Posts Tagged ‘Joss Whedon’

People in Glass Dollhouse’s

dollhouse

All across the internet, groups of Whedonites are doing their damndest to save the latest offspring of Writer/ Director/ Producer Joss Whedon, Dollhouse.   Despite a rough start, Whedon’s fans aren’t ready to let go.

The question in the air is “how do we save Dollhouse?”  But I’m sure I’m not alone in that I can’t help but think the real question is “Is Dollhouse worth saving?”

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Dollhouse is the result of a now semi-famous lunch between star/ producer Eliza Dushku and Whedon.  It’s about a young woman, code-named Echo, who lives a life of servitude to an evil corporation.  She is prostituted out to clients of specific means.  He mind is wiped and digitally supplanted by a false personality, one which serves the needs of the client.  The new personality can be anything from a pop star’s backup singer to a bank robber to an actual prostitute. The show is essentially a vehicle for Dushku so that she can explore her range as an actress.

eliza-dushku-dollhouse-terminator-promo-joss-whedon

We were all frothing at the mouths when the announcement of Whedon’s intentions were made.  His many fans… some called Whedonites, others taking the name Browncoats… have felt an absence since 2005 when his film Serenity aired.  The long wait of production inched across our spines like a snake.  Our patience was tested to its limits.   

And then came the rumors.   Joss’ last show, Firefly ended abruptly despite a rabid fan base, do entirely to the  incompetance and lack of faith provided by the network that greenlit the show, Fox.  After an extended absence, Fox Studios decided to give Joss the money to turn Firefly into a full-fledged feature film, Serenity.  The decision was not borne of generosity; it came on the heels of the massive DVD sales for the show, which in turn spread the fans of the show even further.  Still, the wound is fresh.  Firefly could have gone down as one of the greatest Scifi shows of all time (it still might).   So when it was revealed that Dollhouse would appear on Fox, Browncoats everywhere breathed a collective groan.

Network interference in Dollhouse ran amuck.  The original pilot was completely scrapped.  Constant re-writes.  New episodes written and shot in haste.  Some began to wonder if the show would air at all.

And then it did.   And the reaction was… “meh.”  The show wasn’t bad.  Underwhelming perhaps, but not bad.  The trouble is, it wasn’t Joss. And immediately blame fell to the studio.  

But as I sit and watch the penultimate episode of the season, I begin to suspect that there is more to it.   For starters, while the show has a cool premise, it lacks focus.  Echo cannot be counted as a central character, since she is a different person in every episode.  The male lead, Agent Paul Ballard is somewhat enticing, but every time I see him I think of Helo.  (Note: Ballard is played by Tahmoh Penikett, who just ended his performance as Helo in the acclaimed Battlestar Galactica mere weeks ago.)    And even the appearances of Whedonverse alums Alan Tudyk and Amy Acker have not raised excitement.  The show has gotten much better as its gone along, but it’s still missing something, that X-Factor.

Echo_Dollhouse

And I think I know what it might be.   I mentioned earlier that Dollhouse is designed as a vehicle for Eliza Dushku.  Whedon is a writer, first and foremost.  And a writer’s first duty is to tell a good story.  The casting is at best an after-thought.    In Dollhouse, the show was created to suit the actress.   It is in many ways, her costume.   And it is reflected at every corner.  All of the actors in the show are technically good, but their performances feel hollow.   It is as if Dollhouse is a mirror image of Echo herself, a blank slate being artifically filled.

The show is also thematically estranged from Joss’ previous productions.He’s known for creating strong, independent female characters.  Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly all featured women that were stronger than their male counterparts. Prostitutes were seen as ‘Companions’; strong, respected and independant women, not to mention treated as Ambassadors to some degree.   Characters Willow and Cordelia begat from humble roots and became all-powerful demon— thingies.   Dollhouse, however is frought with helpless women.  Sure, Echo and fellow Doll, Sierra are known to kick butt from time to time.  But far more common are the scenes where they are being rescued and protected by their handlers such as Boyd Langton (played superbly by Harry Lennix) or Agent Ballard.   And worse, many of the relationships in that regard are intensely creepy or perverse.  Langton sees himself as a father-figure to Echo, but he is just as culpable as her captors.  By contrast, Ballard wishes to rescue Echo, whose real name is Caroline. But his brutal methods pushed by an obsession with the Dollhouse and Caroline have only served to push her away and towards Langton.  So who is the villain in this scenario?  And the worst offender is Topher, the man who programs the Dolls.  He is their doctor and care-taker and is sort of a funny, quirky little man… but I can’t help but feel an intense rapist vibe from him.  It’s all quite mad.

As I put the finishing touches to this piece, Briar Rose, the second to last episode of the season is drawing to a close.  Harry Lennix and Tahmoh Penikett have had a fight scene nearly as beautiful as it is brutal.  Alan Tudyk and Amy Acker are bringing a kind of magic to the screen that I wasn’t sure the show was capable of.    And the twist at the end… brilliant.

But will it sustain me?  Can the show sustain itself as is?  And on a studio that has shown a lack of confidence at every turn. That smell you’re sensing? Is the scent of  eminent success, or is it the chill of an approaching icebeg as the show sinks like the Titanic?   

Part of me wonders if the fight for the show is about how good Dollhouse is/ could be, or if this is some sort of subconscious retribution for Firefly’s untimely death.

As a Browncoat, I am not sure I’m ready to give up, but I do think that it will take a mircale to keep the show going.  And in the end, I might rather see what Joss would come up with given a fresh start at a different studio or network.  

At any rate, I will be purchasing Dollhouse when it comes to DVD this summer.

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Buffy: My Favorite Episodes

If we lived in Joss Whedon’s world, you might call me List Guy.  I love lists.  Don’t know why.

Joss Whedon is one of my heroes, and though I mourn the end of his run on Astonishing X-Men, I’m excited that he has a new show coming soon.   Welcome to the Dollhouse, starring Eliza Dushku (who I’ve been in love with since Bye Bye Love), will once again provide my Whedon fix.   In light of that, I was thinking about Joss’ first show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.   I was a HUGE fan of the first few seasons of the show.   And I currently read the “Season 8” comic.   For a long time, Buffy was the best thing on television.  So I made a list of my favorite shows from it’s 7 year run.

10. Graduation Day, Season 3

There’s nothing altogether special about this episode, besides the moment when Buffy tells the Watcher’s Council that she quits.   It is note-worthy that this episode is in fact Buffy’s true moment of Graduation into the world of adulthood, if not her actually becoming an adult.   It also features  the final confrontation between Buffy and her former friend, the rogue vampire slayer, Faith (Eliza Dushku).  In a way this episode kind of sucks because it marks Dushku’s exit from the show.  But it’s a fun episode featuring the entire student population of Sunnydale High vs a giant Snake.   Fuck Sam Jackson.

9.  The Wish, Season 3

The concept of a dark alternate reality isn’t anything new in the world of Science Fiction, but it’s always fun. In the Buffy version, Cordelia accidentally makes a deal with a demon to make it so that the Slayer never came to Sunnydale.  Nightmare realities ensue.  Buffy is a hardened warrior in Cleveland.  Angel is held captive by The Master.  Giles and Oz are vampire hunters fighting a losing battle.  And Willow and Xander are sadistic vamps.  When she realizes what happened, it’s up to Cordelia to set things right… except she gets killed.

8. Becoming pt 2, Season 2

There’s so much good here.  What really makes it one of my favorites is the final moments.  Angel’s soul has been taken from him and he’s summoned a demon who will destroy the world unless Buffy kills Angel. Buffy battles him for the sake of the planet.  Willow manages to restore Angel’s soul at the last second.  And just as Buffy is about to send Angel to hell, she realizes that his soul is back.  He looks into her eyes with love, and she kills him anyway, having no choice.  She is left broken and alone, and leaves Sunnydale.  Destroying his favorite character is what Whedon does best, and this was classic Joss. The whole thing is heart-wrenching.

7. Hush, Season 4

The famous silent episode.  Demons steal the voices of the entire town so that no one can cry for help while they kill.  The vast majority of the episode is completely silent except for the soundtrack.  The effect is haunting, and for the first time Buffy felt like a true horror show.

6. Primeval, Season 4

Season 4 was about the Scoobies post high school.  The course of the season sent all of them in different directions and drove a… stake between them.   The penultimate episode of Season 4 brought them back together in a meaningful way, and showed that they were stronger together than apart.  The season finale was a more interesting episode, but I went with this one because it’s so reflective of what happens to friends after college.  It’s real.

5. The Zeppo, Season 3

Three words: Xander gets laid.  And by mega-hot slayer, Faith, no less.  My favorite character has always been Xander, simply because he’s the me of the Whedon-verse.   He constantly gets dumped on and never seems to fit in.   He finally got a girlfriend, and lost her because he was an idiot.   This ep shows how useless he is, and then proceeds to disprove it as he manages to save the town.  All of which is wrapped up in one of the best jokes the show ever had, as the Scoobies face down the Hellmouth demon… without ever showing it to us.

4. The Body, Season 5

Buffy finds her dead mother in this episode, and is forced to deal with life without her, not to mention the concept of caring for her younger sister.   What will really stick with you about this episode are the moments where Buffy and Dawn are left alone with their Mother’s body.   It’ll leave you with a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach, and burning desire to hug your Mother.

3. Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered, Season 2

It’s hard to top this episode.   Many of my favorites are Xander-centric shows, and this is the best of them.  Xander is in love with Cordelia, but she dumps him because her friends think he’s a loser.  So he casts a love spell on her, which backfires and makes everyone BUT Cordelia fall madly in love with him.   In some ways you would imagine that to be every man’s fantasy.   You’d be wrong.  The women go mad with “love” and try to kill Xander and Cordelia both.  It’s worth the price of admission just for the scene when Buffy tries, in the most sultry, seductive way I can imagine, to fuck Xander.   But I think what I love about this is that in the end, the underdog finally gets the girl.

2. Once More With Feeling, Season 6

It seems Joss loves musicals as much as I do.   So he wrote an entire episode as a musical.  The result is awesome.  The music was so good I bought the soundtrack.  And it also includes some of the most important moments of the entire season.  This was the lone bright spot in the otherwise depressing sixth season.

1.  Chosen, Season 7

I remember most of the series finale, but what really sticks out for me is the moment where the four original Scoobies stand in the middle of Sunnydale High preparing for battle.  Joss wrote this brilliant scene where the four converse in their patented Scooby-speak, going out as they came in, as the best of friends.  It was the perfect end to was of the best shows in TV history.

10 Writers That Have Influenced Me

I started back to work on a writing project that I haven’t been able to touch for months. The project, called Earning My Ears, is an auto-biographical account of my time working and living in Walt Disney World. While it is written very much in the vein of my comedic voice, the style of writing is very unusual for me. truthfully, I don’t really have a particular style. I’m sort of all over the place. And that got me to thinking about the writers who have influenced me. So I thought I would make a list. These are all my influences, from various different genres. Bare in mind that these people influenced my writing.

10. S.E. Hinton

The Outsiders was the first novel I ever read. It’s probably the only book from those school summer reading lists that I actually liked. It was amazing. A whole universe became real to me through the written word. I could see them in my head, feel their actions, empathize with their plights. I loved it so much that I read the sequel, That Was Then, This Is Now.

read: The Outsiders; That Was Then, This Is Now (duh!)

9. Peter David

Comic books are probably the biggest influence on my life. So much of who I am and what I know is based entirely on them. As such, the writers are ultimately my fathers in many ways. Peter David is one of the prolific writers I ever heard of. There were many times when he was writing 6 books every month, in addition to his history of writing and producing television series. But what he gave me most was the understanding that books and life can be funny. His sense of humor permeates everything he writes, but it isn’t heavy handed like a sitcom, nor introduced as a comedy bit.

read: anything from his fifteen years writing The Incredible Hulk (especially the Pantheon years); current reads: X-Factor, Stephen King’s The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born

8. Eddie Murphy

Ever wonder where I got my filthy fucking mouth from? Like many kids I wanted to be Eddie Murphy growing up. He was THE comedian of my youth. And my blue sense of humor is totally his fault.

see: Raw; Beverly Hills Cop 2; Coming to America; old episodes of Saturday Night Live

7. Allen Ginsberg

He was in my 10 Corpses blog last week. What is there left to say about him? My poetry became more ephemeral after reading his work. It didn’t all have to be organized or clear. Writing could be hazy, colorful and chaotic.

read: Howl

6. Chris Claremont

Like all legends, Claremont is still working and has overstayed his welcome. I shudder to think of some little kid reading him on Exiles and thinking “This guy sucks!” He does… now. But at one point he was the greatest writer in the history of comics. (That may be an exaggeration.) Stan Lee created the X-Men. Claremont defined them. Nearly every writer since has done some sort of riff on his work. And not just in comics! The Days of Future Past story has been done to death in every major medium. The season 1 episode of Heroes, Five Years Gone? Claremont homage, baby!

read: anything X-Men from the 1980’s- 1993(?) , particularly Days of Future Past

5. Joss Whedon

This guy is the Elvis Presley of writers. I looooooooved Buffy the Vampire Slayer! (The show, anyway.) Joss should be worshiped as a God if only for the act of getting Eliza Dushku in leather pants during fight scenes. But it was Firefly, his short lived space show turned cult favorite, turned film (Serenity) that changed my world. You see, I have this idea for a series of books that started when I was ten years old as a Claremont/ X-Men rip off. It evolved from that slowly. But it was Firefly that changed my whole vision of it. Firefly is one of the greatest television shows ever.

see: Firefly, Buffy, Angel read: Astonishing X-Men tpb. vol 1-4; Buffy Season 8

4. Stephen Wright

One of the unsung heroes of comedy. This guy is either a certifiable genius or a certifiable nut case. It is possible he is both. His comedy showed me that jokes can be free form and random. Like Ginsberg’s poetry, it lacks any structure or organization, but is genius in every way. Someone once told me out of the blue that my sense of humor reminded him of Wright. I damn near cried.

3. Dylan Thomas

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night. Nuff said.

2. Kevin Smith

His stories are both personal, mature, and yet wholly child-like and vulgar. he showed me that the kind of writing I like to do can work, and guys like us can succeed against all odds.

1. J. Michael Straczynski.

I’ve been watching the shows he writes since I was 8 years old, even without knowing it. He-Man. The Real Ghost Busters. Other things I can’t remember. But Babylon 5, his seminal work, changed my world. It is the most complex, character driven story ever put on television. Each and every character has an arc across the 5 seasons that the show was produced. They were portrayed as real people, whose experiences and hardships fundamentally change them as they go through life. Some for the better, some for the worse.

I still want to be Anla’Shok.

see: Babylon 5 read: Amazing Spider-man recent trade paperbacks (recommend John Romita Jr issues.)

Honorable mention: Robert Plant, Tori Amos, George Lucas, Alfred Tennyson, Fabian Niceiza, Willie Nelson