Thursday, September 24, 2009

'FlashForward' & 'Dollhouse' season two review - Sepinwall on TV

In today's column, I review the pilot for "FlashForward," which is a show that has a cool premise and mediocre execution, and the season two premiere of "Dollhouse," which is a show that started off with a dumb premise but has started to be executed so well that it doesn't matter.

I'll have a separate, brief "FlashForward" post tonight, and a "Dollhouse" episode post tomorrow night.


Anonymous said...

I'm sort of intrigued by FlashForward but I'm trying to keep my expectations pretty low. I'll just hope that it's one of those shows that need some time to get into its stride.

But I've got to say, having to read in print all these references to the end of Lost in FlashForward reviews is making me sad way too many months in advance.

Billiam said...

When having a discussion about genres (usually with people who have "no sci-fi" rules) I generally say that I care a lot more about the execution than the concept or what category it fits into (though I have to admit that I generally avoid police procedural show and slasher flicks).
Veronica Mars, Dollhouse, and Firefly are three shows that when I describe I say "Well, the concept sounds kind of dumb, but it's really well made."

Anonymous said...

I think I will read the book on which Flash Forward is based. A 21 year flash seems like a better premise than 6 months. Are they begging for a one season show? I am not against that, but it just doesn't seem to be the way networks operate in this country (as opposed to the UK which seems to know when enough is enough). BTW FF book author is Robert Sawyer.

Anonymous said...

I saw the FF pilot and really enjoyed it. But I agree it could get old fast if not executed well as a series. I'm surprised you didn't mention The Nine in your review, which was also being touted as the next Lost, but couldn't ever quite crack its premise and never really became engaging as a series.

TL said...

Alan - Quick question: I'm still waiting for Dollhouse "Episode 13" in my Netflix queue, which I've heard has some serious implications for the overall arc of the show.

Is there anything to lost by watching tomorrow's episode before watching 13?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Is there anything to lost by watching tomorrow's episode before watching 13?

No. At some point this season, they're going to revisit elements from that episode, but it won't be in the premiere, and Joss has made it sound like it won't be for a while.

Hatfield said...

I caught up on Dollhouse on DVD, and while I enjoyed the earlier episodes more, I think being able to pop them in back to back certainly helped. And then after the finale, "Epitaph One" blew me away. Very excited for the season.

Is it just a thirteen episode order for now?

Hatfield said...

Also, don't know where else to put this, but isn't retweeting Ausiello's House news a violation of the no spoiler policy? I'm not sure I wanted to know, and while I wasn't on your Twitter account, it is automatically posted to this site.

Hate to be a whiner, but I feel like if someone had somehow known this earlier and posted about it in the House season premiere thread you would have deleted it. Am I off on this?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Casting news is a grey area. If an actor is leaving a show, or joining it, then that's a fact. I don't want to know details of how this is going to happen, but the fact that it is happening isn't something to be shielded by the policy, I don't think.

Hatfield said...

Ok, just checking. Thanks for the clarification!

RichC said...

I was looking forward to Flash Forward, but realizing those 2 made Threshold kind of depresses me. That was definitely a show with a very good cast and a very good premise and less than good execution. Too many useless episodes. Hopefully they learned their lesson.

dez said...

John Cho was on the radio this morning promoting FF and gave away a few details about his character's flashforward and the show in general (nothing too spoilery IMO, but I will refrain from repeating just in case). It got me a little excited to see it.

I bailed on Dollhouse early in its run. Is it something you think I should give another shot, Alan?

Not sure if the news that Braga is moving to "24" is good or terrifying....

Hatfield said...

dez, get the Dollhouse DVDs, watch episode 6-12 and the unaired episode. It really gets better.

Which Braga?

Anonymous said...

@dez: John Cho in general is enough to make me excited to see it. I'm just keeping my expectations very low.

Pamela Jaye said...

I once had a thought on casting news (some can't be avoided - see TR Knight) Say someone posted that whoever was going to be cast as House's father. I would only consider that a spoiler if I had previously thought House's father was dead.
I tend to avoid Ausiello, and I don't want to know what he said. Lucky me, I haven't read any Dollhouse reviews. Although I am no longer behind, on the show (yay).
Dollhouse takes a lot of brainpower for me. More than Veronica Mars (though that was up there)

I lot of people were pissed off when Brooke Smith got booted from Grey's, but I was slightly less so when I finally saw the ep. I wouldn't have wanted to know in advance *how* she left, though. So I guess I would rather have just been pissed off. (alas, my Grey's Calendars always have former cast, now. every year since Isaiah left)

I don't know when I'll be watching Dollhouse (should I hide from Twitter?) Flash Forward I might save for a few weeks to make sure ABC doesn't pull a Reunion on it)

Time to go back and read more Mad Men comments (in order to avoid Grey's spoilers)

Dan Coyle said...

If you like Flash Forward, you should read Guggenheim's graphic novel/comic series Resurrection, which is about the aftermath of an alien invasion.

Anonymous said...

I also saw the Flash Forward pilot a couple months ago and was really impressed. There is a lot of room to play with different areas of the show. Definitely potential for longevity. Did anyone see the premiere tonight?

Number Five said...

I think Dollhouse is actually a great premise with initially poor execution. The midwife was silly because of all the possible identities one could assume, it accomplished nothing. And in general, the first half of the season wasted the concept on a series of stock TV plots (now she's an undercover singer! now she's a hostage negotiator!). But the second half abandoned the procedural slant and fully embraced the power of the show's idea.

Of course, I don't think the Dollhouse premise or the other ones listed in the column sound ridiculous...shouldn't we TV fans have a pretty good suspension of disbelief?

But your general point about execution over concept is well-taken - on the flip side, how many of the best TV dramas have been police, medical, or lawyer shows with simple premises? A large number of them, because they're so popular that there are a lot of terrifically executed ones that have become great. Similarly, most of the great comedies have been nothing more than "this show is about this family" or "this show is about this workplace."

Threshold is a good example, because that year each Big 3 network had a Lost-inspired high concept show, and they all failed...Surface was another, and I've already forgotten the third.

miles said...

I hate to ask a stupid question, but since I turned on Flash Forward half way through, I was curious to know how the characters know that they flash forward. How do they know the 2 minute vision wasn't the equivalent of a dream?

Eric said...

Brothers looks like the perfect lead-in. Another scheduling coup by the genius executives at Fox!

Schmoker said...

Man, speaking of FF's execution . . . I'm all for it.

But I would expect nothing less of the guy who dug the grave for Star Trek and the guy who turned Batman into a English drawing room drama.

My favorite bit of stupidity was when Jo Fiennes had to remind everyone that they didn't JUST black out, because apparently everyone but him forgot what happened to them. And then their reactions to him saying he had a vision and not a blackout were priceless.

"Hey, I had a vision, too."

"Yeah, me too."

"Oooo . . . I also had a vision, and now that you mention it, I remember all these little specific details from it, even though just a minute ago I couldn't remember that I even had a vision and was calling it a blackout."

It was Star Trek 101: Everyone's an idiot for a bit so the hero can then explain everything for the audience, then everyone pretends they were always up to speed on everything all along.

As for the Lost comparisons, I would have to call this the anti-Lost. Lost was almost exclusively a character based drama during its first season, with just the barest hints of anything deeper dropped sparingly along the way. The pilot itself revealed absolutely nothing of the mystery. It took a few weeks to even realize there was a mystery. Sure, a polar bear here, some oddly moving grass there, but for the most part Lost engaged you in the stories (and back stories) of its characters for a long, long, long time before it ever got around to really getting into the mystery.

FF, on the other hand, spent the entire pilot screaming, "BIG MYSTERY HERE!!!! WHAT THE EFF IS UP????"

FF was all mystery, all the time, with almost zero character development beyond "he's an alky, and his partner doesn't like Kenny Rogers."

It wasn't awful, but it wasn't good, and I have a feeling it will be getting awful very, very soon. Imagine being dropped into Lost in the middle of Season Three. That is what FF appears to be.

What a shame.

PS - My Word Verification was "Preverto." Is Blogger trying to tell me something?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Schmoker, thanks for pointing out how silly it was that Fiennes was the only one to realize he'd had a vision, followed immediately by everyone spilling detail after detail of theirs.

And why did everybody happen to be looking at a calendar during these particular two minutes? I asked Goyer this back at press tour, and he gave a vague answer, claiming "there’s a reason why some of the
characters happened to be looking at the calendar during their flashforwards."

Travis said...

I want to check out Flashforward, but I can't help but be reminded of previous shows that seemed like a great idea, but either fell appart in execution or were simply executed by the network (changing schedules being my biggest peeve!)

The Nine in particular, but there were a couple of 'sounded good' shows on at the time that weren't given much of a chance, and as a viewer I have since given up on investing time in a new series over fear that I'll never get to see more than a handful of episodes before some suit decides to pull the show off air.

It's a catch22 now where I'm not biting at first, but rather waiting for the first season or 2 on dvd and playing catch-up, which probably ads to the low initial numbers which causes the cancellation.

Anonymous said...

I missed FlashForward on Thursday night, but watched the re-broadcast tonight.

For me, the single most annoying trait was ABC's Beat The Audience Over The Head comments when cutting away to commercials.

"Remember the Kangaroo! It could be important!"

"Learn more about this important date (April 29, 2010) at!"

Bleh. :-p

Hey, ABC, could April 29, 2010 be the intended season finale air date?

Hey, ABC, d'y'think you'll keep the show on the air that long? (And how is keeping those unaired episodes of 'Defying Gravity' in their cans working out for you?)

Anonymous said...

Alan you are such an idiot.