Lessons in breaking the internet: Dr Horribles’ success and sequel plans

Okay, so Joss Whedon’s internet sci-fi opera may not have managed to distingrate the interwebs into fizzling silicon ether and monkey dust as claimed – but hyperbole aside, Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog has been a phenomenal success. The musical has been fiendishly popular on iTunes and its three acts all remain currently in the top 5 downloads for US users, even after a week (and yet still not available through that store in this country; kiwi knaves with a penchant for diabolical schemes in song-form must turn their evil scowls elsewhere for now).

Whedon’s original concept for the webisodes were hatched during the writer’s strike and as a thumb-nosing exercise at the hegemony of the corporate moguls in the television world (though paradoxically, his new Dollhouse series will be with the same company that unforgivably spurned Firefly). With the Dr Horrible musical, Whedon hoped to alter the perceptions commonly held towards web content and work towards shaking up the dominant models of disseminated entertainment (“Dr. Horrible is about putting power in different hands—the wrong hands”). I’d say he’s done that. Not only has Dr Horrible had fans donning oversized rubber gauntlets and scrawling freeze ray designs on the walls of their padded cells, it’s been fruitful enough to take to the bank. TV Squad took out their calculator and deduced that if it (not unrealistically) reaches one million downloads: after paying the principal actors each 100k, Whedon will saunter away with 2.6 million in green gravy. And this is not including the sales of the DVD.

And I should add, our jubilation at his success is not merely vicarious. The more prosperous his industry-usurping efforts, the more of Dr Horrible and the equine-led Evil League (with honourable mentions to Fake Jefferson and Dead Bowie) that we get to enjoy.

In fact, the discussion of a sequel seems to be gaining momentum. At the Dr Horrible panel at Comic-Con, Whedon was more optimistic about a further installment of the villainous video-blogger. Whedon mentioned that “the idea is that there will be another part” but was reticent on specific details. Neil Patrick Harris has already spoken of his interest in doing a follow-up but with Whedon now more certain, the prospects sound good. Which has this fan excited. Dr Horrible didn’t break the Internet but it came close to breaking hearts with its forlorn, more-tragedy-than-comedy final act. Whedon is brilliant at coalescing the randomness and seemingly arbitrary nature of life and death within his plot lines, but this particular turn seemed too melancholic. With some greater narrative space, I’m hoping he can restore a greater balance of the other genre elements and perhaps, leave my heart a little less rent.

Details about the DVD were also revealed at the panel. Whedon said that Dr Horrible, in that format, will be out before Christmas with a commentary sung by the cast (“Commentary: The Musical”) that includes uniquely composed songs. In the coming weeks, Whedon will be releasing the soundtrack for the webisodes and also organising a competition for fans. The ten best winning video submissions for mock entry into the Evil League of Evil will be attached with the extras on the DVD.

Also, lastly, for the really obsessive types, Dr Horrible’s remote control from Act one can played with here. The prop for the webisode was designed by Nathan Fillion’s friend PJ Haarsma (and actually pressing some of the buttons will take you to material involved with their project Kids Need to Read, a charity organisation for furnishing libraries with books).

(HT: SpoutBlog and second pic is from eonline.com))

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