“Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” holds a special place in my heart, and not just because of its pitch-perfect take on the lighter side of evil villains. The characters are refreshing and entertaining, and the main villain is so likeable you sometimes forget he’s singing on the side of evil. Though the concept is silly and campy, it’s wonderfully relatable; I really feel Dr. Horrible’s longing to become a part of the Evil League of Evil, even while I’m laughing at the name. It’s great TV, except that it’s not quite TV. It’s the first widely popular, seriously produced, bona fide online video serial. It’s seminal in the pantheon of web content. And we need more content because TV is now just one of the many places where people find the video they watch.
When it comes to making revenue from video content, cross-platform is king: Netflix reportedly signed a $100 million contract to produce David Fincher’s 26-episode House of Cards, and is footing the bill to create new episodes of cult favorite Arrested Development.
Still, critics and viewers often still view web content as a wasteland of amateur YouTube channels and low-quality home videos. Networks use the web to dump their ultra-niche content and extra scenes that weren’t good enough to make the cut into the on-air show. People are right to look down on content produced solely for the web, at least as things stand.
This is why we need a “Dr. Horrible” sequel. Joss Whedon, creator and producer of the three-part series, has paved the way for high-quality, professionally produced web video. With “Dr. Horrible” he has created an engaging, watchable, cross-platform series that comfortably sits on the fence between webisode and TV show. If it continues to be popular, it shows that the web isn’t just for clips of cats falling asleep. The Internet can be the breeding ground for truly great video content, and maybe even the place where great television shows go to be born.
Because if Whedon’s previous experience working with Fox is any indication, content like “Dr. Horrible” would never have made it to air. If it did, it would have lasted briefly (Terra Nova got only 11 episodes and one season; Arrested Development was shamefully canceled long before its time).
Worse, it might even have been gutted by studio execs before it saw the light of broadcast. “Dr Horrible” might have gone the way of Dollhouse, Whedon’s high-concept sci-fi series that can only have been butchered by the demands for gratuitous skin, action and jerky pacing.
Whedon often opines on the struggles of working with studios, and remarked that the “freedom” of working without a studio on “Dr Horrible” was “glorious”: “[We had the] freedom to just let the dictates of the story say how long it’s gonna be. We didn’t have to cram everything in—there is a lot in there—but we put in the amount of story that we wanted to and let the time work around that. We aimed for 30 minutes, we came out at 42, and that’s not a problem.”
There are rumors of more “Dr. Horrible” installments, fueled by Whedon himself when he told Wired in March: “We’re stuck, basically, at this one part in the process,” Whedon said. “All of us are looking at this summer as the time when we can go, ‘Hey, you know what? We’ve got a little free time, let’s get unstuck.’ Neil has been like, ‘How long?’ We’re all sort of just waiting, but the waiting will stop.”
Maybe, by “Dr. Horrible” showing that it wasn’t just a flash in the pan, more great video content will make its way to the web, and eventually the airwaves. Those videos won’t be limited creatively by time restraints or unreasonable studio demands. Here’s hoping it’s a productive summer.