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The 2008 Television Time Capsule: Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog

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Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog

“Airdate”: July 2008

When my power went out the weekend before Christmas (and, coincidentally, the night I conceived of this project), I was stuck with an about to die laptop and my iPod Touch. While the laptop battery survived two episodes of Gilmore Girls, I was left with only my iPod to last until I was tired enough to fall asleep: thank Bad Horse for Dr. Horrible.

Bound to be an internet sensation thanks to the plethora of Whedonverse fans, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog is about as good a TV story as you’ll get this year. Joss Whedon and his brother (along with a crew of darn creative people) conceive of an internet musical while off work, and after the strike is over bring on Whedon favourite Nathan Fillion (as the hilarious Captain Hammer) and downright awesome Neil Patrick Harris (as the titular heroic anti-herp), along with Felicia Day (already familiar to internet content thanks to her work in The Guild, as leading lady Penny), to bring life to their creation.

What emerged was successful on two fronts. From an industry perspective, the three-part series demonstrated the power of new forms of distribution: released to the internet through various methods, Dr. Horrible was free to stream, cheap to buy on ITunes, and eventually made its way to DVD late in 2008. Recently named as one of the American Film Institutes Top TV moments due to its potential as a new business model, I think it’s important to note that Whedon’s involvement perhaps created a more viable platform than would other producers.

But that doesn’t really matter in the end, because Dr. Horrible is just damn entertaining. Yes, it’s a monumental achievement, paves the way, blah blah blah – what matter is that the story of a hapless villain struggling to make his way into the Evil League of Evil and win the love of the woman he does laundry next to is filled with witty dialogue, catchy songs, and some great performances (both comic and dramatic) from Harris, Fillion and Day.

I remain convinced, as I was when it aired, that the conclusion feels somewhat dour even acknowledging Whedon’s penchant for such endings, but this doesn’t change the fact that I await impatiently for all parties involved to have enough free time to give us a worthy sequel. In the meantime, living in a world where there is a musical commentary to an internet-distributed musical is reason enough to celebrate.

Related Posts at Cultural Learnings

[For more details on the Cultural Learnings 2008 Television Time Capsule, click here!]

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Finale: Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog – “Act Three”

“Act Three”

For two acts, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog was a musical comedy, but the conclusion of the second act seemed to indicate that things were about to take a turn towards the murderous. There was also a moment wherein Penny (Felicia Day) seemed to indicate that she knew something more than she should (As she recognized Bad Horse as “the thoroughbed of sin”). All of this was leading into a final conclusion that seems like it would prove quite good.

[To Watch Act III, click on the above image or here]

And it was good, but very tonally different than what we saw before it. As opposed to evolving into absurdity, it was instead, like many Whedon stories, a turn towards a dour and almost tragic final moment. It seemed impossible that Whedon could wrap up an entire story like this in forty minutes, resisting that type of serial character development he loves so much, and here is no exception: if the series dies in the here and now, this being its only moment to shine, I’m going to be extremely depressed more than anything else.

Which, when you think about it, is an odd point to leave on for a satirical musical comedy piece.

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Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog – “Act II”

Admittedly, I’ll have less to say about part two of this little experiment (since I got most of my general comments out of the way for the first part), but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t some really positive things to say about it.

Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along-Blog – Act II

What Act II does that Act I didn’t is embrace and engage with all of these characters. It’s still clear that Felicia Day’s Penny is the most underwritten of the characters, but it works because of how fantatic Neil Patrick Harris is on the other side of the equation. Day has a nice ease to her that allows the dialogue to flow and the songs to pop just right, so it’s not an issue of performance: it’s just a really simple character who’s trapped between two really awesome ones.

And no, enough things cannot be said about Neil Patrick Harris: his delivery during his exchange with Penny at the laundromat (In particular, the awesome “Sometimes there’s a third layer that’s the same as the first layer” line). I just love this character, and am glad that they broke my clear issue with the first part about the blog’s feasibility. It seems like before this point he would have run into the obvious problem of announcing a fiendish scheme on his blog and then having Captain Hammer/LAPD on his case, but at least it’s addressed here.

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The Challenge of Streaming Video in Canada

With a flick of a switch, and the power of a battery company, streaming video of shows people actually want to watch (legally) comes to Canada. CTV announced today (Friday) that starting immediately episodes of three of the top-rated shows on television will be available to Canadians on CTV.ca – Lost, Grey’s Anatomy and Desperate Housewives will see their new episodes available for four weeks after their first airing, allowing those who miss out to catch up.

This is triumphant for CTV, who has oft-struggled to keep their sagging broadband audience at bay after a disappointing lack of continued support beyond certain series, as they can lay claim to the only major Canadian network offering multiple high-tier series in a legal and well-supported platform (All of BellGlobeMedia’s online presences have integrated a new online streaming system far superior to their old one).

This could also be triumphant for people in Canada who have seen “This Video is Not Available in your region” one too many times – with all of the major American streaming sites, whether CBS’ Innertube or ABC.com’s episode viewer, locked out to eyes North of the border due to CRTC regulations, this could be the Great White Hope: a light at the end of the tunnel for an emergence of a broad and all-encompassing broadband presence.

Unfortunately, that just isn’t going to work.

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Sound Off! Week – Hey! Nielsen – A Land of Confusion

Sound Off! on Hey! Nielsen

A Land of Confusion

Yesterday, in discussing the problem of points of origin, it was inevitable that we’d leak into today’s issue. The established knowledge of other sites is a barrier of entry, but it is only one cause of the confusion that many fans delved further into within the comments section yesterday. Hey! Nielsen’s general design is, in itself, confusing even without any pre-existing views on what social networking represents.

WelcometoCO, a Jericho fan, found that “the Comment, Reaction, and Opinion options sound and seem like one and the same to me, and it took a long while before I could find any explanation that attempted to differentiate them. For that reason, I had already “klutzed” my way through the site and probably violated the intent for each of the options offered — becoming one of those dreaded Jericho ‘spammers’ who were so roundly criticized.”

What I want to do, based on this comment, is actually look at the intention behind the Opinion, Reaction and Comment options to attempt to figure out why they’re there, what they should be used for, and how they are confusing even once you’re used to the system (I’ll be getting to the spamming tomorrow).

Opinions

Opinions are something I equate to a message board post, but they’re also an unfortunately blank template. The purpose of an opinion is simple: expressing one’s opinion. And while I know that it is taboo to tell people what to say, I am personally open to a bit more guidance as to what makes a good or bad opinion.

Opinions have ranged from detailed analyses of new series or premiere episodes to simple statements of like or dislike without any further analysis. Are these examples of good or bad opinions? We don’t really know.

“The main detractor, as many have already said, is a lack of topic direction,” fan BlackLid noted in yesterday’s comments section. “Regardless of the site, what all social networking areas have in common is a category and then a subject to which other users can respond. There are clearly acceptable categories and clearly unacceptable ones.”

This seems like a great way to further provide a framework to opinions: opinions about the cast could be separated from general opinions, for example. It doesn’t fix every problem, but it might provide more thought being put into each individual opinion: as BlackLid pointed out, a series of dropboxes would help in streamlining this process.

Reactions

Reactions, meanwhile, are somewhat easier to understand: you agree or disagree with an opinion. However, the problem with Reactions is that I often don’t quite know what I’m reacting to. If someone posts a negative opinion of a series, and I disagree with it, is that registered as a negative reaction to the show or to that opinion? I’m still not entirely sure, but I think it is relevant information that would (for me) clarify the situation.

Comments

I think that, in comments, there lies a great deal of the site’s content potential. In commenting, people are able to enter into a discourse, and there is a sense that each opinion is in fact a discussion, which elevates that discourse to a more interactive level.

But no one is using them: an opinion might have sixty reactions, but only 5 comments. For me, comments are an integral part of people understanding this process: you could make a great opinion, but commenting on others is just as important to the discourse that will follow. If you want to create a social networking community, comments are essential. I think that a larger focus on the importance of this element, even though it is more difficult and time-consuming than a two-click reaction, would help avoid the spamming issue as well (Which, as noted, we’ll get into with greater detail tomorrow).

Conclusion

This is not to say that it is impossible to figure the system out. There exists a certain level of quality in the organization, and it’s certainly possible to have a decent discussion. But, in the interest of more people being involved, it would be great if these three new forms of communication could be both better explained and streamlined to be as representative as possible of their true purpose. There is, in other words, light at the end of the tunnel.

“I was [confused], briefly,” says Supernatural fan Shoi. “I can see where it’s a little difficult to tell how to leave feedback, but I figured out it by going slowly and taking my time. ”

Shoi set a good example, as did several of the other fans who contacted me. However, in a world where many people don’t take their time, I believe we have plenty of suggestions on what Hey! Nielsen could do to improve. For more, continue reading below.

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