The three-act Web musical, which runs 45 minutes and boasts TV production values, was written and produced by Joss Whedon and friends. It's the biggest success to come from outside the traditional distribution channels of TV, movies and DVD. "Dr. Horrible" doesn't need a network or studio, it just needs the Web.
And it certainly doesn't hurt if you have talented actors and people who know how to run cameras and lights. The musical stars Neil Patrick Harris ("How I Met Your Mother") as the lovelorn title character; scene-stealer Nathan Fillion ("Firefly") as man's man Captain Hammer; and Felicia Day (a Potential Slayer in Season 7 of "Buffy") as the girl, Penny.
"Dr. Horrible" features the skewering of language, pop-entertainment clichs and everyday social encounters that Whedon has made a career out of - and also, there's singing.
Sitcom actor Neil Patrick Harris stars as Dr. Horrible.
Dr. Horrible, who brags about his "Ph.D. in horribleness," is the villain, but we root for him. He sings about how he is getting closer to speaking to Penny at the Laundromat - he's just a few weeks away from making "a real, audible connection." Hammer, naturally, steals her away and riffs on Penny before an audience of fans: "Cute, huh? Sort of a quiet, nerdy thing; not my usual, but nice."
"Dr. Horrible" is a breezy ride of familiar fun. It exists because Whedon couldn't turn off his creative impulse just because all his shows were canceled and a writer's strike was going on. Nonetheless, it has commercial value: There's now talk of a soundtrack, a DVD release and a fourth act.
Check it out the next time you're feeling horrible about what the networks and studios are serving up.
- By John Hansen,Entertainment Editor