Tucked in a dark room in a spa-like L.A. set, Eliza Dushku (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) lies on a table, grimacing as a gizmo pulses light on her temples. It's not erasing unsightly laugh lines, but rather her entire memory. But you'll want to remember this: She's shooting the pilot for Fox's Dollhouse (which will premiere in early 2009), the first new show from Buffy creator Joss Whedon since Firefly flickered out in 2003. Evoking memories of Alias, Samantha Who?, The Pretender, and Total Recall then wiping them away with the promise of Whedon's distinctively hilarious, humane, high-strange vision Dollhouse follows Dushku's Echo, a mysterious agent with no identity except for the personalities imprinted on her and then deleted by her employer depending on the wishes and needs of wealthy clients. Between assignments, Echo lives inside a cushy secret HQ with other blank-slate dolls in a state of oblivious, hyper-healthy bliss...though as the series unfolds, she's starting to remember stuff she shouldn't.
Whedon says that, like Buffy and Firefly, Dollhouse aspires to be both deep (how does society shape, influence, ''program'' the individual: discuss!) and fun. A typical episode will see Dushku cycle through three to four personas, making for a wild mix of moods and genres. ''The other day I shot scenes for a 1940s musical dance number and a Mexican spaghetti Western just for the pilot episode,'' says Whedon, kicking back on a plush couch under the stairwell of Dollhouse's set. Says Dushku: ''It's really perfect for my personality, which is kind of ADD. It's nice to not have the same wardrobe every day.''
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