My review of the book for Film.com
It's been almost three years since the writer's strike and the release of arguably the most wonderful project to have emerged from that tumultuous period in Hollywood history. (What else did the writers strike produce? Oh yeah. Transformers 2. Point made.) Thanks to Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, we have not only a great web series we can watch over and over, but toys, soundtracks, musical commentary, and endless cosplay to geek out over. And this week, a brand-new book to add to the list: Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog: The Book. And that's exactly what it is. A book. Of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. It's pretty badass.
Normally with this kind of publication, the bulk is made up of art and photos -- great to own as a fan, sure, but not practical in any way. But Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog: The Book, much like Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, the web series, isn't your typical book ... slash ... web series. No, yeah, that makes sense. That sentence definitely was cohesive and was not nonsensical. Oh god. I've been reading and watching so much Whedon-speak, I can almost feel myself becoming a Whedon ... self-deprecation! Meta jokes! Sonheim-esque musical interludes! Attempts at jokes awkwardly placed in the middle of an article!
Now that that's out of my system, back to the topic at hand. To start, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog: The Book, features both the original shooting script and the complete sheet music, which I was pretty astounded to discover. I was expecting page after page of photos and behind-the-scenes commentary, like most other coffee table books of this nature, but was thrilled to find out it's so much more. Sure, I couldn't actually keep the book upright on my piano to play the music -- it is a giant coffee table book, after all -- but once I photocopied the pages I wanted to play, I spent hours futzing around with both my piano and guitar. Anything that gets me to musical instrument futz is an instant win. The book also made me want to rewatch the web series -- and I did (it's on Netflix Instant Watch!) -- while following along. Singing with the songs, seeing where actors deviated (it warmed my heart that Simon Helberg said all of his lines word for word), where moments changed from script to screen, and how actors handled stage directions like "a beat as he realizes he said that sarcastically" and "Captain Hammer isn't thrilled, but he's hiding it from her." I especially liked following along during Commentary: The Musical because this time, I actually didn't miss any of the jokes. You really start to notice things like, wow, Neil Patrick Harris sure does know how to enunciate, because he's the only one I understand without this book in front of me! Well, to be fair, I didn't need to book to make out what Maurissa was saying either, but Neil is truly the king of proper musical enunciation. It is a thing to be admired.
The introduction alone is worth the price of admission, as Captain Hammer explains what we're about to read and reminds us that he is The Awesome by saying things like:
"People often ask me to write the introductions to their books. They ask me to speak at their school, be godfather to their child, or make a spurty in their lady place."
Immediately followed by:
"I usually say no. Books don't interest me (Stop calling, Michael Chabon!), school is for sissies, and the Godfather was a bad man who did mob crime. The lady thing is OK, as long as it's between consenting adults and no one gets hurt/slapped with a paternity suit (stop calling, Mrs. Michael Chabon!). But to conclude this word section, books are for coffee tables."
And it only gets better from there.
After the intro, the book then goes into a lengthy discussion of the pre-production process with the whole pre-pro team -- Jed, Joss, Maurissa, and Zack -- still infused with that trademark Whedon humor. Well. It better. Considering that's four Whedons right there. The flow and tone of the conversation really makes you as the reader feel like you are in the room, especially because The Whedons Four let us in on fun facts that people *not* in the room may not want us to know, i.e. how Neil, Nathan, and Simon all separately forgot about the first table read. Oops. Although Simon actually recalls the moment he realized he forgot about the read-through in his "A Horrible Memory," one of four accounts from the actors, which also include "A Horrible Experience" from Felicia Day, a haiku by Nathan Fillion, and a lovely afterward from Neil Patrick Harris.
There also may or may not be scans of call sheets. I happen to love call sheets, with their lines and numbers and organization! Really. I actually do. Seeing the "official" parts of the production is a fun aspect of the book, because it reminds us that despite having zero studio involvement and zero pay, everyone in the production still fell back on their professional habits. There was no slacking off, no foregoing of call sheets, costume continuity shots, sketches, music demos, or multiple read-throughs that all the actors did eventually attend. And when such talented people bring their A game to a project with no studio interference, it shows.
On that note, the book also features several behind-the-scenes photos from events celebrating the finished outcome, like the Emmys, the Streamys, and Comic-Con. There's even a scan of a reserved seat badge from the 2008 Dr. Horrible panel (sorry forgers, except I'm not sorry at all, the reserved seat passes change pretty much every year) and a shot of the audience watching said panel. I happened to be in that room and experienced what is still one of my favorite Comic-Con memories. But the aftermath chronicling doesn't stop with Comic-Con and award shows; there are also multiple shots of cosplayers, merchandise, and even some from a couple of amateur Dr. Horrible productions.
Overall, it's a must-own for any fan of Dr. Horrible, especially if you don't yet own the sheet music. For some reason, there is actually quite an overlap in terms of Joss geeks and musical theater nerds (myself included), so if you know people who fit that criteria, this is certainly the gift for them. The fact that it even exists thrills me -- that a web series gets its own behind-the-scenes coffee table book. And reading through it got me to rewatch, listen to the commentary, and all in all remind myself how much I love Dr. Horrible and want a sequel. It's been three years. Enough of this already, Whedons. Moar please!
Warning: This book may cause you to speak like a Whedon for roughly three to five hours upon completion. There is no cure.