When the Hollywood writers went on strike last winter, some speculated that television and film's loss would be the Internet's gain.
Now there's evidence.
The three-part Web series “Dr. Horrible's Sing-along Blog” was posted last month at www.drhorrible.com, and it doesn't take a mad genius to realize its quality, its humor and its inventiveness signify a great leap forward for online video.
The series stars Neil Patrick Harris (“How I Met Your Mother”) as Dr. Horrible, a wannabe mad scientist who blogs about his unrealized dreams for world domination and his refused entry into the “Evil League of Evil.” For example, he's working with a vocal coach on his maniacal laugh.
He's an evildoer who's just not very good at doing evil. Plus, he sings.
In the first 15-minute installment, Dr. Horrible and other characters occasionally break into song; in one, Dr. Horrible sings of his love with a girl at the local Laundromat. He has a nemesis, too: Captain Hammer, played by Nathan Fillion (“Serenity”).
Says Hammer: “It's curtains for you, Dr. Horrible. Lacy, gently wafting curtains.”
“Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog” is the creation of Joss Whedon, one of the best-known scribes in Hollywood, thanks to his long filmography of genre-bending TV hits: “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Firefly” (which inspired the film “Serenity”), “Angel” and the upcoming Fox series “Dollhouse.”
Whedon has a considerable fan base of sci-fi and comedy devotees, and when “Dr. Horrible” went live, the site crashed from the traffic.
The three episodes were available for a short time for free, but now must be purchased on iTunes. Also planned is a DVD of the show with a bevy of extras.
In a letter to fans, Whedon explained the venture was hatched during the writers strike (in which he was a vocal participant, penning an open letter for Variety).
“Frustrated on the lack of movement on that front, I finally decided to do something very ambitious, very exciting, very midlife-crisisy,” wrote Whedon.
He continued, “The idea was to make it on the fly, on the cheap – but to make it. To turn out a really thrilling, professionalish piece of entertainment specifically for the Internet.”
The result is not a TV show published online or a dinky YouTube video, but a series suited to the medium and perhaps the best yet. The only thing close is the excellent 10-part “Clark and Michael,” the 2007 comedy series about two aspiring TV writers starring Michael Cera and Clark Duke.
Even though Dr. Horrible might not stand a chance against any of the superheroes currently flying around our movie theaters, the Web is his.