I just wanted to give a shout-out to Joss Whedon's latest accomplishment, the DVD release of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. Normally a DVD release is only newsworthy in NetFlix spam and casual tie-ins on Fresh Air, but this truly is news because it features a work as startlingly original as the first. The commentary track on the film is not merely commentary, but Commentary! The Musical. As if Joss hadn't already proven his song-writing chops with two musical features, now he goes and creates an hour-long musical to comment on his hour-long musical. Commentary contains twice as much music as the original Dr. Horrible score, prompting Joss to call it "the most painstaking and exhausting piece of whimsy ever mistaken for a good idea."
I remember when the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was originally announced, I expected that it would be a one-off tangential episode, completely off the beaten path of the regular show and its story arc. I was shocked and amazed that Joss did just the opposite – not only did it include all the elements of a typical Buffy episode, it was in fact the pivotal plot turn for the entire season. And recently, when I heard about Commentary, I made the exact same mistake. Half of delivering amazing surprises is starting with low expectations.
Commentary delivers all the things you expect from a DVD commentary: discussions of how the film idea originated, who wrote particular scenes, casting decisions, inside jokes, what the cast and crew ate that day, jibes at each others' expense, actors shilling for their new projects, etc. And Joss put it all in verse and music . . . some of it, really good music. I still find myself humming "Ninja Ropes", a tribute to the actors favorite video game time-killer, and "Better Than Neil," Nathan Fillion's extended crack on Neil Patrick Harris' starring role.
It was a little disorienting, at first, to hear people singing over top of the film – my brain is simply not used to processing music and lyrics and vaguely related video at the same time. And sometimes I had to strain to make out the lyrics – you don't appreciate good musical enunciation until you hear Neil Patrick Harris (the Broadway veteran) come through crystal-clear in a solo at the end, making the others sound fuzzy in comparison.
But these are just nits . . . the overall impression is: "Wow." I heard Fresh Air TV critic, David Bianculli, call Joss "the next Sondheim." Of course, he also had to add, "Who'd have thought?" Joss is like that . . . startlingly, unexpectedly good.