I've been a little late getting to the party on "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog." It had been on the outskirts of my consciousness, and I downloaded the three current episodes onto my iPhone a few weeks back, but I didn't get around to watching them until this past weekend. You can watch them online by clicking through the link above, or you can download the three "acts" on iTunes for $3.99. The three episodes have been among the most popular TV show downloads since their release, attesting to the continued re-popularization of musicals.
I must say, I was pleasantly surprised, both at the quality of the writing and the performances. These are no slapdash YouTube efforts, but fully fledged 15-minute episodes, with Hollywood production values. I guess it's a tribute to the mainstream nature of blogs that writer/producer/director Joss Whedon ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Angel") chose to distribute this property online. Apparently the series arose out of boredom during the recent Hollywood writers' strike. Whedon has said that he hopes that his show becomes a model for alternate content distribution.
Of course, it also fits in with the central conceit of the show: Dr. Horrible uses a video weblog to announce to the world his nefarious intentions. Neil Patrick Harris is terrific as the eponymous doctor, bringing sharp comic timing, a terrific singing voice, and a vulnerable and sweet quality to his interactions with his love interest, the wonderful Felicia Day. As Dr. Horrible's nemesis in life and in love, Nathan Fillion makes for a suitably smarmy Captain Hammer.
Of course, the real star of this opus is Joss Whedon and his co-writer siblings Jed Whedon and Zack Whedon. The Whedons' dialog is by turns intentionally awkward and blisteringly funny. Although I've never seen a single episode of "Buffy," I have heard about the musical episode "Once More With Feeling." Based on "Dr. Horrible," I'm going to have to track at the very least that musical episode down. And the songs are actually quite good, although the lyrics can sometimes veer into the land of trite phrasing. But on the whole, it's a very enjoyable series, which is reportedly to be followed by additional online installments, as well as a soundtrack recording.
Will the success of "Dr. Horrible" spawn additional online musicals? It seems likely. Hey, let's put one together ourselves! My dad's got this old barn...