Welcome to the "Dollhouse." Joss Whedon's latest post-"Buffy" effort got off to a suspect start amid a difficult-to-describe concept, network indifference and all-around bad buzz. One wonders how it got renewed for a second season, but check out "Season One" and see: What starts out mediocre gets markedly better.
The series surrounds an underground organization that employs "dolls," which are humans whose true identities have been wiped so they can be implanted with new ones and rented out for missions and other reasons. Echo (Eliza Dushku) is one of them, and in the opening episodes, she becomes a cat burglar, a blind woman and a backup singer to a Beyoncé-esque diva.
But Dushku is not that good of an actress to pull off the variety of roles, and she's the least interesting character among the cast. There's also a difference between intrigue and just being flat-out enigmatic, and "Dollhouse" leans toward the latter early on. Then, in the sixth episode, the show is essentially upended, straying from the identity-of-the-week format into more of an ensemble piece exploring the organization and its mythology.
This is when "Dollhouse" gets good — not great, mind you, but a tangible improvement, and enough of one to lure viewers to tune in this fall ... provided they make it far enough into these discs to witness the change.
Fox's set includes a fourth disc with extras, including the original pilot and a 13th episode that went unaired, for reasons too complex to address here. These, however, were not available for review. —Rod Lott