Trip through any reportage or recappage on Fox's Dollhouse and you'll spy a recurring refrain:
Where is Joss Whedon's trademark wit?
It's a fair cop. After all, snappy and snarky dialogue laden with "Whedonisms" and pop-culture references became a calling card of such series as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel.
But at the risk of putting too fine a point on it, we're not in Sunnydale anymore.
"[Dollhouse] is not the light-hearted romp that the other shows were," Whedon tells TVGuide.com. "There are moments of funny, but it doesn't build like — nor was it designed to be — a comedy. It's not going to play that instrument."
"If there is a typical Whedon show," he adds, "this is not it."
So while Echo occasionally may be imprinted as a tart-tongued thief and Topher may regularly crack wise about his God complex, you won't ever hear Sierra bitch to Adelle, "Ugh, you're such a Blair."
Explaining his venture into darker waters, Whedon says, "You have to do different things at different times. And if people are feeling like [Dollhouse] is too serious, then either their expectation has to be changed or we need to lighten up a little. But I don't think they're ever going to see the same long, six-page runs of pure humor. This is not that show."
Especially and if only because Dollhouse's inherent premise — childlike, personality-wiped "actives" are rented out for engagements of an oft morally questionable nature — hints at issues of human trafficking and other unethical business practices.
"You can do a little [humor on Dollhouse]," says Whedon, "but you can't turn it into a pop-culture, referential funhouse."