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‘Dr. Horrible’s’ Whedon Excited About Web Video

April 15, 2009 4:24 PM

Joss Whedon wants to give back.

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CAMPED OUT Fans line up outside the Arclight Cinerama Dome for the PaleyFest "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog" panel.

Mr. Whedon was in attendance Tuesday evening at the Paley Festival’s panel for “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog,” the first time PaleyFest has honored a Web series.

Mr. Whedon, who was late to last year’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” reunion at PaleyFest because he was filming “Dr. Horrible,” acknowledged that the original Web musical would not have been possible without “waivers and favors,” as moderator Matt Roush put it.

“It is both. I could never attempt to cash in those types of favors again,” Mr. Whedon replied when asked if “Dr. Horrible” was an anomaly or a model for future Web video productions.

Mr. Whedon’s 20 years in the TV business played a part in helping “Dr. Horrible” get made. He was able to get permission to film on the Universal lot from the head of production thanks to their working relationship on “Serenity.” He turned “Dr. Horrible” into a family affair with fellow writers Zack Whedon, Jed Whedon and future sister-in-law Maurissa Tancharoen (“This will either band us or break the family apart forever,” Mr. Whedon said.). He enlisted actors he’d worked with before (Nathan Fillion, Felicia Day) while welcoming Neil Patrick Harris to the Joss Whedon Repertory Company.

Mr. Whedon also credited former “Angel” and “Firefly” writer Ben Edlund as the Web series’ “unsung hero.” Mr. Edlund was involved early on in the song-writing process, but he had to depart the project. However, he left a lasting mark: Bad Horse, a character he’d been pitching as a foe on “Angel.” The character didn’t make it onto “Angel,” although the real horse behind Bad Horse did appear in an episode and will appear on “Dollhouse.”

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A 'HORRIBLE' EVENING Joss Whedon, Nathan Fillion and Felicia Day.

But now, Mr. Whedon is looking into ways to give the creators of Web video content some opportunity. The Evil League of Evil applicants for the “Dr. Horrible” DVD proved there’s a lot of talent out there, and he would love “to have a system, so it can be more realistic.”

“It’s still very nascent,” Mr. Whedon said of the idea, “and I still have a day job.”

He urged TV business folks thinking of Web video on a TV scale to “scale it down to something smaller and modular.”

Mr. Whedon also proudly recalled how Felicia Day schooled a room of agents, who had no idea what to do with “Dr. Horrible.” Ms. Day has some experience with marketing and distributing on the Internet as the writer and star of the Web series “The Guild.” But her Internet prowess doesn’t seem to have rubbed off on Mr. Whedon, who described himself as not very tech-savvy.

“I have yet to Twitter. I think it might be dirty,” Mr. Whedon joked.

The night got one convertee, however.

“Ok everyone follow @nathanfillion. It’s really him! Muhahaha!” Ms. Day wrote on her Twitter account later that night.

Twitter wasn’t the only Web site to get a shout-out during the discussion.

“I learn what I’m doing tomorrow on Whedonesque,” Ms. Tancharoen said of the popular site for all things Whedon. Set a reminder for this on Saturday: Ms. Tancharoen and Jed Whedon are getting married.

Other tidbits gleamed from the panel:

—Dr. Horrible himself, Neil Patrick Harris, was out of the country and couldn’t attend the panel, which prompted Mr. Fillion to exclaim, “I can’t even tell you guys how much joy it brings to my heart that Neil couldn’t make it.”

—Mr. Whedon will be singing “Heart (Broken)” from the musical commentary on a live edition of “This American Life.” Mr. Whedon said he wrote a new bridge so it is now a complete song.

—A Penny comic will be released June 1 at Dark Horse’s MySpace page. (link to: http://www.myspace.com/darkhorsepresents) A Dr. Horrible comic also will be coming.

—Theater, film and Internet all have been considered as mediums for a possible “Dr. Horrible” continuation, but it sounds like “Dollhouse” is keeping Joss, Jed and Ms. Tancharoen busy for the time being. The three joked about having to take constant sidebars during “Dollhouse” writers’ meetings to discuss “Dr. Horrible.”

—Mr. Fillion revealed that he worked as a karaoke host part-time during college ("I could kill ‘The Rose,’” he said), but was still daunted by singing with Mr. Harris and Ms. Day.

—Dr. Horrible’s evil lair belongs to the assistant director’s friend, who makes an appearance in one of the final scenes in a purple suit. The science-like tubes in the background all lead to alcoholic beverages.

—Ms. Day is in development on two other Web series.

—Tom Whedon, dad of the Whedon brothers and a writer for TV series such as “The Dick Cavett Show,” “Alice” and “The Golden Girls,” was in the audience. “We were raised on listening to showtunes, which accounts for our popularity in high school,” Zack Whedon noted.

—Mr. Whedon, in response to the question of why he keeps returning to Fox, one that will no doubt be repeated at tonight’s “Dollhouse” panel: “The reason I went back was because of Eliza Dushku. And I don’t care, she’s worth it. There are different people that I’m dealing with at Fox and I think they’re pretty decent, honest people. Some of them have left recently, but some of them are still there,” Mr. Whedon replied, hinting at the recent restructuring at Fox.

—Vlada Gelman

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