So I was surprised to find that a fan such as myself had actually missed something he'd produced in between Firefly and Buffy: Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, a kitschy musical about a young man with aspirations to Supervilliandom (Neil Patrick Harris). The cast is rounded out with Nathan Fillion, who plays Captain Hammer, Dr. Horrible's arch-rival ("I wonder what you're Captain of") and Felicia Day as Penny, the girl from the laundromat whom he desperately, hopelessly loves.
The story goes like this: during the great Writer's Strike, Whedon wanted to prove that the writers could produce fun, popular work without the aid of a big studio's backing, backlot, or budget. He and several of the other Whedons proceeded to produce a forty-minute musical which was shot over a period of only four days. The actors and actresses weren't even paid until the play started generating revenue, and props, costumes and the like came directly from Whedon.
The result, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog is a huge success: it remains the number one downloaded series in sci-fi on iTunes, ahead of prime-time hits such as Battlestar Galactica; the demand was actually such that it shut down its hosting site when it first debuted.
The reason for the Doctor's success goes beyond Joss's near-household name. Behind the pretty songs and the hilarious double-entendres, the story of Billy is a poignant one. Everyone wants to be somebody... "an achiever", as Billy tells Penny. And when Whedon makes the point that what we must sacrifice in order to 'become someone' isn't always worth the price, his work slides, subtly and unexpectedly, into the sort of layered story that requires greater attention and multiple viewings.
That said, the wit of Joss's work is gleefully recognizable. One has to watch Dr. Horrible a few times in a row to even catch every half-mumbled joke, and some of Billy's lyrics are as quick as bullets out of a gun - incredibly impressive on Harris's part! - but you need to hear them twice lest their full meaning pass you by.
I have far too many favorite parts to list here, but perhaps I'll have a quotes page after this. I wouldn't want to spoil any of the better jokes for people who haven't yet become familiar with the good doctor. I've embedded Part I of III below for you to watch.
Happy viewing, and hope you enjoy,