Joss Whedon is without doubt one of the most influential storytellers of our time.

Like many, his beginnings were humble (as a writer for Roseanne), but over time his influence became undeniable. Especially in all things dramedy, where he established himself as one of the leading writers and producers. His TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer had its beginnings as a silly little film that went as quickly as it came, but the series it spawned became so successful and influential, it established a whole new genre.

This said, it should be noted that the extent of influence became even larger when he was asked to look over the script for a digital cartoon about toys, for some unheard-of animation studio that seemed to be on its way to the dumps, with test audiences and its producers disliking what they had created. Whedon stepped in, gave the writers and producers a few pointers as to plot and writing and Pixar’s Toy Story came to be. The Pixar crew to this day acknowledge the help of Whedon in saving Toy Story, which in turn spawned a whole new generation and genre of animation movies: every flick since Toy Story, be it Pixar or imitators, emulate the style and humor that according to Pixar lore can be traced back to Whedon.

More came with Firefly. Although a short-lived TV series, these 13 episodes rewrote sci-fi for our generation. It’s story has become that of legends. Most shows that get cancelled after a few episodes vanish into TV Land oblivion, but Whedon’s Firefly instead rose up by itself, by becoming a best-selling DVD. A motion picture that followed became a minor hit as well and is to this day considered by many as one of the best sci-fi movies ever… up there with Star Wars, The Day The Earth Stood Still and Wrath of Khan.

Not just writing, but also his filming style became a staple, with shows like the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica lifting its look straight from Firefly. This was acknowledged when the Firefly-class ship Serenity had a brief cameo in the BSG miniseries. Once again, this all can be traced back to Whedon.

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Even modern American linguistics seems to be heavily influenced by Whedon’s own way of speaking, which rubbed off into Buffy. Wikipedia states:

The dialogue in Joss Whedon’s shows and movies usually involves pop culture references both notable and obscure, and the turning of nouns into adjectives by adding a “y” at the end of the word (“listy”). According to one of the Buffy writers, “It’s just the way that Joss actually talks.”

Whedon also heavily favors the suffix -age (Linkage, Lurkage, Poofage, Postage, Scrollage, Slayage). Also, phrasal verbs usually ending with “out” are changed into direct verbs, for example “freak” rather than “freak out”, “bail” rather than “bail out”, or “hang” rather than “hang out”. Whedon also tends to change adjectives into nouns such as “happy”, “shiny” (positive thing), “bad” (mistake), “funny” (joke). Another common phrase used in most of Whedon’s shows is “safe as houses.” So many of Whedon’s altered usages, new words, and heavily popularized words have entered the common usage that PBS in their article series “Do You Speak American” included an entire section on “Slayer Slang”.

Dr. Horrible

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And thus during the great writer’s guild strike of 2008, Whedon entered web series land and once again changed everything. Together with his brothers they created, composed and produced the musical superhero spoof Dr. Horrible Sing-along Blog, and nothing has been the same since.

Whedon foresaw the immense potential for successful web shows. Of course, with his name backing the whole endeavor it was a lot easier for the team to attract attention to their project, which is the secret of success for any web show. But at the same time Dr. Horrible really is a well-written story — albeit here it should be noted that Whedon was not alone on it: his brothers Zack and Jed as well as Jed’s then-fiancee Maurissa carry as much weight.

The story of the wanna-be evil Dr. Horrible and his plight to take-over the world is a little different than most. We sympathize with the evil Dr. at every turn, especially when the obnoxious and egotistical ‘superhero’ Captain Hammer swoops in to thwart is every plan and even takes the girl he had his eyes set on from him. The ending is unexpected to say the least, yet understandable.

Different for a web show is also that it is a musical. The songs are catchy yet simple and although nobody will win any prices for Best Singer, they are good enough to be enjoyable and really do make you want to ‘sing-along’. Neil Patrick Harris leads as the evil Dr. and he is also the best of the singers, followed by Nathan Fillion (of Firefly) as the obnoxious Captain Hammer and Felicia Day (of Buffy and The Guild) as Penny, the innocent object of the Dr.’s affection.

Much can be said about this show, but it is best to simply watch it, or buy the DVD. Rumors speak of a sequel in production, but with all involved being so busy in various projects, a date has yet to be set. Until then, enjoy this quirky show for what it is and remember that A Man’s Gotta Do What A Man’s Gotta Do.