Dollhouse (TV series)

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Dollhouse intertitle
Genre Drama
Science Fiction
Created by Joss Whedon
Written by Joss Whedon
Tim Minear
Maurissa Tancharoen
Jed Whedon
Tracy Bellomo
Andrew Chambliss
Starring Eliza Dushku
Harry Lennix
Tahmoh Penikett
Fran Kranz
Enver Gjokaj
Dichen Lachman
Olivia Williams
Theme music composer Jonatha Brooke
Eric Bazilian
Opening theme "What You Don't Know" by Jonatha Brooke
Country of origin United States
Language(s) English
No. of seasons 1
No. of episodes 8 (List of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Joss Whedon
David Solomon
Elizabeth Craft &
Sarah Fain
Producer(s) Eliza Dushku
Tim Minear
Steven DeKnight
Location(s) Los Angeles
Running time 47-50 mins
exc. advertisements
Original channel FOX
Original run February 13, 2009 – present
External links
Official website

Dollhouse is an American science fiction television series created by writer-director Joss Whedon under Mutant Enemy Productions. The show premiered on February 13, 2009 on the Fox network. Episodes of Dollhouse are about six minutes longer than standard one-hour dramas on US network television, as the show airs with half as many commercial advertising slots.


[edit] Plot

Eliza Dushku plays a young woman called Echo, a member of a group of people known as "Actives" or "Dolls". The Dolls are people whose personalities and existence in the outside world have been wiped clean so they can be imprinted with any number of new personas, including memory, muscle memory, skills, and language, for different assignments (referred to as engagements). The new persona is an amalgam of several real people, and the end result necessarily incorporates both strengths and flaws from the template personalities. The Actives are then hired out for particular jobs – crimes, fantasies, and the occasional good deed. On engagements, Actives are monitored internally (and remotely) by Handlers. In between engagements they are mind-wiped into a child-like state and live in a futuristic dormitory/laboratory, a hidden facility nicknamed "The Dollhouse". The Dollhouse is located somewhere in Los Angeles and is a subsidiary of a mysterious research group known as the Rossum Corporation.

The story follows Echo, who begins, in her mind-wiped state, to become self-aware.[2][3]

The show also focuses on the employees of the mysterious "Dollhouse" and two other "Dolls", Sierra and Victor (played by Dichen Lachman and Enver Gjokaj), who are friendly with Echo. The names of Actives are simply letters in the phonetic alphabet. Although the Actives are ostensibly volunteers who work for a period of five years, the operation is highly illegal and under constant threat on one end from Paul Ballard (Tahmoh Penikett), a determined federal agent who has heard a rumor about the Dolls, and an insane rogue Active, "Alpha", on the other.[3]

[edit] Production

The series stars Eliza Dushku, who worked with Whedon on the cult television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain are the showrunners, while Tim Minear and Steven DeKnight serve as consulting producers.[4][5] In addition to Joss Whedon, the writing staff includes Tim Minear, Jed Whedon (Joss's brother), Maurissa Tancharoen, Andrew Chambliss, Tracy Bellomo, Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain.[6] Whedon will direct a number of his own episodes, as he has done in past series. Tim Minear and Buffy producer David Solomon are also set to direct.[7] A viral marketing campaign promoting Dollhouse was started on May 26, 2008.[8]

Dollhouse, which is produced by 20th Century Fox Television, Whedon's Mutant Enemy Productions[9][10] and Dushku's Boston Diva Productions, has been granted a thirteen-episode production commitment by Fox, with a reported license fee in the range of US$1.5 to 2 million per episode.[11][12] Fox decided to forgo the pilot episode of the series, opting to put funds towards the construction of the elaborate set and cultural context of the television series. It has been described as a "life-size Dollhouse".[13] On July 22, 2008, Joss Whedon announced that the first episode shot, "Echo", would be pushed to be the second, while a new episode would become first, saying that this "idea to do a new first episode wasn’t the network's. It was mine."[14] Despite several reshoots, "Echo" was later pulled from the run entirely.[15]

Dollhouse, along with J. J. Abrams' Fringe, will air with half the commercials and promo spots of most current network dramas, adding about 6 minutes to the shows' run times, as part of a new Fox initiative called "Remote-Free TV".[16] Fox is charging a premium price for this advertising space, but they are not completely recouping the money that this move is costing them, thus it is not yet known if "Remote-Free TV" will be back next season.[17]

In July 2008 Whedon announced he was planning to shoot a separate webisode for every Dollhouse episode produced.[18] The webisodes have not materialized for the first season, however.

On Feb. 10, 2009, Dushku told reporters in a conference call that Whedon has a 5-year plan for the show, and has decided how his characters will evolve through that point. [19]

On April 9, 2009, actress Felicia Day posted on Twitter that the 13th episode of the first season of "Dollhouse," which she guest-starred in, would not air. Whedon refuted speculation that Fox was set to cancel the show, and producer Tim Minear explained that the missing 13th episode would be on the DVD. The reason Minear gave for the episode's being dropped was that Fox was counting a pilot that was reshot as part of the original 13-episode order.[20]

[edit] Casting

Anya Colloff and Amy McIntyre Britt, who previously worked with Joss Whedon on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, and Serenity, are the show's casting directors.[21]

On March 26, 2008, it was officially announced that Tahmoh Penikett, Dichen Lachman, Fran Kranz, and Enver Gjokaj had been cast in four principal roles for the show.[22][23] On April 3, 2008, it was announced that Olivia Williams would be playing the role of Adelle DeWitt.[24] On April 17, 2008, it was announced that Harry J. Lennix had also joined the cast.[25] On the same day, Joss Whedon announced on that Miracle Laurie and Amy Acker were to complete the cast.[26]

Brennan Elliott and Michael Muhney auditioned for the part of Paul Ballard but lost out to Penikett. Ian Anthony Dale and Paul Campbell auditioned for Victor, but Gjokaj got the part.[27]

[edit] Cast

The Dollhouse cast. L to R: Agent Ballard, Victor, Echo, Sierra, Topher Brink, Adelle DeWitt, Boyd Langton

The Dollhouse cast consists mainly of Actives (or Dolls) and Dollhouse employees.[28] The dolls are named after the NATO phonetic alphabet.

[edit] Main cast

  • Echo (Eliza Dushku) is an Active and star of the series. She is one of the most popular Actives in the Dollhouse, and, during the course of her engagements, has shown skills that transcend the limitations of her parameters. Echo has become increasingly self-aware during her blank state. Prior to having her mind wiped, Echo was a college activist named Caroline Farrell.
  • Boyd Langton (Harry J. Lennix), a former cop, is now a handler (bodyguard) at the Dollhouse assigned to Echo. He is protective of Echo and has doubts about the ethics of what the Dollhouse does with the Actives.
  • Topher Brink (Fran Kranz) is the programmer who designed all the technology at the Dollhouse and is the one who uses it to imprint the new personalities on the Actives. He has stated that the technology takes imprints from existing people, which he then mixes and matches to create the desired imprint.
  • Paul Ballard (Tahmoh Penikett) is the FBI special agent assigned to the Dollhouse case. While most in the Bureau view the case as a joke, he takes it seriously, to the point of obsession. He is briefly involved with his neighbor Mellie.
  • Victor (Enver Gjokaj) is an Active who is occasionally imprinted to be Lubov, a member of a Russian mob family whose purpose is to keep Special Agent Ballard away from the Dollhouse in the first four episodes of the series. In his mind-wiped state, he is inexplicably attracted (both physically and emotionally) to Sierra.[29]
  • Sierra (Dichen Lachman) is the most recent Active to be added to the Dollhouse. She is instinctively drawn to Echo, but lacks her self-awareness. The episode "Man on the Street" reveals she was raped four times by her handler Hearn while in a blank state. Topher has done his best to rid her of these memories, but subsequent episodes reveal that he was not entirely successful. The episode "Needs" revealed that prior to having her mind wiped, her name was Priya.
  • Adelle DeWitt (Olivia Williams) is the highest ranking official at the Los Angeles Dollhouse. She truly believes that what they do at the Dollhouse helps people. Although Adelle is the head of her Dollhouse, she does answer to off-screen superiors; "Man on the Street" reveals that the LA Dollhouse just one of over twenty worldwide.

[edit] Recurring cast

  • Dr. Claire Saunders (Amy Acker) serves as the Actives' general physician. She is scarred from a razor attack by Alpha. The role was originally conceived for a woman in her 40s or 50s. Since working together on Angel (where Acker was a regular cast member for three years), Acker and Whedon had been close friends. Deciding Acker would be the best actress for the part, Whedon adapted the character, despite initial reservations about casting too many Buffy and Angel alumni.[30]
  • Laurence Dominic (Reed Diamond)[15] is head of security at the Dollhouse. He takes his job very seriously, but doesn't seem to think very highly of the Dolls themselves, viewing them more as pets than humans. In "True Believer", he attempted to kill Echo, but failed and has also suggested for her to be retired as an Active, and put in something called "the Attic". In "Echoes", he intoxicatedly attempts to apologize to Echo for his actions in "True Believer", and showed a more sensitive side.
  • November (Miracle Laurie), is originally introduced to the series as Mellie, the neighbor, romantic interest, and confidante of Paul Ballard. In "Man on the Street", it was revealed that Mellie is in fact a "sleeper" Active. Adelle can switch November to a combat ready personality using verbal codes. November's character was originally conceived as an active who got fewer of the criminal gigs and more of the personal ones. Whedon originally stated that the character would not be included in the show and that "the show simply moves too fast now for me to do what I wanted with her". He hinted that the character might emerge later in the series[15], and Mellie's active designation was eventually revealed to be November in "Echoes". It is revealed in "Needs" that she had a daughter named Katie, who died.
  • Alpha (Unknown) is a rogue Active who escaped the Dollhouse. Due to a "composite event", all of the personalities imprinted on Alpha, along with the associated memories and skill sets, resurfaced simultaneously. In his escape, he killed several Dolls and Dollhouse staff members, including Echo's previous handler, yet he let Echo live. Though most of the Dollhouse staff believes he was hunted down and killed, he is actually still at large.
  • Ivy (Liza Lapira) is Topher's assistant. While she sees herself as his apprentice Topher treats her more as a gofer.
  • Joe Hearn (Kevin Kilner) is Sierra's handler in the first six episodes, and was the handler to the previous Sierra. Joe Hearn is introduced as a less dedicated counterpart to Boyd Langton in the episode "Stage Fright", and strongly dislikes Echo for her individualism and worries about her influence on Sierra. In "Man on the Street", DeWitt learns that Hearn had raped Sierra in her blank state a number of times, and she has him killed by November.

[edit] Marketing

[edit] Viral marketing campaign

On Feb. 9, 2009, Fox launched Dollplay, a participation drama centered around Dollhouse. It involved using interactive webisodes and a user forum to drive a viral marketing campaign. The campaign asked users on the Fox Dollhouse website to "Save Hazel!" Hazel was a character trapped inside the Dollhouse in real-time. The campaign was called "Dollplay" according to the official FOX press release and was created by the company P "a radical production outfit from Sweden".[31] Five videos released in a four-hour span showed Hazel entering a room, turning on the light, and messing with a computer. That's when the room locked her in and started to move. She approached the camera and yelled for help just as the transmission cut off.[32]

On Feb. 12, 2009, Fox opened the website up to further exploration, and interaction with the main character was now possible via Webcam. It is not yet clear how the character in the viral marketing campaign related to the TV show Dollhouse, but both dealt with science fiction and mind control.[33]

On Feb. 28, 2009, the Dollplay alternate-reality game ended with players saving the fictional Hazel. After Hazel was saved, she told people that there are "Dollhouses" all over the world that imprint them and change them; these include schools, parents, religion and government. She essentially tells people to think for themselves and then leaves the container she is trapped in and the game ends.[34]

[edit] Music

The songs played in the promotions are "Massive Dose" by Sonic Library, "Cobrastyle" by Robyn, and "Boys Wanna Be Her" by Peaches.[35]

The Dollhouse theme song is called "What You Don't Know", and it is performed by Jonatha Brooke. It was written by Brooke and Eric Bazilian.[36]On February 23, 2009, Fox made the music video for the theme song available to download free on iTunes for a limited time. As of April 3, 2009, it is no longer available there.

[edit] Reception

[edit] Broadcast ratings

Weekly ratings
# Episode Air Date Rating Share 18–49
1 "Ghost" February 13, 2009 2.8 5 2.0/6 4.72
2 "The Target" February 20, 2009 2.7 5 1.7/5 4.22
3 "Stage Fright" February 27, 2009 2.7 5 1.6/5 4.13
4 "Gray Hour" March 6, 2009 2.3 4 1.5/5 3.55
5 "True Believer" March 13, 2009 2.6 4 1.6/5 4.30
6 "Man on the Street" March 20, 2009 2.6 5 1.5/5 4.13
7 "Echoes" March 27, 2009 2.5 4 1.3/4 3.87
8 "Needs" April 3, 2009 2.2 4 1.4/5 3.49

The premiere episode of Dollhouse helped Fox double its audience levels among women versus Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and helped the network finish in second place among adults 18–34 and in first place across the key male demographic for the night.[37]

Season ratings
Season Timeslot Original Airing Viewers
(in millions)
Season Premiere Season Finale TV Season
1 Friday 9:00 P.M. February 13, 2009 May 15, 2009 2008-2009 4.05

[edit] Reviews

Dollhouse has had, as of February 26, 2009, mixed or average reviews, and currently has a 57/100 rating on[38] On the positively receiving end is a review from the Philadelphia Daily News, who says "Dollhouse is less about the ninja kicks and witty banter than it is about instant transformations, and about making the audience care about a character who's likely to behave differently every time we see her. That Dushku mostly pulls this off is a happy surprise, as is Dollhouse, which has survived Firefly-like trials of its own to get this far."[39] says "Combining intelligent layers of mystery with sly dialogue and a steady flow of action, Whedon has crafted a provocative, bubbly new drama that looks as promising as anything to hit the small screen over the course of the past year."[40] On the other end, the Miami Herald says "To the extent this sounds interesting, it isn't: Half the dialogue seems to have been written for barking dogs, the other half for mewling kittens, and the cast performs accordingly."[41] Brian Lowry of Variety also wrote "[Dushku's] grasp of this vague, personality-changing character is a bit of a muddle. What's left, then, is a series with a hollow center that doesn't initially make you care about its mentally malleable protagonist."[42] Falling somewhere in-between, Robert Bianco of the USA Today wrote, that though Dollhouse is not boring or ordinary, the end result is a show "that his most devoted fans will debate and embrace, and a mass audience just won't get."[43]

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ Gary Levin (2009-02-11). "'Dollhouse' unlocks different identities each week". USA Today. Retrieved on 2009-02-11. 
  2. ^ Dos Santos, Kristin (2007-10-31). "Best News Ever! Joss Whedon Spills Exclusive Deets on His New Series". Watch with Kristin. E!. Retrieved on 2007-11-01. 
  3. ^ a b "Production Weekly - 599 - March 6, 2008" (PDF). Production Weekly. 2008-03-06. Retrieved on 2008-03-02. 
  4. ^ Dos Santos, Kristin; Jennifer Godwin (2005-05-14). "EW Party Is TV Fan Heaven". Watch with Kristin. E! Online. Retrieved on 2005-05-15. 
  5. ^ "Minear joins Whedon, Dushku for DOLLHOUSE". FanGeek. 2007-11-01. Retrieved on 2007-11-02. 
  6. ^ "Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain answer our questions.....". 2008-04-22. Retrieved on 2008-04-22. 
  7. ^ "Director David Solomon is in the Dollhouse". Dollrific!. 2008-05-09. Retrieved on 2008-05-18. 
  8. ^ "Name Sound Familiar?". Future on Fox. Fox Broadcasting Company. 2008-05-26. Retrieved on 2008-06-24. 
  9. ^ Phillips, Jevon (2007-10-31). ""Whedon returns to TV with 'Dollhouse'"". Show Tracker: What you're watching. LA Times. Retrieved on 2008-06-21. 
  10. ^ "FOX '08 New Series: Dollhouse". Fox Broadcasting Company. Retrieved on 2008-05-20. 
  11. ^ Snierson, Dan (2007-10-31). "Joss Whedon taps Eliza Dushku for new Fox series". Hollywood Insider. Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved on 2007-11-01. 
  12. ^ Whedon, Joss (2008-05-15). "Dollhouse news from Joss!". Retrieved on 2005-05-16. 
  13. ^ Dana, Rebecca (2008-03-31). "Post-Strike, Networks Revamp Pilot Season". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved on 2008-04-01. 
  14. ^ Whedon, Joss (2008-07-22). "Welcome (back) to the Dollhouse". Retrieved on 2008-07-22. 
  15. ^ a b c Whedon, Joss (2008-10-26). "What happened when the lights went out.". Whedonesque. Retrieved on 2009-02-20. 
  16. ^ Schneider, Michael (2008-05-15). "New Fox dramas to limit commercials". Variety. Retrieved on 2008-05-18. 
  17. ^ Stelter, Brian (2008-02-12). "Remote-Free TV a one-season wonder?". New York Times. Retrieved on 2008-02-13. 
  18. ^ Hibberd, James. "Fox plans 'Dollhouse' webisodes". The Live Feed (The Hollywood Reporter). 
  19. ^ "Whedon has mapped out a 5-year show run for 'Dollhouse'". 2009-02-10. Retrieved on 2009-02-10. 
  20. ^ "Fox cuts short 'Dollhouse' (sort of)". The Live Feed. April 9, 2009. 
  21. ^ "Want to be on Dollhouse? These Are the Folks You Need to Impress". Dollrific!. 2008-04-08. Retrieved on 2008-04-09. 
  22. ^ "Breaking: Battlestar Stud Playing Dollhouse with Dushku". TV Guide. Retrieved on 2008-03-26. 
  23. ^ "Dollhouse Casting Alert!". E! Online. Retrieved on 2008-03-26. 
  24. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (2008-04-03). "Olivia Williams cast in 'Dollhouse'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved on 2008-05-16. 
  25. ^ Dos Santos, Kristin; Jennifer Godwin (2008-04-16). "Exclusive Pilot Details: Welcome to the Dollhouse!". E! Online. Retrieved on 2008-04-16. 
  26. ^ Whedon, Joss (April 17, 2008). "Dollhouse gets a new cast member". Retrieved on 2008-04-17. 
  27. ^ "Dollhouse casting auditions". Dollverse. Retrieved on 2008-03-12. 
  28. ^ "FOX Dollhouse Character page". Fox Broadcasting Company. Retrieved on 2009-02-17. 
  29. ^ "True Beleiver" episode 5, season 1
  30. ^ White, Cindy (September 5, 2008). "Acker Opens The Dollhouse Door". Sci Fi Wire. 
  31. ^ "Dollhouse Mystery". 2009-02-14. 
  32. ^ "New Fox Dollhouse viral campaign asks us to "Save Hazel!"". 2009-02-11. Retrieved on 2009-02-11. 
  33. ^ "Fox expands Dollhouse viral marketing campaign, encourages interaction". 2009-02-12. Retrieved on 2009-02-13. 
  34. ^ "Save Hazel? Saved. Dollhouse ARG comes to close". 2009-02-28. Retrieved on 2009-03-02. 
  35. ^ "TV Show Music". Retrieved on 2009-02-23. 
  36. ^ "Jonatha Brooke". All the Crayons. 2008-09-18. Retrieved on 2008-10-02. 
  37. ^ Lynette Rice. "'Dollhouse' debut gets decent ratings" Entertainment Weekly; February 14, 2009
  38. ^ "Dollhouse (fox)". Metacritic. Retrieved on 2009-4-4. 
  39. ^ Ellen Gray (2009-02-12). "Ellen Gray: Joss Whedon's 'Dollhouse' debuts on Fox". Philadelphia Daily News. Retrieved on 2009-03-27. 
  40. ^ Heather Havrilesky (2009-02-12). "Trapped in the Dollhouse". Retrieved on 2009-03-27. 
  41. ^ Glenn Garvin (2009-02-12). "Review - With preposterous 'Dollhouse', you'll be feeling brainwashed". Miami Herald. Retrieved on 2009-03-27. 
  42. ^ Brian Lowry (2009-02-08). "Dollhouse Review - TV Show Reviews - Analysis of Dollhouse The TV Series". Variety. Retrieved on 2009-03-27. 
  43. ^ Robert Bianco (2009-02-13). "Fox's 'Dollhouse' is its own worst enemy". USA Today. Retrieved on 2009-03-27. 

[edit] External links

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