What I have been watching.

Glee The first conclusion I drew from this series (I have watched the first four episodes and skimmed the next two) is that modern pop songs have pretty objectionable lyrics. Not even Jessalyn Gilsig’s valiant attempt can make hysterical Terri at all palatable. And that the hilarious lines given to Sue and the impeccable delivery of them by Jane Lynch are not enough to sustain a series. There is also way too much miming and too much reliance on stereotypes to subvert the stereotypes. I know that I’d rather see something approximating real people?* I like Lea Michele whose nose is a pleasure to look at even from inside a toilet.

Dollhouse S2 went through a glorious patch with “The Attic” being the pinnacle and then it crashed to Earth. I’ve already written about what I have liked and disliked about it but I will add that Mellie/Madeline/November’s death was shoddily done and dismayed me immensely.

Carnivàle S2 began with an episode that cleared up any lingering doubts that this series is bonkers. I couldn’t stand Libby at first and now her sadness is so heartbreaking. Amy Madigan has become more and more compelling as Iris. I’m going to miss Professor Lodz.

*Community On maurinsky‘s recommendation, we started watching this and after three episodes we are hooked. The seven main characters are all interesting, and funny, and rounded. And I ever thought I would ever write this but Chevy Chase is hilarious. Joel McHale has something of the Anthony Head about him (but not in this cast photo).

Nurse Jackie I still like this a lot but after 10 episodes I don’t understand the following point about Jackie. Why did she start work at All Saints and conceal her marriage? Do we find out? Also, I didn’t believe for a second that she couldn’t get that ring off. Also, minor thing but she whacks her middle finger – should have shot that again. But I simply love Edie Falco and Eve Best and Merritt Wever. They are all awesome in their own ways.

And Edie Falco is hot with that butch cut.

The Good Wife I started watching this on a whim on 4oD and I hooked but I don’t really know why! It’s a legal drama and I don’t particularly like legal dramas (not since Crown Court anyway) and she always wins. And yet… It’s quite amusing that both this and Nurse Jackie are vehicles for actors coming off big, big shows and presumably for most folks the actors come with a lot of baggage. Luckily for me I am oblivious.

I am always aware that I almost exclusively comment on American programmes which suggests I don’t watch British productions. However I do but they are mostly documentaries like (and this is from the past year only): A History of Christianity, The Art of Russia, Games Britannia, Shooting the War, Life, The Victorians, How Earth Made Us, etc. All made by or for the BBC and they are why I gladly pay my licence fee. Continue reading

Did I fall asleep? For a little while.

This blog hasn’t died. It may be hibernating a little bit.

I may start “reviewing” Buffy in January when we start rewatching it with Adam. He has only seen a handful of episodes from before S4 and maybe by the time we get to S6 he’ll be able to stand Spuffy. Though…I don’t see why he should when I can’t, but at least he may be physically able to watch it rather than giving up in dismay when Spike and Buffy started snogging regularly (and anyway, there were episodes in S6 that a 12 year old shouldn’t watch).

We finished Angel and thank you, Andy, for struggling along with me as we negotiated the final season. I may have fallen out of love with Joss Whedon and coupled with the unravelling of Dollhouse, I have become increasing more estranged from the fandom which adores all that he does (and I thought I was one of them too…). I see terrible dialogue, awkward exposition, two dull leads, fine actors struggling with their lines, illogical plotting, a villain motivated by jealousy (which, admittedly, was good enough for Shakespeare but bores me in the ‘House), fake out deaths, etc, and I don’t like it very much. I do love Enver Gjokaj (and his hilarious turn as Topher did reveal it is Topher I can’t stand not Fran Kranz so apologies to him) and Olivia Williams (but even she falters over the poor dialogue at times and her costuming is unflattering and makes her look like she frequents Bhs) and I am grateful that I get to see them on my screen.

We have started watching Carnivàle and, despite the nagging doubts I have over what is unresolved at the end of S2, I do like it a lot. Nick Stahl is a little lightweight as Ben but the rest of the cast are wonderful. I particularly like Patrick Bauchau as Lodz, Michael J. Anderson as Samson and Clancy Brown as Justin, and I have liked Clea DuVall since “Out of Mind, Out of Sight” and it is refreshing to have a leading lady who looks like somebody you might meet in real life. The last episode we watched “Pick a Number” had a devastatingly horrible ending with Dora Mae being left in Babylon to be raped for eternity. The photography is stunning, the music superb and the theme is most unusual. I like the fact it is a period piece and the atmosphere of the carnival is well presented.

There you go.

ETA: Mad Men! What a show. Love it. Read and absorbed too much to write about the final episodes with any degree of originality but best show on TV by far. It wasn’t always satisfactory (Miss Farrell for a start) and a few characters were neglected but always gripping.

I choose not to hear that

Dollhouse S02 e03 Bell chose - enver gjokaj

Dollhouse – “Belle Chose” (Tim Minear)

Tim Minear brings his ludicrous serial killers over from The Inside and decides that subtlety or indeed, coherence aren’t needed.

Make of what you will from this list:

  • a college professor can afford to hire a doll
  • Ballard is given the job of interrogating Terry/Victor because he used to work for the FBI but, as we have seen before, the Dollhouse usually prefers the perfection of imprinting one
  • Brad and Terry/Victor escape easily
  • the usual lack of physical consequences when someone is thwacked with a croquet mallet
  • Echo doesn’t have her towel hooked up in the shower just so Paul could look uncomfortable at seeing her naked
  • there is slow motion of Kiki/Echo looking at herself in the mirror
  • having gender non-specific names makes you a perve

I am looking forward to the day when I can say I knew that Enver Gjokaj was going to a star when I saw his range, assurance, and general awesomeness in Dollhouse.

Olivia Williams as Adelle is the only thing that I positively like about Dollhouse*. I like Enver as an actor but he is playing many roles so it’s hard to like the combination.

The issues that this show is tackling bother me. Exploring misogyny is too near to celebrating it for my liking. Isn’t it hilarious when a man behaves like a woman? Shoogling his bum like that – it’s so silly and funny.

In normal circumstances, I don’t watch much that deals with serial killers or child abusers or prostitution or arms dealers or, you get the idea.

Like Charles, I find myself wondering “if Buffy and Firefly were the exception and that in actuality the real Joss is the one responsible for Angel and Dollhouse.”

I am not going to systematically write about Dollhouse anymore. I know for a fact that if this wasn’t a Joss Whedon show, I would definitely not be watching any more of it. I need to get a grip and just stop watching.

*Adelle may even be one of my top five Whedon characters.

Every time, they make it so real.

Dollhouse - Instinct - Miracle Laurie - grey eyes

Dollhouse – “Instinct” (Michele Fazekas & Tara Butters)

This has to be one of the daftest premises for an episode of anything. Just how long was Echo going to be Jack’s mother? Until his father had got over his wife’s death? And then how long was Jack going to take to get over his mummy’s disappearance? Furthermore, how could Mr Jordan afford two dolls?

Perhaps the most unbelievable thing in the episode is that the police believed her.

And Topher ain’t that much of a genius. Apparently, hormones and massaging can induce breast milk in women who have not been mothers. And based on my own instinct, I say nonsense to anything called a maternal instinct and, particularly, on the notion that it overrides anything else. Eliza was once again good though.

I adore Olivia Williams. She is the Pete* of this show. Her character can do anything and I still love her. I loved the scene between her and (as we need to refer to her now) Madeline where she made me laugh just by swigging tea.

Dollhouse - Instinct - Olivia Williams as Adelle drinking tea

It was lovely to see Miracle Laurie who looked absolutely magnificent. Madeline may not be sad any more but there is definitely something missing: she felt a little flat, almost soulless.

Accents are funny things: Sierra sounded authentically American to me while Alexei Denisof sounded fake.

And is this the first episode in which Echo doesn’t get hit?

*yikes, I spoke too soon…

Wait. Who did they make me this time?

Dollhouse - Vows - Amy Acker as Whiskey/Dr Saunders

Dollhouse – “Vows” (Joss Whedon)

Thirteen things:

One, Olivia Williams’ hair is not “ugly”, does not “look awful”, and does “flatter her”. Seriously, did these complainers see the dos she had in S1?

Two, the A story (I assume the story with Echo is the A story) was ill-conceived and poorly executed. Think about any of it for more than ten seconds and it turns into Emmental cheese. It was terrible. And it consumed a large chunk of the episode. And I could moan about all of it.

Three, I am happy to report that Eliza Dushku rocked her different roles. This is the first time that I have felt she was on top of them all.

Four, conversely, Dichen Lachman was found out: she can’t do posh (which is weird – everyone can do posh) and that two minutes of an Anglo-Asian in pink was excruciating and unfunny.

Five, Adelle fingering Victor’s scars was still not enough Victor.

Six, Olivia Williams was in tremendous form. She really relishes her role as Adelle. Andy thought she looked a bit thin. I didn’t really notice. However, I will be mightily disappointed if her face ever loses its mobility and its lines.

Seven, freaky accent changes from Jamie Bamber and Alexis Denisof.

Eight, Tahmoh Penikett sets me on edge. He walks funny, he stands funny, he speaks funny. And the character he plays doesn’t interest me.

Nine, Ballard’s push ups were just so cringeworthy and unworthy. Cheap.

Ten, talking of cheap: I hadn’t really grasped what was going on in the scene between Whiskey and Echo until I rewatched it and, eek, that was tacky. She’s having her vagina checked out (with hands of blue) and she has a sexy flashback. Urgh.

Eleven, I was dismayed at Ballard hitting Echo in order to get her to drop into ninja mode. Dismayed that this sort of violence is barely commented upon. Dismayed also because it’s a crappy device. Dismayed because it is totally unrealistic. Yes, I know this is fantasy but things have to make sense within the reality of the fantasy. One slap from a man built like Ballard would put little Echo in a seriously bad place. And bored of it too. How many times is Echo going get hit? Every.single.episode?

Twelve, I don’t understand quite why Whiskey attempted to have sex (or not) with Topher. This lack of comprehension I accept may be my fault. However, Amy Acker slumped against a wall saying “because I don’t wanna die” was the best part of the show.

Thirteen, as it ended,  I turned to Andy and said “I don’t know if I can be arsed watching this anymore”. A rather pointless statement because I will continue to watch it. Damn you Joss, if this was made by anybody else, I would have said goodbye a long time ago (see Alias, Lost, Heroes, The X-Files, The West Wing).

You’re in a lair! An evil lair!

Dollhouse – “Omega” (Tim Minear)

Dollhouse - Omega - Caroline in Wendy's body

Whatever you say about Dollhouse (and I did) it was certainly different from the average TV show. I think it failed for approximately half the time. Some episodes were terrible. Others were amazing and “A Spy in the House of Love” was one of the best episodes that Joss Whedon has ever produced.

This was an episode chock full of exciting incidents and yet it still managed to be unsatisfactory.

(Poor Dollhouse. No other show I watch is burdened with such scrutiny because even my notes on Buffy, Angel and Mad Men are just reactions rather than criticism. Admittedly that is my style. I’m not analytical enough to get into the substance of a show. That’s what other people are for.)

Omega - Caroline joins the Dollhouse and Adelle

I liked:

  • The performances which, as usual, were on the nose from my favourite cast members. The others were even okay. I think Eliza is perfectly serviceable as Echo. She wasn’t outstanding but she was watchable enough which is fine when you aren’t carrying the whole show on your shoulders. I think that is one of the reasons why Bionic Woman failed, as much as I like Michelle Ryan, she wasn’t strong enough to carry the show (despite being the Bionic Woman, ha ha) and the supporting cast weren’t strong or interesting enough either (maybe they should have promoted Molly Price to joint lead).
  • The asking of the question of whether good and evil is innate or, if evolved, then indelible once it’s in your personality (or soul or whatever).
  • The Topher and Whisky interactions near the end were mysterious and intriguing.

Dollhouse - Omega - Whiskey and Victor

I didn’t like (and this list is longer):

  • The abrupt escape of Alpha and the lack of November and Sierra as bounty hunters (*these important scenes were cut for time).
  • The freedom granted to Madeleine. If she has been given back her original personality surely she is still grieving for her child? What was that closure she had back in “Needs”?  Why was she dressed as a frump? I’ll miss Miracle Laurie. I do wonder what she will get cast in next.
  • The eye gouging and the torture scene were too graphic for my taste and really rather unnecessarily lengthy.
  • Dr Saunders telling Victor he was ugly which is such nonsense and really hurtful.
  • The fight between Alpha and Echo wasn’t exciting enough. Whatever else there is to say about Tahmoh Penikett, he knows how to fight.
  • Echo knocking off the “wedge” wasn’t handled well. It just looked silly. Though Paul saving Caroline that way was hilarious.
  • The fact that the whole series revolved around the fact that Alpha thought Echo was hotter than Whiskey.
  • That Alpha was sinister at all times even when he was a doll (I do understand he was gaining self-awareness but he was creepy the whole time).

Dollhouse - Omega - final scene - Echo

I didn’t mind:

  • Paul joining the Dollhouse because that may make no sense now but it will in the future. Won’t it?
  • That we got no further information about Caroline’s past. Something has to be saved for S2.

Dollhouse - Omega - Sierra and November in a publicity shot for a cut scene

*Click for larger image

People were fighting on me

Dollhouse – “Briar Rose” (Jane Espenson)

Poor Victor!

I appear to be in a minority (but not a minority of one) in not particularly liking this episode. I’ll save my complaints until the finale since the two as a whole may hang together better for me. There may even be an explanation for the Dollhouse’s abysmal security but it will have to be good to explain why an organization which is so rich that it is able to set itself up as a self-contained unit has pathetic security systems that allowed Ballard and Alpha such easy access and for them to wander around for ages and with such effectiveness (well, one of them was effective).

dollhouse-briar rose-echo-and-alpha

The way they attracted the random Doll’s attention in order to nick his clothes was silly too. The dolls have been presented as childlike not zombie-like so at least they could have given the random some dialogue.

Anyway, I do wish Ballard had thought a little harder before shagging Mellie in the last episode. I guess he was supposed to come to his senses in the shower the day after and decide to break up with Mellie so he could pursue her (and once again, great DH security there allowing him to follow them). Still – creep.

And you know, maybe I have moved to the position that is difficult to like this show because there is no one to root for. I’m not totally against moral greyness (though I’m not sure if I can think of anything comparable I do like) but do I like watching it week after week? Not really. And I am mighty fed up with being told that, along with others who don’t like the show, it’s because we need “instant gratification” or lack the brains to give it “hard intellectual and emotional work”. Sigh.

Ballard’s rubbish, the DH staff are compromised by the mere fact of working there plus all their other faults, and there are the dolls who are all blanks and when they are likeable imprints they are doomed to be wiped. And there is Echo but I’m don’t really care about her either.

dollhouse-briar rose-saunders-and-victor

I do love Olivia Williams, Enver Gjokaj, Amy Acker and Miracle Laurie but liking the actors and their performances isn’t enough to make me love the show.

In the welter of criticism of Eliza Dushku’s acting it has slipped by that there is a worse actor on the show and he was quite awful in “Briar Rose”. He may be the reason that Paul is such a creep.

dollhouse - Briar Rose - paul tasers topher

The Whisky incident is interesting because I assumed Dominic was talking to Dr Saunders but he may have been looking at Boyd. Either way it doesn’t really make obvious sense because why would Dominic address someone who doesn’t know they are a doll by their doll name? But! I do know that it was Saunders he was referring to because she wears high-heeled shoes and, as I know, there is a high-heel fetishist in the costume department.

Enver Gjokaj channelling Reed Diamond

Enver Gjokaj channelling Reed Diamond

I was spoiled for Alpha’s identity (despite trying not to be) but that didn’t stop me from being completely shocked by what he did to Victor.

Poor Victor.

Nice adjective, excellent noun

Dollhouse – “Haunted” (Jane Espenson & Maurissa Tacharoen & Jed Whedon)

Dollhouse - Haunted - Echo acting just like a middle-aged woman

Eliza Dushku has a limited range has an actor (that’s okay, so did Doris Day) and that was quite evident in “Haunted”. Dollhouse isn’t a vehicle that suits ED but I am struggling to see what actor could manage it.

This episode was the Dollhouse meets Miss Marple. Jane Marple was always being parachuted into people’s homes to undercover a possible crime. I missed the part when Echo was invaded to stay in the dead woman’s bedroom. Rich people with large houses often find they have to accommodate strangers this way even with wills of introduction.

Oi, you two, be quiet

Oi, you two, be quiet

The funeral service scene was awful. I fully expected the other mourners to turn round en mass and tell these people to stop being so bloody rude and shut up.

I enjoyed the Topher and his best friend who is just like him for one scene but otherwise I find Fran Kranz hard to watch for more than a few seconds.

The problem with MOTW eps like this is the challenge to get you to care about the characters in the “mission” storyline who you are never going to see again. Neglected daughters, loser sons, and young husbands – it’s hard to care about such cardboard characters. Dead Like Me did MOTW (where the M stands for mortality (noun)) episodes much better – the gay couple episode called “The Bicycle Thief” was deeply moving.

Dollhouse - Haunted - Paul looking freaking scary

“Haunted” was redeemed for me by the compelling Paul/Mellie storyline which was full of disturbing and revelatory things:

  • November’s criminal record
  • her programming as a passive doormat
  • rough sex
  • “I found one”
  • Ballard wants to rescue Caroline but he doesn’t seem to be inclined to want to rescue Mellie. He’s using a woman who is right in front of him who is tangible and real (but not quite herself at the moment) in favour of someone who he has formed a picture of, a someone who is NOT there, someone like Laura in the film Laura.

[If you want a more considered analysis of Dollhouse, then Charles over at Heartache with Hard Work is doing a great job.]

Miracle Laurie seems to be the Amber Benson of Dollhouse – in lots of episodes but not in the opening credits.

Somebody in the costuming department has a stiletto heel fetish.