I'd like to propose a new television genre. I think it'd be a hit.
It's called "the musical." Nah, not like a music video or a recorded version of a live concert. Not like a variety show or an hour of competitive belting/coiffing.
But, like, a musical. Like RENT or Carousel or Pippin or Moulin Rouge or whatever, but in televised episodic form.
A lot Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, in fact, but TiVo-able.
I think we're ready for this.
Haven't heard of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog? Wow, you must be one of those rare folks who spends more time with real people than on the Internet, huh? I've heard you exist. Go YouTube or iTunes it, then get back to me, okay?
Dr. Horrible was the pet project of Buffyverse mastermind Joss Whedon and friends and family during the recent writers strike; it premiered in parts last week (for free on the official site), and is now available on iTunes, with a DVD, soundtrack and graphic novel coming soon. Dr. Horrible is a three-act, cinematic-quality, 40-minute-long, Internet-only musical about an endearing super villian, Dr. Horrible (the phenomenal Neil Patrick Harris), who falls in love with a kind-hearted girl, Penny (Felicia Day, redheaded Slayerette Vi in the final season of Buffy), only to lose her to womanizing, blockheaded superhero Mr. Hammer (Nathan Fillion). The dialogue is snappy, the tunes are memorable, the lyrics are witty beyond belief and the ending devastating. Plus, N.P.H.'s performance will convince you he's capable of out-acting just about anyone.
Dr. Horrible's been among the top-downloaded TV shows on iTunes since its release; the official site server crashed early on due to so many viewers trying to access it at once. A Google search yields almost 800,000 results.
Yes, indeed, people like musicals. And they seem to like this episodic, 40-minute format that lends itself so easily to the telly.
So why's no one doing this, and why has no one else done this before?
There have been a few musical episodes of a few great TV shows. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, of course, had "Once More, with Feeling"; Daria had "Daria!"; Scrubs had "My Musical"; a bunch of 'toons including South Park have had 'em; Xena, I think, had one or maybe two; and ABC's Big Fish/Am�lie/CSI hybrid Pushing Daisies, which returns this fall, has had a couple song-and-dance numbers from the Tony Award-winning and now Emmy-nominated Kristen Chenoweth.
But in general, music on TV is segregated from narrative. At least overtly. I mean, there are tons of talent shows and pop videos and late show performances, but the stars of your favorite sitcom or cop drama don't sing their emotions into being, don't jet� and chass� through fight scenes, don't soliloquy a radio-ready ballad. Kids' shows, I guess, are the one exception. TV producers seem to think that children are down with music moving along a plot because kids are, what?, more disconnected from reality than their parents and aunts and uncles? Well, hey, guess what? We can suspend disbelief too! In fact, we enjoy suspending disbelief. Big-screen musical Mamma Mia! raked in almost $30 million at the U.S. box office last weekend--and is doing just as well, if not better, overseas--topping off the spate of recent musical film successes (Hairspray, Sweeney Todd, Dreamgirls and, yes, of course, High School Musical and its drone of clones).
Music, however, is surely integrated into almost every TV show. Where would they be without a soundtrack or score to emphasize narrative and character development? The Grey's Anatomy season three finale would've been nowhere near as heart-wrenching without Ingrid Michaelson's "Keep Breathing," Desperate Housewives would be more melodrama and less satire without Danny Elfman's quirky sounds, and I still think Dawson and Joey would've never gotten together if it hadn't been for Sarah McLachlan.
So why isn't anyone taking the next step and taking the musical to the season-long small screen? Why should the musical be relegated to the stage or the feature-film format only?
Musicals would translate so well to television mostly because they are a format rather than a genre. The Western, that's a genre. The courtroom drama, that's a genre. But the musical? It's a set of methods that can be applied to both of the above, and more. Imagine, if you will, singing cowboys, singing cops, singing lawyers, singing doctors, singing fathers who know best, singing ad execs, singing suburban mom drug dealers, singing Upper East Siders and, of course, singing super villians.
I get that musicals require more time and finances than non-musical productions. Choreography, hiring an orchestra and background singers and dancers, dance and vocal rehearsals, studio recording, filming ... It adds up. But all that could be made back on soundtracks and tours and merch, right? Besides, to sing is to emote, to connect with the audience on a level deeper than speech.
And with the crappy dialogue that seems to cut it on TV today, some musical action might be just what we need.
In other news...
Google Maps now offers directions for walkers in addition to drivers. With all of Philly's one-way streets, this is going to come in handy. Italian Vogue's July issue featuring only black models has been selling out in New York, prompting a re-print of 10,000. Here's hoping this doesn't go unnoticed by America's Devil in Prada and serial woman-of-color-ignorer, Anna Wintour. Devendra Banhart premiered a Bollywood-influenced video for the almost year-old "Carmensita," starring girlfriend Natalie Portman. Dating a celeb seems to do wonders for one's career. Who knew? Perhaps I should be dating Johnny Depp. It'd be a real drag, of course, but I think I could suck it up for some exposure. The Hills season four trailer has gone viral. Nothing so new or earth-shattering seems to happen, but nothing much ever seems to happen on The Hills (besides latte sipping, Pinkberry licking and Heidi and Spencer sucking). Yet we watch. I blame the cute clothes. It's an addiction, okay? Sarah Jessica Parker will have a Bravo reality show of her own now that Heidi and Tim Gunn and company are headed to Lifetime. It's called American Artist, and sounds an awful lot like Project Runway, but with easels, darkrooms and canvases rather than the Bluefly accessories wall. Next week is Shark Week on the Discovery Channel. As a wise man once said, "Live every week like it's shark week."
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