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“Dollhouse”: The First Season {Blu-ray}
Reviewer:
Wayne Klein
Studio: 20th Century Fox Home Video
Genre:
TV-Series
Release Date:
8/4/09
Special Features:

Featurettes, a trio of commentary tracks, unaired original pilot, deleted scenes and an unaired episode

Review:

Dolls were never my thing which might explain the lack of appeal to me of “Dollhouse” initially. Josh Whedon’s (“Firefly”, “Serenity”, “Buffy the Vampire Killer”, “Angel”) latest creation sounds like it was inspired by one of Philip K. Dick’s novels; Echo (Eliza Dushku) has her own personality temporarily erased while she serves as something of a glorified prostitute helping wealthy men indulge their fantasies and/or solve their problems with fantasy personalities implanted in Echo. Between assignments she’s supposed to be a blank slate but little bits and pieces of her own personality occasionally leak out. ***

The Dollhouse which is overseen by Adelle (Olivia Williams) is under the scrutiny of FBI Agent Paul Ballard (Tahmoh Penikett of “Battlestar Galatica”) who is convinced that there is something sinister about the Dollhouse and tries to discover sordid roots. Ballard is also convinced that Caroline who has become Echo needs his help to escape the Dollhouse. ***

I’m a bit surprised that Whedon went back to Fox considering his history with the network; they cancelled “Firefly” immediately and aired his shows out of order going with the third episode so that viewers were lost to begin with since the pilot didn’t air until much later. Clearly he doesn’t bear a grudge and for what it’s worth Fox has been better this time around giving him the commitment of a full season and renewed the show for a second. They still put it in the dead zone in their schedule. ***

Regardless, Whedon’s show remained as much of an enigma as Echo and the Dollhouse itself; the pilot for the show was retooled when Fox expressed concerns about how well it would go over (the original pilot scenes of which have been used throughout the rest of the 12 episode season included here is included as an extra here). Whedon’s show didn’t find its tone until midway through its short first season and actress Eliza Dushku can’t carry the show. She’s out acted by other cast members and she just isn’t all that convincing in the title role. Penikett as Ballard steals just about every scene he’s in much as he did on “Battlestar Galatica”. Penikett has a great career in front of him as an actor he clearly has the chops to carry a series by himself. Still, we need to give Whedon and his show its due once the series DOES take off it does so admirably with some strong episodes mixed in with the weak ones. I’m hoping that season two of this ambitious series will be as good as the best episodes here. ---

Image & Sound:

I had to wait for the official release because Fox wouldn’t sent us a Blu-ray for review. The show looks quite sharp with a nice sharp transfer relatively free of compression artifacts. Black levels are consistent and rich throughout while flesh tones are quite nice. ***

Strangely two episodes here are presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround. I can only imagine that some sort of transfer error occurred because the rest of the series is presented in DDS 5.1 and sound quite good. ---

Special Features:

We get three audio commentaries with Whedon and Dushku on “Ghost” and “Man on the Street”. “Epitaph One” features Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tachareon the writers of the episode. It’s a decent enough commentary. ***

We also get the previously mentioned original unaired pilot. The pilot has some spoilers so I’d suggest watching it after watching all 13 episodes included. Let’s not forget that 13th episode which Fox chose NOT to air. It’s here as well. ***

We also get deleted scenes for a variety of episodes as well as five featurettes covering everything from the making of the show to the production design of the series. All of them are quite good with the “Making of” featurette including scenes from the first rehearsal table read. It’s a pity the whole thing wasn’t included.

Final Words:

“Dollhouse” may fail to deliver on its intriguing premise but that’s due to a short first season as well as the necessity of setting up everything for later in the series including introducing the premise/characters. ***

I’d give “Dollhouse” a chance provided I don’t have to play dress up with these characters for too long without some sort of delivery when it comes to the characters and premise of the series.

 

 
 
 
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