Let’s just get this out of the way. Joss Whedon’s Dr. Horrible was an important (and entertaining) moment in web video. It helped legitimize the medium and showed the world that you could make a successful show outside of the Hollywood system. But that was more than a year a year ago. What has the web video industry done since?
OK. I’m exaggerating and being too cantankerous, but I feel like we in the web video world are just resting on Whedon’s laurels. Rather than being inspired by him, it’s like we’re collectively waiting for him to do it again.
Am I expecting too much? Perhaps Horrible was just a fluke that won’t be replicated. It was all-but pre-ordained that Dr. Horrible would be a hit. Whedon was already a Hollywood name who had created two pop culture franchises in Buffy and Firefly. He made Dr. Horrible for $200,000 of his own money (an amount I’d wager most of us don’t have to spend on a passion project), and leveraged the heck out of his entertainment connections (something else most of us don’t have) to get an all-star cast, a studio backlot (for $900!) and a crew.
To be sure, Dr. Horrible did great things to build awareness of web video. It generated a ton of mainstream press coverage. It made numerous critics’ top ten best TV shows lists. And it has grossed $2.5 million (web series making money = good). But who has been the real recipient of that success? The web video industry or Joss Whedon?
At the end of the day, did the success of Dr. Horrible just prove that new media is still reliant on old media to create hits?