Tag Archives: Whedonverse

The Cultural Catchup Project: Catching up with…Buffy the Vampire Slayer

“Catching up with…Buffy the Vampire Slayer”

April 9th, 2010

Into each generation a television show is introduced.

One show in all of television, a chosen one.

One created with the strength and skill to spawn fandom, to spread their gospel and increase their numbers.

This show, of course, is Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the winner (along with Angel, which I plan to watch “chronologically” along with Buffy when the time comes) of the Reader’s Choice poll to decide which show would be featured first in Cultural Learnings’ Cultural Catchup Project (which will start in earnest tomorrow).

This is not a surprising result, of course: as Alan Sepinwall pointed out to me, placing a sci-fi/fantasy show in an internet poll against shows from other genres isn’t exactly a fair fight, so I knew going in that Buffy (along with Angel) was probably going to take this one. And if I’m being honest with you, this result is both tremendously exciting and sort of terrifying as we set out on this journey together.

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Dollhouse – “The Hollow Men”

“The Hollow Men”

January 15th, 2010

“This world is for people who can evolve.”

We’re going to be waiting two weeks until Dollhouse concludes its troubled two-season run (although scheduled to finish next week, the cross-network Haiti Telethon is taking over primetime on the 22nd), and it’s going to be interesting to see the kind of anticipation that builds around the show’s series finale. “The Hollow Men” is an engaging hour of television that features a strong performance from Harry Lennix, but there is every sense that this is transition episode and little more: the scale of the “war” is at this point still so small that the episode feels more incidental than perhaps it should.

The show has spent much of its second season implying that events which seem small are going to eventually seem very large, aided by the presence of “Epitaph One” as an image of the world’s future dystopia, but the real trick is trying to actually make those small events seem large in the context of a single episode. The work done in “The Hollow Men” is not inelegant so much as it is hampered by the “rush” towards a conclusion, and at times the episode feels like a “greatest hits” collection of the show’s finest moments as opposed to a culmination of ongoing storylines. The episode spends a lot of time talking about characters as a family, which is a fine idea but which fails to capture the evolution these characters have gone through: while the show’s relatively short run precludes the kind of depth that the final episodes of Lost or Battlestar Galactica brought to the table, there is still a sense that the way Dollhouse made its way towards its finale kept it from having the dramatic impact it perhaps could have.

It does nothing to make me less intrigued about how the show wraps up its run next week, but I definitely am not connecting with the ending as perhaps some others might be.

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The Glass Ceiling: How Dollhouse can Overcome the Friday Odds


The Glass Ceiling:

How Dollhouse can Overcome the Friday Odds

When FOX first announced that Dollhouse was going to be placed onto Fridays, I wrote the following:

My immediate response: seriously, FOX? Are we going to go through this again? After Whedon’s last FOX show, Firefly, was destroyed by mismanagement by FOX, fans of the creator have already had reason to be slightly concerned about the show’s trajectory. Now, with the creative side seemingly together, comes the next blow – that even when it does air, its opportunity for success has shrunk dramatically.

Now, since that point, both creator Joss Whedon and FOX have stuck to the line that this plan actually works out for them: by creating a night of male-skewing Sci-Fi on a night where FOX has historically gone with either repeats or reality programming, the show will have low expectations and a certain security thanks to not having the same type of time period competition as it would elsewhere on the schedule. By keeping expectations low, essentially, the show’s inevitable failure to attract the kind of audience that FOX might be looking for went from a crushing disappointment to an understanding between creator and network that time might be necessary.

Unfortunately for FOX and for Whedon, the results are in and they don’t look good: the show debuted to just 4.7 Million viewers and a 2.0 rating in the key demographics. The second number isn’t half bad, good enough for second in its timeslot, but the first number is a pretty big concern for the series. It’s about the same ratings that sent Firefly to the television graveyard before its time, actually, and the plan to try to create low expectations and then spin these ratings into something positive is somewhat tough to swallow when you get trounced by Supernanny on ABC.

But there’s a fair few factors that we need to take into account here, at least before we start writing off Dollhouse as a failure. Much as I believe the jury is still out after writing my own review of the premiere, I believe there is still time for Dollhouse to turn it around. Unfortunately, the universe might well be working against Joss Whedon and his fanbase once again.

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Series Premiere: Dollhouse – “Ghost”



February 13th, 2009

According to logic, and the internal methodology given to Echo before an important mission, you can’t fight a Ghost. And, let’s be realistic, you can’t really pin one down either, trying to define it by regular rules of physics or biology ultimately proving a futile task.

In many ways, Dollhouse is a Ghost of Television, a show that is very tough to pin down and has almost no interest in trying to have this happen. The series, like the actives who are part of the Dollhouse roster, can be wiped clean after every episode, so it is very difficult to judge the pilot as we would normally judge a pilot. The point here is not to actually pin anything down, but to demonstrate for the viewer the types of things they might see and, most importantly, the types of things that we should keep an eye out for in the future.

And, as such, there’s something difficult about passing judgment on this as an actual series. All we can really do is take the parts that we’re given here that we know will remain constant and begin to judge them, but even then the show is going to be meandering all over the place and those parts might be able to rise to the occasion better than we currently realize. It makes all of this, well, a little bit inconsequential; I have a feeling that week by week I’ll be chiming in with another opinion that’s been altered from the week previous, something that with time could get a little old.

For now, though, I’m along for the ride, for two main reasons: because I think the show has some potential as a serialized procedural, and because I’m mildly afraid that the Whedon fans will hunt me down and break my legs if I don’t.

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The 2008 Television Time Capsule: Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog


Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog

“Airdate”: July 2008

When my power went out the weekend before Christmas (and, coincidentally, the night I conceived of this project), I was stuck with an about to die laptop and my iPod Touch. While the laptop battery survived two episodes of Gilmore Girls, I was left with only my iPod to last until I was tired enough to fall asleep: thank Bad Horse for Dr. Horrible.

Bound to be an internet sensation thanks to the plethora of Whedonverse fans, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog is about as good a TV story as you’ll get this year. Joss Whedon and his brother (along with a crew of darn creative people) conceive of an internet musical while off work, and after the strike is over bring on Whedon favourite Nathan Fillion (as the hilarious Captain Hammer) and downright awesome Neil Patrick Harris (as the titular heroic anti-herp), along with Felicia Day (already familiar to internet content thanks to her work in The Guild, as leading lady Penny), to bring life to their creation.

What emerged was successful on two fronts. From an industry perspective, the three-part series demonstrated the power of new forms of distribution: released to the internet through various methods, Dr. Horrible was free to stream, cheap to buy on ITunes, and eventually made its way to DVD late in 2008. Recently named as one of the American Film Institutes Top TV moments due to its potential as a new business model, I think it’s important to note that Whedon’s involvement perhaps created a more viable platform than would other producers.

But that doesn’t really matter in the end, because Dr. Horrible is just damn entertaining. Yes, it’s a monumental achievement, paves the way, blah blah blah – what matter is that the story of a hapless villain struggling to make his way into the Evil League of Evil and win the love of the woman he does laundry next to is filled with witty dialogue, catchy songs, and some great performances (both comic and dramatic) from Harris, Fillion and Day.

I remain convinced, as I was when it aired, that the conclusion feels somewhat dour even acknowledging Whedon’s penchant for such endings, but this doesn’t change the fact that I await impatiently for all parties involved to have enough free time to give us a worthy sequel. In the meantime, living in a world where there is a musical commentary to an internet-distributed musical is reason enough to celebrate.

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[For more details on the Cultural Learnings 2008 Television Time Capsule, click here!]

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