“Oh, like an Asian could do that. I’m gonna go in the corner and play my violin, and – math!” – Maurissa Tancharoen, co-writer of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog and sad Asian
One of the most surprising finds I’ve made while writing this blog is “Commentary: The Musical,” which is one of the commentary tracks that plays over the DVD of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-Long Blog. I love Dr. Horrible. I loved it from the moment I first saw it right after the horrible writers’ strike which gave this little musical life. It has enough cleverness packed within its desperately short run time to spare — literally, it has cleverness sitting around unused in big, wasteful piles that it could give to all the bad comedies on television, which really would probably make the world a better place. Still, I didn’t expect the team behind Horrible to make such clever use of the special features on their DVD and write an entire musical to use as a commentary track for the movie!
Well, as it turns out they did use up even more of that spare wit to write an extra musical about the pointlessness of commentary tracks, and they played this musical commentary track over their own movie. It’s brilliant, “meta” fun, and, in watching and enjoying it, I actually learned a lot more about the film then I normally learn during every other boring commentary track made in the history of special features. As you can probably tell, I do not like commentary tracks. I like making-of featurettes. It’s just a personal preference. I simply don’t think getting a bunch of people (mostly concerned with one-upping each other by seeing how much they can confuse the audience through telling inside jokes) in a room to talk intermittently about the thing they made that one time counts as forethought, and it’s rarely entertaining. I like the clean, prepared delights of a documentary. Documentaries are usually thought-out, insightful, stimulating, visual… Commentary tracks are usually not.
Well, it turns out that all those damnably dull commentary tracks needed was more singing! (Really everything just needs more singing though) Why say snarkily what you can sing goofily? That’s the approach the Dr. Horrible team takes, and as I watched the entire 40 minute commentary musical (listened is probably a better word since, most of the time, the musical numbers have nothing to do with what is playing out on-screen, which, I mean, isn’t that different from how commentary tracks usually go) I was delighted to hear the clever way Whedon and his team found to subvert this sort of old-fashioned process of talking through your art. The commentary track is a very dull process for a generation weened on interactive content. Essentially, a commentary track is a podcast with semi-related pictures, and I think it frustrates people who need more stiuli than this when a DVD’s special features are completely comprised of, like, five different commentary tracks. Whenever I see this, I know I let out an audible groan. “Really?” I ask pleadingly.”no music featurettes, no making-ofs, nothing…” The kiss of death for me is a special features section that features a commentary with a non-director and one blooper reel and that’s it. It means they didn’t even try.
These guys tried. They put a lot of effort into making these songs, dare I say, almost more entertaining than the one’s in the musical. The above track, “Nobody’s Asian in the Movies,” sung by co-writer Maurissa Tancharoen, who also played Groupie #2, is my favorite, but many are equally delightful, and there are a lot of them. This set of songs really helped make my night last night (along with an intense round of badminton and a dear friend’s 22nd birthday party complete with baroque headwear [we are weird kids, I tell you]), and so I wanted to give Joss Whedon the honor of a whole-hearted recommendation. If you want to hear Joss Whedon sing about symbolism (guilty), you need more Nathan Fillion or NPH in your life (guilty squared), or you think Felicia Day is just about the cutest creature living on this planet (very guilty), check this music out. Buy the DVD from wherever it is you get DVD’s from nowadays or head over to YouTube and laugh hysterically and knowingly at this delightful musical commentary track — rather than groaning at the imposing, ever-growing sea of rote, non-musical commentary tracks.