Twenty years ago, I sat in an old chair in my grandparents’ house watching the two hour premiere of a failed movie now turned tv show. Why, you may ask? Because there was nothing on. It was Tuesday at 8pm and I was on spring break from college. So, nothing was going on. As I sat down to watch what I figured would be another failed attempt to talk about the supernatural via good looking teenagers on a crap network. What I got was a pretty decent two hours of television. It wasn’t great. Oh no, stop the nostalgic train right there. It wasn’t God coming down from the heavens on a golden steed. It was just good. Which is perfectly fine. It only got great during the final episode of that season which is what it needed to do.
I have a theory that your first season should just be good. It needs to be a solid foundation to build a show from. If you do everything in your first coughHeroescough season why are people tuning into season two or three or seven. They won’t. So, its ok not to be the most talked about show of that year, but something that can gather a decent group of loyal fans that will tell others to watch it during the summer.
Now, Buffy appeared during a time where there was no Netflix or even DVD box sets of the entire seasons to binge watch. To its credit though, it was one of the first shows that had episodes in sets, but they were not complete runs of the series. Yet, that was five years after it debuted. I watched the first season here and there. When people asked what I was watching, I said Buffy. They would look at me sideways and always ask the question..Is it because Buffy is hot? The answer was of course..Yes! Yet, when I talked about the show being more than hot kids that the stories were good and my fondness for Willow and Xander, I would get even weirder looks. A year later and those same people were watching the show in their dorm room. Weird, how that worked out.
A lot of that has to do with Buffy fans rallying around the show through the mail and online to keep the show going. Lets also be fair, the WB was a new network with not a lot going for it, so getting behind a show that even a few hundred thousand people were watching was a good idea. If it was getting the ratings it got on NBC or ABC, it would be a one and done season. It found the right home to be on. That home would later take the Buffy concept and make it the stable most every CW superhero show. Take a look at Flash and Arrow, swap genders to the leads and you get Buffy with super-villains instead of supernatural beings. On our own Agents of Shield podcast, we lovingly refer to it as Agents of Buffy. In this case Jenny Calendar is an Asian kick ass woman and Giles is the main hero while Angelus even gets turned back to being good and is dead. Other than, Skye is Buffy, Fitz and Simmons are Xander and Willow. Bobby and Hunter were light side versions of Spike and Dru, both of whom are sorely missed from the show. Those are not the only shows to gather an ensemble and make them say pop culture references while fighting evil.
I state this premise to show you how influential Buffy has been for genre shows. It was the Little Vampire Train that Could. It found the proper footing in season two and in season three was the show everyone watched. I could write a book about how great season three of Buffy is. It has a few miss episodes here and there, but that doesn’t diminish the amazing moments of that season. The final battle at the end of season three is one of those jump out of your seat, ready to go to war moments that is missing in a lot of shows today. It is perfection. The latter seasons have amazing episodes like Hush, The Body, all of the Dark Willow stuff and I really believe season seven is highly underrated. Season Seven of Buffy generated more online discussion while it was going on than I anything I saw at the time. The last season you almost had to live through turning in each week to see what the big mystery of who the Big Bad was. Amazing stuff for a fan to live through for an entire year instead of watching it all at once over the weekend.
Buffy to me is about friendship and hope. In my travels, the people who love Buffy are willing to talk hours about it. During a period of my life, my friends and I were refer to ourselves as the Scooby Gang. We had a Giles, Spike, Dawn, Gunn, Willow, Tara, Asian Angel, Wesley, Cordelia, Oz, and I was Xander. We never had a Buffy which is a good thing, because she probably would have gotten us killed. The town we were in wasn’t that nice to give you some idea. That was a great time in my life and I ended up marrying the Willow of the group. I was also fortunate to meet most of the cast from James Marsters to Eliza to Nicholas Brendon to Amber Benson and even David Boreanaz. They were all great to me and my friends when we meet them. It has been a rewarding experience being a Buffy fan. Minus you know the end of Angel which left the entire universe up in the air and that awful season eight comic run. Even with that, Buffy is still one of the best things in the history of genre fandom. It didn’t talk down to the audience or treat them like idiots or worse numbers on network’s marketing board. It treated them like family.
When Dollhouse premiered and I was so happy to see some of my Buffy friends back, I shouted at the TV, I missed you most of all Grr Arrgh Monster as the paper monster doll framed bounced in front of the Mutant Enemy logo. I still do that when Agents of Shield ends. Joss Whedon’s team created such a familiar atmosphere in all of his works that has created an online communities and more importantly real life ones. It all started with the idea of what if the girl running down the alley beat the shit out of the monster chasing her instead of being a victim. As they say an idea can never give be killed and neither will Buffy.
Oh…I still have that chair.