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October 10 2013

In a streaming world, it's harder to recommend "Buffy" to friends. Inkoo Kang of Film School Rejects explains her position on why it's harder to recommend "Buffy" to newbies in a world where everything is on-demand.

How did people cope years ago when all they had was access to DVD boxsets of heavily serialized shows? How did they find the time to watch so many episodes? Oh wait they did. And you know what? So will people who have access to on-demand shows these days.
It's funny how she says "the bigger pictures that make [Buffy] so wonderful are hardly visible in most episodes", but still calls AoS mediocre after 3 episodes.

[ edited by Ragondux on 2013-10-10 11:39 ]
I don't understand. If anything, the ability to stream shows like Buffy has only made binge-watching over a weekend much easier, which also serves to highlight the larger story arcs. It only helps to bring out most of the best features of the show.
I think she is really saying that to do justice to Buffy, you need to watch it in order and see every episode. And that is hard to do when there are 144 episodes. (which somehow got translated into "108 hours" though I am not sure where that came from. It is the filler that bothers her. I suppose one could say that not every episode reaches the heights. But I do recommend to everyone I know, regularly, that they watch the show, from the beginning- but I also tell them it does not really get good until Season 2. Stick in there.
Huh. I came to Buffy via Netflix long after its run had ended, and honestly after watching first episode I went on to something else. Came back intrigued to discover just what the fuss was about. Watched about three episodes and wandered away again. Third time was the charm and once that story train got rolling it was highly enjoyable binge time ...

That wouldn't be possible without Netflix or their peers. I wouldn't have invested in a box set sight unseen.

I'm curious what shows she believes are "filler free", outside of Scandal which she seems to recommend primarily because it's not too late to easily catch up
Buffy was kind of the in-between form of the show with contained episodes and today's cable shows which are one long story. A remarkable leap at the time, but for new viewers it might come across as neither fish nor fowl. People get recommended a show with a great ongoing story, but find (or think they find) a monster-of-the-week and might simply not get it.
I get the feeling that Buffy is still doing fairly well for itself in terms of attracting new viewers.
Maybe it's that I'm just blinded by nostalgia, but this article feels a bit like trolling. Buffy is not a perfect show from beginning to end, but in spite of it's flaws I feel every episode (even what the author calls Monster of Week filler) has purpose and incredible re-watch value. I see and learn something new with every viewing.

If the argument for not getting new people to watch is that there are too many great TV shows to catch up on, then I'll buy it. If they are saying no one will watch because it's too much content and not enough quality, well then I'm just going to have to disagree.
I can definitely see where this is coming from and I think Niels van Eekelen got it right. http://whedonesque.com/comments/32000#469693 . Buffy isn't as formulaic as what came before but it's not as clearly storydriven as today's hipper shows (Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Mad Men).

Once you've become a hardcore fan of the show, it is much easier to enjoy "Go Fish" or "Beer Bad" during repeat viewings. Because you're hanging with characters you are fond of.

I am having the same issue with Star Trek TNG. I hear that it is a great series but the pure amount of skippable episodes (bad and with no impact on the overall arch) can be a bit offputting.

How this is related to streaming videos I dont quite get though...
Buffy came out at the best and worst time, really.

It's held back, now, compared to some truly stellar television that we might not have seen without it I (the only reason that is not a definite statement is because the X-Files came first), and it could really benefit from the 10 - 15 episode seasons that seem to be the 'cable standard', rather than 22. It seems bloated, outdated and a chore. I can totally get behind that viewpoint. There is a shit ton of good--no, amazing television out there, and unfortunately it will be harder and harder to recommend a back log. I've already made peace with the fact that I will never watch a bunch of acclaimed shows, because I don't want to/can't put in the time/hype aversion. And Buffy is 101-odd hours long. That is a lot of time for a show that takes a season to get really good, is very obviously cheap looking, outdated, and has been (and it kills me to say this) bettered.

But if it didn't come out when it did, I don't think it ever would have and the TV landscape would be all the worse for it.
"A legacy-less fate"? This can't possibly be applied to Buffy can it? That aside, I'd agree with her that it's hard to recommend Buffy to friends. I noticed that when during my whole time studying I only managed to get one friend to watch Buffy, and it took a year of persuasion. Then after our final exams I made an off-the-cuff remark about watching Firefly and as easily as that all my housemates were interested.

I think it's more to do with things like the title (even after all this time!) and Season One's slow start than the streaming culture. Although the one thing I can imagine streaming does is encourage people to quit after one or two episodes, whereas if they've rented or bought a box-set they might be more willing to watch everything they've got.

Oh, and I don't see the monsters-of-the-week as filler. I always saw Buffy's purpose as the combination of standalones and arcs, with one always serving to flesh out the other. To me its episodes seem a lot less like filler than the completely serialised shows which drag out their plots forever.
@Dana5140, It looks like the author was calculating every episode as 45 minutes (removing commercials). 108 hours is probably a decent estimate.

As for its structure, very few shows have balanced the MOtW and serialized story arcs as well as Buffy. Having the MOtW ensured immediate gratification and some story resolution (may have helped it in ratings initially), while the serialized arcs are obviously what kept us all around for the long haul. The only show I can think of that did this recently is Fringe. I'm hoping AoS continues down this road. If it does, I think we'll have another fun Whedon ride on our hands.
Time passes, older shows feel dated, fewer people want to go back when there are so many great new shows...seems kind of obvious.
But I know a couple of 20-year-olds that are first-time binge-watching BTVS (and Angel) on Netflix right now. The show's got plenty of life in it.
SuperScuba- I just had that epiphany. :-)

Consider Buffy like a comic. There are lots of comic books I would like to read, but the thought of needing to read the first 200 or so to understand where the comic is now, puts me off ever reading the comic to begin with. When a show ends, with 144 episodes, a newby could not enjoy as much just jumping in with any given episode, not as much as knowing the characters and their growth. Or so I believe.
I agree tallmichael. I also tried to start Buffy on netflix long after its run and the first several episodes are very hard to get into
I think this line's mostly filler...
It's funny, I'm currently doing a rewatch with a friend who's never seen it before. I started off apologizing in advance for how long it takes for the show to get good, almost recommending we skip the majority of the first season, but she demanded we watch it all. She's enjoyed the hell out of it from the first episode to where we are now (beginning of season 3).

There's a LOT of bloat. But I forgot that even some of the silliest episodes still have a lot of great character bits that keep the show consistently enjoyable, and what I think works for Buffy that a lot of the more serialized shows of today haven't adopted is the effortless shifting of tone.

I love Breaking Bad. Amazing show. And despite the dourness of it all it still has moments of levity here or there. But all of these shows (even the best of them) today still feel a little TOO consistent in tone. You'll never have a screwball comedy episode followed by straight up psychological horror followed by an epic adventure.

Joss seemed to let Buffy (and to different extents his other shows) breath, and not be the same experience week to week. I guess what I'm saying is while I like the leaner direction of good TV these days, the all killer no filler approach, I think Buffy, with it's sheer amount of episodes to play with brought something to the table that we're no longer getting. That variety.
At the end of the day, there's plenty of good storytelling on TV now, but I think there are more people who are still saying to Joss "thank you thank you Buffy changed my life!" than there are people saying that about any other show.
I think "Anne" would be a good starting point for many people.
Wouldn't it be better if people see one season at a time every weekend. Consider it extra-large serials, like the ones our grandparents saw a zillion years ago.
As for "Anne" being a good starting point for Buffy newbies, that's interesting. The start of season three is Buffy more determined to deny her destiny, except destiny, rather than Giles, reminded her she's the Slayer...and her mom loved her.

I wonder if Dollhouse and Firefly are more popular choices for binge-watching because there are fewer episodes.
Bel-Rand : Probably just the over-all change of times. At one time, if you wnated to get anything consistent out of TV, you had to committ to watching certaint hings at certain times. This became a habit for people and the producers turned out product to fit that paradigm. Since the paradigm has broken down, content designed for older forms of delivery suffers.

Compare to vaudeville. People who wanted to be professionally entertained at all had to go to the local variety theatres. Sometimes you'd see Al Jolson or George Burns, sometimes Colonel Bill and His Untrained Pigeons. And all three acts amde a living. When movies and radio came out, you could see Jolson anytime during the week or more his movie ran at your local moviehouse, and hear Burns just by turning on your home crystal set on schedule every week. And Colonel Bill had to leave show biz and become a butcher.
DaddyCatALSO: You make a compelling point. Perhaps, then, the best way to introduce people to Buffy is not to send them over to binge-watch on Netflix, but to structure viewing around a programming schedule along the lines of Mark Watches or Nikki Stafford's Great Buffy Rewatch.

I used this method to introduce some friends to Firefly and then Dollhouse a couple years back. We gathered once a week to watch one (sometimes two) episodes. It's too bad I'm not still living in the same area so as to do the same with Buffy.

I'm interested to see whether this emerging paradigm has any effect on the way that S.H.I.E.L.D is structured.
BtVS is certainly a beast in terms of size, but there are some advantages to it. The real-time aging of the characters means that while they're all recognizable at the end, the distance in maturity and experience is stunning. I seriously get metaphorical vertigo when I consider how much ground the show covers.

That said, I've long felt that shorter seasons do have some advantages. BtVS definitely has filler, and though the show was smart enough to see it and use it as much as possible, I have to agree that season-by-season, more recent shows are definitely more tightly written. (When you consider episode-by-episode, a lot of BtVS eps can hold their heads high for tightness of writing.)

If time is the only criterion for judging BtVS, though, someone's judgment is skewed.
Bishop: Nikki did a Rewatch?!? Dang, wish I'd known. I did Mark Watches (BtVS, Angel, & Dollhouse) and we're up to "Empty Places" in our rewatch at the Beta.
I didn't get into Buffy until years after it was off the air and first watched it at the age of 32. My verdict: I love it and envy every single soul that is about to watch it for the first time. Before I got the season 6 I knew that it was the best show I had ever watched and the one I would compare every subsequent one to. Before BtVS if you asked me what my favorite show was I would probably struggle to give you an answer, but since Buffy is Buffy bar none.

What's not to like:
1) The way characters speak is almost music.
2) Almost all characters are likeable. Of the original cast I love them all: Willow, Buffy, Xander, Giles, Cordelia. Plus, the got development, thing actually stuck. When Buffy died they didn't forget about it in two episodes, it was a big deal, as it should have been.
3) The emotion and the pain Joss brought.
4) The story arcs.
5) The special episodes.
6) Even the filler episodes can be greatly enjoyed on rewatch for their little character moments (Willow interrogating Jonathan in Go Fish, anyone?)

But thus far I have only convinced my kid sister to watch it (she loved it by the way and her favorite character is Spike), but most people think I'm joking when I tell them I love the show (on their defense, I tend to joke a lot with a poker face, so...)

Anyway, those are my two cents...
I've been introducing a twenty-something friend to Buffy on the basis of a binge day every Thursday. I skipped six episodes of S1, 3 of S2, and I don't think it's going to be possible to skip many more. She is totally hooked.(Now up to "Homecoming", so lots of the best stuff to come.)
I loved Buffy's approach of mixing single-episode stories (what actually hooked me was "The Witch" with its plot twist and its morality-tale-behind-a-conventional-trope) with longer arcs. I also loved its shifts in tone from episode to episode, from scene to scene, even from line to line. I loved how when I sat down to watch an episode, I had no idea what I was going to see.
Yeah, much as I'm enjoying the increased serialization of TV, Buffy really is the perfect medium for me. I don't wanna watch one story for seven years, or even for one year. I'm sitting down to watch an episode, give me something complete that I can latch onto.

Buffy season 3 is tops in terms of that mix of serial and episodic. Some other seasons of TV that compare in that regard would be Angel 5, Veronica Mars 1, and... I'm not sure, maybe season 2 of Supernatural or something?
What Chuckburied said.

I can recognize the technical quality and even superiority of so many of today's top drawer shows compared to Buffy. But nothing has the range and heart that Buffy does. Nope.
I think it's actually easier to get people involved. Sure, Netflix offers a lot and so you can get distracted and stop watching, but it's only about $8 a month and you can stop any time. That beats buying individual episodes, not knowing which ones are better, or finding someone who has the set.

If I wanted to hook someone onto Buffy, I would:

a) get them a gift subscription to Netflix if they didn't already have it
b) tell them very honestly which episodes were skippable. Like Bel-Rand said, it's easier to like those episodes after the fact because you like the characters.
c) I would also not watch with them. I don't take it personally that some people just don't like Buffy, or can't get into it, or whatever. But I'd like for them to like it or not like it without me there because then there's no pressure. A casual "hey, I think you'd like it" is enough. I don't take it personally. But I totally reserve the right to say "I told you so" when they insist they won't like it, find out they do like it, and get hooked.

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