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July 30 2008

Is Doctor Horrible a model for the future? A Chicago Tribune columnist adds his two cents to the seemly endless business analysis of Joss' internet phenomenon (which will be available on Hulu for the next four months according to a Variety blogger).

3rd Act Problems? Not a bit.
Well, if he had identified what he saw as third act problems, at least it would be topic for conversation. I always hate it when someone says something like this without any examples.

There were errors, here, too. Joss has indicated the cost to be in the low six figures. Unless I'm totally off in my math, that doesn't come down to below $100K. And, of course, he may not have known at the time of writing about the extended Hulu viewings.

But it's nice to get more mainstream coverage.
Unless I'm totally off in my math, that doesn't come down to below $100K.

Nope, I think you can indeed count to six palehorse, rest easy ;-).

(hint to Tribune journalist: 99,999 is only 5 figures)

Is it a model for the future ? That obviously depends on whether it makes money. If it comes out in the black (as seems likely) then i'd say it's a good model for other creators in a similar bracket to Joss (e.g. Ron Moore, maybe JJ Abrams etc.) i.e. people that can attract an audience just with their name/past record alone. But it's a lot of money upfront for most indie/web productions so 'The Guild' might be a better model for general web creators (i.e. small scale self/donation financed 1st "season" followed by gradually more ambitious productions as money/success follow).
Maybe they didn't even watch it, but heard third-hand rumblings about some issue with Act 3 (in other words, the game of telephone distorting the minority view that Act 3 was an unfair bait and switch), and transformed that into "serious third-act problems".
I was wondering if the networks' next move would be to let fans buy webisodes.
He seems like he went through the effort to purchase, download, and watch it, but I don't get the feeling that he "got" it. Maybe it's just me.
Well, bix, he did say in the article that he'd paid for the iTunes download; I assume he watched it as well. And speaking for those of us (more than you may think) who still have major problems with Act III, we really thought we were going to end up with Bait. What can we say?

As for the business model, I don't know why it should strike people as such a surprise. It seems like the perfect outlet for someone like Joss, who is a cult rather than mainstream figure. He could almost count on his many obsessive fans (of whom I am one) queueing up each episode multiple times, and each one is short enough that it made our task of wrangling our friends to sit down and watch that much easier. It's a nice short calling card for people who, based on the show's titles alone, wouldn't have been caught dead watching any of Joss's previous output. I used it that way, as I assume did many of you. (It's just a pity that I had to apologize to so many of them at the end of Act III.)

Saje is right about the difference between the scale of realistic productions that new creators without an established fanbase could mount vis a vis Joss...but keep in mind that Felicia had a bit of a "Buffy boost" when she started The Guild as well. It was less of a risk for her than it will be for most people who try it. I think a better risk for new Web filmmakers would be to mount several cheap self-contained projects (say 5-7 minutes), put them out there, and then see which ones, if any, get nibbles. I expect we'll be seeing a lot of discoveries that way...

(ETA: Funny, korkster. I got the feeling that he "got" it. What makes you say that?)

[ edited by BAFfler on 2008-07-30 17:25 ]
I was wondering if the networks' next move would be to let fans buy webisodes.


Most networks been treating the webisodes, mostly as side events, instead something that's as important.
So far, I think the most successful investment into them, has been that Resistance series from BSH, between season 2 and 3.
But it was region locked content
A friend of mine in LA is actually involved with a similar project. They're obtaining funding in a different fashion, but the aim is a long series of webisodes. The idea is definitely being explored by others in Hollywood.

When I talked to him last night he was on his way to a presentation to some producers, so I should find out soon if they're going forward with it.
Most networks been treating the webisodes, mostly as side events, instead something that's as important.


I vaguely recall plans to let fans view Lost mini-episodes on their cell phones. But I have no idea if that ever happened or if they had to pay for them.
There are third act problems. You've got the newspaper typo on "Heroes Girlfriend", the car doing an illegal right turn on a red, and Hammer's use of the word 'tard isn't the most PC (interesting how in contrast Billy used special needs during My Freeze Ray)
:)

On the subject of business models, the one thing that the major networks in particular are good at is monetizing their productions through advertising, and in that regard Joss and company have probably left a lot of money on the table because that is not something they have focussed on.

For example, consider the frozen yogurt that features prominantly. I understand that it's a fairly recognisable and popular brand in LA (Berri Good). So, was this a product placement for which the yogurt people paid Joss and company for promoting their stuff? Or did the cast and crew just get some free yogurt out of the deal? Or was there no deal, and one of the crew just went and stood in line and paid money for the yogurt like everybody else?
To answer BAFfler's question:

But it adds new levels of comic absurdity, as Dr. Horrible, a challenging role played to perfection by Neil Patrick Harris, shares the screen with a cowboy chorus and blogs about his evil plans until he realizes the authorities can see blogs and foil said plans. He's torn between taking over the world (he wants change just as our candidates do) and winning the love of sweet, altruistic Penny (Felicia Day).

Vying to enter the Evil League of Evil, Dr. Horrible has a nemesis, the beefy, do-gooding cad Captain Hammer (Nathan Fillion, from Whedon's "Firefly"). And the delight isn't just in the gloriously conflicted Dr. Horrible but in the catchy, comic tunes the cast breaks into to advance the story. It is no faint praise to say that "Dr. Horrible" brings to mind musical episodes of "Buffy," "Scrubs" and "The Simpsons."


*my emphasis*

If I were describing this show to someone, I wouldn't include the cowboy chorus. They're not the point; getting into the Evil League of Evil and working for Bad Horse are some of the points. I also don't think he stopped blogging because the authorities review his blog. He blogged that they are viewing his blog. He also blogged as Billy when Dr. Horrible came to be. Again, this view of "stopping the blogs because the authorities are watching him" is not important to those who are thinking about watching this for the first time.

And I say, for the first time, because who would care about his take, why would he even sum up Dr. Horrible if we've all seen it already? I just think he could have worded the synopsis better. It doesn't have to be longer; I think shorter is they way he should have went.

Also, and feel free to disagree, for I will not provide argument since I'm at work, I don't think DHSAB shows any relation to OMWF, or the "Simpsons" & "Scrubs" musicals... except for the fact that they're all musicals. Why build the bridge?
I had hoped Inara would be a model for the future!
So, was this a product placement for which the yogurt people paid Joss and company for promoting their stuff? Or did the cast and crew just get some free yogurt out of the deal? Or was there no deal, and one of the crew just went and stood in line and paid money for the yogurt like everybody else?

According to Billy, it was a buy one get one free deal. ;)

I believe the newspapers also said Penny would be "soarly" missed. Because she's flying up to heaven?
and Hammer's use of the word 'tard isn't the most PC

It isn't PC to have a pretty dumbass character use insulting terms? Seems like accurately reflecting someone's dumbassedness is pretty correct, politically or otherwise. ;)
The popular brand in LA is Pinkberry. BerriGood was a made-up riff off the real brand. There was no product placement. There also wasn't any problems with act 3.
and Hammer's use of the word 'tard isn't the most PC
Yeah, pretty obviously the whole point, wasn't it?

I don't get the reason for comparing Doctor Horrible to Mad Men, which has absolutely nothing at all in common with it. But, hey, I'm glad for more press because now I'm assuming that people who own computers but don't usually look for online entertainment... and do read newspapers, will go to Hulu and give it a try!
korkster...hmm. Well, I suppose he's done a horrible job as a reviewer, then. After all, everyone knows that reviews should be a strict synopsis of the plot ONLY, and should omit any mention of tangential yet flavorful things that might have attracted the reviewer's attention.

Perhaps his review could have been shorter, but I think he aptly summed up the central conflict (world vs. love) in a single sentence...which, I noticed, was not one of the ones you emphasized...and seemed to describe the characters well enough. I think the problem here is that you would have reviewed DHSAB differently were you in his place, and NOT that he failed to "get it."

As for his inter-musical comparison, I actually rather liked that. He has cited examples, not just of TV musicals, but excellent ones--or at least, I found them to be excellent. Wouldn't you say that being compared to OMWF, in particular, rubs off rather well on Doc H? (In my opinion, perhaps a bit better than it deserves, but I'm resigned to getting very little agreement from this quarter.) Now if he had said that "Dr. Horrible brings to mind the musical episode of Seventh Heaven," that would have been a tremendous insult.
I vaguely recall plans to let fans view Lost mini-episodes on their cell phones. But I have no idea if that ever happened or if they had to pay for them.

Simon | July 30, 17:52 CET

Yes, 13 "mobisodes" -- called Missing Pieces -- did finally get made. They were also released on the US broadcast network's website. They consisted of cut scenes and some new material. Not sure how successful they were. The US version of "The Office" does a significantly better job with original webisodes that focuses on the supporting cast. All of these are basically promotional tools to keep audiences watching the televised version.
You've got the newspaper typo on "Heroes Girlfriend"

I don't think that was necessarily an error. I think that was on purpose, to parody the general use of English in the average rag. There were also "Country Mourns Whats Her Name" (instead of what's her name) and "Girlfriend of Captain Hammer Murdered," which would be correct in the possessive case (Captain Hammer's), analogous to "girlfriend of mine." And then, in the fine print of the "article" about Penny's death, a sentence reads at the end: "it was going to be a great big party till Dr. Horrible messed it all up." But, then, there are consistently problems in Joss's shows with the I/me pronouns, so who knows? Is he just capturing general usage so the characters seem "real," or what?
Yes, I'm pretty sure the typos were on purpose. And that AlanD was joking anyway. At least I was.

I'd forgotten about The Office webisodes...too distracted by Horrible stuff.
I think a better comparison for Dr. Horrible than Mad Men would be Sanctuary, which sold 15-20 minute episodes on its website and was picked up for series this past winter (debuting in October on SciFi). I know that's not Dr. Horrible's goal, but it shows that with at least middlingly high-powered talent connections (Stargate's Tapping for Sanctuary, Joss for Dr. Horrible), a show can make an impact fairly quickly. I would pay similar prices for content from JJ Abrams, Ron D., Jerry Bruckheimer, all the way down to Hart Hanson, Glenn Gordon Caron, and numerous writers from past series and movies.
The future of the model depends on when the propietary stuff is a non-issue and DRM is fair for consumers. I consider stuff I purchase for download to essentially be disposable. Which is why I don't invest in an iPod or use iTunes. A file here and there is okay, but no way am I amassing a large and expensive library of music and video that can only be played by specific software and devices made by one company.

And then there is the digital divide. Not everyone has a new computer at the same time. Mine is about a year and a half old and played the videos nicely. But I also got the fastest processor available at the time and maxed the memory, and I'm something of a cooling fanatic.

I watched act III with my partner on her computer last night, and the performance was less than stellar. In fact, I would say it killed the dramatic moments. It wasn't just a little choppy, but rather the video would freeze for 2-5 seconds while the audio kept going. We're on the same network, so it wasn't bandwidth, but the computer itself trying to render the video. I'm probably going to have to work some geeky magic on it. It's not like she's computer illiterate, but I would say a typical user with a typical computer.
Wait, there was a musical episode of Seventh Heaven? *shock horror* or was that a joke there, BAFfler? ;)

And, yeah, korkster, while I agree with the fact that the things the reviewer wrote about are not essential to the main plot, it's quite common practice to add little snippets that caught one's attention to liven up a review. The cowboy chorus, for instance, is one such thing that can be added to both emphasize the whimsical nature of the piece and to add a little flavour to the writing. Although I do agree that the "stops blogging" implication is wrong, I don't think it hurts the review much. Reviews tend to be wrong on minor details all the time (although I imagine every critic tries to avoid small errors). On the whole, this is a pretty favorable review and it's a nice read. I'd say it's well done.

Also, I do think Dr. Horrible brings to mind OMWF. Which, obviously, is pretty logical, seeing as it's a musical by the same author. Yes, it's also different in a lot of places, but the combination of drama and comedy (a Whedonian staple, of course) and some (not all) of the songs do compare to each other (I could easily picture a song like "Standing" in DHSAB, for instance).

I guess we're not sharing a brain, this one time, korkster. I'm sure it's a temporary thing ;)

Also still don't see any third Act problems, by the way. In fact, I've only grown to like the whole thing more and more as time went by. But although it's a minority view, inside the fandom, the fact that it's a view held at all, among Joss' biggest fans, implies that it's not invalid[1] Even though I, myself, do not agree with it :)

And also, yes, I'd imagine AlanD was joking. Don't feel bad for being misunderstood, dude, it happens to Joss all the time ;)

[1]Yes, the logic on that is shaky, but still ;)
Well, we can agree to disagree everyone. And thanks, GVH, for not sharing on that one. :P

Seriously, I can relent and see the "cowboy chorus" mentioning as a little snippet of what's to come, but personally I don't think this review mirrors what I saw. But, as mentioned before, we don't have the same eyes or share the same brain. We definitely disagree on Act 3. I happened to like it very mucy. No, not like. Love. Through the Act 3 discussion, I loved it more and more. At first I hated it, but then I loved it. Enough. Separate thread.

I guess the reviewer and I can never be friends. *sigh* It's so lonely over here.
TamaraC writes:
The popular brand in LA is Pinkberry. BerriGood was a made-up riff off the real brand. There was no product placement.


I think you be mistaken. Berri Good looks like a real brand to me. And you can clearly see Billy holding Berri Good yogurt in the Act 2 laundromat scene after Penny says "everything happens" and he replies "not to me".
Sadly, GVH, I was not joking. There really was a musical episode of Seventh Heaven. Even worse, I don't remember there being any original songs...I think it was just one big karaoke night, sort of the worst-case version of American Idol. :::shudder:::

And I don't think, in this case, your logic is shaky at all. How we take art depends in large part on what we bring to it; the subjectivity inherent in the aesthetic world means that many different and competing viewpoints could be valid. If we were dealing with matters of physics, on the other hand...

Oh, korkster. I'll be your friend. I love you, y'know. (Platonically.) Sorry for the snark earlier. Things have been a bit hectic around the ol' homestead lately, and I think I may have let that slip into my response a bit.
It's okay to get snarked. It's my purpose in black. :) Totally joking, BTW. I think I'm more baffled (ha!) that I don't agree with everyone on this end. Strangely weird.

Only platonically, BAFfler? So last night, when we had sex... was that your way of saying "let's be friends"?

So sorry. Just watched some Firefly when Simon & Kaylee are drunk together. Kaylee makes me laugh. :)

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