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Blu-Ray Review: ‘Dollhouse’ With Eliza Dushku is Still Fascinating Television

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CHICAGO – When “Dollhouse” premiered, I wrote, “All the ingredients are there for a riveting, fantastic series, but it feels like a show still finding its way.” An entire, controversial season later with the first 12 (or 14 depending on how you look at it) episodes of the Eliza Dushku show done and now on Blu-Ray the funny thing is that I feel exactly the same way. You can’t write off the show quite yet, but very few television series have been as wildly hit-and-miss as Joss Whedon’s latest creation.

HollywoodChicago.com Blu-Ray Rating: 3.5/5.0
Blu-Ray Rating: 3.5/5.0

Take for example the infamous, unaired 13th episode of the show, “Epitaph One,” an episode that jumped forward years in the future to show how the Dollhouse brought down the world. To satisfy international and DVD audiences demanding a 13-episode order and considering the unaired pilot of “Echo” as an extra and not a complete episode, Joss came up with the story and brother Jed co-wrote the episode that would have been a daring mid-series or season conclusion or even an interesting series finale if Fox had pulled the plug.

Dollhouse: Season One was released on Blu-Ray on July 28th, 2009.
Dollhouse: Season One was released on Blu-Ray on July 28th, 2009.
Photo credit: Fox

In it, a group of survivors in a post-apocalyptic world finds the broken down Dollhouse and learns that the end of the world essentially started there. It is a fascinating, intriguing episode, that’s only moderately well-executed.

And that brief, critical opinion could apply to the majority of season one of “Dollhouse”. There are great ideas, strong performances, and concepts daring for broadcast television - but something’s not quite right. Whether it’s a line of dialogue that screams out as being unbelievable or a questionable plot development, “Dollhouse” is as frustrating as it is fascinating.

Dollhouse: Season One was released on Blu-Ray on July 28th, 2009.
Dollhouse: Season One was released on Blu-Ray on July 28th, 2009.
Photo credit: Fox

But that’s why I’m willing to stick with it. With so many shows unwilling to do anything but play it safe, I think we should support shows that swing for the fences even if they strike out as often as they hit a home run.

And there were some undeniable home runs in season one of “Dollhouse”. You’ll just have to deal with a few ugly outs along the way. As the season progressed and the show got further away from the individual adventures of Echo to present a more detailed, elaborate mythology, it sometimes approached greatness and could even be mentioned in the same breath as Whedon’s best. The show could just never keep up that level of quality for more than one or two episodes before drifting back into its flaws.

Ironically, one of the solid hits (if not a home run) was the unaired pilot of the series, “Echo,” included as a bonus feature on the Blu-Ray and DVD for season one. A lot of footage from the episode was sliced up and included in future episodes, including the aired premiere, the inferior “Ghost”. Test audiences reportedly found the premiere mysterious, dark, and hard to follow. And why is that a bad thing?

Yes, “Echo” is amazingly incoherent with Dushku’s character jumping from a bar to a wedding to the middle of a drug deal gone wrong, but it’s also fascinating and it perfectly sets up that “Dollhouse” is a show with multiple personalities and intent on defying expectations.

Dollhouse: Season One was released on Blu-Ray on July 28th, 2009.
Dollhouse: Season One was released on Blu-Ray on July 28th, 2009.
Photo credit: Fox

The fact is that when “Dollhouse” is standard, action-driven, Friday-night television, it’s disposable and forgettable. And, yes, that happens a few times in season one. When it’s exploring issues of identity or letting its excellent cast develop intriguing characters, it works better than you think.

Ultimately, I’m glad “Dollhouse” was renewed (even if it’s a shame that they couldn’t renew “The Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles” as well). Networks need to take more risks on unusual, mysterious shows, even if they still need a little fine-tuning.

The Blu-Ray release of “Dollhouse” is a pretty successful release even if, like the show itself, it falls short of perfection.

As someone who very recently saw the actual show broadcast of the final few episodes (I had a lot of DVR catching-up to do), that HD picture looked better than the one on the Fox Blu-Ray. Fox Blu-Ray’s 1080P just isn’t as well-mixed as it should be. The line detail isn’t as crisp, making dark scenes look more muddied than they should and skin tones aren’t as lifelike as you’d expect on Blu-Ray. As with a lot of Fox Blu-Ray, it’s not bad but not quite right.

The sound mix is fine, neither notable nor distracting and is presented in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.

As for special features, the best are easily the presentations of the unaired episodes - the pilot “Echo” and the 13th episode “Epitaph One” (although it does kind of stink a bit that it seems like the only reason Fox didn’t air “Epitaph One” was to sell more DVDs).

Also included are deleted scenes, commentary tracks, and featurettes - “Making Dollhouse,” “Coming Home,” “Finding Echo,” “A Private Engagement,” and “Designing the Perfect Dollhouse”.

‘Dollhouse: Season One’ is released by Fox Home Video and stars Eliza Dushku, Dichen Lachman, Enver Gjokaj, Fran Kranz, Harry Lennix, Olivia Williams, and Tahmoh Penikett, and was created by Joss Whedon. The Blu-Ray and DVD were released on July 28th, 2009. It is not rated.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

By BRIAN TALLERICO
Content Director
HollywoodChicago.com
brian@hollywoodchicago.com

Anonymous's picture

“Dollhouse: Season Two was

Dollhouse: Season Two was released on Blu-Ray on July 28th, 2009.”

Season 2 huh?

Wow, I guess they are making television series on DVD before they even make them huh?

Anonymous's picture

Hah!

Anonymous wrote:
”Dollhouse: Season Two was released on Blu-Ray on July 28th, 2009.” Season 2 huh? Wow, I guess they are making television series on DVD before they even make them huh?

Just like in Spaceballs!

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