Well, last night was the long awaited premiere of Joss Whedon's new creation, Dollhouse. I am a late addition to the Whedonverse, as I have embraced my inner geek late in life. I never really watched Buffy or Angel. My first real introduction to Whedon was Dr. Horrible, which I loved enough to go back and watch Firefly on Hulu. Firefly was fantastic, and my summer viewing project is to go back and watch Buffy. So, I was excited to be able to get in on the ground floor of a Whedon project for once.
On to the show...I thought it was pretty good as pilots go, but it's always tough to gauge how good a show is going to be just based on the pilot. In a pilot, there is always so much more to "do" than just tell a story, and that can lead to some clunkiness. You have to introduce all of the characters and give them a voice and a personality that can later be delivered in a much more nuanced way, you have to lay the groundwork for the overarching story, etc...
Overall, I think this pilot served its purpose...we know what the Dollhouse is (an illegal service that employees "actives," who have their own memories and personalities wiped and replaced with whatever the client wants, only to be wiped clean again once that job is over), we're introduced to the FBI agent who is trying to bring them down, we are introduced to the main characters. So, as a pilot, the job was done.
What I really didn't like about the plot of this one is that I never really bought the motivations of the client. If all he wanted to do was pay the ransom and get his daughter back without police involvement, why couldn't he just do it himself? In fact, if not for the amazing (and reality-stretching) fact that Echo was implanted with memories of a person who was kidnapped by these SAME kidnappers, then he would have in fact turned out worse by employing the Dollhouse...he still wouldn't have his daughter back, he would be out an additional $3M thanks to Echo's "negotiations," plus he would be out whatever ridiculous sum that he paid for Echo's services. I actually like the Dollhouse concept, and I think there are many different situations they could have portrayed that made more sense.
And...I'm not a big fan of Eliza Dushku as an actress, so I'm concerned as to whether she can pull this off. She's hot, no doubt...but she has always come off as wooden to me. And in a show like this she has to have the range to play essentially a different character every week. But, Joss has a good track record, so hopefully she'll prove me wrong. And, like Shan pointed out on his recap, it could be that the "characters" that Echo is portraying may be filtered through her original personality, so that would make it more feasible.
Despite what this post is starting to sound like, I actually thought it was an entertaining and engaging hour of television, and I will certainly be back next week. Some of the interviews and reviews I read said that due to network pressure, the first few episodes were written almost as stand-alone episodes, and the story will really start to pick up around 4-5 episodes in...hopefully, Fox will give the show time to build an audience, and I actually think the dreaded Friday night timeslot may actually take some of the pressure off when it comes to that.
I would probably give the pilot a B-, with definite potential for improvement.