“Dr. Horrible” Makes a House Call

Four years after going viral, the musical mad scientist with the sing-a-long blog is set for his TV debut.

In ancient times, before VCRs – forget about DVRs, the Internet, Netflix and all the rest ­– TV premieres of theatrically released movies were major events. The two-part small-screen debut of the 37-year-old “Gone With the Wind” on NBC in 1976 still holds two spots in the top 10 highest-rated programs of all time. For decades, annual TV showings of the other big film of 1939, “The Wizard of Oz,” proved a network broadcast staple.

We’re living in an online, on-demand media world that offers seemingly endless choices and near-immediate gratification – a wonderland for consumers of pop culture. But we’ve lost much of the now-quaint excitement of a communal mass TV viewing experience that gives everybody something to talk about the next day. Save for the Super Bowl and the Academy Awards (if some quality box-office hits actually get nominated), that old thrill is gone.
So we're tickled that four years after going viral, “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog” is bringing an old twist to the new media landscape by making its TV debut Tuesday on the CW. The special marks a long overdue house call from the musical mad scientist with a freeze ray and a deceptively warm heart.
Dr. Horrible, after all, is a bad guy worth cheering for – he’s not the Wizard of Oz, but certainly could have used his services, at least in the courage department. Sure, he’s primed to rule the world, but the doctor (the versatile Neil Patrick Harris) can barely bring himself to speak to Penny (fanboy crush Felicia Day), the pretty girl he sees at the Laundromat. After she takes up with the unctuous do-gooder Captain Hammer (Nathan Fillion), Dr. Horrible’s battle with his archenemy turns from a fight fueled by hate to one propelled by love.
Dr. Horrible,” originally distributed in three parts on the Internet, is a fun, quirky geekfest whose Web popularity speaks to its wide appeal and durability. The combination of winking rom-com, campy superhero action and highly hummable tunes invites repeat viewings, even if we can’t change the ending.
The primary creative force behind the effort was Joss Whedon, then best known for “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” the TV cult favorite, and now internationally renowned for directing “The Avengers,” by some measures, the third-biggest box office draw of all time. During the summer’s “Avengers” mania, Whedon announced that a “Dr. Horrible” sequel is in the works. It’s unclear what form the follow-up will take: Whedon told Variety that he’s “media-agnostic.” We’ll watch no matter how and where he rolls out the doctor’s return.
It’s impossible to know what kind of ratings the TV debut of “Dr. Horrible” will bring, even if we’re fairly certain the numbers won’t approach “Gone With the Wind.” But we’re glad “Dr. Horrible” is getting the opportunity for exposure to new audiences and another look from longtime fans. Maybe the show will give everybody something to talk about. Check out the original trailer below, with the tagline, “Coming soon to a computer near you”:

Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.

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