Recasting Cancelled Shows: What If That Chick From "Orphan Black" Had Been In "Dollhouse"?
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Recasting Cancelled Shows: What If That Chick From "Orphan Black" Had Been In "Dollhouse"?

By Joanna Robinson | Seriously Random Lists | May 16, 2013 | Comments ()


The other day friend of the site and Pajiba technical advisor Corey Atad dropped this little plum on his Twitter feed: "If only Tatiana Maslany had been the lead in Dollhouse instead of Dushku." Holy f*ck. If you're not watching "Orphan Black" (and why aren't you?) then you might not know what a soul-shakingly great idea this is. But if you are, and if you were a quasi-reluctant fan on Joss Whedon's "Dollhouse," then your whole world just got rocked. Sometimes when shows are cancelled before their time it's a genuine head scratcher. You can't fault the quality of "Pushing Daises," "Freaks and Geeks," "Arrested Development," "Sports Night," "My So-Called Life," or "Party Down." And you certainly can't fault their casting. Though, personally, I was always more of a fan of Lynch-era "Party Down."


In those instances the blame is usually laid at the feet of the "average" American TV watcher. It's easy enough to put the burden on some phantom "Two And A Half Men"-loving Mountain Dew-guzzlers. But sometimes, sometimes, you can find the faults in shows that were cancelled "too soon." Yes even something you love dearly might be guilty of a blemish or two. In the case of the following shows you can (at least) place some of the blame on some really shoddy performances. What if they had been cast differently? Would these shows still be with us?

Kristen Wiig As Harriet Hayes In "Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip": Sorkin's follow-up to the "The West Wing" was his insider baseball dramedy starring Matthew Perry and Bradley Whitford. It's hard to argue with that duo (despite Perry's weak track record). But where the show really faltered was in the basic premise that the "SNL"-esque show within the show they were putting on every week was, well, funny. (This, by the way, is also a problem I had with "30 Rock." Though I'm not sure "TGS" was supposed to be good.) Anyway, much was made of the comedic talents of Sarah Paulson's Harriet Hayes. Paulson, talented though she is, was not the right fit. Wiig, however, would have been perfect and I think she and Perry would have been able to muster a little more chemistry.

Taran Killam As Ben In "Ben And Kate": Speaking of "SNL" cast members, it might be too early to bust Killam out of late night sketch jail. With so many cast members leaving next year he's poised to snatch the lead male performer slot which usually leads to feature films. That being said, "Ben And Kate" was such a sweet and lovely show and if someone stronger had been in the Ben role it might have stood a chance. Nat Faxon (Jim Rash's writing partner) is very talented behind the camera but in front of the camera he had the Jim Carrey labrador comedy dialed up to 11. And it didn't work.

Paul Wesley As Duncan Kane on "Veronica Mars": I think even the most die-hard fans know that Teddy Dunn was wrong wrong wrong and boring as Duncan Kane. If you want someone who is CW handsome and can brood like a mother*cker, then look no further than "The Vampire Diaries" Paul Wesley. He also knows a thing or two about love triangles. Of course, the Duncan problem was neatly solved in Season 2 so if we're really looking to blame for the cancellation of "Veronica Mars" we need look no further than...
Screen Shot 2013-05-16 at 11.11.52 AM.png

Fran Kranz As Piz In "Veronica Mars": Piz. Hateful horrid Piz. Boring, floppy-haired Piz. You needed someone with a lot of nerdy charm to make us buy him as a feasible Logan Echolls rival. Of course, Logan Echolls is his own worst enemy and there were many many problems with Season 3. I could have done without Piz in general. But if we had to have a wise-cracking nerd, Kranz would be at the top of my list.

Tatiana Maslany As Echo In "Dollhouse": Speaking of Kranz, he was one of the many many great aspects of Joss Whedon's "Dollhouse." Along with the stellar Olivia Williams, Enver Gjokaj and Reed Diamond he almost, almost made the show bearable. But the massive black hole of talent that was Eliza Dushku pretty much ruined any chance Whedon had. The concept was interesting, the show could have been amazing. Maslany who plays at least 6 characters perfectly on "Dollhouse" would have been just the thing. My heart weeps for the TV greatness that might have been.

Anna Kendrick As Karen Cartwright In "Smash": Okay "Smash" is a mess in general but the main issue is that the show wants us to buy Katherine McPhee as a talented charismatic lead. And. Wow. No. Her rival played by Megan Hilty blows her off the stage at every turn. So maybe if they had given us something a little better, a little Kendricksier to work with, the rest of the mess would have fallen in line. Maybe.
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As a "Smash" palate cleanser enjoy this video of Kendrick singing Cups. It's adorable.

Joanna Robinson knows hindsight is 20/20. She shouldn't have drank that many.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • RenoGruber

    Good point, but I think Orphan Black is the far superior show than Dollhouse, anyhow. (Which I did watch through, and did still enjoy.) But yeah, Dushku is, and always has been to acting to what Elaine Benes was to dancing.

  • e jerry powell

    Oh, look, Anna Kendrick has a girl-crush:

  • ChuggaWasTaken

    This week on Dollhouse, at the start of the episode they mentioned that Allison was away for the week, and my first thought was "I wonder what took the actress away from shooting?" That's house good Maslany is, I actually forgot for a moment that it was the same actress actually saying that line.

    The Dollhouse/Orphan Black comparison is been one I've been using for weeks to convince people to watch.

  • stella

    Or Amy Acker could have just played echo...

  • MelBivCursesDisqus'sName

    The thought of Paul Wesley as Duncan puts a huge, good-looking hole in my "Duncan is the WORST" theory. I might have actually enjoyed the character if he'd been on the show.

  • Arran

    TGS was obviously meant to be a silly parody of SNL. It was funny because it was stupid. Studio 60 KEPT TELLING US WHAT A COMEDIC AND SATIRICAL POWERHOUSE THE SHOW WAS, and then showed us a show full of sketches and impressions that wouldn't pass muster during a 2am amateur slot at UCB. Even having someone like Wiig in the role couldn't have helped that. (Though at least it would've made everyone constantly telling us how talented the character was make a little more sense.)

  • toblerone

    NO to this (entire post).

  • prince_of_montagu

    I agree that Katharine McPhee was miscast on Smash (Megan Hilty routinely makes her look ridiculous) but i really don't think that recasting her would've helped. Not does the show keep heaping praise on Karen (McPhee's character for the majority of people who don't watch Smash) that McPhee and most women could not live up to but Karen is just a fucking awful character to begin with.

    Extremely self-absorbed and hardly has to work to get success along with a whole list of shitty traits. She lights up THE WORLD just by opening her damn mouth. Plus, the show keeps pushing her as the star when it is clear that Jesus died on the cross to give us Megan Hilty. You can find that in the bible. Kendrick could only do so much in that role.

    McPhee just makes it even more easy to hate Karen with her bored line-reading and "i wonder what flavor of lipgloss i'm wearing today?" facial expressions.

    Ah, i'm going miss hating/loving Smash. I've never had an abusive relationship with a show like this.

  • alannaofdoom

    Oh, for the "Smash" that might have been....

  • e jerry powell

    Ladies Who Lunch, indeed. I loved her here, but she really still reads too young for Joanne, considering...

  • Robert

    No, see, the problem with Smash was that Megan Hilty is a powerhouse belter who can sing anyone else who regularly appeared on the show under the table. You would need another belter to go up against her. Anna Kendrick would have read just as bland in the musical numbers as Katherine McPhee because she's not a belter. It needed to be a young belter like Jennifer Damiano, Molly Ranson, Eden Espinosa, etc. who can swing between girl next door and Broadway bombshell.

  • prince_of_montagu

    It's funny because haven't they mentioned Jen Damiano at least twice this season? McPhee might be an awful actress but she can knock it out of the park every once in a while (Cut, Print...Moving On and Don't Forget Me) but she just pales in comparison to Hilty.

    I'm hoping that is the actual reason that Steven Spielburg wanted to recast Megan Hilty (he still dropped *tremendously* in my book when i read that) because it was pretty uneven between them and for some reason, the show and NBC really invested in McPhee.

  • Robert

    McPhee's parents are Hollywood producers. They've tried to buy her a career at least 3 times now and it never sticks: her failed solo album before Idol, her appearance on Idol, and a leading role in Smash.

    The rumor was that Spielberg wanted Hilty out so he could cast a rival that the audience would believe could be beaten by McPhee. That's when all the Ivy is crazy stories started to kick in.

  • Tinkerville

    This explains SO much.

  • JoannaRobinson

    I knew I could count on you to bring the stage actor knowledge.

  • Robert

    The original comment was twice as long with linked references.

  • e jerry powell

    Don't forget the bibliography.

  • lowercase_ryan

    And I am seriously distraught that I do not have BBCA. DAMMIT ALL!!

  • Torgo

    If you're in Canada, it airs on the Space channel. Definitely worth it.

    FYI, Maslany is a canuck.

  • Tinkerville

    I don't always advocate working internet voodoo, but I may sort of kind of be advocating it for Orphan Black.

  • sean

    You know there is a thing called the internet, where all movies,tv,music,books, and comics are available free if you know where to look? Orphan Black is worth looking for.

  • lowercase_ryan

    quit trying to make Smash happen.

  • MelBivCursesDisqus'sName

    Don't worry, it won't be happening anymore.

  • You left out the amazing Dichen Lachman on Dollhouse. I watched every episode of that show (god help me), because the supporting cast was good and tried so hard to make up for the lead's lack. They managed it sometimes, but then Dushku came back on. After every ep, my husband and I agreed that they should have focused on Lachman and Gjokaj, since they both knocked it out of the park on a regular basis.

  • emmelemm

    Dichen Lachman did an amazing job with the "different" personalities and continually highlighted how poor a job Eliza was actually doing.

  • APOCooter

    1) I think the real question is "What if ANYONE been in Dollhouse over Eliza Dushku?" Though I suppose it's kind of fitting that Eliza Dushku played a character who spent a majority of their (non-televized) character life as a "blank slate."

    2) How is Anna Kendrick not a bigger star. She's gorgeous. She can act. She can SING (I'm a sucker for a pretty girl who can sing), and she seems like an incredibly happy, down to earth girl. Kind of like Jennifer Lawrence's sister from another mister, so to speak.

  • NateMan

    I think you answered your own question; she's happy and down to earth. Who wants that in an actress? /sarcasm.

    But I think she's on her way up. There is an amazing crop of young, incredibly talented actresses coming up right now; Anna Kendrick, Jennifer Lawrence, Emma Watson, Emma Stone, etc. Some truly fantastic and seemingly normal young women.

  • Luke Anthony Matthews

    I'm pretty sure Anna Kendrick is already a big star....Pitch Perfect, an oscar nom for Up In The Air....and those paycheques from Twilight, which while shameful, certainly can't hurt her.

  • John W

    What country does Orphan Black take place in?

  • JoannaRobinson

    Oh, Canada.

  • John W

    ah that explains it.

  • toblerone

    Because of it's Awesomeness?

    *At least it isn't another show trying to pass off a Canadian city as an American one.

  • MikeRoorda


  • kushiro -

    After House Bunny and that one episode of Community, who would've bet that a pretty-but-dull American Idol contestant might not be the best choice for lead in a network drama?

  • Arran

    I saw an American Idol contestant be very good in Book of Mormon. But I guess stage stuff is different.

  • cruzzercruz

    Yeah, sorry, I can't get behind the idea that Dollhouse was unbearable. The first six episodes were notoriously bad, but that was a famous story unto itself. By the end of season one and into season two, the show was pretty intriguing and the cast of actors around Dushku's vapid lead rose what some would consider a sinking ship. It's not like Sarah Michelle Gellar was a great talent in Buffy (She was much better, but still).

    The show is pretty great overall, considering that Echo is either in blank doll mode half the time or mix matched badass later on. Her early engagements were tough to swallow, but it definitely wasn't "unbearable."

  • The reason it got better after those first 6 episodes was because they started to write around Dushku's deficiencies. With Maslany in the role, they could have done more with the Echo goes on a bunch of fun dates aspect of the show.

  • cruzzercruz

    Well, it got better after those episodes mainly because Whedon was allowed to write the story he wanted to tell after being forced by Fox to strictly adhere to the "Engagement of the Week" formula. It allowed them to work Dushku into better stories rather than just forcing her to play random characters every episode. I'm not saying she shouldn't have been replaced, but they definitely did what they could within Fox's guidelines and opened it up to her strengths once they were allowed to.

  • All of this is to say "Thank God S.H.I.E.L.D. can't be on Fox".

  • Joe Grunenwald

    It was pretty unbearable any time Eliza Dushku was on-screen. But it was goddamn amazing any time Enver Gjokaj or Dichen Lachmann were on-screen. Unfortunately they were not on-screen as much as Dushku was.

  • Captain D

    I thought Dichen Lachmann was every bit as terrible as Dusku. However, the rest of the cast was stellar.

  • Candee

    Yes, yes, yes.

    Why isn't Enver Gjokaj a thing? He NEEDS TO BE.

  • Patty O'Green

    Probably because it is crazy hard to spell... #shame

  • Michelle

    Agreed. Enver Gjokaj nailed it as Victor-as-Topher and that was when I decided he should be in all the things.

    Dichen Lachmann kind of lost me when I saw her on Being Human. I wasn't picking up what she was putting down.

  • DominaNefret

    And, unfortunately, Dushku created the show with Whedon. It was never going to be anyone else in that part, as much as we love to daydream. The character was created for her.

  • NateMan

    Dichen Lachmann. Dear sweet baby Jesus... Dichen Lachmann.

  • lauwer

    Anna Kendrick should be in everything. Am I the only one mildy *cough* obsessed with her?

    Oh and Tatiana Maslany is THE break-out star of this TV season. Seriously, where has she been all these years? Ugh, she is so perfect as the clones in Orphan Black

  • KC

    I can't believe how much every clone seems like a genuinely different person. She's very talented.

  • Ian Fay

    Kendrick did a really great episode of The Nerdist podcast a few months ago, as well.

  • Ian Fay

    And now I am sad about Dollhouse and Smash all over again.


  • PerpetualIntern

    Yes to Paul Wesley. Although he definitely falls into the "shouldn't be playing a high schooler" category, that doesn't stop him on TVD (although he's also like 100 on TVD...ouch, my brain hurts).

  • Maguita NYC

    Paul Wesley is what keeps me from quitting TVD. When the powers that be give him more than a few lines, and a bit of emotion to play on, the man rocks it.

    Compared to Somerholder's awfully-forced acting, Paul is truly amazing and has so much chemistry with most of the women, and men, on that show; He would have been a great addition to Neptune.

    Remember when Ian was sooo pretty before he cheesed-up?

  • PerpetualIntern

    Soooo pretty. Sigh. Season finale tonight!

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  • Maguita NYC

    It'll have to wait until tomorrow... The Office ending... I've missed though last week's episode. Was it any good with Elena getting her humanity back?

  • PerpetualIntern

    Meh. But after you watch the season finale, you'll be excited for Paul Wesley :)

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