a factor of about three million. Mostly because the actors in "Lost" give weight to even the most ridiculous sci-fi contrivances. I know some critics rank this current season as the best one ever, but I don't think it's quite as good as last season -- the threat is too vaguely defined now, and the time jumps have gotten old fast. Still, it's a well-crafted show, and I have to admire how great every episode looks and sounds, even if it's all slow builds and teases. "Lost" has trained us to expect nothing more, though, so I can stick with it week in and week out.
I really have no emotional investment in the show. And I still sincerely doubt a satisfying wrap-up to years and years of mysteries.
You know what I have developed an emotional investment in? "Doctor Who"! No surprise, there, for anyone who's been reading my writing over the past month. My son and I watched three episodes from Series Two this week: "The Girl in the Fireplace," "Rise of the Cybermen," and "The Age of Steel" and there's more raw emotion and passion and narrative enthusiasm in any one of those episodes than in "Dollhouse" and "Lost" put together. "The Girl in the Fireplace," in particular, was genuinely frightening and full of love and loss. It was a great little episode, perfectly satisfying as a part of a whole, but working astonishingly well as just a stand-alone. And the Cybermen two-parter had a strong emotional core as well, even though the story took place on a parallel world (which could have made it "not matter" in the way that DC's "Trinity" sure the hell does not matter one bit).
Maybe I can't enjoy "Dollhouse" and even "Lost" quite as much because "Doctor Who" has shown that thrilling and funny television shows can feature moral dilemmas without being bogged down in slow storytelling and ponderous mysteries.
If so, it's a lesson I'm glad to learn. Very glad.
What are YOU watching?