Tag Archives: Felicia Day

Series Finale: Dollhouse – “Epitaph Two: The Return”

“Epitaph Two: The Return”

January 29th, 2010

In the eyes of ardent supporters of Joss Whedon, Dollhouse is a continuation of his legacy: an interest in female protagonists who kick ass, an engagement with complex philosophical issues, a unique sense of humour, and an early cancellation at the hands of the villainous FOX.

However, not to be dismissive of those fans, I have to wonder Dollhouse actually has any sort of legacy of its own. We tend to view the show in terms of Whedon’s past successes, whether favourably or unfavourably, but has the show had time to do anything substantial on its own? As someone who has seen relatively little of Whedon’s work (Buffy and Angel are sitting on my DVD shelf waiting for me to get to them), I have struggled over the past few weeks with the question of what Dollhouse will leave behind for those without extensive knowledge of its creator.

It is a show that struggled to find a way to get to its big ideas in the early going, and that simply didn’t have enough time to live up to their full potential. They wanted to tell a story about the end of the world, but that world was never fully formed; they wanted to depict the tragic fall of some characters, but had to rush others to achieve its full effect. The second season has had moments of brilliance (“Belonging,” in particular), but it has had this pervasive sense that this would all be better if the show had more time, that they were trying to tell too much story to “wrap things up” and in the process missing out on some intriguing parts of this universe.

Heading into “Epitaph Two,” I lacked anything close to excitement: I was curious, there’s no question about that, but I wasn’t on the edge of my seat excited for what happens next. Instead, I was anxious to see just how a show that came in like a lamb and rushed its transition to lion plans on saying “bon voyage” to its miniscule but devoted fanbase.

The answer is with an hour of television that introduces too many new concepts too quickly, and which proves incapable of grounding all of them on realistic character motivations. However, in true Dollhouse spirit, there are enough moments of legitimately compelling drama to lift the episode to the point of being satisfying…or, more accurately, as unevenly satisfying as the show has been all along.

And that’s all we can really ask for.

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Cultural Learnings’ 2009 Primetime Emmy Awards LiveBlog

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2009 Primetime Emmy Awards LiveBlog

September 20th, 2009

For Cultural Learnings’ complete review of the show, CLICK HERE. For the full live blog, read on below.

I was kind of on the fence about liveblogging the Emmys this year, I really was. Twitter has provided an outlet for quippy remarks and observations that I might have while watching the event, and I ultimately end up writing a huge 2000-word rundown when the show ends so it’s not as if a LiveBlog is going to stand as my only coverage of the big event here at Cultural Learnings.

However, ultimately I want something to be able to refer to when piecing together my final rundown of the night’s festivities, and a LiveBlog seems like the kind of setup that will capture my reaction to the various winners/moments in the ceremony for those who want to know how everything is going down as it’s going down.

So, if you want to follow along with the show or check back later to see my subjective take on a particular moment in the show, here’s where you’re going to want to be. Meanwhile, if you want things elaborate and substantial, check back later tonight for my full analysis of the evening’s winners, losers, and everything in between.

7:20pm: As we wait for the show to begin, feel free to check out my predictions for the big night (the acting categories all link to long analysis pieces of each category): Cultural Learnings’ Full Emmy Predictions.

7:54pm: Enjoying Christine Baranski’s guest spot in a pre-Emmys airing of The Big Bang Theory – an omen for Jim Parsons? Baranski was always going to lose to Tina Fey, but she was damn good in this episode.

8:00pm: And we’re off and running. Television: useful science of the electronic age, indeed. Making fun of Wipeout as “Unsophisticated” is a bit low of CBS, but I guess they don’t have anything quite as lowly…except for Big Brother. Anyways, time for NPH.

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Season Premiere: The Guild Season 3 – “Expansion Time”

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“Expansion Time”

September 1st, 2009

The biggest challenge facing a show, in the past, was bringing in new viewers. In an age of repeats as the only way to really engage with a show outside of new episodes, anything serialized faced intense challenge. However, as we all know, the internet and DVD have made this easier than ever, and there’s no better example than this than Felicia Day’s hit web series The Guild.

If there was ever an argument for the benefit of internet distribution methods, I’d say this is it: the show remains independently produced by Day, but through funding agreements with various sponsors (including Microsoft) the show has an extensive footprint across various different platforms, and has only increased in both scale and quality since its first season. And due to the ease of access (with episodes on YouTube, at WatchtheGuild.com, as well as streaming on XBox Live and on DVD) of the first two seasons, anyone can catch up as I did, late at night when I ran out of other things to watch and decided to see what all the fuss was about.

The Guild is ultimately, like any good show, about characters and their various nuances. It is unquestionably a comedy, testing the strength of online relationships in the context of the real world to hilarious and awkward results, but at its core is a sort of sadness of Vork’s hermit-like state, and horror at Clara’s child care standards. I won’t pretend to take the show as a social commentary, but there is something beneath its comedy that shows a real appreciation for the types of people who play these games, and the sense of serialized character development that defines the best sitcoms (at least in my eyes).

I went through the first two seasons about a month ago, and really enjoyed them: the first season was sharp in its integration of Bladezz back into the folds (and letting Codex/Zaboo’s odd-couple relationship remain the show’s focus), while the second season worked perhaps even better in splitting everyone up into groups now that the character types had been integrated. When I started the show, it seemed like everyone would be stuck in front of their webcams and we’d be watching the drama of the guild infiltrate their real lives, but now we’re seeing it work the other way around (to a degree) with the real life influencing the guild.

Here’s a link to the premiere at MSN.com, and then my thoughts on the premiere after the jump.

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Tactless Logic: The Emmy Awards Time-Shifting Fiasco

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Tactless Logic:

The Emmy Awards Time-Shifting Fiasco

The Academy was so close to getting away with it.

Every year, the Emmys are faced with a mountain of criticism that no other award show really deals with, as the show in and of itself is part of the medium that it judges. While the Oscars or the Grammys are television presentations, the critics who analyze them as award shows are not likely film critics, and lack that personal connection with the material being dealt with. With the Emmys, however, the same television critics who (rightfully) criticize the Emmys for failing to recognize certain performers or certain shows for various reasons are the same ones who watch and criticize the show itself, making it a darn tough job to be in charge of the awards show.

This year, they are in the unenviable decision of having to make dramatic changes after two disastrous experiments: first, FOX confused just about everyone with their “Theater in the Round” setup, and last year ABC allowed the Reality Competition Program hosts to host the event and nearly caused a riot amongst angry critics questioning the lack of humour, chemistry, and just about anything worthwhile. They’re in the position where they needed to make changes, but when critics are always on the lookout for potential concerns they needed to step very carefully.

The changes they came up with, and revealed this week, were changes designed in order to streamline the show, allowing more time to let critic-approved Neil Patrick Harris do his thing, and to clear the way for the show to be more engaging for the audience at home. Their purpose alone, is quite logical: everyone wants a better show, and people acknowledge that there need to be changes for that to happen.

Where the Academy (particularly producer Don Mischer) went wrong, however, is in how they sold these changes, changes that demonstrate a logical understanding of some of the award show’s struggles and yet also a tactless understanding of how critics, the industry and other observers would react to their reasoning. If sold differently, these changes would have remained a sticking point but one that would have been over time forgiven: as it stands, it’s a scandal that isn’t going away anytime soon, and a scandal that’s standing in the way of the Emmys making a much-needed comeback.

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Review: Dollhouse – “Epitaph One”

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“Epitaph One”

July 26th, 2009

We intend to honor what you’ve seen here today, but we will question the veracity of it. A lot of it was memories and whether all those memories are completely true” will be questioned. The future “will inform where we go” with the show”– Joss Whedon on “Epitaph One”

Friday night at Comic-Con in San Diego, a selection of fans, bloggers and critics were able to view the much-anticipated “Epitaph One,” the lost thirteenth episode of Dollhouse’s first season. It’s a really unique piece of television, fascinating in its position: as FOX counted the abandoned pilot as one of the thirteen episodes it would pay for, they had no interest in airing the episode; however, since 20th Century Fox (who produces the show) had DVD contracts which called for 13 episodes, Whedon delivered “Epitapth One.” At the same time, the episode was also used as proof of his ability to shoot the show on a considerably smaller budget without sacrificing quality. The result, both in terms of story and in terms of style, will form the blueprint for Dollhouse’s second season, a season that may not exist were it not for this episode.

That’s a lot of hype going into this particular hour of television, particularly considering that Dollhouse is a show that’s been all about hyperbole: everyone remembers how “Man on the Street” was supposed to cure every disease known to mankind, and people’s patience with the show’s rough start has been tested at numerous points along the way. However, “Epitaph One” ultimately succeeds at meeting these high expectations primarily because of just how ballsy a piece of television it is: unafraid of stepping out on a limb, or connecting with anything which came before it, the episode is definitive evidence that Joss Whedon has crafted an environment worth investigating with this series. It’s the best thing I think Dollhouse has produced yet, and if Whedon sticks to his guns that “Epitaph One” is canonical the sheer volumes of promise found within this episode are nearly overwhelming.

As for whether they’re too overwhelming, though, will become a question for the show’s second season – and, considering that Whedon notes that all of this is a complex road map rather than a clear image through the heart of the series, it’s going to be quite a complex undertaking. And, for a show like Dollhouse, that’s a damn good thing. Continue reading

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PaleyFest 09: Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog – Report and Pictures

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PaleyFest 09: Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog

April 14th, 2009

[I got the chance to report on last night’s Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog panel for the good folks at HitFix while I’m here in California, so below is a bit of a teaser, a link to the story, and after the jump some photos from the event. Enjoy!]

There are a lot of firsts surrounding Tuesday’s (April 14) panel discussion of “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog,” the fourth event at PaleyFest 09: it’s the first time the festival has ever featured an internet series, the first time that Nathan Fillion has ever been part of the festival and the first time that Joss Whedon has been asked about his relationship with FOX (Okay, so the last one is a lie, that happens every single time he speaks).

Regardless, there’s a lot riding on “Dr. Horrible” as a model for future internet success, but what was most interesting about the discussion moderated by Matt Roush was that it wasn’t Whedon who really spoke passionately about this model.

Read the rest of my report at HitFix, or continue reading for some more photos from the event!

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

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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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