Dollhouse was called “The best action show on network television” It was. They said “The Actives are all young hot women.” They weren’t. Fans complained “Fox is marketing this thing like it is Cathouse.” Fox was. Picture the ‘Eliza Dushku strutting around in dominatrix gear’ spot Fox ran for episode 9. No, don’t.
Dollhouse drew comparisons to NBC’s highly promoted My Own Worst Enemy. Unfavorable comparisons. Impressive, considering Enemy was cancelled after just four weeks. Are the two seasons of The Dollhouse bingeworthy?
What it was: The brainchild of Whedon and Dushku. Strong writer pool. Ambitious look at consciousness, personality, ethics, exploitation. Power. Perhaps overly ambitious considering the lean budget, around $1.2M per episode. Epitath One, arguably the Dollhouse’s best episode, was shot with only half that. Syfy’s Warehouse 13 reportedly had double their regular budget. Dollhouse’s current successor, Altered Carbon, is rumored to have over $7M per episode.
Episode 10 of Dollhouse aired on April 24, 2009. “Haunted” revolved around a newly dead woman imprinted into an Active trying to solver her own murder. Shades of Altered Carbon past and future. Trivia: Dollhouse Alum Dichen Lachman and Tahmoh Penikett both appear in Altered Carbon.
Should Dollhouse have been swept aside with reviews like:
“…about a really hot chick… who each week has her personality wiped out… so she can, for money, assume another personality to help out the wealthy, the powerful and the well-connected. And have a lot of sex.”
Should Fox have aired promo ads focused on Elisa Dushku as a Dominatrix, encouraging such reviews? No. Should Altered Carbon have cast an Asian actor as the reborn Takeshi in Season One?
Are network missteps enough to justify a remake? A reboot?
Kayleigh Donaldson, discussing the 1949 Cat People and its 1982 remake observes “The thing about remakes is that so much of the work behind them is just ensuring that the final product justifies its own existence. You can play it safe and simply recreate the original film… or you can move in a radically different direction and risk alienating fans. You also need to make a film for the times.”
Altered Carbon has the potential to become the Dollhouse for our times. Dollhouse was flawed, in execution, in marketing. Ambitious projects often are. So is Altered Carbon. Does it use its noir framework to justify a multitude of sins in the interest of ratings? Probably.
It *could* use that same framework to tackle topics like gender and race identity. And it is. It is finally delivering on some of the promises made by Dollhouse in Epitath One. Screenwriter and driving force Laeta Kalogridis seems poised to prove the difference.
Here’s to hoping she does.
Rest in Peace, Dollhouse.
The future of the future is in good hands.