'Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog'
Jed Whedon, writer-producer Maurissa Tancharoen, Joss Whedon, writer/exec producer Zack Whedon
By Lesley Goldberg
The Paley Center for Media made history Tuesday when it honored its first series produced specifically for the Internet with Joss Whedon's "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog."
"I really want to thank the Paley Center for acknowledging something not on TV. It's a big deal right now for the artistic community that this got done, that we launched, that we made a profit, and we showed people that we can be that silly and still make it in this town," Whedon said before launching the three-part musical starring Neil Patrick Harris (Billy/Dr. Horrible), Nathan Fillion (Captain Hammer) and Felicia Day (Penny).
Following the screening, which like Whedon's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" episode "Once More, With Feeling" had fans singing in their seats during its screening at last year's PaleyFest reunion event, "Dr. Horrible" writer Zack Whedon said he had only collaborated with brothers Joss and Jed (also a writer on the musical) when they were little.
Writer Maurissa Tancharoen, who will marry Jed Whedon on Saturday, said she enjoyed becoming part of the family while making "Dr. Horrible."
"Firstly, there's too many of them," she said of the brothers. "I think ‘Dr. Horrible' has been nothing but a wondrous, thrilling surprise after another. The way it all came together was over Christmas and we as a family came together and said, ‘Let's do something together.' We had made a ‘Strength' video for Strike TV, and Joss saw that and he said he had an idea for ‘Dr. Horrible.'
"At first it was going to be a family affair: us, no budget, in front of a camera, and then it became something with cameras, and then the next thing you know we have Neil Patrick Harris and Nathan and Felicia," she added.
Joss Whedon said that "Dr. Horrible" would not have been possible without the 100-day writers strike.
"I doubt we would have had time without the writers strike," he said. "I spent a lot of the writers strike trying to make a deal to make content like this … and I made a deal with me," he joked, adding that he couldn't get his own final cut approval. "I had seen the strike vid and it made me laugh, and we enjoy each other and we haven't worked together, so this will either really bond us or break the family apart forever. That was sorta the risk."
Fillion, when asked if his "the hammer is my penis" line haunts him, deadpanned that those lines "are the things you want to haunt you. … I want it over my headstone."
Whedon said that Day -- who writes, produces and stars in her own Web series, "The Guild" -- became a source of knowledge of the format and added that "The Guild" was the first Web series he watched. "Before we even talked about Felicia being in it ("Dr. Horrible"), I asked her for advice."
Day, meanwhile, confessed that she encouraged Whedon to audition her and test her singing abilities before being handed the part of love interest Penny but showed up for the first read-through -- which Harris and Fillion missed -- with tonsillitis.
"I was so excited the day she was coming to the house," Tancharoen said. "Then she gets there and the first thing she says to me is, ‘Look at my tonsils!' "
"One of my part-time jobs while working my way through university was karaoke host," Fillion said of his singing roots. "It was really daunting to sing next to Neil and Felicia; these are really good singers, and they didn't even let Felicia sing as well as she actually can."
"That's true; she was going in like Joni Mitchell, and I went and said, "You're shy, you're shy!" Whedon said of Day's character.
And for his own "Heartbroken" song on the DVD's musical commentary, Whedon said that his "level of terror was high" when singing -- which he'll soon do live on "This American Life" -- and that a lot of the lyrics had to do with "Dollhouse" and the problems he was having at the onset of the Fox series.
"I had a different ending of the song, but we needed to have conflict, so I kept that," he said. "A lot of it had to do with ‘Dollhouse' because they (the network) were talking about doing webisodes and they wanted me to blog every day while I was directing and I was having a hard enough time just making the show and it was sort of making me crazy. I do think that there's an element of truth in it, but like all the songs, I took it a bit further."
Asked later why he continues to return to Fox after the early demise of his "Firefly" series, Whedon said that the issues that have plagued "Dollhouse" -- from the network's early script rewrite demands to the more recent brouhaha over Episode 13 being available only on DVD -- he said the situations are "eerily similar in some ways and very different in other ways."
"And the reason I went back was because of ('Dollhouse' lead) Eliza (Dushku)," he added. "I don't care; she's worth it. The relationship (with Fox) has always been equitable. … It's very different from when we did 'Firefly.'
"I will say that the worst thing I could have done right before starting ‘Dollhouse' was ‘Dr. Horrible' because it just rolled off and came from our hearts and we sang and that was it. … It ('Dollhouse') was a grind after the freedom of ‘Dr. Horrible,' and it made me a much crankier person and a worse boss and they (the rest of the panel) can attest to that," Whedon said.
As for the future of "Dr. Horrible," Zack Whedon said upcoming comic book installments featuring Penny (June 1) and Dr. Horrible are coming soon to MySpace.com/darkhorsepresents.