July 21, 2008 was the day that I saw The Dark Knight, in a sold-out IMAX theater in Providence, R.I., which to this date is one of the greatest movie-going experiences of my life. But later that same day, I opened my laptop and watched the third and final episode of Joss Whedon’s pioneering web series Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.
I didn’t realize at the time how significant either was — to the future of movies/TV and to the oncoming onslaught of superhero-related content; to me, Dr. Horrible was just a really, really fun musical-comedy experiment.
12 years later, it almost all holds up. The miniseries, written during the film and TV writers’ strike of 2007-08
, attracted a perfect cast of suddenly not-busy actors: Neil Patrick Harris
as the titular evil doctor, Felicia Day
as his love interest Penny, and Nathan Fillion
as his nemesis Captain Hammer, a broad parody of the superheroes whose powers are “be handsome and punch good.”
Harris carries the best songs, including “My Freeze Ray” and “My Eyes,” with a sincerity that evolves from innocent to insane, and Fillion is one of the few actors who can sell Captain Hammer’s cocktail of cheesiness and cluelessness. Viewed today on a big-screen TV, the low budget of the production is easily visible, but back in my day, we watched internet videos in tiny boxes and … oh, whatever.
Also: The archetypal “geeky loner man who acts out because one woman is not into him” has not aged suuuuper well, but compared to Harris’ more famous role, Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother, Dr. Horrible is basically a saint.