E: Wednesday brought a bit of bad news to some TV viewers and reality contestants. Today Robin was – finally! shocking now that it’s actually come! – eliminated from Top Chef. And sadly, the last tapper has left So You Think You Can Dance; Pauline and Peter got the boot. I have to admit, I’ll miss them, and I’m really bummed the tappers didn’t last longer, but I’ll be most sorry not to hear Cat say “Paw-leen and Pee-tah.” And poor Robin – what can you say? I’m just praying Jen can get through one more episode of Top Chef and beat Eli to make it to the finals; she’ll get several months to rejuvenate herself, and get her groove back. She’s just too damn brilliant to fall apart like this! I certainly wasn’t surprised to here her tell Kevin she’s done, though.
BUT. The big, bad, sad TV news is this. Cancellations! There’s Southland (too bad they never even aired the new season – so stupid of them, it was a smart, well-made show), Hank (good riddance to bad rubbish), Trauma (no surprise), Eastwick (no surprise), Monk (okay, that’s interesting – I’m honestly not sure I knew they were still making new episodes) (C: It’s their 8th season. From what I understand, this is more of a graceful bowing out than a shocking cancellation) and – sniffle – Dollhouse. Dollhouse, for those who are not devout Joss Whedonites or scrambling for something to watch on Friday nights, was a high concept show starring Eliza Dushku about beautiful people who could be used as, essentially, living dolls; programmed and sent out to fulfill the desires of well funded clients. Then, when the “doll” returns, their memory is wiped, and they wait in a child-like state for their next assignment. Prospective dolls come to the Dollhouse when they have no where to go, and then are returned to their lives afterward with generous compensation a clear conscience. I don’t think the show ever found it’s footing completely, and of course there’s the ugly/titillating issue of so many of the ‘assignments’ being assignations. (C: Yeah… reason #1 why the show creeps me out.) Sometimes, sure, they get to be hostage negotiators or midwives or extreme sports experts or ninjas, but mostly, it’s about the sex. No doubt that’s what sold it to the networks, but it places the audience in an odd position; we’re supposed to feel horrified by the abuse and, like Tahmoh Penikett’s FBI agent Paul Ballard, want to take down the Dollhouse, but clearly the show is doing its best to turn us on, too. So, tough sell from the start. Lots of interesting moral questions, no doubt, but there’s no casting stones about sin here. Everyone’s tainted, including us.
Still, it’s far from dull. There’s interesting mythology involved; where did the dolls come from? There are moles sending out information to the FBI and to politicians. Some of the dolls are retaining memories of their actual selves as well as their various “imprints” (i.e. imprinted personalities). Some have gone insane or missing or both. Agent Ballard failed to take down the Dollhouse, but now works for them (though he’s still trying to bring them down on the sly). The end of last season was thrilling, and while this season hasn’t lived up to that yet, it’d barely begun. And Fox has at least made it clear that they’ll air all thirteen episodes ordered for this (half) season.
I’m sorry the show was cancelled. Not devastated, not crying my eyes out, just a little sorry. But this is the bit I think is really important. Please, please please tell me we will get some sort of resolution here. I think there’s very little more frustrating to a television viewer than to invest their time and energy into a show only to have it go out without being able to come to some sort of conclusion. I understand why that doesn’t usually happen, and of course with a show that only airs a few times it’s not possible – and it’s not such a pressing issue, perhaps, for an episodic show like Southland where there isn’t (at least to my limited knowledge) any sort of overarching mystery. But there’s a lot going on on Dollhouse. I want – I don’t know, but something. Were any of the episodes unfilmed when they got the news? I truly hope so. Perhaps there could be a move forward on Ballard’s (unrequited? weird?) crush on Dushku’s Echo? The return of evil psychopath Alpha? Or my favorite character, the mysterious November? News about the mole, or Echo’s past, or the exposure of the Dollhouse organization and its parent company? Television at its best tells stories that make us think and feel. Was Dollhouse perfect? Hardly. Was it Joss Whedon’s best effort? Hardly. Was it entertaining? Sometimes more than others, but at it’s best, it was definitely enjoyable. And yes, it made us think and it made us feel. It was an original voice, and a fascinating (if deeply flawed) idea. I just hope Whedon gets a chance to really finish off his story in a way that will make us feel like we got to hear him. It can be a gift to know when your time is up. I hope that gift was extended here.