We had the pleasure of sitting down with cult favorite Joss Whedon, creator of “Buffy,” “Angel” and the short-lived “Firefly” to chat about his newest venture, “Dollhouse.” The sci-fi drama, airing on FOX Friday nights at 8 pm, stars Whedon’s muse Eliza Dushku as Echo, a member of a secret group of people called “Actives.” They have no memories, no habits, and no idea who they are. The live together in a futuristic laboratory know as the Dollhouse and for the right price, they are imprinted with new personalities and become whatever they are hired out to be.
If you’re like me, you hear this premise and think, “Finally! A prime time show about prostitution! Take that, “Cathouse”!” Well, yes and no. According to Whedon, it’s not quite that simple.
When he was asked about whether he had managed to get a show about beautiful women fulfilling fantasies, i.e. prostitution, on a major network, the creator quipped, “First of all it’s not just women, it’s women AND men. And secondly, yes.”
He continued on more seriously.
“No, in the higher ranks there was some consternation after the show was being made of ‘Saaayyyy…that sounds like prostitution.’ And my response was yes, that’s part of the package. That is part of what is going on with ‘Dollhouse,’ it’s not all of what is going on with ‘Dollhouse,’ but it’s part of it.”
He went on, “Some people have been greatly offended by that, some people want to stay away from it. My response to it is to hit it head on and say let’s talk about exactly that. How much of this is morally reprehensible and how much is just stuff that we as an American culture deem morally reprehensible?”
“That’s a theme you’ll find in ‘Serenity’ and a lot of my work. I like to take the hero and find out what’s dark and strange and Canadian about him.”
He continued, “In reality prostitution is beyond appalling, but I want to be able to talk about it in a science fiction show as something that is part of the human condition.”
For Whedon the biggest challenge in getting “Dollhouse” off the ground hasn’t been the questionable moral aspect of the show, or possible outrage it might spark. It’s been the changes in television production since “Angel” went off the air. In fact it seems like the king of sci-fi, might be a bit old fashioned when he gets behind the camera.
“Producing television has changed a lot more than I expected. It’s been five years since watching the sunset and this, my old fat guy reunion tour. It’s changed just because of all the scramble that networks have had to go through to keep advertisers and figure out how to use the Internet. The webisodes — you know everything behind the scenes is documented. When I started ‘Buffy’ we weren’t putting shows out on DVD, when I started ‘Firefly,’ we weren’t putting failed shows out on DVD,” he laughed.
“Now you pretty much pick your nose and there’s a DVD. And by the way it’s fabulous. It’s three episodes and I really get in there,” he added, prompting a big laugh from the room.
He went on, quietly. “It’s a little overwhelming. They want to give us a director’s cut and then they cut theirs and then we’re going to have a B camera there the whole time and then the webisode…and we’re sitting there going ‘You know, just churning out a television show is more than we can handle.’”
“So it’s a little overwhelming, but they say this will drive business to the show and I’m like what if the show’s crappy when they get there? For me I get a little shirty about it. I’m like, let’s concentrate on what’s important.”
Although it’s been five years since Whedon’s last stint on prime time, he hasn’t been relaxing. His web-based TV show, “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” was released as an independent experiment last year and it’s since become an underground sensation, thanks in no small part to the hilarious performance of Neil Patrick Harris. When asked what he thinks about Harris making a cameo on “Dollhouse,” Whedon deadpanned.
“I don’t know if he’s got talent of any kind. Did he ever do radio?” he joked. “I’d love any chance to work with Neil. I would grab at it instantly. He apparently is on another series [CBS’s “How I Met Your Mother]. But, I’m going to make sure he knows that I know that he said that. He’s as good as they get.”
Maybe we’ll see a “Dollhouse”-“How I Met Your Mother” crossover show? A girl’s got to have a fantasy.