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May 07 2013

The best gateway episode of Buffy. Slate makes the case for 'Earshot', saying that "[it] offers the best of Buffy: human themes explored by way of superhuman phenomena and a skillful latticing of playful comedy with suspenseful misdirection, and moments of heart and vulnerability".

The villain-of-the-week reveal was a little anticlimactic, but the character thought narrative was spot-on and Buffy's speech to Jonathan in the tower is perfection.

Also? Funniest episode ending ever.
"You know, if you're not too busy having SEX WITH MY MOTHER."
It was my first full Buffy episode ever, so, yeah, could be. As a person who lives in Denver, and knew much of the complexities of the Columbine shooting, I was so impressed by a piece of pop culture that "got it." It became appointment television from that day, and I even watched Angel when it premiered, on the strength of that episode alone.

I always wondered, however, if it's was only perfect for me, so I often recommend "Hush" as a starting point. Though, for people who also knew those involved (on both sides of the tragedy) with Columbine, I recommend Earshot.
I've always used 'Once More With Feeling' as my gateway episode. Of course that is only with friends who like musicals.
It's an interesting question and your comments raise finer points -- is there one best gateway episode? Or are there, rather, best gateway episodes for certain people :)
Good suggestion. I usually go with Pangs, but that's just because I watch Pangs every Thanksgiving :)

Earshot is one of my favorite episodes. I especially love Buffy's speech to Jonathan at the end:

Every single person down there is ignoring your pain because they're too busy with their own...If you could hear what they were feeling. The loneliness. The confusion. It looks quiet down there. It's not. It's deafening.

Like With Pie, I use that line as a lesson for my students, whenever I can get away with it. The resulting discussion can have really amazing results.

I'm gonna make a pitch for "Lie to Me" as the best gateway, however. Early on in the show's run so you don't need to explain much backstory, and in fact Angel does some filling in himself; some excellent jokes ("Ours is a forbidden love"); really tight writing, as just about everyone lies at some point; a hint at the upcoming complexities; and an ending speech that's nearly "Earshot"'s equal.
'Something Blue' has great ingredients for an epitomizing introduction: it puts great emphasis between storytelling and humor, and has acute insight on each of the main characters. That said, I got started on Season 2, Ep 1 and got hooked right away.
My gateway episode was The Doublemeat Palace episode.
Great pick. I've long considered Earshot to be the quintessential Buffy episode and it always has been one of my favorite episodes.

My own gateway episode was The Pack, I was hooked within minutes of watching it.
"Lie to Me" is a great choice for a gateway episode! This is such a tough question. (I've often tried to find the perfect answer, as this is clearly extremely important for recruiting new Whedon minions! :P)

OMWF would, in my opinion, be the PERFECT introduction to the show... except it spoils way too many things.

After watching OMWF, the new converts will spend several seasons waiting for Willow to become a lesbian witch and Spike to become good(ish). It's pretty much what happened to me once upon a time. I'd seen some of seasons 1 - 3 previously but REALLY got into the show through someone showing me OMWF, and the spoilers just sucked when I started my first proper watch-through.

Edited to add that "The Pack" is definitely the first moment in S1 that hints at the show's full potential. And not a poor choice for a gateway episode. And neither is "Earshot", though not my personal favourite.

[ edited by darling on 2013-05-07 21:03 ]
I actually do usually use Earshot as an introduction. It's a good representation of the humor, emotion, characters... Episodes like Hush and OMWF are great, but get some of their strength from the fact that they deviate from a typical episode. Earshot is a much better introduction, in my opinion.
A couple of people I know who got into it late were introduced via Once More With Feeling. They watched it out of curiosity and their expectations were blown away (for obvious reasons).

So I'd say one of Joss's 'blockbuster' episodes (e.g. Hush, OMWF) make for a better introduction as they're simply brilliant examples of what the show can do, but also self-contained and therefore unintimidating to a newbie - rather than a more generic (but still great) episode like Earshot.
I have to agree about 'Earshot'. It feels like a great example of the show's high school mission statement. I also think 'Homecoming' could work, since it takes a recognisable premise and deals with it in a unique and hilarious way.

I personally prefer sticking with the earlier seasons so new viewers aren't spoiled for too much. Then again, I somehow got hooked after watching 'Bargaining Part 2', so what do I know?
My first episode was Surprise, which is an interesting episode to start off on. I do really like Earshot and I have to agree that the inner thoughts reveal a lot about the characters.
The way I see it, if they're not going to start at episode one, they can find their own way.

There's arguments for showing only certain episodes of early seasons (I certainly did that with the X-Files), but things like Buffy and Angel they build and jumping in at Hush won't give them an appreciation for the show or the episode.
This is a neat coincidence. It so happens Earshot was my gateway episode. And obviously, it worked on me!
I agree-- "Earshot" has always been one of my favorites and it has a great mixture of the comedy, drama and amazing writing that yanks you in. "Lie to Me" actually was my gateway episode... I remember my grandma calling me in, raving "You've gotta see this show!" (She had excellent taste, my Grammy!)
@WhatsAStevedore I would argue the "anticlimactic reveal" captures the essence of Buffy even more! It shows that yes, there are monsters and evil and that can be fun and exciting, but this show is really more about the people. Like with Fear, Me. They're fighting something external, but really that's an easier battle than the ones they fight against their "inner demons."
My first episode of Buffy was "Hush." There must have been a PR push for that particular episode, because a plug somewhere featuring a photo of the Gentlemen caught my eye and prompted me to watch for the first time. (That, and the Sarah Michelle Gellar/Buffy "Got Milk" print ad a friend proudly displayed on his refrigerator door.) Hooked immediately and permanently. As for a gateway episode, I always tell people that they simply must start with episode one. And if not S1E1, then "Hush," but only because that's my own starting reference point.
Well, my friends' strategy when trying to get me hooked on Buffy was to invite me to sleepover and not let me go home until we'd watched the first 1 1/2 seasons. I remember there being a lot of Ben and Jerry's--ice cream helps when trying to get through some of those earlier episodes.
The episode that hooked me was Fear Itself. I don't believe that there is one perfect gateway episode. For some it may be an episode with more action, others humor, and others more drama and story arc. I personally plan on using the Clockwork Orange method on the next person, strapping them to a chair forcing them to watch every episode so I have another new person to discuss the show with.
I said it before, but "Prophecy Girl" is my own personal gateway episode. It doesn't require too much backstory; it has humor, heartbreak, sacrifice and butt-kicking; and if you are unmoved by Buffy's "I'm 16 years old, I don't wanna die" speech, then you are not destined to be a fan.
It really depends on what you're trying to sell the person on. For comedy, I'd show them Angel's "Smile Time." For something artsy and creative, Buffy's "Hush." For something dramatic and true to real life in the way that The Wire and Friday Night Lights always felt real, Buffy's "The Body." For something with real emotional punch, Angel's "Five by Five." For action, you could go with any number of episodes. Buffy and Angel featured some of the best martial arts action and stunts of any show on TV at the time.

The great thing about both shows is that they captured so many different moods, settings, atmospheres, genres, and styles. It's one of the reasons they still rank among my favorite shows ever. They captured every possible thing I could want in a television program.
I started with OMWF too, followed shortly thereafter by "Pangs" and "Fool for Love." (My friend across the hall freshman year had an eclectic videotape...) And yeah, the spoilers did bother me a little. On the other hand, I was convinced of the show's greatness early on...

"The Pack" is a pretty good idea, too.
I was just having this discussion with my daughter the other day. Earshot seems like a good choice if you're trying to give someone a sort of representative impression of BTVS. I wouldn't think of starting with OMWF, because for me the true brilliance of that episode is how much it moves the arc along -- how essential it is -- when on the surface it's a "gimmick" episode. And "Hush" I'm afraid would set the bar too high -- I mean, it's certainly not typical. I've only introduced one person to BTVS, and we started with the pilot followed by Prophecy Girl.

Of course, I'm talking about introducing someone who I know is happy to marathon TV shows. Otherwise one of the "special" episodes might be good...

Wow, I really feel like watching Buffy now.
I've used Lie to Me to hook a lot of people. I don't know why it works, but it does.
I think Earshot isn't as effective because it's too late in the series, and hearing everyone's thoughts isn't as meaningful when you don't know the characters.
Hush and OMWF are too gimmicky. In a good way, but not for a first episode.
Me, I got hooked with the movie. :)
I've gotten a few folks into Buffy; I have to start at the beginning (like The Big Bang's Leonard) and I watch it with them. I don't oversell, I just tell 'em there's a reason this book freak got into Buffy in her 40's, and then I feed them while we watch.

It's been effective so far.
"Fool for Love" is how I usually get friends hooked. You really get a sense that the show is about more than Buffy and has a boundless mythology of rich characters.
I've effectively used Lie to Me as a gateway episode. It's not too spoiler-y, or too back-story dependent, but it does explore character, the process of growing up, and making fun of Twihards before Twilight was even written. If I have the person for 90 minutes I show School Hard then Lie to Me as a one-two punch.
Gateway episode? Ha ha, maybe once I get through: WTF are you watching, it's dumb, it's a show for elementary school kids, have you seen those SFX, are you crazy, nobody's ever gonna watch it... I'm surrounded by idiots
"Earshot" seems like a surprising choice, to me. Yes, the end is heartfelt, but the investigations leading up seemed kinda Scooby-Doo. "Lie to Me," "Fear Itself," or "Surprise/Innocence" (OK, that's two, but they go together!) seem like better gateways. Or "Hush"--it even impresses most idiots.
I like how you think, QuoterGal. Food is always good.

I laughed and laughed (and then squirmed a bit) when Leonard got Penny to watch Buffy.

It was a little too real. Reminded me of how I evangelized Firefly, and how IMPORTANT it was to me.
A good question is, how do you approach it? Do you make fun of the dodgy bits? Bask in the cheese when needed? Talk over episodes about your thoughts and theories? Or is the whole experience some super structured, super important boredomfest wherein Buffy is treated as the best there ever was is and could be and every thing has to be taken very seriously?

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