Mutant Enemy, Dr. Horrible and Mimsie the Cat

Today's cuppa: Iced tea (half cold-brewed black tea, half pomegranate-raspberry green tea, all yummy).

Strike in the SAG? Nope, and probably no more fireworks until after the weekend.

Did you know that "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Firefly" creator Joss Whedon had a brother? He does indeed, and more than one. The particular one I'm referring to is Zack, and he used to work for another certified TV genius, David Milch, of "NYPD Blue," "Deadwood" and "John From Cincinnati" fame.

When I met Zack, he was Milch's assistant, but before you know it, he was a writer in his own right, even penning "John's" metaphysical finale (the bit where John and the monosyllabic surfer kid flew in over the clouds and landed by catching an awesome wave made me misty. It happened. And the theme song was cool.).

Into my e-mail box yesterday popped this missive from Zack:

Dear Everyone I've Ever Met,

I wrote an online comic.  It sounds too good to be true but I did and you can read it right here --


http://www.myspace.com/darkhorsepresents?issuenum=12&storynum=2

It is about Captain Hammer, a character from Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog.  What is that?  It is a three episode web series musical film video tv-show I made with Jed, Maurissa and Joss.  The episodes will air July 15, 17, 19 online and will cost NO DOLLARS to view!

I hope you enjoy it all. 

- Zack Whedon


www.drhorrible.com

(Update from Zack: Everyone --

I've gotten a lot of emails about why only one page of the comic shows.  You have to click on the page to turn it.  There are eight pages, not one.  Enjoy them all.

- Zack)

Congrats, Zack!

Neil Patrick Harris ("How I Met Your Mother") stars in "Dr. Horrible," along with "Firefly" star Nathan Fillion (why, oh, why, isn't he a giant star? But then, where had Jon Hamm of "Mad Men" been all our lives?), Felicia Day and Simon Helberg ("The Big Bang  Theory").

The project is top-to-bottom Whedons, as Joss wrote it with Zack and other brother Jed, along with Jed's fiancee, Maurissa Tancharoen. As writing partners, Jed and Maurissa also work on Joss' highly anticipated mid-season FOX drama "Dollhouse," starring former "Buffy" cast member Eliza Dushku.

But you don't need Whedon DNA to have benefited from working in the world he created.

Whedon's Mutant Enemy Productions is the production company for "Buffy," its spin-off "Angel," "Firefly" and "Dollhouse," and has also produced a steady stream of writers that have spun out to shows from "Lost" to "24" to "Battlestar Galactica" to "Smallville" to "Alias" and on and on.

I always wondered whether Mutant Enemy would turn out to be the new MTM.

Back in the '80s, "Hill Street Blues" signaled the dramatic coming-of-age for Mary Tyler Moore Productions, a k a MTM. Established by Moore and husband Grant Tinker to produce Moore's seminal comedy series, it was primarily a comedy shop until "Hill Street," which revolutionized the way American TV looked at the police drama (and boasted Milch's first TV script).

MTM went on to produce the acclaimed medical drama "St. Elsewhere," the celebrated comedy "Newhart" and many more shows until finally being sold in the the '90s, eventually folding into 20th Century Fox Television (which produced "Buffy," BTW).

The company also may have started the tradition of cute animated closing-credits logos, with the meowing Mimsie the Cat (a fluffy parody of MGM's roaring lion).

MTM alumni began to have a powerful impact on TV drama in the late '80s and through the '90s. If you get bored this holiday weekend, just go play IMDB roulette and follow the writers' links, starting with Steven Bochco, Milch, Dick Wolf and Tom Fontana.

The "Buffy" writing offices in Santa Monica didn't look like much. No doubt many family-owned construction companies had fancier office furniture.

But it turned out to be an important creative hothouse.

I suspect that Chris Carter's 1013 Productions ("The X-Files," "Millennium"), Milch's Red Board Productions and J.J. Abrams' Bad Robot, among others, are much the same (I mean the creative thing, not necessarily the furniture).

What all these companies have in common are strong creative voices at the top and at atmosphere that nurtures new writing talent (for example, Diego Gutierrez, who used to be Joss Whedon's assistant, is now a writer).

Even in the vast corporate world of modern entertainment, when it comes to creativity, nothing beats a supportive environment -- dinged office furniture and all.