TV Series Review: BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (1997-2003)
Joss Whedon has now become a household name with THE AVENGERS and working as Marvel’s go to guy for their expanded movie universe. However, back in the day, he was just an awesome comic book and movie writer who had his own quirky and weird TV show featuring a girl going around killing things in BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER.
Adapted from the movie of the same name, which he wrote, Joss put this awesome show on TV, and it became the archetype for a lot of shows on air even today. More on that later. Starring Sarah Michelle Geller, BUFFY… become one of the biggest and best shows on TV at the time, and of all time I think. And it’s not hard to see why.
The story is simple. Every generation there is a chosen one, a girl, who is bestowed with powers that give her the ability and responsibility to fight Vampires, Demons and other supernatural threats in the world to protect everyone else. This generation the girl is an obliviously irritating and prissy high school chick named Buffy Summers.
Initially just about Vampires, the show grows into being one of the best supernatural themed shows of all time, that had more of an impact beyond its storytelling. At first BUFFY… was more about this teenage girl and her small group of friends who had to juggle school and social life, while being demon fighters. The show followed a basic procedural format with each episode dealing with something demony, while relating back to a moral lesson within the life of these teenagers, and forming a larger story arc per season. It was a great concept with amazing moments of hilarity, something Whedon is an expert at. But eventually BUFFY… grew into much more, symbolically.
Having a female lead in a prime time TV Show, without any semblance of a male protagonist was a pretty big deal in the 90’s. Considering even to this day in 2013, the viability of a Wonder Woman movie has stuck in development hell for similar reasons, BUFFY… was doing it decades before. The character of Buffy being a typical everyday teenager, with such responsibility and the weight of the world on her shoulders was something the show featured heavily trough out its run.
This eventually became a symbol for young girls everywhere. Almost everything that Buffy dealt with, as a Vampire Slayer was a metaphor for something that every young girl at one point in her life had to deal with. Balancing social life, school, parental pressure along with her own life was something many girls related to. Even sex played a very subtle metaphor in the series. The character of Angel, a vampire with a soul and Buffy’s most serious boy friend, had a curse placed on him that caused him to lose his soul and become evil after having sex. A very obvious analogy of how teenage boys become two faced after ‘scoring’ with young and impressionable teenage girls, never calling them back or returning any affection. Basically… evil.
Buffy became a role model for girls everywhere. But coming back to the impact this show had on TV in general, it was the first show that blended the humor with the serious that we’re all used to now. SUPERNATURAL is an amazing show for the chemistry between the lead characters, and the over the top hilarity that’s featured at times given it’s dramatically supernatural setting. This was a concept perfected by Joss Whedon and BUFFY… The ideas of dry, sarcastic wit and demons who are everyday and mundane, was something that BUFFY… originated and are all concepts which shows like SUPERNATURAL & CHARMED have utilized in the tone of their own shows.
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER also wasn’t afraid of pushing the limits. Joss Whedon is known for never being afraid of changing the status quo dramatically. He did this with Buffy constantly. Relationships ended. Characters were changed, killed, demonized, or written off. A lead character even became the ultimate evil and tried to destroy the world. Villains became allies. All done with a superb blend of action, drama and humor.
BUFFY… was a TV show on at a time when TV shows were very limited to what they could do. Cable TV wasn’t around, so everything was PG 13. Yet despite that, Whedon and his awesome crew pushed the limits of almost everything that could’ve happened. From dropping the F bomb and cutting away mid word, to explicit love making scenes (yes, not sex, lovemaking) and over awesomely crazy character arcs which were brutal for its time. Not to mention dealing with moral themes such as homosexuality, addiction, relationships, and a whole lot more.
Some of the most creative and innovative episodes of television were probably on BUFFY… Joss Whedon himself had some amazing episodes per season, which he wrote and directed himself. Imagine an episode where the entire town loses it’s voice, basically making the whole episode be completely dialogue-less yet still work at bringing the characters closer together and communicate better. Another episode dealt with the natural death of a loved one, which was done completely without music and was intentionally boring as crap. Yet it conveyed such gravitas that one couldn’t stop watching. Then there were all the humorously inclined episodes including the one where everyone broke out in song like a musical. Body switching, alternate realities, apocalypses were all storylines on television, were all staples of the show, before today’s mainstream audience was ever exposed to them on any other network TV Series.
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER revolutionized the way a TV show is supposed to be and featured themes, concepts and storytelling techniques that have now become formulas for most successful genre TV Shows. “Geeks” now went beyond the “Trekkie” or the generic Sci Fi lover, but features young boys and girls that grew up on ‘Whedonistic’ humor and a high bar for what is entertaining and engaging. Even post the TV Series, Whedon and team continued the adventures of Buffy in Comic Book form. BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER was one of the best Television shows of all time and made it possible for majority of the genre shows on the air today to be viable subjects to be invested in for the major TV Audiences.