Avengers officially made this the year of Joss Whedon. He now has mainstream success and the long-shelved Cabin in the Woods was finally released. He built up a fanbase through classic, much loved shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly. (And Firefly's big-screen sequel Serenity.) But I am here today to champion his least-loved television show: Dollhouse. It only lasted two seasons - Fox learned their lesson from Firefly - but never found a real audience. Critics opinions were up and down. But I loved it and it's still one of my favorite shows.
The premise of Dollhouse is that a company (the Rossum Corporation) exists that can wipe people's personalities and replace them. Some people sign contracts to let this corporation use their bodies. Between jobs, they are kept blank and childlike. Others hire the "dolls." They use them for companionship, to look after children, as bodyguards, anything you can think of. Government agents want to find the Dollhouse and shut it down, because , of course, this is all very expensive and highly illegal. The action centers around Echo (Eliza Dushku), a somewhat defective doll. She's very popular with customers, but seems to be developing her own personality.
My favorite episodes were always the ones that explained how the employees came to the Dollhouse. What could possibly make you put your life on hold for years? Why would you let your body be used? And believe me, Dollhouse was all about questions, ethical and philosophical. Dollhouse rarely took a stand on the issues it explored, aside from making it clear that the Rossum Corporation was evil. It just put the questions out there. My absolute favorite part of the show was probably debating the episodes the next day with a friend and deciding how I felt about them.
Dollhouse had very low lows. The start of both seasons was rocky. Eliza Dushku got the show made. But she wasn't versatile enough to play all of the characters she was given convincingly. But the highs were very high indeed. "Epitaph One" is probably the best thing Joss Whedon has ever done. And the supporting cast was absolutely amazing. Harry Lennix, Fran Kranz, Amy Acker, Reed Diamond, and Olivia Williams killed as employees of Rossum. And Enver Gjokaj and Dichen Lachman were amazing as fellow dolls falling in love.
Right now, both seasons of Dollhouse are available to stream for free through Amazon Prime. I recommend that you start at "Man on the Street" (Episode 6) and then watch it all if you're intrigued.