Tuning back in

Peter has indicated some ambivalence about committing to the new Joss Whedon series, Dollhouse, for fear that it will be canceled. Other reasons for ambivalence were surely that early word on the show was lukewarm at best. Eliza Dushku as some weird operative who’s had a personality-ectomy played into a few too many existing prejudices, and early episodes seemed to confirm those prejudices. And the show seemed to raise deeper questions about selfhood and identity and them gloss over them in an atmosphere of pervasive ditz. But, beneath the episodic trappings, some interesting serial-tv things were percolating, and now, over the last two installments, those things have surfaced with a freaking explosion, and, at the same time, Dollhouse has begun treating those deeper questions with both gravity and imagination. The episodic elements, which seemed cheesy and pat early on, have become mainly the handmaiden of the longer-form storytelling, and, suddenly, Dollhouse is a fabulous sci-fi series, and concerns about it being canceled need to be re-grounded from the worry that it isn’t good enough to survive to the better-justified suspicion that it is too good – too adventurous, too patient, too dauntingly focused, too weird – for network television.