Something Horrible

By Shamus Posted Thursday Jul 17, 2008

Filed under: Random 62 comments

I really miss Firefly. Well, I don’t actually miss it. I mean, I have the complete series boxed set right here and I can watch it whenever, so it’s not like the series is gone or anything. I actually just miss the show being on. Not that I watched it when it was on. I didn’t really watch the show until it wasn’t on anymore. Er. I mean, I rented it through Netflix after they stopped making them. So I guess I miss… the episodes they didn’t make? Or something.

Look, it was a good show is all I’m saying.

What I really wish is that Joss Whedon would make another show. And that Nathan Fillion would be in it. And I wish it would be about something cool. Like superheroes. No! Supervillains! Like, a comedy. A musical comedy maybe. With Neil Patrick Harris. And since I don’t have cable TV, it would be cool if they made the show and then just put it up online. Wouldn’t that be awesome?

Yes. It would be fully and unwaveringly awesome.
Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog is about the strangest idea for a show I’ve seen in a long time. It’s different and interesting and clever and therefore something that would be rejected by any self-respecting television network.

I’m going to blather on about it for a few paragraphs, but you should probably watch it yourself first. I don’t know that I’m going to be doing spoilers per se, but endlessly wanking commentary is more interesting when you’re familiar with the subject. Go ahead. Watch both parts.This blog isn’t going anywhere.

Part III – the final part, I gather, will go up in a couple of days.

The start of the series got me thinking about the various hobby entertainment projects you sometimes see on YouTube and the like. Some of them are funny, but watching Dr. Horrible shows how far a professional actor can take you. Neil Patrick Harris has an opening monologue that runs several minutes, so he has to carry the entire hook for the show by himself. Now, the lines are amusing, but just imagine them in the hands of the average YouTube thespian. There are a lot of little looks and pauses and gestures that NPH puts into the performance that make it as funny as it is. (This isn’t to say there aren’t talented amateurs out there. I’m just saying wearing Air Jordans won’t make you dunk like MJ.)

I was wondering where they’re going with this. Not the story, but the show. Then I noticed that cleverly hidden on the front page in big letters was a link to THE MASTER PLAN. It looks like the plan is to put up this series. Make us love it. Then take it down again and sell it to us on DVD. All three episodes combined will be what? An hour? That seems short, but I still want one.

Joss himself actually requests that people not pirate the thing, which seems silly but is actually a decent way to combat piracy in my book.

Really, this is the equivalent of playing music on the streetcorner and hoping people will toss some money into the hat. Can they make enough to turn a profit? I don’t know. I do think that making money will be easier without the network demanding their tribute.

I also admire what they’re doing here. During the writer’s strike, while the writer’s union was haggling with the media companies about making 0.4% residuals from adjusted net profits on cyclic ad-based revenue linked to post-broadcast content delivered via streaming branded whatever, Whedon got it in his head to just go out, make some content, and see if he could sell it to us directly. This puts his project into the exact same arena as, say, HomestarRunner.

I really hope it goes well. I also hope Dr. Horrible gets his freeze ray working.


From The Archives:

62 thoughts on “Something Horrible

  1. Ian says:

    Haha, I just saw Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog last night. Very clever, I laughed many a time.

    I’m really looking forward to seeing how the series continues.

  2. Chris says:

    I watched the first two parts with my wife last night and we had a great time. I loved Firefly and miss it too. Shameless blog plug: I’ve reviewed all the Firefly episodes on my blog so check it out if you get a notion…

  3. Strangeite says:

    Thank you for sending me that way.

  4. JFargo says:

    Watched the first one yesterday, and the second today as soon as I realized it was out. I will definitely be giving them some money for a DVD. I would like to see some extras on the DVD, but even if it’s just the three episodes I’ll buy it.

  5. Smileyfax says:

    I’m pretty sure I’m the only guy in the whole wide world who didn’t like Firefly. (Well, besides the dudes at Fox who cancelled it).

  6. ShadowDragon8685 says:


    Heretic! Heathen! Blasphemer! *APOSTATE!*

    That said, I don’t happen to worship the ground Joss Whedon walks on. I would rant and rave and shout my joy from the rooftops if he somehow managed to ressurect Firefly (again), but I loathe Buffy and I can only barely tolerate Angel. This concept dosen’t look so hot, but maybe I’ll give it a go anyway.

  7. Roy says:

    Fear not, Smileyfax, you’re not alone. Firefly never did anything for me, either. I forced myself to watch the first few episodes, and kept thinking “It must get better, for all that people are raving about it”, but I just never understood the appeal. I placed firmly in the “Not My Cup Of Tea” box, and when it got cancelled, I felt bad for the people who did like it. Sucks having a show you dig get the can.

  8. Factoid says:

    Watched that about an hour ago. It’s amazing. The total run-time is supposed to be 42 minutes…not too far off what you get from an hour-long format TV show minus commercials.

    I don’t think I’ll pay the typical DVD $20 for it…but I’m thinking $7.99 is about right. I might go as high as 10, but I won’t do that indefinitely if this is an on-going thing, where I have to cough up 10 bucks every couple months for new shows.

    It’s getting an iTunes release, so I’m thinking each part there will probably be 2-3 bucks.

  9. Dev Null says:

    Or give them some money for it by buying it on iTunes, if you are so inclined. Its only 4$ for the entire “season”, and you won’t have to struggle through the traffic on the free site.

    Edit @ Factoid: Jinx!

  10. Huckleberry says:

    @ JFargo: Extras have been promised:

    “And somewhat later, we will put the complete short epic out on DVD ““ with the finest and bravest extras in all the land. We'll go into greater detail about that at Comiccon, but we're changing the face of Show Friendliness a second time with that crazy DVD.”

  11. Deoxy says:

    Roy (and maybe Smileyfax)

    If you only saw the show when it was on TV, well, you got screwed (like the show itself). It was aired out of order (badly), and the pilot episode (you know, where they introduce the characters?) wasn’t shown first. Or even second (I think it was, what, fifth or something?!?).

    So, find somebody who has the series, and watch a few in order. You might still not like it (and that’s OK – we won’t torture before we kill you or anything; a nice, painless bullet in the brain will work for us), but at least you’ll have actually gotten to experience the real thing.

    “the dudes at Fox who cancelled it” were (and are) raving lunatics, as judged by A) the popularity of the Firefly movie, and b) the resurection and continuance of Family Guy after they killed that, too.

    Basically, they are supreme idiots. Saying the “like” or “don’t like” something gives them far too much credit for higher thought processes.

  12. James says:

    Just saw this earlier today, how fortuitous you posted on the same subject while I was watching it a second time.

    I don’t have much to add that you haven’t already expressed better than I, though I do find the expression ‘endlessly wanking commentary’ extremely amusing.

  13. Jeremiah says:

    I heard somewhere that the commentary on the DVD will be in musical format as well. Pure awesome.

    The musical Buffy episode was one of my favorites. Not only can Joss write a good show, but he puts on a good musical, too.

  14. Coldstone says:

    My understanding (not necessarily accurate) was that Firefly was cancelled as part of some business deal. Something about the projected worth of the show being to high (as in: successful) when it’s network was up for grabs or something.

    The show wasn’t cancelled beause of bad ratings. It was cancelled because it would have made some deal or another more expensive.

    Which makes it all the more tragic. And stupid. Epic level stupid.

  15. Thanakil says:

    Watching those acts a second (and more) time is not only as good as the first, but helped me catch a few visual jokes I didn’t get the first time, this is something I always love to see in a show/movie/whatever.

    Example : In the second act, in the “cantina”. I was focusing on Nathan Fillion faces as the homeless persons come see him, without realizing that Dr Horrible was in the background, pretending to fill bowls of soup (without even trying to do it properly) to spy on them.

    And that’s probably only ONE of the jokes that I missed on the first take. I’m looking forward to the DVD with the extras.

  16. corwin says:

    Act I was so mind-blowingly awesome, I immediately went to iTunes and bought the $4 season pass. And I fully plan to buy the DVD when it’s available.

  17. Torsten says:

    They should add rolling lyrics to the singing parts. Then it would be a real sing along show. Really sunny idea. Looks like crazy enough to get a nice bunch of fans and a lot of internet fame. Sadly it also looks crazy enough idea that no TV network is probably going to ever show it.

  18. empty_other says:

    Damnit! The stupid thing only cache when i press play, and stop as soon as i press the “pause” button. Not the STOP button, but PAUSE! The only way i can watch it now is by watching a whole second, then wait a second. Sigh… The only thing i had the patience to watch was a lunatic laughing…

  19. The Lone Duck says:

    Liked Firefly, didn’t care about Buffy, never saw (or had interest to see) Angel. I liked the setting of Firefly. The acotrs did well without making the show all about themselves. While I think it was the wrong decision, I can’t blame Fox for the decision they made. After all, it was their money.
    I enjoyed the Dr Horrible musical. It’s equally goofy and angsty. Can’t say for certain whether I’ll buy the dvd, but I will watch the conclusion come Saturday. Regardless of how it turns out, you can tell everyone is having a blast doing this.

  20. fledgling otaku says:

    You may also want to watch The Guild, a series of ten webisodes about a group of WOW gamers which stars and was written by Felicia Day, NPH’s love interest in DrH.

  21. Vao Ki says:

    Well…I’ve never watched Firefly (please, put down the pitchforks. I don’t watch much TV) but I know what I like. I’m not much into musicals, but the concept of a musical blog from the point of a struggling supervillain is hilarious. Thank you Shamus for sharing. I loved it, and look forward to Act III. Maybe the captain will get his hammer frozen off…

  22. kmurphy says:

    You know about this:
    right? It sounds like a “love it or hate it” thing as well. Not so much a comedy or musical ;)

  23. Spider Dave says:

    I never saw Firefly, but I am admittedly a Buffytard. And this…well, this is brilliant. I’ve always wanted to see a musical about supervillains! Thank you Shamus for once again pointing me in the direction of something awesome.

  24. mockware says:

    I really like the Dr. Horrible character and Neil Patrick Harris has done great in his role. There are some really enjoyable musical numbers but I didn’t like them all. Pretty disappointed with Nathan Fillian’s Capt Hammer. He was great in Firefly but it seems like the Capt Hammer character wasn’t really defined well if that makes any sense. Overall, it was good though.

  25. Noah Lesgold says:

    I’m Buffy-neutral and a huge, huge fan of Firefly, and I also love Neil Patrick Harris. I’ve been waiting for this ever since they first started talking about it. I want to give them money for it, but I rather hate iTunes, which is an issue – guess I’ll be waiting for the DVD and pining as soon as the free netcast goes off the air. So far, I am impressed, particularly with NPH, who I now badly want to be fronting an awesome rock band, because he has a fantastic voice. Nathan Fillion is a sufficiently convincing asshole that it’s impossible for me to enjoy his character, but his performance is appropriate and his delivery and facial emoting has been marvellous.

  26. NobleBear says:

    I hated Buffy and Angel so it took Firefly to convince me that Joss could write good stories played out by interesting characters.

    Dr. Horrible is fun and well done. NPH carries the emotional weight of the narrative wonderfully.


  27. Sharpie says:


    I read the lack of depth in Hammer AS his character. He is shallow and one dimensional, which is pretty obvious compared to Horrible.

    Granted, none of the characters are as fleshed-out as any full series could do, but they have done decently despite the time limitations.

  28. Alexis says:

    Ok if you thought I was aggressive about WoW prepare to watch me put the SMACKDOWN on Smileyfax!


    Ha. Betcha sorry now, tough guy.

  29. Joshua says:


    That was fully and unwaveringly awesome. I usually avoid internet video thingies like that, but I can’t wait for Act III.

    Cpt. Hammer seems like more of an antagonist than Dr. Horrible. Hammer pushes Kenny into the trash, claims to give her the night of her life to Horrible just to spite him, and generally acts like a meanie. And the whole good-guy trying to be a super-villain idea is awesome.

    And the music is good.

  30. Tuck says:

    I don't know that I'm going to be doing spoilers per se, but endlessly wanking commentary is more interesting when you're familiar with the subject.

    …I don’t get this “endlessly wanking commentary”. Do you know a different meaning of the word ‘wanking’ to me?

    With 10 megs left on my quota this month, and it resetting tonight, I shall have to wait till tomorrow to watch this…

  31. henebry says:

    Anyone else think that Dr. H’s remote controller for the van looks a lot like a 3G iPhone, both the phone’s black back, it’s headphone jack, and the on-screen graphics.

  32. Joshua says:

    I thought it was an iPhone!

  33. ShadowDragon8685 says:

    I retract my earlier comment.

    I watched Episodes 1 and 2, and I have to say,


    Captain Hammer is an abasoloute dick. He’s a magnificiant asshole, and Nathan Fillian pulls it off so very, *very* well, without actually making it seem like he’s putting any of Malcolm Reynolds into it. Which is good.

    At least until he starts taunting Dr. Billy Horrible in the laundromat, while Penny’s away. Oh yes, then it comes out in spades. Which is also good. He goes from overbearing, egotistical, generally aloof and somewhat idiotic straight down to the schadenfrued-spewing, spiteful-for-the-sake-of-spite, not-a-nice-guy act we all know and love, but without the love bit, because unlike Mal, there’s no sympathy for Hammer. It’s great! I love it!

    Man, I hope they manage to ressurect Firefly. They really, really need to pull off a ressurection of Firefly. I’d settle for Dr. Horrible: the TV show, though.

    Oh, and the “I don’t remember it that way” bit in 1. That was quite Malcomish, too.

  34. Nanja Kang says:

    I loved it.

    It needs to be televised, hopefully have more episodes… something… just do something… like resurrecting Firefly.

  35. Blurr says:

    The whole point of this if I read correctly was for it NOT to be televised. They wanted to be independent in filming as well as distribution.

  36. Arson55 says:

    That was so, so awesome. And I am glad you pointed it out to me. Neil Patrick Harris, Nathan Fillion, everyone–so awesome. Music–awesome. Premise–awesome. (It actually reminds me of an RPG I ran recently set in a high-school for both super villians and super heroes mostly because Dr. Horrible reminds me somewhat of Vincent von Doomenstein (one of the PCs). If you combined Dr. Horrible and Invader Zim that would pretty much be Vincent von Doomenstein right there.

    As for Whedon: Loved Firefly, never cared enough to even try Buffy or Angel.

    Now then. I’m going to watch Act II again.

  37. OM3G4 says:

    What’s really funny, is that I saw this just before doing my daily check on your blog

  38. Dr. Horrible and The Guild are both great stuff. :) I’m a huge fan.

  39. MRL says:

    Already paid the $4 for the whole season on iTunes. For that little money, especially for entertainment of this caliber, it’s a no-brainer.

  40. Namfoodle says:

    Great line: “these are not the hammer”…extra long pause while he walks offscreen…comes back…”the hammer is my 8==D” That was hilarious. (Learned that emoticon here, by the way)

    So do you think NPH will actually take him out? Let the speculation begin!

  41. Kel'Thuzad says:


    That was… fantastic. I will be waiting with bated breath for Act III.

  42. Ben says:

    Excellent. The songwriting is fantastic.

  43. Erkenbrand says:

    Many thanks for the recommendation; definitely worth it.

  44. Derek K says:

    NPH is doing quite well shedding his Dougie Howser days, I think. ;)

    He’s the main reason I watch How I Met Your Mother (well, that and the fact that it comes on after Big Bang Theory, which I find hilarious).

    And Re: Firefly – I too watched Firefly on Fox (or tried to, as the times changed, the order changed, etc). I liked it, but it was no X-Files, where I’d make plans to be home to watch it each week. I didn’t hunt down the ones I missed, though I had about 9 episodes on tape (and about 6 different shows that I *thought* were gonna Firefly).

    Then I bought the DVD set. I am now a slavering Browncoat. So there really is something to be said for watching them in order, without Fox involved.

    “b) the resurection and continuance of Family Guy after they killed that, too.”

    The first new Family Guy is one of my all-time favorites, just for this exchange:

    Peter: Everybody, I got bad news. We’ve been canceled.
    Lois: Oh, no! Peter, how could they do that?
    Peter: Well, unfortunately, Lois, there’s just no more room on the schedule. We’ve just got to accept the fact that Fox has to make room for terrific shows, like “Dark Angel”, “Titus”, “Undeclared”, “Action”, “That ’80s Show”, “Wonder Falls”, “Fastlane”, “Andy Richter Controls the Universe”, “Skin”, “Girls Club”, “Cracking Up”, “The Pitts”, “Firefly”, “Get Real”, “Freaky Links”, “Wanda at Large”, “Costello”, “The Lone Gunmen”, “A Minute with Stan Hooper”, “Normal, Ohio”, “Pasadena”, “Harsh Realm”, “Keen Eddie”, “The Street”, “American Embassy”, “Cedric the Entertainer”, “The Tick”, “Louie”, and “Greg the Bunny”.
    Lois: Is there no hope?
    Peter: Well, I suppose if all those shows go down the tubes, we might have a shot.

  45. Kaeltik says:

    Firefly is one of the great what-ifs of television. The bits they made (viewed in order) are nothing short of brilliant. Could that level of excellence have survived long under the sway of network execs? Could it have flourished if aired in the right order? Or at a consistent time/day? Or in a time slot against weaker competitors? I still don’t know why the SciFi channel never stepped in and picked it up. Putting Firefly and BSG together would be an irresistible draw.

    BTW, my wife is a huge fan of everything Joss has ever done, so she found Dr. Horrible within hours of its first posting. That you even mentioned it here may get her reading this blog, or at least let me off the hook for burning so many hours reading TwentySided comments.

  46. Derek K says:

    @Kaeltik: Last I heard, Firefly episodes were running about a million a shot. That’s probably outside Sci-Fi’s range, or at least outside their desire. The influx of people for that, vs the 10 middling sci-fi original movies could be a tough choice. ;)

  47. ShadowDragon8685 says:

    FOX are assholes. Here’s what’s gone on, essentially.

    FOX: We don’t like you, we’re gonna screw you. We’re gonna screw with you in every way we can, including making you tone down the darkness of the show (not a bad thing, IMO), not airing the pilot at all, airing episodes out-of-order and at inconsistant times/days… Oh, yeah, we’re going to let all our affiliates cancel it to broadcast local sporting events live, thus earning your show the nickname “the most canceled show on television”, before the season’s over, we’re also going to cancel you, citing ‘insufficient ratings’, despite the fact that we let all our affiliates cancel your show for local sports, and we’re going to ignore the weekend re-runs in our tally of popularity, despite the overwhelming evidence that people love it on the weekend slot and it’s also one of the most TiVo’d shows on TV.

    Joss Whedon: “You… You bastards! This isen’t over, Fox! You hear me? It’s not over!”
    FOX: STFU, be on your way.
    Joss Whedon: “I WILL bring Firefly back! You hear me?! And I will NEVER work with you bastards again!”
    Alan Tudyk: *steals the Button (from Out of Gas) from the set, screws it to Joss’ desk at home.* “Once your miracle arrives, you press this and we’ll come running back.” (Yes, happened.)

    Joss Whedon: *does a lot of deals, works the con circuit, promotes the DVDs, convinces a Universal Exec.*
    Universal Browncoat Exec: *buys Firefly movie rights from Fox.*
    Joss Whedon: “Yes!” *slams button.*
    Five minutes later…
    Joss Whedon: “Oh, right, it’s not a real button.” *picks up cell phone, starts placing calls.*

    Some time later…
    Serenity: *explodes onto scene, makes a lot of money, inspires a fever-pitch of browncoat madness.*
    FOX: “Ohshitz! This stuff really is hugely popular. Are we going to start making it again? ”
    FOX 2: “Sure. Call up Joss.”
    Joss Whedon: “Go to hell, I’m not working with you again, ever.”
    FOX: “But… But… Money!”
    Joss Whedon: “No! Now give me the rights to my creation back.”
    FOX: “No, nevar! If you want it, you’ll have to work for us!”

    Joss Whedon: “Not a chance. You screwed me sideways last time.”
    FOX: “Then you’ll NEVER make any more Firefly!”

  48. Nixorbo says:

    Shamus, thank you for mentioning that Nathan Fillion was in this. If you hadn’t, I may never have bothered to watch it.

    Now I have and I love it.

  49. Kaeltik says:

    @Derek [49]: Yeah, I heard something about this. Still have to wonder, though. BSG isn’t cheap and it’s put the SciFi channel in the mainstream (for better or for worse). Pity. Joss certainly made the most he could with the expense. The Firefly universe felt luxurious, especially when compared to the hollow 2D worlds found in the majority of TV, FOX especially. Sometimes I despair that meaty, smart, nuanced shows never seem to succeed for long (yes, yes, I can think of a couple of counter examples too).

    Joss is too prolific and respected to stay down. Here’s to Dr. Horrible.

    @Derek [47]: Ditto How I Met Your Mother. A small light in the murk that is sitcom TV.

    @Shamus: Re: Something Horrible: Thank you. Just thank you.

  50. Arson55 says:

    Derek (#47), Big Bang Theory is hilarious. I want them to get on with putting it on DVD.

  51. Jeff says:

    Act 3 is out/up!

  52. Kevin says:

    Freeze ray works! (Mostly.) I’ll buy the DVD, if only to encourage other such projects. Maybe folks’d be interested enough to want to make more Firefly!

  53. Vao Ki says:

    Just watched Act III. Not exactly what I expected (which is good). If they can, (without saying too much about the ending) I’d be curious to see where they go from here.

  54. brashieel says:

    I really, really hope they keep Dr. Horrible going.

  55. Viktor says:

    I wish they could keep it going too, but without some sort of reversal of the third act, I doubt they could. :(

  56. Fieari says:

    This was beautiful in a most sublime manner. Sublime being a word English majors like to define as “so terrible it is really truly beautiful”. It’s a tragedy in the finest of traditions, where the sad ending was inevitable from the beginning. So sad, but so… so… fulfilling. The ending did it right. I hadn’t expected it, but it was perfect.

    I want more Dr. Horrible, or at least I want Joss to make lots more stuff with good actors on a low budget and use this publishing model. I hope he makes massive bank, because this is brilliance.

    I want more shows where the supervillian is the protagonist. I think they could really emphasize the “superheroes were given all their gifts and muddle through things on the laurels of their born talents, while the villains need to WORK and PLAN” and I think working and planning is a good message to convey. Less “follow your star” and more “study hard”.

  57. Craig Russell says:

    Hi Shamus,

    Are you aware of our Firefly fan film “Mosquito”?

    the link is:

    Craig Russell

  58. ryanlb says:

    Dammit! My cousin sent me a link to this on Saturday, but didn’t tell me what it was. I watched about two minutes of it, but decided to save it for later. Last night I decided to finish it and was sad to see it gone, only to find out it was a Joss Whedon project. If he had said that in the first place I would have sold my kidney to watch it (what do I need two for anyway?).

    I love Buffy (never saw Angel) I LOVED Firefly/Serenity. I will love Dollhouse.

    So I just bought Dr Horrible on iTunes.

    Joss Whedon is my Master now.

  59. Terrible says:

    Bought it off iTunes.

    The music is really good.

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