Today’s cuppa: hot peppermint tea

Thumbnail image for Kate'shotcuppasmall.gifYesterday, I did my regular weekly appearance on Shaun Daily’s TV Talk show on — click here for the MP3 version.

I come in just after the half hour mark (scratchy throat, stuffy head and all — just a cold, no swine flu or anything like that, thank goodness).

We talk about the poll results on my blog (the poll remains open, BTW), and all the various set visits and award shows I’ve gone to lately .. which are quite a few, and which may account for me catching a cold.

Dollhouse_Summer_Glau_Eliza_Dushku.jpgAt the same time, I’m pretty cranky at Fox for pulling “Dollhouse” for sweeps — click here for the Zap2it story — mostly for selfish reasons. I did interviews and a set visit for a story originally planned to run next week, focusing on the beginning of Summer Glau’s (standing, right) recurring role.

Now that won’t happen until December. Not sure if the story will re-run then or not in syndication; we’ll have to see what happens.

But, I did sit down last night and watch two “Dollhouse” episodes that Fox sent out — both the one airing tonight, and the one that was supposed to air next Friday, with Glau.

It arrived with a note from creator Joss Whedon attached, which says, in part, “We’re back! With two brand new, never-before-sent-to-reviewers episode of ‘Dollhouse,’ a show that’s sweeping an unbelievably tiny portion of the nation.”

He’s not kidding about the “tiny” part, which explains why the show was benched for the all-important sweeps period, starting Friday, Oct. 30, when Fox re-runs the two-hour “House” premiere, followed by “House” and “Bones” re-runs for all of November. Re-runs. Ouch.

I have to be honest in saying that I’ve always thought “Dollhouse” has fallen well short in the execution of its premise, which has inherent difficulties of its own. It’s tough to have viewers lock into characters that shift personas week by week. In some ways, it’s doomed “Dollhouse” to the trouble that plagues all anthology series, which have proven a tough sell to regular audiences over the last couple of decades.

This season, in answer to that, Whedon has been fleshing out the lead character of Echo (Eliza Dushku, lying down, above), with some success.

Dollhouse_Dichen_Lachman.jpgBut Echo’s a minor player in tonight’s episode, “Belonging,” which really belongs to Dichen Lachman, who plays Sierra, another of the memory-wiped, reprogrammable “Actives” that live in the mysterious L.A. Dollhouse.

An Australian with a mother of Tibetan descent, Lachman has a very distinctive look, which doesn’t hamper her in the least when it comes to morphing into wildly different personas.

I’ve always thought she was the most adept chameleon in the cast — with Enver Gjokaj, who plays Active Victor, as a close second — and “Belonging” is a showcase for Lachman’s considerable transformative skills. Whatever happens to “Dollhouse,” I can’t imagine Lachman being short of work in the years to come.

Belonging” — co-written by Whedon, and directed by Jonathan Frakes — is also a nice turn for Fran Kranz. He plays amoral tech wizard Topher Brink, who learns that growing a conscience can be very painful indeed.

Whedon does have an eye for talent, and I’m happy he’s brought some of these lesser-known folks to the attention of the showbiz world.

Speaking of Whedon discoveries, the episode currently skedded for Dec. 4, called “The Public Eye,” brings in Glau, who got her first acting role a 2002 episode of Whedon’s “Angel” and has gone on to be a favorite of his.

In “Dollhouse,” she plays a twitchy, off-kilter part that’s not too far from what we’ve seen her do in “Firefly,” “The 4400” or “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.”

But since Glau is quite good at playing a sweetly innocent psycho or a dimpled butt-kicker, that’s not an entirely bad thing.

It was also fun to see her as a smart-mouthed, trashy chick with a dark side on CBS’ military drama “The Unit,” so she does have range.

But, we’ll get back to that in December, either in a syndicated feature story or in this space.

So, whether or not you’ve been loving “Dollhouse” all along, I recommend tuning into “Belonging.” It shows what the series can be at its best, and it’s just a tight, tasty hour of TV. It might be too little, too late, but you never know. It’s not all about the overnights these days.

As Whedon said in his note, “Thanks, and see you on the TiVo!”

Posted by:Kate O'Hare