Okay, admission of bias time. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is only like my favourite show ever. I’m going to try to be objective here, but please excuse my squees and girl-semen. With the Slayer’s 15th anniversary fast approaching, I thought we’d take a look back at her origins, the season where it all began. Yes, I know all about the Kristy Swanson movie; that is non canon, shut the fuck up.
|WB|1997|12 episodes|60 mins|
Okay, I realize that to a lot of you Buffy has quite a few strikes against it already. A 90s teen show that aired on the WB with a cheesy name, not to mention the public’s tolerance for vampires since…that other series has become popular. But that’s okay. There is always time for salvation.
You see, once upon a time there was a man with atrociously bad hair named Joss Whedon.
You might remember him working on such films as Toy Story, Alien Resurrection (shut up it’s not his fault) and currently, the upcoming Avengers movie. He’s also quite a feminist, describing himself as a lesbian in a man’s body. It’s okay, Joss. I have all the pills to make it better.
Anyway, Joss here was sick and tired of horror films where the little blonde girl would wander down some dark alley and get killed by the monster. Wouldn’t it be fun, thought he, if instead she just beat the crap out of it?
So off to his typewriter Joss flew carried on the winds of hope. There he hammered out a script and called it Buffy the Vampire Slayer. For those of you who are curious, a Slayer is a young woman gifted with powers of super strength and advanced healing capabilities who is pretty much our only defense against the vampires and other demony bad guys. There is only ever one Slayer at a time, and the next is only activated when the previous Slayer dies. Each one is sent a Watcher, a stuffy British man to train her and to guide her.
Fox bought the script and promptly decided to ruin everything that was pure and good about it. By the time the film premiered in 1992 it was almost unrecognizable.
Fox and their evil team of directors (the Kuzuis) stripped out much of what Joss wanted in favour of making the whole thing a stupid, campy teen comedy with horrible acting and vampires that fly. Whedon was so heartbroken over what they’d done to his creation that he cried in the theatre.
Five years later, Warner Brothers came to the rescue, offering Joss the chance to revive the concept as a television series, and after he’d stopped cumming everywhere, he agreed. Buffy was recast with Sarah Michelle Gellar in the role, and the setting was moved from Los Angeles to the fictional town of Sunnydale, jettisoning almost all of the film’s characters. Buffy was reborn as a midseason replacement for some other show that sucked, with a short 12 episode trial season.
The series puts the film itself firmly into non-canon territory, but it does use Joss’ original script as backstory. If you wanna see things play out as intended, Dark Horse released a comic book version of that script, called The Origin.
Buffy is yet another part of 90s pop culture I completely missed out on due to overprotective parenting. I only got into the series a few years ago when they started selling the DVDs for $15 a season. And it was love at first sight.
In the first season, Buffy tries to settle in to her new home at Sunnydale High as a normal girl, but after being snarked at by queen bee Cordelia, she is quickly confronted by her new Watcher, Giles.
It would seem that Sunnydale is built on a Hellmouth, a nexus of bad mojo that attracts vampires and demons from all over. And somewhere underground lurks The Master, an uber vampire who’s been trapped down there for decades, looking for a way to open the mouth of Hell and rise again. Well, fuck.
In her efforts to stop The Master from harvesting enough 90s teen blood to return to power, she kinda spills the beans in front of two other high school kids, Xander, Willow, and Jesse. Xander is a loveable doof muffin, but they never get on the annoying side. Willow is the definition of adorable cuteness; a redheaded, timid bookworm and computer nerd. These two quickly become Buffy’s friends and supporters for the remainder of the season. They all play well off one another. I love the way Giles is both their friend and mentor, but never comes off as creepy. That’s a fine line to walk in this post taking-a-seat-over-there world.
Okay, I’m back. I think I need a new pair of pants, but holy DAMN he is so very sexy. Anyway, he’s kinda like Tuxedo Mask, shows up to dispense cryptic warnings before vanishing into the night. His character is explored more in-depth as the season goes on, but I wouldn’t want to spoil anything….yet.
Oh, I should also probably explain shit like this:
Before you get all Plinkett on me, let me explain. WB felt that they couldn’t get away with a show where a sixteen year old girl ran around slaughtering things that look like people every week, so the vampires were given faces…like that. Joss obliged and worked it into the show’s mythology: The vampires have only have bumpy faces when they feed or are fighting to kill. Otherwise, they look like normal people, but when they get aggressive the demon in them comes to the surface.
The show quickly garnered a lot of critical acclaim for its humour and excellent writing, with dialogue in particular being praised. Think Juno-speak only better.
This series is just a pleasure to watch, even through the first season’s faults. Each story early on was a metaphor for some sort of issue that high school kids go through, be it sex, love, acceptance, bullying or what have you. The difference here is that unfortunately Season 1, while not too preachy, is a lot more…obvious about it. thankfully the humour and snarky dialogue keeps the early season cheese from being overwhelming.
The emotion is another thing to touch on since Joss Whedon is a man who hates joy and happiness. He and his writing staff were masters of giving you a happy moment and then completely destroying it. They live to torment their characters. I think I’ve cried more over Buffy than any other television show. Again, this certainly becomes better utilized later on, but it’s present in places even here, especially towards the end of the season. Don’t ever say Sarah Michelle Gellar can’t act, because she give some excellent performances throughout Buffy the Vampire Slayer the first of which is in this season’s finale. Give the girl a chance, y’all.
This one is more…distinctly 90s than the other seasons, both in fashion sense and…just how everything looks. Season 1 is dated, no doubt about that. It’s also a very low-budget affair, so if you decide to give this a try (and please please do) be aware there’s a cheese factor in Season 1, but know that it gets much better. The fights also improve significantly later on, and here they seem…well a lot of them seem like Star Trek fights to be honest. It’s odd to look back on, since Buffy delivers some truly spectacular fights later on. This season is also more standalone episodes than the mytharc driven later seasons, and a lot of them aren’t good.
I feel like I’m making excuses for something I love, but it’s just that Season 1 is not indicative of the quality of the show later on. It all starts here, the seeds were planted, but they haven’t flourished yet. Many of the series’ worst episodes are in this season, so it’s not always a great way to hook new viewers. It’s a (very) rough start, but for those of you who stick with it, the series is one of the most rewarding viewing experiences you’ll ever have.