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Whedonesque - a community weblog about Joss Whedon
"I may be love's bitch, but at least I'm man enough to admit it."
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August 11 2013

Autostraddle reviews Buffy. A review of the show after a marathon watching episode. Interesting if not all I agree with.

I'd say the author escaped many things. "Buffy" a "slow starter"? Even if someone doesn't like the pilot, season one contains remarkable episodes like "The Witch", "The Pack", the pivotal "Angel", "Nightmares", "Out of sight, out of mind" and the great and also pivotal "Prophecy Girl". I wouldn't hold the small budget FX against the excellent writing.
No, pretty much how I viewed Buffy on the first watch. I didn't watch until the end of the second season. I found it interesting so I watched the third season as well. It was during the fourth season when it finally clicked in my head what Buffy was about and I was hooked for life.

The fascinating thing about BtVS is it never strikes people in the same way. It's always different. And, I've found the same is true with repeated viewings, you always catch something different than you did before. To this day, I think the best explanation of Buffy is the layers of an onion. As you keep peeling back the layers, you continue to see things differently.
I think Joss said that. Anyhoo, it's such a wonderful story and one I hold close to my heart.
I'm amused by how the author recognizes all the characters from other works. For me, it's the opposite. Someone could have had the teensiest bit role in Buffy and I'll always, always know them as their Buffy character first. Once, I saw Kathy Demon Roomate in a high-fructose corn syrup commercial and totally freaked out over how the actress was in this one episode of Buffy one time (much to the dismay of everyone else in the room, who WEREN'T huge Buffy fans, and who were trying to study the persuasive tactics being used in the commercial free from shrieking fan disruption....).

In case you haven't seen it, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EMtlIdswQwQ.

Always interesting to hear how others interpret The Best Show Ever :)
Wow! She did a "pro" high-fructose corn syrup ad!? She IS a demon...

By the way, it seems quite the common, accepted narrative that the first season of Buffy is barely tolerable, etc. People are entitled to their [dubious] opinions, of course, but I think the first season is very well written, creative, funny, and, because of its lower budget and somewhat simpler aspirations [focuses primarily on high school experience], has a unique flavor all of its own. It is the Buffy from which all the other Buffy seasons sprung. Ground Zero, so to speak. The template. The Core. The characterizations of Buffy/Willow/Xander/Cordelia are all totally on-point and I love to see their early manifestations. The characterization of Giles is still a bit proto-typey in that he's really quite stuffy and lacks the gravitas which Head will later come to infuse the character, but that's a small complaint. It's got the Willow loves Xander, Xander loves Buffy, Buffy loves Angel thing goin' on, which is great. Many of the episodes are wearing their metaphors on their sleeves, which I really like. Sure, Buffy's first season is somewhat different than the later seasons in tone and complexity, but I'm pretty baffled by folks who are fans of the show but don't love our kids when they were young uber-dorks and they were really just trying to survive high school.
Good points, DocBenway, I'd just add that in the earlier episodes Giles doesn't have the same gravitas because he hasn't grown as much. By the time he's survived his second or third apocalypse, the character is rather stronger, and Head played that growth just fine.

Season One is... well, it's got some grand moments. It really does grow on me. But it ain't Season Two. Or Three. Or Six. Still, good stuff in there. The reviewer herself points out that she'd probably like it a lot more if she rewatched it now; and she did go in looking for something specific, which explains why it probably felt slow to her -- she was looking for something that wasn't there until S4, and as such probably missed a lot of what was already there.

All in all, good review. And I love that the show is still picking up fans a decade after it went off the air.
Its not as good as when it hit stride full cylinder onion bars layers, but season one is not bad or intolerable at all.
Season one is completely enjoyable, but not addicting the way season's 4 and on were.
I've just started a season one re-watch and though I am enjoying it it's a bit jarring because the characters are so different. Some of them. Giles, as mentioned already, and Angel, so unlikable in the first couple of episodes. Smarmy, snarkng and "I'm afraid" to go down and help her in the master's lair? That's not the Angel of later seasons.
Even Willow, though cute and sweet is a bit of a caricature of a nerdy girl.
Xander is not that different though.
I have to say that I don't think I would have loved Buffy like I came to if the only seasons that existed were the first 3. Like this reviewer, I loved the later seasons first, then came to love the earlier seasons later (she did say that she imagines she'd enjoy the earlier seasons more if she were to go back and rewatch them now).

One little nitpick from early in her piece: She says, "Buffy was popular in the pre-internet-ubiquity age which means online recaps of Buffy were generally written a few years after the show stopped airing." Actually Buffy was huge on the Internet when it was on television, and there were many reviewers/recappers back then, but sadly most of those old sites are defunct now. I remember back when Whedonesque was one of the newer Buffy/Whedon-related sites on the Internet, coming along towards the end of the show's run, and now it's one of the only ones left from back in those days. I still feel sad sometimes that a lot of my favorites from back then are now gone.
I've been a fan and follower of all things BtVS since the fall of '97. This is the first time I've seen it called "the seminal lesbian feminist classic."
CaptainB: The show always had a strong following in the GLBTQ community (I recall a newspaper article on "Buffy nights" being held at various gay bars.) Thing is, Willow and Tara were in so many ways a watershed couple, and even Willow and Kennedy represented a break with tradition, so the show has acquired certain "category reference designators" over the years.

Mare DocBenway: I've heard Dagney Kerr has been seen on a number of commercials lately, plus she's also made some inspirational films. (Second-hand, haven't noticed her myself; I did notice Miracle and maybe Iyari in car commercials.)

forcorreo: So much depends on timing. I started watching shortly after my daughter did, but she lost interest towards the end of S-4 and my ex doesn't watch genre so I had a break, but was really anxious to get back to it once my marriage broke up.
Thing is, if I hadn't been watching it before, I still would've tried it at that point, but I wouldn't've already loved the characters the way I did.
The other aspect was, watching Willow and Tara, and also Xander and Anya in the wake of my own heartbreak led to my really identifying with the interactions of these folks. and that would've been different at any other phase of my life.
Everybody's experience is different, which is exactly the point with any show, musical act, etc. What is it giving you when you encounter it, and why?
It's interesting how a lot of people who came to the later seasons first like those ones better -- really shows how powerful your first exposure to something can be.

As someone who watched from the beginning, my view has always been that the show started good, got great when Angel turned (mid season 2), and sustained that greatness through the end of season 3. That season and a half is probably my favorite season and a half of television ever. I initially hated season 4 but have come to like a lot of it. I've never really warmed to the last three seasons, though I'm glad they happened as they contain many of my favorite stand alone episodes, specifically the more experimental ones (The Body, Restless, Hush, Conversations With Dead People, Selfless).

I've also heard several people who've never seen the show before and have marathoned the whole thing (much like this critic) say it only started to get really good around seasons 4/5, which seems like madness to me. I wonder if some of that is down to age? When I watched those early seasons, I was in high school, just a year behind Buffy. Whereas I'd imagine a lot of the bloggers who are watching the show now are closer to Buffy's post-collegiate age, and might therefore find the later seasons more resonant? I also wonder if production values play a part. The first season especially is marred by cheesy effects and a general cheap look... and the outfits remain very dated and 90s till about season 4. Maybe that has an effect on people too.
"The first season especially is marred by cheesy effects and a general cheap look... and the outfits remain very dated and 90s till about season 4. Maybe that has an effect on people too."

That is like saying telling a Classic era Doctor Who fan that the series was "marred" by cheesy special effects and a general cheap look...THAT IS PART OF THE APPEAL FOR SOME PEOPLE!! I LOVE that they had one hallway the first season. Love. And I uber-dig the 90s aspects of the early seasons. I think the entire series is informed by a generally 90's attitude or a kind of Gen-X hangover sensibility, and that is an elements I find appeals to those with particularly refined palates.

I agree with everything else you wrote, however. Interesting.

[ edited by DocBenway on 2013-08-14 02:19 ]
Mr Reddygirl has been out of town for a couple of weeks and I just completed watching the entire show again.

I started watching from the very beginning and was 33 then. I'm not sure I would say the later years are better but I do think they are richer and deeper and that's how it should be with a classic TV show.

We hear a lot these days about the new Golden Age of Television and BtVS definitely belongs in that canon, one reason being is that the show evolved as it went along.
It's not that I saw the later seasons first - I had seen the earlier seasons, and I enjoyed them. But I didn't really get hooked until Season 5. And Season 6 deepened my love. Once I was hooked, I was able to go back to the earlier seasons and learn to love them as much as the later ones. But without being a part of a greater whole, the earlier seasons were just entertaining television to me. They seemed to have so much more weight and resonance when I could see how deeply committed to character and theme the show's writers were. (I was just out of high school at the time for what it's worth. I saw the earlier seasons in reruns on FX.)

And yes Reddygirl - BtVS absolutely is there at the beginning of the 'Golden Age of Television,' and I'll admit I always feel a little miffed anytime I see it left out of the discussion. A lot of the creators of the shows in the discussion were influenced by two shows: The Sopranos and Buffy, but more often than not, the Sopranos are mentioned alone. Sigh.
I also watched it from the very beginning. I would say it was even my favorite show, I never missed it.
But starting in season 5, not only did I never miss it, I also taped it, and usually watched it more than once before the next episode.
By season six I was talking about it online, although I guess not in the more well-known places. Voyforums was the only one I found. I was a computer newbie with extremely slow dial-up. Anything with pics was out of the question. And here I am, 10 years after it's ended. I watch a snippet every night as I am winding down to go to sleep, and another when I get ready for work in the morning.

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