Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Doctor Horrible's Sing Along Blog

Born from the bitter ashes of the last writer's strike, "Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog" is another feather in Joss Whedon's already crowded head dress.

Whedon (best known for TV's "Buffy" and Fox cancellation blunder alum "Firefly") decided to go it alone this time, creating a show without the direct financial aid of a major studio.

The show was released to the internet in three roughly fifteen minute installments last week. I waited until all three were complete to write this review, sacrificing "freshness" for "completeness". I wanted to sit back and not get caught up in the moment.

First of all, I have to admit that I am a HUGE Joss Whedon fan. He could spit into a cup (which I could then sell on eBay) and I would call it a masterpiece. Bodily excretions aside, I am going to try and take an objective and considered tone with this review.

"Doctor Horrible" tells the story of a "not-so" supervillian (Neil Patrick Harris) who is attempting to get into the Evil League of Evil. He is constantly thwarted by his nemesis "Captain Hammer" (Nathan Fillion). When the good Doctor finally looks close to accomplishing his goal, he meets Penny (Felicia Day). I'll leave the rest of the plot up you to figure out.

The show essentially follows Buffy's "Once More With Feeling" formula of a sing-a-long. Whedon once again creates the perfect geek musical with a combination of catchy tunes that I can't get out of my head. I found myself singing "With my freeze ray I will stop....the pain" in the shower this morning (there won't be a YouTube video of that).

When I first heard that Joss had cast Neil Patrick Harris in the role of Doctor Horrible, I was pretty much against it. In the first 10 seconds of the show, my doubts were gone. His strong performance carried the show. As with a lot of Joss' characters, the combination of the writing and the performance made me instantly care about Doctor Horrible. It was pretty funny to see TV's original "blogger" (referring of course to that certain MD show that he used to be on) doing a lot more modern take on blogging.

If Harris' leading role was the strength of the show, then Felicia Day's "Penny" was the heart of the show. Her performance was the most complete of any of the big three. She brought an authenticity to her character that I have haven't seen in a long time. In a world populated by super heros and super villians, she seemed the most powerful of them all, just by being herself.

Nathan Fillion was a bit over the top in the show. I guess if I hadn't seen him in a Whedon production before I would have loved his performance. Unfortunately, I have to say that out of the three, I was most disappointed in him. I know his role as "Captain Hammer" was to be a self-absorbed jerk, but I don't know if he had to go that far. He serves as the comic foil, delivering the dry humor with his usual spot on comic timing.

While I'm inclined to put my seal of approval on anything Whedon, this new media experiment was not without its faults. the run time of the three parts is pretty much the length of one television episode. A lot of the flow of the show just didn't work for me (even after watching all three parts). There seemed like a lot of plot that was cut for the sake of brevity. I'm hoping that the release of the DVD will add any cut scenes back in.

This will be a unique media experiment. The show was only available for less than a week on the 'net, though it is still available on iTunes and it's well worth the $4.00 (think of it as a latte for the mind). The DVD release should be the next phase of the marketing campaign and will contain "extras" and a commentary track (or two).

I believe that campaigns like this are going to be the future of entertainment. I'm just glad the Joss has thrown his metaphorical hat into the ring to try and shape that future. I can thinking of no one else I'd rather see defining this new chapter in entertainment history.

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