What's notable about the meta-blog superhero send-up is that it happened entirely through word-of-mouth. Writer and director Whedon launched the "Dr. Horrible" project -- somewhat of a resurrection effort on his part -- for free, relying on the success of other viral internet phenomena to carry the 40-minute video to cult status.
WHAT WORKED: Whedon, of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" fame, released the "Dr. Horrible" effort amid a flurry of bigger superhero flicks with more gravitas, and cast Neil Patrick Harris, himself a rising cult figure for his work in the "Harold and Kumar" films and as a lovable chauvinist on CBS's hit "How I Met Your Mother," in the titular role.
And he chose the right medium, too: The average internet user in the U.S. reportedly watched 228 minutes of online video content a month, according to ComScore.
The show, which Whedon says was born out of frustration during the writers strike earlier this year, was shot over seven days in high-definition for less than six figures, and revolves around Harris' likable super villain as he video blogs his attempts to wreak mayhem and achieve mainstream success.
THE OUTCOME: Whedon's "master plan," as he documents in an open letter to viewers, was to "change the face of show business as we know it," making it more like "show friends."
Of course, his real plan was to make "Dr. Horrible" available for download, which it now is for $1.99 on iTunes, and he hopes "people will embrace [the musical] instead of getting all pirate-y." Embrace they have: It's already the No. 1 TV series on iTunes, despite its failing to actually be a part of that category.