Reviews: Series/

At least they got a series finale out of it.

With 27 episodes to review in 400 words, let's cut to the chase: Dollhouse is a series starring Eliza Dushku that's best when it's not starring Eliza Dushku.

Part of that is the talent lined up around her. The other regulars are Tahmoh Penikett, Olivia Williams, Harry J. Lennix, Fran Kranz, Dichen Lachman and Enver Gjokaj; guest stars include Summer Glau, Amy Acker, Reed Diamond, Alan Tudyk, Felicia Day and Patton Oswalt. These actors could steal shows from anyone; some do. But part of the problem is the premise: Dushku plays Echo, a Blank Slate or Empty Soul Jar character who gradually becomes a real girl. She's just a bit shy on range for her various "imprints," and once she becomes self-aware and integrates all those personalities into a "super ego," she just goes for Dull Surprise, which makes sense but isn't fun to watch. Long story short, the star is the least interesting character of all, and the show works best when it pushes its Ensemble Cast.

Other than that, the show is vintage Joss Whedon, and like most tropers I heart my Whedon. The "imprint of the week" format opens up a variety of topics and interactions to the writers, from serial killers to Hot For Teacher (in the same episode, to boot!), and the actors playing Dolls - Dushku, Miracle Laurie, Lachman and Gjokaj - get to show off serious versatility. The Unfortunate Implications of the brain-programming tech are played for all they're worth, and Grey And Gray Morality is prevalent; no character is unambiguously good or evil. Neither is the tech, which saves some lives and ends others. The Mood Whiplash and Holy Shit Quotients are both through the roof... and the Executive Meddling not far behind. Yep, definitely a Joss Whedon show. At least he anticipated getting cancelled and was able to wrap up the plotlines.

To be clear: I loved Dollhouse. Firefly had better writing and characters, but Dollhouse had a complete plot, which matters to a writer like me. Joss has probably sworn off television, but that's a shame, because with a complete series and some creative control, he could work some true magic.