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July 09 2008

Buffy is Gail Collins' favorite show of all time. Collins, a columnist at the New York Times, says: "My all-time favorite program in my entire life was "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Lesley Stahl replies, "No! No. No, no, no!" Collins goes on to explain why.

Collins wrote about Buffy before. See:
Wow, Lesley Stahl sure does sound incredulous and horrified at the very idea that Collins would say this.
Maybe someone ought to send Lesley Stahl a DVD.
Very interesting article. One can tell that Collins truly understands Buffy and has viewed and reviewed the series a time or two.

Thanks for the link, Suzie!
I can't imagine that Stahl has ever seen anything except the commercials and I hate it when people just assume something is bad. At least know whereof you speak.

As far as sending her the DVDs, TamaraC, I think we'd also have to send someone along to tie her down and force her to watch it.
You know its really amazing that even after all of the critical acclaim it has received (A top ten show of the last 25 years) people still have this reaction about there series. There was a script of the season six episode "Villains" on the database at my internship and I started reading it because I was curious. One of the other interns actually laughed at me for even looking at it.

I guess the show will always be called "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" and therefore will always create those types of reactions. It gets so frustrating sometimes.
A permalink for her 2003 column so's you don't need to log in.
I have to admit to having been one of those people until a couple of years ago. I got into Firefly and then found out that Whedon did Buffy too and decided to give it a shot off of that. In my defense, all I knew about the show was based on the advertisements, and I never saw an ad that sold the show as anything more than a teenage soap opera. And if that was all it had been, I wouldn't have liked it. Had the show been advertised more accurately, I would have been a fan much, much earlier.
Actually, it seems to be 'the thing' for people in the media to proclaim their eternal love for Buffy/Angel/Firefly now the shows are done and dusted.

I wonder why they were so quiet circa 1997-2004, when the shows were still on air and really needed the publicity? Hmmpppff.

ETA- I'm certainly not making the above statement about this author, who is obviously a fellow devotee and who has proudly shouted it from the rooftops for a number of years. In fact, I don't even know who I'm mad at. Girls are funny that way...

[ edited by missb on 2008-07-10 06:05 ]
missb, I kind of love you right now. IJS.
"But every time she staked a villain, somewhere in the TV ether you could hear all of the cowboys' long-dead girlfriends cheering."

I remember my days of snobdom. Not just about "Buffy," but comic books, new "Battlestar Galactica," etc. etc. etc.... Such simplicity, such blessed clarity! And then I found out I was being dumb....

Ah well. These days, when people are incredulous, I say "Buffy"'s like Oscar Wilde writing "X-Men," or something like that.

And what if el Josso had changed the title so it wouldn't prompt knee-jerkage? Well, I think he has commented on the title's capacity to give you the show in a nutshell -- comedy, horror, action, and the often-overlooked genre "definite article" -- and that would have been lost. (I almost rattled off a list of alternate titles for "Buffy," but got embarassed.) Bold, that's what calling it "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" is. Hurrah for Whedon and his bolditude.
Hehehe, I just tried a search in IMDb for movies with 'the' in the title, and it blew up my work computer. :D Well, not literally, obviously, but IE6 couldn't handle it and shut down. Perhaps that's why that genre is so overlooked, it's hazardous to your computer's health.
I'm in film school, and one of the most frustrating things is my friends saying I have poor taste in TV for liking Buffy, despite almost every single instructor telling them that Buffy is one of the top 10 shows of all time.

"But... it's Buffy," they say.

Yeah. Exactly.
Now a days, since it has gained so much after the fact praise, I seem to get the opposite reaction than most of you when I mention my love for BTVS or any Joss show. I'm called the snob, or geek, or whatever fine line that defines such titles in my mind when it comes to film and television. I prefer geek, but snob will do just fine.

To be fair, I use to brutally make fun of my father for watching Buffy in its early years, and then hear him try to say it had something to do with brilliant writing and not some pretty girl in short skirts. Simple mindedness for me too. Oh well, we learn.
As far as sending her the DVDs, TamaraC, I think we'd also have to send someone along to tie her down and force her to watch it.
cabri | July 10, 05:19 CET

As well as someone to explain the sub-text. (I know, that was bad. I'm a bad, bad person). ;-)
I was a snob once myself. I turned my nose up at the mere mention of the show, and that was after I watched Firefly. Fortunately for me, I've learned from my simple, ignorant ways. ;)
I knew a man in his 70's who was a movie/TV critic for a newspaper who contended that Buffy was the deepest, most intelligent show ever on TV, but the editors and staff of the newspaper would never believe him. He wrote a column analyzing the show, but the editors of the paper refused to believe that the show was so much more than it appeared to be on the surface, and never ran the article.

A few years later, he wrote a beautiful review of "Serenity." I contacted him to tell him how thrilled I was that he loved it, and he was thrilled to find someone who actually agreed with his take on Buffy.

People who have never seen the show and yet judge it harshly have no idea of how ignorant they appear.
This really resonates because Buffy was always a hard sell for me -- maybe I hang with the wrong sort, but I'd bring it up, praise it to the skies and get blank incomprehension if not outright scorn. And to my kids, RCM, I was the father-gone-off too. They've tried, but still don't quite get it.
*eye wanders to lower right corner of page*

OMG - look at that photo of Jane Wagner's desk!

*dies of jealousy*
I can remember scoffing at the idea of the show -- and scoffing even more at the idea that it deserved a spinoff. Then my buddies tied me to a chair and forced me to watch some. That was an interesting first week of college...

Coming home for Thanksgiving that year, I wasn't quite sure how to explain my new craze... until I learned that our film-snob friends had discovered the show as well, simultaneously and independently.

[ edited by ManEnoughToAdmitIt on 2008-07-10 14:09 ]
Wow, a lot of us were too. Totally dismissive and longer!
missb wrote:
"I wonder why [people in the media] were so quiet circa 1997-2004, when the shows were still on air and really needed the publicity? Hmmpppff."

Hm. Where were you in 1997-2004 when Matt Roush of TV Guide took every opportunity to praise BtVS, Angel and Firefly? or when NPR's David Bianculli interviewed Joss on Fresh Air in 2000? or when Salon's Stephanie Zacharek wrote about Whedon shows? Just for example.
The trick has always been to get the hardcore skeptics on board.
Totally wasn't the snob about it. I was eagerly anticipating it, and it wasn't just because the idea seemed cool. I think I watched every single pilot that year because I loved television and when you're a kid who couldn't drive, that's pretty much the only thing you could do back in the day. And it resonated and I loved it, and the only thing left to do was keep watching. And I did. A lot.
Yep, that was more me CaffeinatedSquint (except I wasn't a non-driving kid ;). I liked the look of it from the first promo I saw, watched the pilot and then pretty much didn't miss an episode from then on. It just seemed funny and quirkily cool without trying to be (which is the death of cool, it's like "the right stuff" in that respect ;) and being a big genre fan slightly unusual titles have never put me off anything.

(though admittedly it probably wasn't until 'The Pack' or maybe 'The Puppet Show' that I really knew BtVS was something very special)
I think it's just as well for me that I didn't get hooked on the show until it was in DVDs, because I think if I had been watching it on the air, not seeing Graduation Day part 2 immediately after part 1 would have caused heart blockage.
I always liked the idea of Buffy- didn't mind the movie, even- mainly because of the humor- my town didn't have the WB- but I had seen a few and wanted more. Then FX started airing reruns and I was hooked. The brilliant writing and characters made it much more than I thought it was- made me love it instead of just like it.

But the world is a hard sell- most people who would love it if they gave it a chance, don't because it doesn't sound smart and the rest would rather it just be easy- spoonfed sitcoms.

This is my first post, btw- thrilled to finally be here!
Welcome aboard, marymary and others!
I just got my boyfriend into watching Buffy/Angel by showing him Smile Time first. He was a snob about it too, but now he is totally hooked. I showed him Firefly for the first time last night and we now officially have one more Browncoat in our ranks! Thus is the power of Joss.
I have never understood the snobbery. The title screamed irony when I heard it. I just hoped the author understood the concept. ;-)

From the first moment I heard the title, I hoped it was what it promised and not what apparently a lot of people assume it was. I love irony and watched the premier to see how it would go. I specifically remember smiling at the screen and nodding in pleasure when Giles said "The Earth is doomed." By that point I knew they were trying to make something interesting. Unfortunately, since I had a new baby too, I was not able to watch TV regularly. Though I would watch it if it was on when I turned the TV on, I rarely got to watch an episode all the way through, much less a series of episodes. So it was not until 7 years later when I started watching in reruns that I understood how incredibly good the show had become.

As far as sending her the DVDs, TamaraC, I think we'd also have to send someone along to tie her down and force her to watch it.
cabri | July 10, 05:19 CET

So true. Whenever someone I respect suggests checking something out, I figure it is worth my time, yet people who say they respect me have repeatedly been contemptuous of my recommendations for various things over the years. I find that insulting. I am really surprised that Leslie Stahl did not immediately apologize for reacting that way.

A little more than a year ago, I was talking to a then coworker on the phone and BtVS came up. She laughed and said something like that she understood having a mindless pleasure. "No, it's literature." just popped out of my mouth without my meaning to say it. There was abrupt and absolute silence at the other end of the line. I casually explained that I was serious and that she should give it a try sometime, then I left it. I do not expect her to actually check it out, but who knows. She is in Dallas, if anyone wants to pick up the ball. ;-)
Maybe instead of the DVDs, someone should send her the link to that piece on Buffy that was on NPRs "Morning Edition" a few weeks ago. The one about how watching BtVS was what kept the reporter sane while she was covering the war in Iraq.

I have to say that I don't think Collins gave the most articulate of explanations about why BtVS is so good in this interview. The linked article about the cowboys' girlfriends is better. When I find myself trying to explain it, I usually say something about how layered it is, that it's very funny, very witty, but also goes deeply into themes of friendship, connection, loss, grief, family, growing up etc. About what it feels like to be human. In ways that the most "serious" of television dramas don't even brush up against.
I watched from the beginning, but I was still a bit snarky the first few episodes, specifically I Robot, You Jane. I don't know when, but somewhere along the line I fell in love.

I think if I had been watching it on the air, not seeing Graduation Day part 2 immediately after part 1 would have caused heart blockage.

Well, there was an extremely blurry, bootleg, real media file floating around. Ah, 1999.
I came perilously close to dismissing the show out of hand back when it first came out. Luckily, my mom forced me to watch the pilot, and I've been a devoted Joss fan ever since. And I'm glad I was there at the beginning too, because I was in 10th grade when the show came out, just like the scoobies, so each year of the show echoed the phase of my life I was currently in.

[ edited by totally0random on 2008-07-11 14:56 ]
I was running a nightclub when Buffy premiered so I didn't really watch any TV that wasn't sports or news. It wasn't until a couple years later when I was in a different line of work that I checked out this show with a ridiculous name on that network for teenagers at the extreme urging of my best friend and his wife.
I don't believe in guilty pleasures, be open about annoucning it. Heck, I have never been embarassed about liking Full House, or that I used to watch pro wrestling. And I still recall my ex-wife's reaction when she found the Muppet Show and Muppet Movie albums amongst my LPs. Fortunately it was late enough in our relationship that I no longer cared what she thought.

But Stahl's reaction...what really tips it for me is the over-reaction. I can see not liking the Jossverse; it just plain isn't everyone's cup of Darjeeling with two packs of Equal, old bean, I know that. But her reaction was equivalent to my sister's widower telling me going to Buffy boards was a waste because I was "communicating with 12-year-olds." Much less class and flexibility than I'd expect from a leading media type.

Our local WB outlet was also showing Friends reruns during S-3 and my daughter (9 going on 10 at the time choronologically, 9 going on 29 intellectually) said she'd even sit thru an episode of that in order not to miss "Graduation Day II."

[ edited by DaddyCatALSO on 2008-07-10 17:54 ]
Well, there was an extremely blurry, bootleg, real media file floating around. Ah, 1999.

Ah, yes, those were fun days. I even read... AleXander's?... transcripts when the show got stopped in The Netherlands for a frustrating period of a year-and-a-half (how did we ever survive before high definition downloads?).

(though admittedly it probably wasn't until 'The Pack' or maybe 'The Puppet Show' that I really knew BtVS was something very special)

I think for me that was "Angel". And then "Nightmares" and "Prophecy Girl" drove the point home. I was there from the start. But then: I had both a softspot for teen dramas (I think I was also falling in love with 'My So-Called Life' at the time) and had been a big genre-fan for as long as I can remember. So it was bound to appeal to me either way :). Still: I could not have expected how good it would become. And yes: that's the problem when explaining the show to (some) friends. They'd gladly accept that I love watching a silly show, but trying to convince anyone it's actually high quality television, is where the scorn starts.

I say we burn all these non-believers at the stake and create a cleaner, healthier world! Scary fandom? Us? Nah. Performing taste-o-cide is a vallid life-choice, I'd say...

(also: Friends isn't bad television, DaddyCatALSO. I've actually always felt that Friends is one of the best sitcoms in recent memory, despite its incredible popularity (which usually turns me off of things), but certainly tastes and opinions on that may vary)

ETA: typo fixed

[ edited by GVH on 2008-07-10 18:05 ]
I really don't think Lesley Stahl can be accused in the strong terms suggested a few posts back from this one - just because she appears to express a dis-inclination to watch or give any credit to 'Buffy'. We are all free to choose the things we decide to like and dislike - and I am sure many of us at one time or another have taken a dislike to something without being especially well informed about it.

Not everyone likes 'Buffy' or 'Angel' or 'Firefly'. There is no reason why they should be expected to. I have admitted here in the past to not being overly fond of 'Firefly'. Does that I mean I am to be dismissed as a c---?
Wow. Nice language, totally0random.
Yikes, I was just reading that as well. Consider this a warning, totally0random, personal attacks == bad.
Judging a creative concept by its title alone is something that has always irked me. I say this as a HUGE fan of rock band Oingo Boingo. Back in the day, getting certain acquaintances of mine to listen to a band called Oingo Boingo was as easy as ice skating uphill. This was frustrating as hell because I knew these people were missing out on an amazing band simply because they had prejudged the name.

My initial scoffing of the Buffy show had nothing to do with the name but was instead based on having seen the early '90s film version. I was bewildered that someone wanted to turn such a mediocre-to-bad film into a TV series. This was before I knew anything about Joss, of course, or what he had in mind with the premise.

My scoffing lasted until the end of BTVS's second season. I couldn't be bothered to watch. But friends of mine - people I respect - kept telling me, "watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer". So I did. Passively at first, not passionately. Season three inched me closer to fan status but it was the airing of the "Hush" episode in season four that turned me into a fan for life and eventual full-on Whedonist.

[ edited by Hjermsted on 2008-07-10 18:55 ]
It seems to me that it is a lot easier to get people hooked on the buffyverse after they have been shown firefly. People usually don't have the same prejudice against firefly, a show they've never heard of, that they do of Buffy, a show they've heard of that sounds really stupid. Once they've seen firefly, and fallen in love with it for reasons they don't fully understand yet, I say "You know, Joss Whedon also created Buffy the Vampire Slayer." They usually say something like, "Really? I always thought that show was dumb... can you lend it to me?"

I have tried the opposite approach, but it doesn't seem to work. They sit through the first season of Buffy waiting to be proved right about its nature, instead of simply watching and possibly enjoying. Also, I find that season 1 is the worst season. Not that it is necessarily a bad season, it just feels like they were trying to find their style still, and most of the characters lacked a sense of depth that would become so second nature for the rest of the series. Giles and Cordelia, for instance didn't really get any character development until season 2, and for almost all of season one were very stereotypical. I didn't notice this my first time through, but after seeing the whole series, season 1 seems hollow to me. I can see it being hard for people to get into it.

Wow, I got really ranty, didn't I?

Anyway, I think it's sad that some people can't have open minds about things right off the bat instead of having to be eased into things. Oh well.

As far as sending her the DVDs, TamaraC, I think we'd also have to send someone along to tie her down and force her to watch it.

cabri | July 10, 05:19 CET

Reading the comments, I'm reminded of the amusing online comic "Save Hiatus" which ran an apropos strip a few months back.

I remember years back, before I even knew of the growing fandom, trying to gently convince a friend of mine to watch some Buffy episodes. Although he was a comic collector and SF reader, he couldn't get past a title that rhymed with "Fluffy"-- just as some others here discovered. I do wonder if Dollhouse may have a similar barrier to overcome -- how do you convince guys that a show with that name is going to be "cool"?

[ edited by Whedonage on 2008-07-10 23:57 ]
Loved BtVS from the moment I found it. Feel the same about the fandom. It really doesn't bother me that some people don't understand why I like Buffy and Angel (and yeah, Firefly now, too) because there are things I don't understand, like say - designer clothing. I just don't get it. To each his own, I say.
I'd also like to add my voice to Maeve's regarding Buffy's critical acclaim. At the time it premiered I couldn't watch Buffy because there was no local affiliate. However once I moved I made sure to tune in exactly because it had such positive reviews. I watched "The Freshman" and the premiere of Angel and became a regular viewer of both at once.

I had no idea Oingo Boingo had a difficult hurdle to overcome, Hjermsted. They were the darlings of KROQ in the 80s and seemed very popular among the college crowd at the time. Actually given the, er, creative naming practices of most bands it surprises me to hear anyone judges a band by the moniker!

I do understand though how people can be put off by previews or advertising for a show or movie. With a show, sometimes it's a matter of a series finding its footing (which not all do out of the gate). Sometimes it's not just well targeted marketing. There have been movies whose ads struck me as extremely stupid, but I watched solely due to critical reviews, and was glad I did.
I think the title is one in a long list of strengths for the show. If you can overcome the stigma of actually watching something called Buffy the Vampire Slayer, then you're probably in a place where you can appreciate the attitude it presents.

I had a friend who on one level was incapable of laughing at himself. He was a great guy, but he lacked the levity required to accept one's own imperfection. I drug him kicking and screaming into watching several episodes of Buffy and he could absolutely never get over the stigma of it.

The title perfectly positions Buffy to be appreciated by people who are ready to appreciate it.
GVH: Just expressing my daughter's then-opinion, not surprising considering her age then. I'm really not very familiar with Friends myself.
DaddyCatALSO: Check :).

However once I moved I made sure to tune in exactly because it had such positive reviews

Yeah, the first season already got pretty good reviews. I seem to remember a promo (the 'get home before dark' promo, I think it was, though I can't find it on youtube) which played on The WB before season 2 started that also said "the show critics have hailed as an instant classic" or something similar. So yes, the reception was quite good, even back then.
To clarify, it just seemed at the time that a lot of people (and most mainstream media, bearing that in the early years of 'Buffy' the internet was still a relatively brave new world) were somewhat indifferent to the show and perceived it as a WB teen-thang. And it's only now that they're all popping up saying "Buffy? Loved it!"

I really can't tell you why it peeves me to hear the lurve, after all, the more fans the better, right? Since I tried for years to encourage my 15 year old niece to watch, but she only recently did so after hearing that Fall Out Boy were fans.

In regards to lack of critical acclaim, it's apples and oranges and we have done this to the death, but why should a certain mob-centric show get a glowing Emmy send off, when the 'Buffy' actors and writers never even got a darn nomination? (And just for funsies, if you google both shows, 'Buffy' brings up more than TWICE the number of hits.)

I have always said that 'Buffy' was a show before it's time- but, golly, can you imagine the possibilities of 'Buffy' on HBO or Showtime nowadays?
Actually, Joss did get nominated for a writing Emmy for Hush. It was up against two Sopranos and two West Wing episodes, I believe. Didn't win of course. I think it was a critical darling, but they always blamed the lack of Emmys on the members being too old to "get" Buffy.
I never missed a first run ep of Buffy,ever. From the very beginning of "Welcome to the Hellmouth", I was hopelessly hooked.

My husband and I live in the boonies i.e; West Michigan, so we had Directv to watch Buffy seasons 1, 2, and 3. After season 3, Directv dropped the WB so I dropped Directv and switched to Dishnetwork JUST so I wouldn't miss Buffy. My husband would poke fun at me about it, but if he were going to be late coming home from work on a Tuesday night, he would call me and say, "You're taping it, right?" Another convert right there.

You cannot explain this show to someone who has never seen it and make them understand it. It's impossible. They have to see it for themselves. That's the only way they'll get it.
Of course Hacksaway, in my huffiness over the big 2007 Emmy 'Soprano-gasm', and my continued indignation about the mistake with Joss's 'OMWF' nom, I had forgotten about Joss's 'Hush' nom.
I completely blame it on my lack of communication with the outside world at the time- I was teaching in the middle of Bali with no access to new episodes, internet, or even info!

Here's hoping 'Dollhouse' gets some critical love so I get over it, already!
I always quite liked the name as soon as I heard it, but what prejudiced me against Buffy to start with was how great looking all the women were. I thought it was just yet another glossy American show for trendy teens (which I wasn't...) where everyone looks like they are out of a shampoo advert. I foolishly thought that if the cast look like that, how can it have any substance? When male friends told me they liked it I thought 'yeah sure, you just watch for the eye candy' (heh that is probably true I reckon, but not *just* for the eye candy)...

Anyway when I moved out of my parents house and moved into my slightly geeky brother's house in 2001 I began casually, and then not so casually watching it with him. I was shocked how drawn into it I became. My fan-ness surpasses his now. It was the season 5 finale when I found myself weeping that made me realise: 'Oh dear - hooked'.

Nowadays I know that Buffy (and IMO BSG) is an immense and powerful work of philosophical art. I don't expect too many people who I meet to be convinced of that. But everyone has their own different thing to be fanatical about which makes them happy don't they?

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