A funny thing happened while Hollywood writers were on strike last fall, said Michael Moran in the London Times. As studio heads and union representatives argued over how to split potential proceeds from Internet downloads and other new media, a few filmmakers simply got down to business and started creating material for the Web. Joss Whedon, creator of the cult TV hit Buffy the Vampire Slayer, used his downtime to create a miniseries exclusively for the Web. Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, a three-part musical, features How I Met Your Mother star Neil Patrick Harris as an evil doctor who sings about world domination.
What started as a spoof became the “summer’s funniest TV show,” said Mike Hale in The New York Times. Dr. Horrible took only six days to shoot and cost nearly nothing by Hollywood standards. Yet it was viewed more than 2.2 million times in its first week, and proved so popular that traffic crashed the host site, Drhorrible.com. Soon the miniseries became the top seller at Apple’s iTunes video store—even though it can still be viewed for free at Hulu.com—and it is even expected to come out on DVD in the near future. Whedon has made Dr. Horrible a “brilliant and relatively inexpensive marketing tool” for his other work. But it’s also become an “experiment in online content creation” and a “test of what people will pay money to watch on their computers.”
Dr. Horrible has not only proved “hugely entertaining,” but been a step forward for new media, said Steve Johnson in the Chicago Tribune. Sure, it could use a more complex narrative and a higher-value production. But, at 45 minutes, Dr. Horrible is a sophisticated product that’s “entirely worthy of screen real estate.” Other Internet-only programming from professional writers and actors has begun to surface online, from Will Ferrell’s The Landlord (at Funnyordie.com) to David Wain’s Wainy Days (at Mydamnchannel.com). Put them all together and they mark a “big nudge toward that future” when film, television, and Web video all become indistinguishable.