The year was 2008 and the TV scene was bleak. The writers’ strike cut short and/or neutered the TV landscape and left us with a sea of forgettable movies that trickled into theaters. All hope seemed lost or at least that was my feeling because I was bored out of my mind. My favorite shows ended earlier than they should have and as entertaining as seeing Conan O’Brien in a beard was, it simply didn’t make up for the fact all I had left to distract me was a hundred or so movies I had yet to watch (yet somehow inexplicably became part of my collection regardless) and a myriad of untouched video games. Thankfully the internet came to my rescue, as it so often does in times of boredom, with a ton of original content created just for the web. One such production was Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, which may just be the greatest Joss Whedon produced venture about a wanna-be super villain exhibited through song ever made (true story).
Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother) stars as Billy, A.K.A. Dr. Horrible, a budding super villain whose plans for world domination continually go awry. His two goals: getting accepted into the Evil League of Evil, and working up the guts to speak to his laundromat crush Penny, played by Felicia Day (The Guild). The only thing standing in his way is Captain Hammer, Billy’s superhero arch nemesis played by Nathan Fillion (Firefly, Castle). With one big score, Billy could get into the E.L.E. and earn the respect of Penny, but only if he can keep her away from the dashing Captain Hammer.
As evidenced by my not-so-subtle praising in the opening paragraph, I’m a pretty big fan of Whedon as well as Neil Patrick Harris. They’ve been responsible for some of the most original and entertaining content produced in recent years and with the added bonus of Felicia Day and Nathan Fillion being involved with this web-series as well, it’s hard not to quickly become a fan of it. True, the whole production ends in a little over forty minutes, but there isn’t a second of it that isn’t absolute quality…which is a true testament to the cast and crew involved in its production.
I suppose it should come as no surprise that Whedon produced something so original and fantastic as this, but the fact he was able to get Harris in on it was nothing short of fantastic. Since this series hit the internet and ended, Harris has lent his pipes to the 61st Primetime Emmy Awards as well as a surprise appearance during the 82nd Academy Awards opening musical number. He also was the title character in the “Mayhem of the Music Meister” episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold, which was also an all-musical number episode. While voicing singing cartoons may not be the definition of success for everyone, the hosting of the Tony and Emmy awards was definitely an added career perk for Harris; while I hesitate to say that he owes it all to Dr. Horrible, it no doubt played a huge role in his continued exposure to the masses.
While it’s obvious that Dr. Horrible is fantastic (just look at the Emmy it won in 2009! An Emmy, dammit!), what makes it so is the writers. Never mind the fact this was a miracle production considering the writers’ strike, but that it got such solid talent involved as well is…well, I don’t want to say remarkable because two of the stars were Whedon alumni already, but it definitely helped drive home the idea that online content doesn’t have to be watered down and shoestring budgeted productions (although that can be the case too). Felicia Day’s own series, The Guild is another example of a remarkably well done internet-only production.
Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog is forty minutes of light and airy fun; the witty dialogue and fantastic music definitely stick with you and although it zooms by quickly you’ll undoubtedly be back for another viewing shortly after (aided by the dual commentaries on the disc, you may end up doing a quadruple pass on the series by the time you finish this disc). It’s full of charm and is really one of the most entertaining series/productions/whatever I’ve ever seen—and that spans all the mediums of delivery, not just the internet. I realize I talked very little about the series itself and instead just praised the idea and cast of it, but considering it’s already two years old, chances are you’ve heard everything about it already (or seen it—hell, the thing is free to view all the time!) anyway. So it goes without saying that this is a Highly Recommended series and through patience, prayer, and the spending of our monies we can hopefully see the return of Dr. Horrible and crew in some form or another in the future (with current rumor being feature film).
Yes, this has been on DVD for some time now, but after the success of that release New Video has opted to push out a Blu-ray release as well. The packaging, presentation, and extras are all the same but it’s the video and audio transfer that is shiny and new. With a bright and clear VC-1 encoded 1080p image breathing a whole new set of detail into the image, fans can expect to pick out even more little props and background gadgets than before. Having said this, even though the series was shot in HD there is a real lack of up-front and texture detail. It’s almost too smooth at times and because of this it almost looks like a plastic sheen has been given to the transfer. I doubt this has anything to do with the encoding process as it looked this way even on Hulu (where you could watch it in HD too) and while that wasn’t a full 1080p image like this release, it also wasn’t that much of an improvement over the standard definition version either.
But what is a musical without its soundtrack? It’s nothing, that’s what. And the DTS-HD MA 5.1 track given to Dr. Horrible is truly something to experience, as the notes are clearer, the voices sharper and the bass notes livelier with a nice healthy thump erupting on occasion. Even if the video isn’t worth it to you to upgrade, if you have a surround system that will enable you to enjoy this fully, I heartily recommend checking it out. It’s quite awesome.
Extras are as previously mentioned all ported over from the previous DVD release. Included:
Commentary: The Musical
Commentary by Filmmakers
Making Of (20:42)
Evil League of Evil Application Videos (30:50)
Behind the Scenes (1:04)
Evil League of Evil Interview (3:15)
Teaser Trailer (0:56)
Sadly all the extras are in standard definition, but still look and sound great. Especially the “Musical” commentary, which further proves how awesome everyone involved in making this mini-series really was as this is undoubtedly as entertaining as the series itself was. The remaining extras are pretty run of the mill, although the “Application Videos” ranged from creative to sometimes scary…but that’s fandom for you! It should also be noted that because Blu-ray apparently cannot support the cutting edge technology of easter eggs, all the ones from the DVD have been ported over and plopped on the extras menu. Overall a Highly Recommended release.
Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog arrives on Blu-ray on May 25th.