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Whedon returns to TV

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  • William T Goodall
    http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117975136.html?categoryid=14&cs=1 Joss Whedon preps Fox series Dollhouse to star Buffy s Eliza Dushku By MICHAEL
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 2, 2007

      "Joss Whedon preps Fox series'Dollhouse' to star 'Buffy's' Eliza Dushku
      Joss Whedon is heading back to TV-- along with his "Buffy the Vampire
      Slayer" and "Angel" ingenue, Eliza Dushku.
      Dushku will star in the Whedon-penned series "Dollhouse," which has
      been given a seven-episode order by Fox. News came as an extra-big
      Halloween treat for Whedon fans, considered some of the most
      passionate in all of TV.

      Produced by 20th Century Fox TV -- the studio also behind "Buffy,"
      "Angel" and Whedon's late, lamented "Firefly" -- "Dollhouse" follows a
      top-secret world of people programmed with different personalities,
      abilities and memories depending on their mission.

      After each assignment -- which can be physical, romantic or even
      illegal -- the characters have their memories wiped clean, and are
      sent back to a lab (dubbed the "Dollhouse"). Show centers on Dushku's
      character, Echo, as she slowly begins to develop some self-awareness,
      which impacts her missions.

      Whedon has already hammered out the basic outline for all seven segs.
      Barring a strike, Fox hopes to have the show in production by spring,
      giving the net an opportunity to be so far ahead of schedule by fall
      that it could potentially air a full season uninterrupted by breaks.
      Long lead time also gives Whedon, as well as the net and studio,
      plenty of time to evolve the show if need be.

      "To be sitting here talking about episodes of a series in November;
      that's exciting," said Fox Entertainment prexy Kevin Reilly. "I think
      we're in great hands."

      Whedon said he wasn't plotting a comeback to the smallscreen, having
      turned his attention back to features. But Dushku -- who last toplined
      20th's and Fox's "Tru Calling" -- called up the scribe after sealing a
      talent deal with the studio and network this summer (Daily Variety,
      Aug. 27).

      "He's my favorite genius," Dushku said. "And my favorite friend. He's
      been like a big brother ... and the only person out here I've ever
      wholeheartedly trusted, because he's never let me down."

      What was originally simply a lunch to meet up and discuss Dushku's
      career options soon turned into a partnership, as Whedon threw out a
      random concept Dushku loved.

      That germ of an idea turned into "Dollhouse."

      "It was a mistake!" Whedon said. "I sat down with her to talk about
      her options, and acted all sage, saying things backwards like Yoda and
      laying out what I thought she should do. But in the course of doing
      it, I accidentally made one up. I told it to her, and she said,
      'That's exactly what I want to do.' "

      Fox Entertainment chairman Peter Liguori had been pursuing Whedon
      about making a return to TV for some time, and said he couldn't
      believe his luck when Dushku brought him in the door.

      "There was a lot of work and serendipity that came into this," said
      Liguori, who bought off-net runs of "Buffy" back when he ran FX.
      "Fortunately for him, his movie career was quite fertile, and he was
      only going to do something in TV that he felt quite passionately
      about. The guy has two unbelievable skills that are so rare: He's
      totally innovative creatively, and he's a terrific showrunner."

      As a result, Whedon is suddenly once again donning the titles of exec
      producer-showrunner-creator-writer -- a job he didn't think he'd once
      again assume so quickly, particularly after the cancellations of
      "Angel" and "Firefly."

      And because she helped convince Whedon to sign on to the project --
      and had a hand in its creation -- Dushku will serve as a producer on
      the show.

      "It's exciting to know that my voice and who I am as Eliza is going to
      be in this show every single week," she said. "I'm ready to take
      control of the person I want to be in this business."

      Whedon said he and Dushku hammered out an idea they believed would
      showcase the thesp's wide range (having done comedy, like the feature
      "Bring It On," in addition to drama).

      "She's someone who gets pigeonholed as doing one thing, but she's
      constantly changing and could do anything," Whedon said. "I said to
      her, do you want to do the same thing for seven years? This show comes
      from her particular circumstance. We can take this show to a lot of
      different places."

      Dushku agreed -- and said she could relate to the idea of people's
      lives constantly being scrutinized, and being told who you should be.

      "As actors, we're expected to play characters, and in a way it feels
      like people are trying to download the latest trend into a Hollywood
      actress and make them like everyone else," she said. "I even love my
      character's name, Echo. And I'm starting my training, so I can get
      into that 'Dark Angel'-on-crack shape where I can do everything."

      20th Century Fox TV chairman Gary Newman said the "Dollhouse" pitch
      reminded him of an earlier time, when Whedon brought the "Buffy"
      universe into being.

      "He's creating this fascinating universe that's a little bit out of
      the ordinary," Newman said. "The emotions and experiences play
      beautifully as metaphors for real issues. ... His ability to combine
      suspense, humor, action and emotion is remarkable."

      It's not the first time Whedon and Dushku have plotted to work
      together; the duo briefly flirted with creating a "Buffy the Vampire
      Slayer" spinoff featuring her character, Faith. But the two ultimately
      decided not to pursue the idea.

      Beyond Dushku's character, the show will also revolve around the
      people who run the mysterious "dollhouse" and two other "dolls," a man
      and woman who are friendly with Echo. Then there's the federal agent
      who has heard an urban myth about the dolls, and is trying to
      investigate their existence.

      Whedon admitted there's a little dose of "The Matrix" in the plot --
      "I do have that entire movie tattooed on my brain" -- and said
      "Dollhouse" will enable him and Dushku to explore some political and
      social issues.

      Given Whedon's popularity as a sci-fi brand, Liguori said he wished
      the project had been ready to announce at ComiCon.

      "He's got an unbelievably loyal following, and that's an earned
      brand," Liguori said. "So much of it is based on Joss' love of what he
      does and the genius of how he does it.""

      William T Goodall
      Mail : wtg@...
      Web : http://www.wtgab.demon.co.uk
      Blog : http://radio.weblogs.com/0111221/

      "There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant
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