Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Why I Hope Dr. Horrible Stays on the Internet

I know the idea of seeing our favorite musical supervillan and his hammer-headed nemesis on the big screen has many people squeeing with delight, but it has me cringing. When I first heard the rumors that Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog might have a film sequel instead of a web one, I instantly began scouring the internet hoping that Neal Patrick Harris's quote was misunderstood or that Joss Whedon had denied it. Surely, someone was mistaken here.

The internet has always been the red-headed stepchild compared to its coiffed, platinum-blonde siblings in film and TV. Dramatic chipmunks and parkour just don't compare to the artistic merits of Transformers 2 and Cavemen the TV show. But the internet is home to more than just rejects from America's Funniest Home Videos. People are telling stories from their backyards and garages, from their apartments and offices. Instead of the financial backing of studios or investors, they are backed by the power of a story to tell, the love of the filmed media, and the help of family and friends.

By no means was Dr. Horrible the first piece of original storytelling content to get noticed on the internet. Felicia Day's web series about online role-playing game, The Guild, is now in its 3rd season and is distributed by Xbox Live and Microsoft and sponsored by Sprint. Dorm Life, a mockumentary web series about, you guessed it, dorm life, went on to be sponsored by Carl's Jr. in its second season. The creators of the strange web video diary Lonelygirl13 were signed by a major talent agency, and Lonelygirl herself went on to have a role on ABC Family's Greek. After the first episode of Red vs. Blue, a series using animation directly from the popular video game Halo, the producers were contacted by the video game's production company to arrange a deal so the series could continue to use game properties without license fees.


But how many people are really aware of any of these series? What made Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog unique was the amount of mainstream media attention it recieved, the sheer number of viewers that went to the site, and the respect it was given in the entertainment community.

In a time where the old models are struggling to survive -- network TV's ratings are flagging and box office draw isn't what it used to be -- the internet is primarily being treated as a marketing tool instead of a new method for distribution. Sure, the producers of film and television are posting content to the web, but they are doing so in hopes of enticing those eyeballs to move over to the TV screens and movie screens that matter to them. Yet, if the current trends continue, soon most television and movie viewing will be taking place on the web. One-third of teens and a quarter of tweens watch TV on the internet, according to a 2006 Mindshare survey. As these internet-savvy kids grow up and more full-length content becomes available online, web viewership can only increase. Eventually the internet will become the primary distribution method whether we want it to or not.

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