Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Revisited

I've just peeled the plastic off my Buffy the Vampire Slayer seven season box set, and am eager to spend the summer rewatching one of the most exciting, innovative and unique television series.  It debuted in 1997 (the year my first vamp rom was pubbed!) and I watched every show of the entire seven seasons as they aired.  But I haven't watched the show in reruns or on DVD since.  So it's going to almost be new to me.  My brain tends to forget stories, plot lines, and minute details of TV shows rather quickly, which is not a bad thing as I sit down to experience it all again.

First let me say that when I heard they'd made a TV series of that movie about the cheerleader chick who slays vampires, I thought I'd pass on it.  I didn't see the movie, and really didn't have an interest (even though I was writing about vampires at the time).  But I always give a new show one watch, so I tuned in for episode one.

One thing I do know, having already watched Buffy—Joss Whedon is a storytelling genius.  One of the most important things in telling a story is to present the viewer/reader with a protagonist with whom they can identify.  Relating to a sixteen-year old girl who slays vampires?  Probably not a lot of people who can do that.  But Whedon makes it so.  It doesn't matter your age or sex: we can all relate to Buffy Summers on some level.  And what's truly great about this series is that it isn't necessarily about the monsters.  It's about a girl, her friends, and family, and just trying to fit in, be loved, and accepted.  Supernatural is currently doing the same thing.  That show scores high in the ratings because it's not about the monsters; at it's core, it's a story about two brothers who would live and (literally) die for one another.

So I thought I'd report weekly on my Buffy-watching adventures, commenting a bit here and there on the episodes.  Like I said, this will almost view like a new show to me (except the greater theme and, heck, I'll never forget Spike).  And I've seen where all the characters have landed, and experienced their journey to get there, so going back to the beginning will be fun.  I'll be talking to those of you who have watched it all, those of you who may have caught an episode or two, or even a whole season, and those of you who have never seen it.  Maybe you Buffy innocents will be encouraged to check it out on DVD (Hey, Shauna!).  For the storytelling alone, it's not to be missed.  For vampires fans it's almost a no-brainer.  But I can't promise my posts will be spoiler-free, so if you do intend to watch it, and don't want it to be spoiled, skip over these posts.  I picked up the whole set on Amazon recently for around $110 (it's currently listed at $131).  But I was in Costco a few weeks ago and they had it for $80!  An awesome deal, if you can find it.

So let's get started!  I watched episode 1 and 2 tonight (because ep 1 ended to be continued).

 Season One: Episode 1: WELCOME TO THE HELLMOUTH

Yep, good ole Buffy Summers thought she'd gotten away from the problems in her past by moving to a new town and entering a new school.  Welcome to Sunnydale, the cozy little town situated right on top of the Hellmouth.
Wow!  Does Buffy ever look young!  They all do, and it's kinda sweet to go 'awww, I remember them when'.  I love the first meeting between Zander and Buffy when he's helping her pick up her things dropped from her backpack.  As she's walking away he says, "Hey, you forgot your...stake?"  Heh.
We also get a glimpse of the mysteriously sexy Angel (in black velvet coat and looking so youthful) who Buffy has no idea is a vampire.  He gives her a silver cross.  Aww....  I had forgotten he was against this original batch of uber-ugo vampires.
I mean, those vampires were really ugly.  Whoever decided to give them the serious frown lines smushed face look must have had something against the gorgeous vamps we know and love in our vampire romances.  But the look works, and it certainly distinguishes the villains from our sweet, but not naive slayer.
The whole gang is in this first episode, with Cordelia far from her future Scooby-dom.  I love when Buffy rounds a corner, thinking she's chasing a vampire, and slams Cordelia up against the wall.  Cordelia says, "God, what is your childhood trauma?"  The banter in this series is super.
So this ep ends, as I said, to be continued, with Buffy stalking the bad vampires who intend to satisfy the Harvest, and raise their Master vampire.

Season One: Episode 2: THE HARVEST

The gang abandons one of their own (Jesse) to the evil vampires in favor of saving their own necks.  But we all know someone has to go down with the ship.  Jesse never really fit in anyway.  :-)  Giles indoctrinates the stunned Zander and Willow into everything vampire.  I love that this series got off to a fast start.  No taking a half a season for everyone to get on board.  Episode two, and the main characters are getting into the groove, albeit shaky and freaked, but they're going for it.
A great moment is when Buffy and Angel chat in the mausoleum that leads down to the vampire lair.  Buffy explains she's just doing this because there's a potential friend in need of her help.  "Do you know what it's like to have a friend?"  Angel's almost imperceptible flinch tells us so much about him.  His soulless heart doesn't like hearing the truth.
Even with evil looming over our hapless gang of slayers, the show imparts a lot of humor, and that is another thing that makes this series stand out.  After enduring cruel teasing in computer class from Cordelia, Willow steals the moment when Cordy asks, "How do we save it?" (her project she's spent the entire class working on).  Willow says, "Deliver."  Cordy hits the Del button and the camera cuts away just as we see her begin to freak.  Love it!
Another thing that makes Buffy real to us is that she has a life, and really, really just wants to live it.  And like most teenage girls, she has a mother, and her mother wants her to succeed and do well, and if that means grounding her or not allowing her to go out (to save the world!) then she'll do it.  "If you don't go out every night it's like the end of the world," her mother rants.  But maybe it could be the end.  Thankfully, Buffy escapes out her window, and heads out to save the world (or just a portion of it).
The petite blonde slayer exudes bravery and strength, but also a sweet vulnerability.  She defeats the evil vampire vessel by distracting him with a warning about sunrise.  He sees the golden glow of light and shields his eyes....and Buffy stakes him.  The sunrise is, "In about nine hours, moron."
Go, Buffy!
Go, Scooby gang!
Can't wait to view the next episodes.


Lorelei said...

Ah, Michele, we have Buffy in common--cool!

My husband and I "discovered" the show maybe by the second eppsiode, I don't recall. But I was so hooked on it, I stopped everything to go and watch it, also, when it was in re-runs, same thing.

You're right about Wendon, he was a genious. He changed the cardboard woman "victim" character forever. We all owe him a great thanks for making an vampire-a**-kicking heroine (:

Have fun, will check in every week to remember with you!

Michele Hauf said...

Lorelei, I think a lot of para rom readers/writers owe Joss a big thanks. And if not, they need to check out Buffy!

Scott M. Baker said...

Joss Whedon was an inspiration for my writing. Anyone who can blend end-of-the-world horror and humor like he did at the end of Season Two is top notch in my book.

GB (formerly JD) said...

Firstly, Joss Whedan is a god. I just had to share.

And "Wow, could you vague that up for me?" is probably one of my favourite Buffy lines.

I saw most of the Buffy episodes when they aired but, like all good TV shows where I am, it was relegated to the 10.30-11pm time-slot on a school night and I ended up losing track.

I've since gone back and had Buffy marathons on DVD and just a couple of months ago saw the episodes in season 7 for the first time. It was like I got whole new Buffy and I rationed myself to one episode a day so I could savour the experience. :)

Michele Hauf said...

I agree 100% Scott.

GB, it's fun rewatching the episodes because now I can pick out things from a writer's POV instead of just as a viewer, and collecting the fav quotes, I know, is going to serve me a full notebook.

Shauna Leigh Kemp said...

I just have to thank you, Michele, so much for mentioning Buffy! I think perhaps it was when you ordered this set or picked it up!

I never thought I would like it, but I took your word and gave it a shot and it really is some great story telling just as you all have said about Joss W. And, I also must admit I have found great enjoyment in the spinoff of the Angel series as well. So, double the super/para fun! :)

I don't own it yet, YET! But, I have Netflix and we just got a blue-ray player for the express purpose of being able to play the instant episodes directly on the TV, which happen to include Buffy & Angel... So, I'm up to Buffy Season 5 and Angel Season 2; both for the first time ever still and I'm really enjoying it. Great story telling and paranormal worlds!!

Enjoy your watching this summer & keep us posted on your faves, would love to hear about them. :) I love all the great quotes as well. If you are on twitter I'll see you at #BtVS or #Angel!! Have fun! :)

Roxanne Rhoads said...

I am currently watching all the old episodes too. You know Buffy was on back in the day before DVRs and back when I actually had a life and did things (LOL) so I find it amazing now when I realize how many episodes I missed.

I love Netflix streaming on demand style archive (tons of tv shows even the orginal Dark Shadows)- I have all 7 seasons available whenever I want them. I started from the very beginning and amd working my way through them- with my daughter who is completely intrigued and can't wait to watch them all with me.

Michele Hauf said...

Sounds funny to say 'back in the day'. Oy, now you make me feel old. :-) I do remember though that my kids were much younger, and Buffy was sort of my treat to watch after a long day chasing kids around.