Servers, schmervers, I've moved on to iTunes, and thus have finally watched the first installment of "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog," the three-part web musical produced by Joss Whedon and his cohorts. There has been talk about whether this show represents a revolution in web video, and I'm not quite sure about that, but the immense interest and crashed servers do say something: If you have a built-in fanbase (the vast array of Whedon fanboys and fangirls) and a great product (a tongue-in-cheek musical starring Neil Patrick Harris) then you will get traffic. Tons of it.
The buzz, it turns out, was right: "Dr. Horrible" is, without a doubt, the most entertaining professionally-made-for-the-web show I've seen in a long time. And I say that as someone who watched all of "Prom Queen," a good bit of "Quarterlife," and as much of "Roommates" as I could stand, which is to say, not much. This one is deliberately self-mocking, and it uses the medium perfectly: It's not a polished TV show put up on the web. It's a web show, with a web aesthetic.
That look and feel, in a way, is the best part. I recently watched a film made by some high-schoolers in Texas (long story) and "Dr. Horrible" carries out the impressive feat of making a very polished production look and feel almost as low-budget as what those Texas kids churned out. The high school film was both terrible and unwittingly brilliant; it was meant to be a martial-arts thriller, and a lot of critical scenes took place in some kid's garage, with debris piled up and tools hanging from the wall. In the case of "Dr. Horrible," the costumes are just as simple -- Nathan Fillion's unlikable superhero, Captain Hammer, wears a t-shirt with a hammer on it -- and the scenes take place on street corners, a laundromat, and Dr. Horrible's ratty apartment. The acting is deliberately over-the-top, and yet it's impossible for Neil Patrick Harris to play a desperate, pining supervillain wannabe without coming off as authentic. The songs are adorable spoofs of cheesy movie-musical numbers. And Harris's singing voice is just so sweet.
The story, for those still stymied by the server, revolves around Harris as guy with big dreams: He wants to be inducted into the "Evil League of Evil," and must pull off a major heist to do so. But when he's not wearing his white coat and goggles and perfecting a freeze ray that will stop time, he has to go to the laundromat, where he develops a huge crush on a redheaded girl named Penny (Felicia Day). Who looks to be getting the girl instead? Dr. Horrible's nemesis, Captain Hammer, who's quite proud of his flowing hair, but isn't as super as he seems. Today's installment ends with a Harris/Fillion duet in which each croons that "A Man's Gotta Do What A Man's Gotta Do." As for me? I've gotta watch the next episode on Wednesday. How about you?
About Viewer Discretion
ContributorsKatie McLeod is Boston.com's features editor.
Rachel Raczka is a producer for Lifestyle and Arts & Entertainment at Boston.com.
Emily Wright is an Arts & Entertainment producer at Boston.com.
Sarah Rodman is a TV and music critic for the Boston Globe.
Meghan Colloton is a Things to Do and Arts & Entertainment producer at Boston.com.
Michael Brodeur is the assistant arts editor for the Boston Globe, covering pop music, TV, and nightlife.