Firefly wasn't Joss Whedon’s only canceled too soon sci-fi series.
When people talk about Joss Whedon, they’re quick to bring up Firefly, his canceled and highly acclaimed Fox television show. But that wasn’t the only great sci-fi series produced by Joss only to be canceled too soon. He also made something called Dollhouse.
Dollhouse was canceled in 2010 after only one season and twenty-seven episodes. It was a missed opportunity. There was huge potential in the show’s premise and its world. A promise of smart science fiction used to tackle interesting and thought-provoking topics while at the same time delivering the cheap thrills of episodic television.
Why Dollhouse Was Canceled
Dollhouse had one big, glaring problem right off the bat. Eliza Dushku didn’t seem like she could act. This issue was especially evident in the show’s debut episode which was, to say the least, less action-oriented than some later installments became.
If audiences had stuck around they probably would have acclimated and gotten used to Dushku’s deer in headlights look when she’s reciting drama-heavy lines. This, by the way, was especially true when the show had her engaged in scantily clad, lingerie karate. Dollhouse tried to play to her strengths and got better at it as the show went on.
Dollhouse Has A Mystery To Unravel
In Dollhouse, Eliza Dushku played Echo, one of several exceedingly sexy people who lived in a mysterious, lavish place called the “Dollhouse. While inside she has no memories, no personality. She stays that way until she’s needed by the Dollhouse’s owners, who hire out the services of their dolls to wealthy millionaires.
When one of the dolls gets a job, she’s imprinted with the perfect personality and knowledge to pull that job off. When she’s done, that personality is wiped, leaving her a blank slate awaiting her next job.
In her first mission, Echo is programmed to become a hostage negotiator. One problem: the personality she’s been programmed with is that of an abused woman and, as luck would have it, in the course of negotiations she encounters that abused woman’s molester. Heavy stuff.
Dollhouse came out guns blazing with heavy drama, taking on the dark topic of child molestation and the destructive effects it can have on someone’s adult personality, all wrapped in a science fiction package. Bold move.
Dollhouse Required Depth That Its Lead Did Not Have At First
Heavy on emotional development, the debut episode of Joss Whedon’s now all but forgotten girls-kick-ass show asked Dushku to give a performance with real depth, depth Dushku didn’t seem to have in her back in 2009. But that doesn’t mean the premise wasn’t good.
When she wasn’t playing the librarian-like hostage negotiator Dollhouse was intent on portraying Eliza Dushku’s Echo as some sort of mysterious and unusual beauty. This is also something that Dushku is not. She’s the gorgeous girl next door, not the exotic and mysterious kung-fu supermodel.
This is all to explain why Dollhouse was canceled, even though it was good. The show got better, and Dushku got better, but by then audiences were mostly gone.
Eliza began to grow into the role as the show went on and Joss learned to better tailor his writing to what audiences wanted. The show found the right tone and the story kept getting more interesting, but it was too late.
JOSH’S SERIES REVIEW SCORE
We’ll never know what Dollhouse might have become, were the story allowed to play out, but the one season it was granted is still worth watching on streaming. Now you can buy or rent it on services like Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV.
If you watched a few episodes the first time around and then tuned out, it’s worth giving Dollhouse another shot.