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April 01 2011

Buffy and Dollhouse are worth the "effort". I don't know if I'd use that word, but the AV Club presents nice write-ups on why both shows are worth sticking with.

Eh, I sort of feel the same way. There are certain cultural markers that people feel obliged to work their way through so they can either be informed when people bring them up or so they can eventually appreciate the stuff to come.

Like I started really watching Buffy with the musical (such a weird jumping on point) but as much as I enjoyed the sporadic episodes I caught on FX from the tail-end, when I got the DVD sets I probably could have done without a lot of the first season and a quarter.

Same with Dollhouse, I keep wanting to make some of my friends watch it but they never trust me that they could honestly skip some of the earlier episodes and backtrack.

I was more or less the same with The Sandman comics-- I went through the first four or five trades without quite enjoying it, myself, or getting the point of any of the side stories (maybe up until the cereal convention?) but I came to really appreciate some of those things I once thought were pointless detours when they came around later.
Okay, certain "cultural" markers. Don't even tell me, I rather not hear.

Gosh, I don't even know where to begin.....
With but a single step 'Hatter, natch ;).

Don't agree about Buffy, 'Dollhouse' or 'Deadwood' but there's an interesting related point in there I think in that, certainly with TV, it's virtually impossible to watch the same series later as you do at the time. I watched Buffy from the first airings (on UK terrestrial TV anyway, think it was on Sky first) and a couple of missteps aside, found it funny, quirky and deep enough from pretty much the start to maintain my interest, there was absolutely no feeling of "having to work through it" (sure, S1 doesn't reach 'Passion' heights but then early episodes almost never do because emotional resonance comes from time spent with the characters).

But people watching it now have older special effects to contend with as well as the fact that, influential as it has been, BtVS is no longer as fresh as it was back in the mid-late 90s. In general the standard of TV has moved on (upwards at the top end and downwards at the bottom), the cultural environment is different and particularly younger viewers are more used to different things from TV (in the 90s it was still very much the case that TV was seen as the poor cousin to film, nowadays film actors move back and forth much more readily and TV is, if anything, seen as more dramatically daring).

For myself BTW 'Babylon 5' is a show that felt like work early on, mainly because of Michael O'Hare's delivery of (some of) JMS' dialogue. And Next Gen too which, isolated episodes aside, really wasn't that great until season 3.
Aye, I was nuts about Buffy from the very start, I think my cousins had seen it on cable and we got the video of Welcome to the Hellmouth out from Blockbuster and I was hooked before it started airing on the BBC. I find it weird that it took people so long to get into it cus I think the good stuff was there from the beginning.

And what even happened at the end of episode four of Deadwood? Deadwood has always moved at a rather glacial pace, I never felt a change a few episodes in.

I think the only culturally significant slow starter for me was the Lord of the Rings books. Up until Rivendell I was having difficulty sticking with it, for which I largely blame Tom Bombadil. After Rivendell it was win all the way.
They must mean ? 'Deadwood' wasn't really that "plotty" a show IMO, the characters, acting and dialogue made it what it was. 'Lost' was another one with a critical fourth episode though that was mainly a plot thing, even though it was also a big character episode for Locke (I used to advise folk to give it until at least then, if it didn't grab you after that it probably wasn't going to).
I feel the same way. However, after putting in the "effort" of getting through season one (which really is not as terrible as people seem to make it out to be) and going all the way to the end I definitely can appreciate season one better in retrospect.
It's a very subjective thing; for example, Dollhouse and the mentioned Anathem by Neal Stephenson both grabbed me right away. Buffy took some time for me. I gave it another shot after I loved Firefly, and I *still* didn't care much for the first season and a half. I can enjoy the early episodes now, but the first time? It did take some effort, and, of course, TOTALLY worth it.

I've been on an anime kick lately, so I'd also mention Revolutionary Girl Utena. At first, it seems sorta generic cookie cutter magical girl stuff, for which, I am not the target audience. Around the end of the first series, events happen that not just make the series dark, convoluted and twisted, but make you realize it's been that way the entire time. Something I thought I'd hate, or just watch because I'm a sucker for swords (and dragons, but not relevant here) and it turned out to be one of my favorites.
id have to agree sorta with Buffy and Dollhouse. i found neither a pain to watch though. i never bothered watching Buffy when it was on the air. vampires are not typically my genre, but i was hooked on Firefly from the first ep i saw (shindig) and starting borrowing the Buffy DVDs from a friend when i found out it was made by the same guy. i though it was all right. i wasnt that into it until Angel went evil. and i found the first few eps of Dollhouse to be to episodic, but still enjoyable
Buffy hooked me from the start, it was really only with Epitaph One did I think Dollhouse was epic telly.
@narse re: "Revolutionary Girl Utena" You are the only other person I have ever heard mention this show. I stumbled across it senior year of high school when I was looking for something light and cute to watch, and quickly realized - NOT SO MUCH! Impossible to find though - all my copies are VHS :)
You aren't kidding about Utena these days, F_TB. I picked up an Import of Dubious Legality dvd box set on ebay about 5 years ago...the whole series and movie for around $40. If you are into anime you know the box sets of which I speak. Sometimes they are cool; my Lodoss box has much better art than any of the US releases (and I usually don't care about missing special features, etc).
I just checked ebay for Utena. Prices these days are INSANE. Worth it though! All this talk, now I'm going to have to have an Utena marathon this weekend!
I watched Buffy from it's first airing and never really found it a struggle (those manipulating hormones probably helped there, though. SMG's season 1 oufits were quite attention grabbing for a young lad.) Having said that it was only something I half watched. It wasn't until Passion did I really get hooked.

With Dollhouse, it was actually with the much loathed episode 3 that I found something that pulled me back. The closing silent exchange between Echo and Sierra said and promised so much. Echo suddenly had an ally and their was a real friendship we could get behind. Things got much better with episode 6 and beyond, but those earlier episodes still had the odd moment of merit.
narse, I hope you have watched/watching Magical Madoka from the latest season then. It's the same, it starts as some magical girl fluff then begins pulling so many incredibly depressing twists and turns you're head-over-heels. Animated by SHAFT too, so it looks great. :)
I actually have to agree about Buffy. Season 1 can be a bit of a trial. My housemates heard me raving about the show and got bogged down in S1 (they watched without me, so I wasn't there to spur them on). There's some great stuff in there -- "The Pack" keeps growing on me, and "Nightmares" and "Prophecy Girl" are both high-quality -- but the costumes, the music, and the other plots... not so much.

I'd actually say that the first true A episode of Buffy is "Lie to Me," and that's a ways in.
Thanks for the recommend, Jaymii, I'll have to check that out! Hooray for depressing and/or mind-screw cartoons!
I'd concur with Buffy and Dollhouse. I'd also add Angel to the list. I agree with Saje about Babylon 5, and that's a very common complaint regarding that program. Fringe and ST:TNG are two other shows that spring to mind as not being very good in their beginnings, but became much better as they progressed. More recently, The Event has noticeably improved after an extremely weak beginning. I've also heard the same thing about Cougar Town, but the pilot was so abominable imo that I am gravely reluctant to give it another chance.

I've long felt that there are quite a few shows that start slowly and have some obvious kinks that need to be worked out. Unfortunately, a lot of shows aren't given enough of a chance to improve themselves before being canceled.
Vandelay: Appreciatring Smidge's S-1 outfits isn't age-related.
I never found Buffy difficult to get into from the start. Maybe it was because I was younger, but right off the bat I found the intelligent, witty dialgoue, well drawn characters and interesting relationships captivating right from the start. Although the main plot components of the first season are pretty rudimentary, I honestly think the "high school is hell" metaphor and the freshness of the slayer mythology worked perfectly. Obviously it takes any show time to find itself and define what it's about, and to paraphrase Joss regarding The Body, you don't make that kind of episode right off the bat, you have to earn it. The later seasons of the show wouldn't have been what they were either, without the groundwork laid in the first few seasons. And I think the first season is often held up for a lot of unfair criticism. No, it doesn't reach the same heights of drama and emotion as later seasons, but it's a great introduction to the Buffyverse and the characters. I certainly still find it entertaining despite its flaws, and I definitely enjoy the more carefree and innocent tone which just wouldn't be sustainable for the length of the entire series. Sometimes I'm in the mood for a dark season six or seven episode, sometimes I'm in the mood for a specific character-focused episode, sometimes the simplicity and freshness of season one is perfect.

I think Angel certainly found its identity in terms of tone and confidence right from the start, if not neccessarily in format or structure, which developed more in the second season. Again I think the quality of the characters and most of the dialogue shines through what is essentially a season of standalone episodes rather than the more compelling arcs we loved on Buffy and later enjoyed on Angel.

I thought Firefly lacked a definite direction through the first season, despite a number of great arcs for a few of the characters (such as Mal, Inara, Simon and River), but I think the other characters didn't have character arcs that were quite as well defined. But again on the plus side, the show immediately knew what it was about and struck just the right tone and pace, with a brilliant group of characters. But I think later seasons (had they actually happened) would have benefitted from stronger overarching themes or plots for each season. You can definitely see in the film Serenity how something like the Miranda plot could have helped to structure a season or two, rather than the crew essentially drifting from adventure to adventure and reacting to whatever plots crop up.

I haven't watched Dollhouse yet so I'll reserve judgement, but it seems that the general perception is that it is the least instantly accessible Whedon show thus far, but halfway through the first season it hits it's stride, so I'm really looking forward to catching it on DVD soon.

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