You can call Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog an underdog story — the chronicling of an inadequate villain's secret yearning to be a formidable hero in the eyes of his beloved laundry buddy — but you wouldn't really say the same about the web series' production, at least not ostensibly. The 2008 three-part web series, which earned its television debut on Tuesday night on The CW, has a pretty remarkable team of creative forces behind it.
Dr. Horrible was written and directed by Joss Whedon, who at the time had already solidified a cult celebrity thanks to television series like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly, and with a handful of successful animated ventures as well (Toy Story being the most impressive of these endeavors). At the center of the action in Whedon's web series is Neil Patrick Harris, himself already an adored American star by 2008 thanks to various roles on television, in film, and in the theater (not to mention his penchant for hosting one hell of an awards ceremony). And as Harris' arch nemesis is Nathan Fillion, no stranger to adoring TV audiences (and a Whedon friend and collaborator from the days of Firefly). In short, these guys didn't really need to go web series — a medium connoted with the idea of comedians and artists trying to jump start their careers. This was a passion project.
The idea was borne from the Writers Strike that overtook show business between '07 and '08. Whedon was one of the many forces who found outlets beyond the confines of Hollywood's reach to give fans creative entertainment. You could go so far as to say that Dr. Horrible was developed almost in spite of the mainstream; The CW's broadcast of the special asserts that this offbeat piece of musical comedy and Whedonian nerddom has actually won its spot in the mainstream.
However, this time it was the audiences that lacked, not the support of the industry: an incredibly low 566,000 viewers are reported to have tuned into The CW to watch the 9 PM airing of Dr. Horrible on Tuesday night. Facing off against new episodes of popular network series like Dancing with the Stars, New Girl, NCIS: Los Angeles, and new NBC sitcoms like Go On and The New Normal, it's not particularly surprising that Dr. Horrible fans — who have had the opportunity to watch Whedon's creation time and time again on the Internet — would pass off on this viewing.
And it's a shame, really, that not enough of us were interested in rallying for the symbolic experience of seeing Dr. Horrible earn its place on a major television station's weeknight lineup, or that a new mass of fans wasn't garnered by this television debut. It does lend to pessimism for future translations of web series, and other outlying creations, to mainstream attention. And it's difficult not to worry about how this will affect production on the announced Dr. Horrible sequel, which Whedon has suggested could manifest as a feature film.
The low ratings don't rob the event of its achievement entirely. Dr. Horrible, a particularly weird and specifically nerdy property, still found its place on television in the first place — the industry is coming to recognize, as indicated by this move, the types of audiences that flocked to Whedon's web series when it first hit the Internet, that swarmed the message boards with discussions about the fantastic project, whose celebrations have motivated the filmmaker and his cast to start work on a followup story. Still, the movement to make showbiz more conducive to the likes of Dr. Horrible and its fellow spiritual underdogs is a work in progress; the encouragement and support of fans is invaluable in this endeavor.
Sure, if you're reading this article, you've probably seen Dr. Horrible so many times that you've actually begun to imagine the Bad Horse Chorus singing the refrain behind your day-to-day activities. But Dr. Horrible's foray into television isn't just about the onscreen story onscreen, but the offscreen one as well: the story of an unlikely project, an experiment to entertain to victims of a tumultuous blow to the creative forces of Hollywood, making its way into the spotlight. The story of a property uninhibited by the powers that be — by the worries that it might be "too deviant," "too off-kilter," "too inaccessible," or what have you — finding its delivery to universal audiences. Dr. Horrible's CW broadcast was a victory for everyone rooting for the upsurge of a type of artistic expression that is still seeking its place in the world — and I know there are more than 566,000 of you out there.
This is not to condemn, but to encourage the lot of us to jump on the bandwagon and support these projects whenever they do find victories of any kind. They need us just as much as we need them. The more we support our own favorite Dr. Horribles, if and when they earn their places in the sun, the more others will sprout, and the more this realm of artistic expression will expand. And we need that world to grow. Without it, we'll just got Small Wonder reruns. (Could be worse, but still.)
[Photo Credit: Amy Opoka/Courtesy of Timescience Bloodclub]
The Least Normal Things About The New Normal: Fake Wedding Edition
New Girl Recap: It's Hip(ster) To Be Square
The Dos and Don'ts of Dating from The Mindy Project: When You're in the Club
S5: E10 Whereas its Thursday night buddy, Community, manages to tread that line between heartwarming moments and zany comedy, 30 Rock continues to succeed on its ability to deliver laugh after laugh – some of which come so fast that you don’t even notice them until you give it a second viewing. (This is why it’s become my practice to watch every episode at least twice, if not more.) That’s the 30 Rock schtick – non-stop laughs. That’s why many of us groaned when the show took its unwelcome dive into the personal lives of the characters last season and partially this season; we care about them, but as much as this year’s Christmas episode hoped we would. When characters on other shows spew lines about family and Christmas, we all breath a collective, contented little Christmas sigh, but when Liz or Jack do it, we take as a joke and only a joke. The characters on the show may not be incredibly deep, but that’s not why we watch. We watch to have ridiculous humor thrown in our faces so we can work off our dinners of cheesy blasters with a half hour of belly laughing.
“Christmas Attack Zone” served up plenty of killer one-liners, but in the end we expected to have a little Christmas revelation. This worked back in season 3 when Jack and his mother (Broadway legend Elaine Stritch) closed the episode with a side-by-side Broadway style rendition of “The Christmas Song” but now, the characters are so wildly comedic that it’s hard to reign the audience back in. Still, considering all the obstacles they had against them, I think in the end they pulled off the closest thing to heartfelt that they could manage.
The episode opens on Liz “Pie-thieving Grinch” Lemon getting an invitation to Christmas Eve dinner from Jack since his mother likes her and she’ll be around avoiding her family drama – really Liz? Your aunt’s friend Alcoholism sounds like a hoot. Yikes. Back on the TGS set, there’s even less Christmas spirit – Tracy’s new bid for a Golden Globe has him wearing all black and trying desperately to be as serious as possible (no “Merry Kristmas from Kabletown?”…sad) and Jenna can’t even stop crying long enough to relish in the fact that Tracy’s act makes her the sole star for the TGS promos. Sadness overcoming narcissism? No way. And the star on this Christmas tree of sadness? Pete gets word that NBC wants promos from every show except TGS. Merry effing Christmas, guys. I guess even that giant Christmas tree outside can’t spread the cheer around these parts.
A long awaited appearance from Jack’s darling Avery (guest star Elizabeth Banks) comes just in time for the holidays and her pregnant belly is beginning to show. She’s mostly been hiding it by holding objects in front of her to avoid suspicion – cut to the ham wearing a pilgrim hat she held in front of her body on Hotbox with Avery Jessup. Avery’s off to her own family’s Christmas celebration but not before the MentaLiz works her magic (thanks to a lost TV remote and reruns of The Mentalist) to discover that Jack hasn’t told Colleen about his lovechild. Whoops. Colleen’s the only person scarier than Jack, and now she’s going to be really pissed. Avery understands his need to keep feelings down – the Jessup family crest is a knight that refuses to express his feelings, yikes – but this whole baby thing is kind of a big deal. Avery reasons that Colleen did the same thing so she should understand and once again Jack’s caught in another lie, Liz works her Mentalist magic and outs him for not telling Colleen about meeting his estranged father, Milton (Alan Alda). Of course, Colleen screams at Jack when she hears that he “knocked up a Protestant,” so he quickly jumps on the phone to get Milton to the city so he can rub Colleen’s past in her face. See what I mean about all this personal drama? These characters just aren’t built for this much inner turmoil.
Tracy is getting serious about his new thespian lifestyle – a.k.a. making people cry and stealing Steve Jobs’ favorite mock turtleneck. He’s purchased the rights to his second Chunks movie (nice dig at Eddie Murphy’s Norbit bad luck charm, writers) to avoid it interfering with his serious acting. Kenneth tries to convince him that laughter is important too, but Tracy’s not listening. It’s kind of like the comedy version of Clarence the angel from It’s A Wonderful Life…well, sort of.
Jenna is uncontrollably emotional, but Liz thinks it’s all because she missed Paul. They were supposed to think of a joint costume for Tom Ford and Elton John’s super gay New Year’s party, but now she’s left to go by herself. Of course Jenna is a delusional space cadet and has convinced herself that she’s illogically crying for no reason over a party that she’s invited to and plans on attending. MentaLiz swoops in to save the day, catching Paul at his roller skating tranny restaurant to get Paul to come back. The best part of Liz dropping by a transvestite bar? The Lemon lookalike rolling by on roller skates. Win.
Liz makes it to Jack’s Christmas dinner, which has since become a “Christmas Attack Zone.” Happy holidays, y’all. Jack is stoically stirring as he awaits the giant ambush he’s planned. Liz tries to prevent it all, spilling the secret about Jack’s plan to anger Colleen. Milton’s on board: he’s angered by Colleen’s hypocrisy. Avery shows up and she’s seeing red and she plans on giving Colleen a piece of her mind. Jack’s just received the best present he could hope for: a room full of people who hate his mother. Liz tries desperately to stop the whole process and she insists that this can’t happen at Christmas (says the women who wanted to spend it at the corner café at the Penn Station Kmart) and she heads off to find Colleen in the Escher wing of the house. (They may not be big on character development at 30 Rock, but there’s nothing quite like a well-placed shout-out to M.C. Escher.)
Colleen finds her way out of the Escher wing, and comes down to dinner in time to take a stab at Avery for carrying a bastard child. Milton surprises her and berates her for depriving him of hippie road trips with Jack (“Yeah…or other stuff.”) With that, Jack gets his second present of the year: Colleen’s total silence. Of course, like father like mother, Colleen’s got her own Christmas Attack Zone planned.
Jenna is still in pain, flipping through pictures in a photo album that looks suspiciously like the one my 12-year old self dedicated to Justin from *NSYNC, when she finds a picture that sets off an idea in her head. Of course, she has no one to share it with and Liz shoes her off the phone so she can deal with Jack’s drama, so she has no choice but to return to Paul. He shows up at her door to say hi, but he can’t stay for an absinthe enema and he just wants to get something off his chest (no not his fake breasts, he seems to have left those back at his apartment this time). They simultaneously announce their tandem idea to dress at Natalie Portman from Black Swan and Lynn Swann – two black swans, one slightly uncomfortable racial reference, and an excuse for Jenna to cross dress and offend some people by donning black-face make-up at the Tom Ford party.
Tracy is still on his serious warpath – ruining Ludachristmas with his Darfur slide show – and now he’s doing his Christmas Eve charity work: showing his film Hard to Watch to a group of battered women at a shelter while donning a diamond encrusted chain with the word “Poverty” dangling from the bottom. Pardon my language, but holy shit. Kenneth his hiding behind a doorway and whispers about laughter being the best medicine and just like that Tracy changes his mind and shows the sad women his DVD of The Chunks 2 instead. All is well again.
Back at the Christmas Attack Zone, Colleen fakes a heart attack to win everyone over again and it works. Avery melodramatically pleads with her to hang on so she can meet their daughter, little Colleen. (Enjoying this little taste of General Hospital?) They all join around Colleen at the hospital and determine that they should share all their secrets (sorry, Liz, your crush on The Mentalist wasn’t that much of a secret). Avery and Jack decide to have a wedding with family instead of eloping, Liz decided to hop on a bus so she can handle the misery of Christmas amongst her own family, and Jack basks in the glory of both his parents yelling at him at the same time. Jack places some carefully chosen insults to inspire even more joint berating as Liz retreats to New Haven. (See, even the writers are uncomfortable with letting this end with too much sentimentality.)
A befitting end to a 30 Rock Christmas comes as Jenna and Paul sing “Night Divine” – a decidedly religious Christmas carol – while donning their cross-dressing and slightly inappropriate swan costumes. And where they should have ended on that high note, the tag takes it too far, giving us more of Tracy’s Chunks at the Christmas dinner table. If I wanted to see more of that, I would have gone back to the original Eddie Murphy movie that inspired it all.
Last night in San Diego, geek gods J.J. Abrams (Alias, Lost, Fringe, MI3, Cloverfield, Star Trek) and Joss Whedon (Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog) shared the stage at Comic-Con's famed Hall H to talk about their upcoming projects and pretty much any other film-related topic that came to mind. The two originally met around a decade ago while they both worked at the WB - Abrams on Felicity and Whedon on Buffy. Read on for the inside scoop on The Avengers movie, Super 8, and Undercovers, courtesy of Collider's Germain Lussier.
First up, the most pressing piece of news: "I'm directing The Avengers," Whedon announced, confirming months of speculation that he would be helming the ensemble superhero flick. Whedon explained how he's been a fan of the comic series since he was a young kid, and The Avengers has always been one of his personal favorites. What really drew him to the story though, was the absurdity of the idea that such a diverse cast of characters might all be in the same room, let alone on the same team. "That, to me, is family," he added.
J.J. Abrams also had some childhood stories to tell. His the idea for his upcoming Super 8 (which remains, characteristically, shrouded in mystery) had its genesis in a job he and fellow writer-producer-director Matt Reeves took when they were just 16 years old, repairing some of Steven Spielberg's earliest 8mm films. The two had entered into a super 8 film festival, where they were approached by one of Spielberg's associates to help with the repair work on Escape to Nowhere (1961) and Firelight (1964).
Abrams also revealed that Super 8 will not be shot in 3D, that the lead has not yet been cast (he's looking for an unknown), and that principal photography is slated to begin this September. Unsurprisingly, it looks like we'll have to wait until the movie actually comes out to get the real plot details.
However, Abrams was less tight-lipped about his new show for NBC, Undercovers, starring Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, which premieres this fall. Abrams opined how TV execs aren't as interested in serialized stories as they once were, since they're difficult to air as reruns or to syndicate. Whedon agreed, lamenting that even the extreme popularity of a story-driven show like Lost has not been able to change the networks' attitudes towards serialized, scripted programs. And while Abrams obviously prefers a more story-oriented show, he admitted that Undercovers is going to be somewhat more syndication-friendly than many of his past efforts.
After down-to-the wire negotiations with The X-Files creator-producer Chris Carter, the Fox network will feature the ninth season of the sci-fi series on its fall schedule. Fox, however, cancelled Carter's X-Files spin-off, The Lone Gunmen, after one season.
Fox, which unveiled its fall lineup on Thursday, also will air three new dramas and a new sitcom.
UPN also announced a schedule notably for its acquisition of Star Trek: Enterprise and the pairing of former WB shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Roswell on Tuesdays.
Here's a look at Fox's fall lineup:
Fox's Sunday lineup will remain intact, with comedies Futurama, King of the Hill, The Simpsons and Malcolm in the Middle leading into The X-Files at 9 p.m. After appearing in only a handful of this season's shows, The X-Files' David Duchovny will not return in the fall as FBI agent Fox Mulder.
"I guess he thinks it's time to get on with his life," said Sandy Grushow, president of Fox Television Entertainment Group, Reuters reported.
Duchovny's agent, Risa Shapiro, would not comment.
Mondays will remain David E. Kelley drama night, with Boston Public and Ally McBeal. It is not yet known whether Robert Downey Jr., whose final appearance this season on Ally McBeal boosted the show's ratings, will return follow the resolution of his legal and drug-related problems. The new 20th Century Fox drama Emma Brody will air in the midseason in lieu of Ally McBeal reruns.
Tuesdays will lead with the sitcom That '70s Show, followed by the new DreamWorks sitcom Undeclared, a college kids ensemble, and the new 20th Century Fox/ Imagine Television drama 24.
Wednesday nights will be entirely devoted to sitcoms, starting off with reruns of The Simpson, That '70s Show and Malcolm in the Middle. The second season of the family show Grounded for Life will air at 8:30 p.m., followed by the third season of Titus at 9 p.m. The new 20th Century Fox/ Regency TV newcomer The Bernie Mac Show will close the night's prime-time programming.
On Thursday, Fox will place its animated comedies Family Guy and The Tick at 8 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. respectively, competing against NBC's Friends and CBS's Survivor. Temptation Island 2 will air at 9 p.m.
Fridays will now be the Dark Angel night, which relocates from Tuesday, followed by the new Diane Keaton-directed drama Pasadena, a nighttime soap about the trials and tribulations of a wealthy family in the media business.
Saturdays will remain bad-boy nights, with Cops and America's Most Wanted staying in the same timeslots. MADtv will return at 11 p.m.
UPN has picked up two WB dramas for its fall 2001 season, the alien teen sci-fi drama Roswell and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, after much debate.
The network will say farewell to its first successful Monday night comedy series, Moesha, after six seasons. The Hughleys will replace Moesha at 8 p.m. A new show about a sportscaster's relationship with his teen-age daughter, One on One will take the 8:30 p.m. slot, followed by the Moesha spin-off, The Parkers, and Girlfriends, at 9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., respectively.
Tuesday nights will belong to Buffy and Roswell. UPN stole Buffy away from the WB and rescued Roswell after it was canceled by the WB.
Wednesdays will feature Special Unit 2. The eagerly awaited Star Trek: Enterprise, with Scott Bakula at the helm, closes the night at 9 p.m. Thursdays will carry the excitement of WWF Smackdown!, with a two-hour dose of the ready-to-rumble extravaganza. Fridays will become UPN's movie night.
The 2000 Olympic Games from Sydney, Australia, will be the most thoroughly covered sporting event in history. NBC, CNBC and MSNBC will join to offer 441.5 hours (roughly three times what we saw from Atlanta in 1996) of synchronized swimming, archery and so many other events that you will need a raging case of "Olympic fever" to really enjoy the spectacle.
But, of course, these two weeks of primetime TV will feature all the good stuff: Our beloved World Champion U.S. women's soccer team, gymnastics -- and, of course, plenty of gracious NBA all-stars taunting and humiliating small, slow, unskilled players from around the world in basketball. "U-S-A! U-S-A!"
So, what are the other networks going to do to compete with all that? Well, the first thing they thought of was to delay the start of their fall lineups two weeks, to make sure someone would actually see them.
And the second thing they thought of?
Repackaging old stuff to try to make it seem exciting.
CBS fires the first shot today at 9 p.m. EDT, as a 13-night marathon of the biggest summer hit in history, "Survivor," kicks off against the Olympics opening ceremony. The good news: Reruns will include new interview footage with the castaways, inserted just before and after each commercial break. The bad news: We already know who wins (the flabby naked man). Ratings for this preseason stunt will either be the highest rated reruns in history, or maybe just an indicator of how quickly people can lose interest.
ABC is up next with a little stunt of their own. Fans have been voting online for weeks for their favorite episodes of a bunch of their comedy shows, including, among others, "Drew Carey," "Norm" and "Spin City," in the Viewer's Choice Sweepstakes. The winning episodes of each show will air Sept. 19-22. Ten lucky winners of the sweepstakes will receive a gift basket full of ABC merchandise. Um, so, in other words, ABC is countering the Olympics by showing reruns on their regular nights, and giving away T-shirts and coffee mugs to 10 people. Cool.
Fox is also offering a little token resistance while it keeps its new shows a safe distance from Sydney, running a full week of big theatrical comedies featuring the likes of Jim Carrey, Robin Williams and Eddie Murphy. Monday through Friday, you can see (in order) "Dumb and Dumber," "Jumanji," "The Nutty Professor," "Home Alone 2" and "Mo' Money."
Of all the networks, only the WB is putting its best foot forward, fearlessly premiering its recently acquired (from ABC) "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch," on Friday, Sept. 22, at 8 p.m. Then comes Darren Star's much-anticipated soapy satire "Grosse Point." The WB will also air the season premieres of its flagship tag-team combo of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel" the following Tuesday, Sept. 26.
It'll be a few more weeks before we find out who got shot on "The West Wing." So until then, happy synchronized swimming, everybody!
Last week in TV ratings land, NBC threw in the kitchen sink with three hours of "Must-See" season finales and owned the top of the Top 10. Unfortunately, there are still seven days in a week, and NBC has just one sink. Thus, ABC, still running on high-octane Regis fuel, held on to win the overall week -- again.
Here now, for your edification and amusement, the annotated primetime Top 10 rankings for the week of May 15-21, according to the good people at Nielsen Media Research. (Each rating point is worth a little more than 1 million viewers.)
1. "ER," NBC - 22.3 NBC needs to either find a gameshow more popular than "Twenty-One" or make every week Season Finale Week. Next week, the reruns start, and we get to see how last year's Thanksgiving episode fairs against "Millionaire."
2. "Frasier," NBC - 22.1 Ratings like this can be dangerous on this show. Let's all hope the network has learned from past experiences and doesn't give Kelsey Grammer another Dodge Viper to celebrate.
3. "Friends," NBC - 20.0 Does anyone else wish Chandler and Monica (and everybody else) would get married already? Or at least move out of those apartments before their Social Security checks kick in?
4. "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" (Sunday), ABC - 18.2 Fourth place? This is the worst thing to happen to Regis since being merely nominated for a Daytime Emmy. He'll get over it.
5. "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" (Tuesday), ABC - 15.5
6. "The Practice," ABC - 15.4
7. "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" (Special -- Wednesday), ABC - 15.3 This show is on ABC almost as often as Peter Jennings. What's so "special" about a Wednesday installment?
8. "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" (Thursday), ABC - 12.4 Maybe if ABC had made this one the "special" episode, it wouldn't have had so much trouble with "Frasier."
9. (TIE) "Touched by an Angel," CBS - 12.3 (TIE) "Jesus" (Part 2), CBS - 12.3 Apparently, interest in CBS' biblical miniseries dwindled between installments when outspoken religious leaders began giving away the ending of the story.
In the overall battle of the networks, ABC took No. 1, but perhaps as a direct result of that "special" "Millionaire," managed to barely hang on, with an average network rating of 9.8. NBC, riding that monster Thursday night for all it was worth, drew a 9.6, just off the pace. Next fall, the peacock will move "Frasier" to Tuesdays in the hopes of building another solid night. CBS, meanwhile, was up a little bit from last week but still came in third with an 8.8. Fox, on the strength of a rare (for the network) Top 20 performance (for the series finale of "Beverly Hills, 90210") climbed to a 6.0.
And in an interesting development in the war between netlets, the season finally of "7th Heaven" did "Smackdown!" numbers last week, pulling the WB (2.6) into a tie with UPN (also a 2.6). It should be noted that the Thursday night wrestling show's numbers were off a bit due to competing head-to-head with both "Millionaire" and NBC's "Must-See" finales.