on September 30, 2006
The original idea for BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER came to creator Joss Whedon when he was thinking about classic horror films. He noticed that films constantly included clueless blonde victims who wandered into an alley at night and were swiftly killed by whatever evil nasty was lurking there. If the blonde wasn't killed, she always needed a well-muscled male hero to save her. Whedon thought it would be far more interesting if the blonde went into the alley, but wasn't killed. Instead, she would soundly kick the evil nasty's [...]. Whedon wrote a film based around this concept. The clueless girl became a blonde, Southern Californian high schooler who also happened to be the one girl in all the world with the strength and skill to hunt and kill vampires. The idea was quirky enough to get picked up and a film was made. However, much meddling on the part of the director and the studio turned the film into a hoaky cheesefest that was nothing like Whedon's original vision. The film flopped at the box office and Whedon thought that was the end of the road for his quirky little idea.
However, there was something about the movie that caught the attention of the president of the tiny WB network. The network had so far only found success with the overly-sentimental family drama 7th HEAVEN and was more willing to take a chance on something unusual than the four major networks were. Gail Berman called Whedon and asked that he revitalize and rework the idea for television. After seeing the unaired pilot he had made to shop around the idea to networks, she agreed to a 12 episode order. And with that, one of the greatest television shows ever created was born.
The TV version of BUFFY is very different from the film version. He kept some of the basic plot elements of the film around as canon for the show (chief among, the fact that Buffy burned down the gym of her high school in Los Angeles) but has always stated that, for the sake of the show, the film does not exist. Instead, we pick up in the two-part pilot episode with Buffy Summers, played by the fantastic Sarah Michelle Gellar, moving to Sunnydale, California with her mother. Her parents have divorced and Buffy has been kicked out of her high school because of the aforementioned fire. It is the middle of her sophomore year of high school and Buffy has already been called as the next Vampire Slayer in an ancient line of female warriors blessed and cursed with all the skills required for hunting and killing vampires, and other demons. However, Buffy is so upset about the negative effect slaying has had on her life, that she decides to give it up.
It is only when she is confronted with the truths about her new town that Buffy gets back into the game as a Slayer. Sunnydale rests on a "Hellmouth"- a literal gateway to other, nastier dimenstions, and for this reason it is a center of mystical energy which draws all sorts of evil beings to it. For this reason, there is a seemingly endless supply of demons and ghouls for Buffy to fight. However, she won't be doing it along, because she quickly makes friends with a couple of outsiders (brainy Willow and snarky Xander) and meets her new Watcher, Rupert Giles, who has the task of training and leading her in her duties as the Slayer. Also in the mix right at the beginning are the acid-tongued and popular Cordelia and the mysterious Angel.
That's just the basic opening premise for BUFFY. It is a show that, on the surface, is about a rag-tag group of outsiders who must band together to fight forces of evil we can't even imagine. However, the things that made BUFFY a true delight are its sense of humor and its heart. The show has its own sound, based around the way that Joss Whedon writes, and "Buffyspeak" became instantly recognizable as a blend of snarky sarcasm, witty pop culture references and unexpected turns of phrase. The show is smart and fast, which allows the campier elements to be fun and not hoky and the darker elements to feel unique. Along with comedy, this horror show also mixes in romance and drama leading to some truly poignant and heartbreaking moments between the richly drawn cast of characters. The series darkened as it progressed, with bigger evils to face and less and less hope for a "normal life" for our heroine Buffy, but it always remained a story about friendship and family.
All seven seasons of this show are phenomenal. Each episode crackles with energy, smart writing and cast chemistry and the mythology of the show deepens and matures as BUFFY ages. Villains are allowed to be multi-faceted and three-dimensional (witness the sunshiny exterior of the brilliant evil Mayor of season three and the twisted romance between season two vampires Spike and Drusilla). The main cast expands to include a wonderful array of characters that include a laconic werewolf guitarist (played perfectly by Seth Green) and a straight-forward and hilarious ex-Vengeance Demon. However, the core four Scooby Gang members of Buffy, WIllow, Xander and Giles always remain the focus as they move through the perils of Sunnydale and real life together. BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER is hilarious, eye-opening, genre-bending, heart-breaking, intelligent, romantic, amazing television and if you've never seen it before you are in for a glorious treat. Whatever you've heard about this show, in actuality it is worse and its better and it is truly one of the most amazing things to ever grace the television screen.