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SHOW TRACKER

Joss Whedon says 'Dollhouse' has hit its stride

Show's creator says it's a turning point for the series this week with 'Man on the Street.'

March 19, 2009|Maria Elena Fernandez

The rocky road of Joss Whedon's "Dollhouse" series has been well-documented, but Whedon is very excited about Friday's episode, "Man on the Street," which he wrote, and the fact that his audience grew by 21% last week to 4.3 million viewers. The following are excerpts from a conference call with reporters Wednesday.

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Viewers have complained of the "ick factor" of the premise. Most of the dolls are there voluntarily, but knowing that at least one isn't, doesn't that continue to make the show uncomfortable?

It makes me uncomfortable. I'm not going to lie. For me, it's part of what we're dealing with. We're dealing with people who have power and are abusing it, and people who don't and are trying to regain it. In some instances, we want to show the Dollhouse is providing a service that somebody is looking for. And in other instances, that's going to be abused and the ick factor gets very high.

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Do you think there might have been a negative side effect to all the interviews you did emphasizing that [Friday's episode] was where you wanted people to get hooked?

"Man on the Street" came to me as a concept really quickly. And for the first time, there was a real simpatico [with the network]. I wrote it faster than anything I've ever written. It just poured out of me. All of that brewing we'd been doing became the soup for that episode. It really was a game changer for us on-set and in production. Other people may feel differently, but we walked away from shooting that episode going, "OK, we've just added a layer, and we feel pretty excited about it."

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Did you just need time to find the show or did the network relent?

It was kind of both. "Man on the Street" definitely contains elements that were pitched by or developed by people at the network in terms of the motivations of the Dollhouse and the feel of the politics of the thing and the thriller aspect. It wasn't like, "Oh, now they've shut up, and now we'll do it my way." But it also is, storytelling-wise, much more how I had envisioned coming at it. It was really finding the code to a show that I can do my best work in and the network can still get behind. It was a meeting of the minds.

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Obviously, the big market for the Dollhouse is weird sexual engagements. But the first five episodes touched on that very little. Why?

Some people at the network were like, "Wait a minute, this idea that we just bought is illegal and very racy and frightens us." That for me was frustrating because what I was selling them was dangerous ground. That's not to say that the only thing I pitched them was Echo having sex. The idea was that she was always going to be different things. Sexuality was a big part of it and certainly the most edgy and titillating part of it, but not in any way the only part of it. . . . I thought of her, more than anything, as a life coach. As the kind of person you absolutely need in your life at a certain moment who will either change you or comfort you or take your life to the level you want it to be. And that could be nice, evil, sexual. It could be any number of things. I think we ended up not going there as much as we would have in the first few episodes because we were still in that dialogue with some of the people at the network.

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maria.elena.fernandez @latimes.com

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