Ok, I suppose I should stop being surprised that Joss Whedon is so good making just about anything, including musicals. Go SEE IT. The "catch my breath" duet was really good.
More information about the Dr. Horrible musical, cast, inspirations, etc. is here.
... And Nathan Fillion as Captain Hammer is hysterical
Dr. Horrible is good!
And that’s exactly his problem. The title character of the landmark new Web musical, “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog,” played by the lovable and unmenacing Neil Patrick Harris, dreams of gaining admission to the vaunted Evil League of Evil, home of the baddest baddies in the land. But he’s kidding himself. Dr. H. is too skittish to harm innocents or wreak much havoc. The ray guns he invents never seem to work that well, and his cackle is so wimpy he’s hired a voice coach.
Plus, what kind of criminal mastermind has a blog?
Ask Joss Whedon. He’s the guy who’s built a career on bending genres. In “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” he dreamed up a 16-year-old girl who sent vampires back to hell. And “Firefly,” Whedon’s short-lived 2002 TV show, was a Western, except, in space.
So it’s only fitting that Whedon would create a show like “Dr. Horrible.” He makes bad guys into good guys and good into bad, writes a superhero epic where every three minutes the characters break out in song, and most death defying of all, he puts the whole thing on the Internet.
But Dr. Horrible looks to have a different fate. The first of the show’s three 15-minute episodes went live Tuesday at midnight and immediately, international viewers were screaming that they couldn’t watch it (the Hulu video player they were using didn’t work overseas). And those of us who tried to pay $1.99 to download the show from iTunes couldn’t do that either. Still, those were the least of “Dr. Horrible’s” problems: by the time U.S. viewers woke up yesterday, so many people were clamoring to watch the show that its web site crashed completely, sending the makers scrambling to find more bandwidth.
“Dr. Horrible,” you see, has the Internet cooked into its DNA. Rather than being a top-down, studio controlled production, it began earlier this year as a kind of dinner table brainstorm between Whedon, his brothers Zack and Jed, and Jed’s fiancée Maurissa Tancharoen.
Whedon had been kicking around the idea for a musical about “a low-rent super villain,” which made sense as a character the Web world could relate to.
Not that everyone on the Internet is a nerd, Whedon explained in an e-mail. “We’re long past the age of 'everybody on the Internet watches "Star Trek" and lives in their parents’ basement.' But there is a modern societal truth about the kind of guy who needs to tell the world his troubles and show off his talents.” At the time, Hollywood and the Whedons’ various projects were shut down because of the writers’ strike. That was a lot of creative mojo with no place to go.
“We’re family, and we’re sitting here doing nothing,” recalled Tancharoen. “So let’s get together and write something, whether it’s for $100 or whatever it turns into.”
Problem was, said co-writer and music maestro Jed Whedon, “Joss Doesn’t think small.” Soon the little idea of the Whedons messing around in front of their computers’ web cams started growing. “When he started thinking on a more massive scale, it made it a lot easier to come up with stuff,” Jed continued. “We started thinking outside of the apartment, and into the streets, and it just evolved.” Before long, it had evolved into a 45-minute musical with a crew of dozens, a celebrity-rich cast, and a budget in “the low six figures,” said Whedon.
Whedon tapped friends and called in favors to get the production staffed and cast. It doesn’t hurt, of course, that among his friends is Harris, a Broadway musical veteran and Emmy nominee. And for the role of Dr. Horrible’s narcissistic nemesis Captain Hammer, Whedon phoned up buddy Nathan Fillion, the leading man in Whedon’s “Firefly” and actor on “Desperate Housewives.” “Buffy” alum Felicia Day, another trained singer, rounds out the cast—her lyrical performance as Dr. Horrible’s crush, Penny, is bound to paralyze geeks’ hearts.
“Joss must come up with brilliant, out-of-the-box ideas all the time, the way regular people come up with to-do lists,” Day wrote in an e-mail. “When Joss invites you onto a project described as a supervillain Internet musical, you don’t blink, you just say ‘yes please!' "
Even with the stars, the big crew, and permission to use the Universal Studios backlot (eerily, the location where they shot was completely destroyed by the June fire), Dr. Horrible manages to retain a casual, low-stakes feel. Not quite YouTube-low, thankfully, but neither is there the slightest evidence of corporate fingerprints—the Minus Touch.
“We had nobody to check in with, said Tancharoen. “There was nobody giving us notes. There were no rules—and there still aren’t. That’s why the Internet is cool.”
Harris remembered a scene during the 7-day shoot when the sun had gone down and there was no longer enough light to get the shot. “Someone just grabbed a flashlight and shined it on my face,” he said. They got it in one take.
“We had the freedom to behave like professional amateurs,” he said. “And that sort of worked into the vibe” of the show.
A key element of that vibe is what Whedon called “the silly.”
“The things that have hit on the Internet have almost all had that quality,” Whedon wrote to me. “From 'Star Wars' kid, to 'The Landlord,' to 1,500 prisoners doing 'Thriller.' Not just the I-made-it-myself aesthetic, but the truly, transcendently goofy. The absurd (which is important to me, as an Absurdist) is part of the Internet’s identity.”
Whedon’s awareness of the Internet’s prevailing mood also played into his decision to make “Dr. Horrible” completely free—and free of advertising—for the entirety of its first week. But really? You’ve got a show that even with zero paid promotion has generated enough buzz to crash servers during the first hours it was available, and you don’t want use all that heat to mint some Whedon Dollars?
“Some brows have furrowed at the idea of putting it out for free,” Whedon said. “But that was part of our mission statement from the first: to create an Internet event for the fans (and others) to enjoy because we enjoyed it so much.”
Still, even if he takes a small hit in the short term, Whedon said that with merchandising, iTunes sales, and DVDs, he expects that Dr. Horrible “will go into the black within the first year.”
Also, without giving anything away, there’s plenty of potential for sequels. As is his wont, Whedon has populated this tiny universe with a host of barely developed characters, all of which cry for further treatment. (My favorite: an Evil League of Evil villain named “The Fake Thomas Jefferson.”)
Whedon jokingly admitted that the idea of a follow up had crossed his mind.
“We’re too busy talking about the giant Broadway adaptation, the much longer film version and the musical commentary that we’re writing now.” (As in, a sung DVD commentary.)
“But have I thought up the sequel?” he answers. “Yeah, sort of.”