This past summer The Avengers opened to record breaking box office receipts, and finally allowed writer/director Joss Whedon to cross over from cult niche God to mainstream success story. As a fan of his work for years, I was thrilled that Whedon was finally getting the widespread recognition that he deserves, not to mention delivering a great summer blockbuster that I may or may not have seen in theatres three times. Whedon was quickly signed on for the sequel, ensuring that Hollywood will keep him busy for the foreseeable future, but I hope that his work on The Avengers 2 won’t keep his schedule completely booked.
Last week, four years after it took the Internet by storm, Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog finally aired on television, and after revisiting this gem of a production, I was reminded of the scope of Whedon’s creativity. He may be able to direct and reign in a $220 million budget film, but he can also create a quirky, small scale production that was given away for free on the Internet. In a mere 45 minutes, Dr. Horrible creates a fully formed story, characters with depth, relationships in which to get invested, and throws in a full soundtrack of catchy, original songs, just for good measure. It’s laugh out loud funny, exciting, heartbreaking, and wholly original, and as I watched it on TV this week, I reflected on the new crop of television series that have debuted over the past four weeks, and I couldn’t help but think that Dr. Horrible, four years later, is the most original program on TV.
Perhaps because its original destination was the Internet, Dr. Horrible enjoyed a level of freedom and creativity that most network television series simply are not. If a television executive was pitched a series about a singing, kindhearted, wannabe supervillian who covets a position in an organization literally led by a horse, I can only imagine the reception, but Joss Whedon makes it work, and the result is a brilliant piece of entertainment. Now that he’s a big Hollywood player, I can only hope that Whedon sets aside time for these side projects, because it’s clear from Dr. Horrible that when given complete creative freedom, Whedon delivers. Another side project, a modern day adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, recently premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. Whedon somehow wrote, produced, and directed this film while in the middle of working on The Avengers, but how exactly he managed that, I have no idea; the man clearly doesn’t sleep. Much Ado About Nothing does give me hope, however, that no matter how busy Hollywood keeps him, Whedon will continue to pursue his own projects, and hopefully they will all be just as delightful as Dr. Horrible. The long awaited sequel perhaps?