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August 04 2014

WIRED's summer binge-watching guide to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. You may disagree with the episodes/seasons that you should skip or watch. But then if you're binging, you should probably watch all 144 episodes (you will be a better person for it).

My daughter went for your option recently, Simon. She was not disappointed. Halfway through S1 of Angel and counting...
While I enjoy seeing BtVS love spread whenever possible, I disagree with any recommendation for a TV series binge that advises you to skip episodes. New viewers should experience ALL facets of any series - the superb moments and the not-so-stellar - to fully appreciate the journey and scope of the story. If I missed an episode of any show, I halt my watching until I catch back up. Always.
Skipping episodes seems to be a thing of late. Dunno if it's a result of the streaming revolution.
I don't like "Where the Wild Things Are," but if you skip it, you'll miss Giles singing "Behind Blue Eyes."

And if you skip "Into the Woods," you miss Xander's "deeply in love with you" speech to Anya.

And that would be sad.
I agree that the individual episodes listed here are bottom-dwellers but I wouldn't necessarily skip them and miss part of the story. Except maybe WTWTA.

S1 looks cheesy now but is still valuable for seeing how it all started and some of the callbacks to it towards the end.

While S7 does have it's rough patches and the episodes do tend to blend together I would still watch it.

The trend of skipping/binging is only partially due to the streaming revolution. The 22-episode season for dramas will probably be a thing of the past soon. It killed a lot of momentum SHIELD was trying to build, and they are looking at Agent Carter to fill the gap between episodes. Shows like Supernatural are premiering in October to avoid a couple weeks of hiatus.

Masters of Sex, The Walking Dead, GoT, Orphan Black, Netflix shows, even the lone animated drama Legend of Korra are all within the 10-14 episode range and are popular with both fans and critics for cutting out filler.

In this TV climate people are looking to trim down older shows when they watch them the first time. As beloved as The Zeppo is, I don't know if Joss would be allowed to do something like it today. SHIELD might because it has pull with Marvel and ABC but it wouldn't be so easy if it were unknown like Buffy was in the early years.
Don't skip "The Pack." Even if the hyena-kids get a little annoying, this was the episode that taught Joss vital lessons for the future. Angel going bad? Or Willow, or Wesley? All because Xander was possessed by a hyena...
One of the best things about BtVS is how the show can go from a happy playful moment to hitting you in the gut with a sledgehammer. I'm kind of surprised Wired would spoil a big turning-point moment in such an important episode (The Body) by showing that clip. I know it's a wonderful scene for many reasons but to see that happen before watching a single episode? Wow, I think they made a big mistake.
I'm not wild about this "skippable episodes" trend myself. For one, because I so often see it used in favor of arc-related episodes versus self-contained stories, which is silly. But also because even in the worst episodes of Buffy, you still get pretty reliably great interactions between our main characters. I wouldn't want to miss a moment of those.

Plus, I feel like it contributes to a culture of watching TV as a checklist rather than for enjoyment--people watching Buffy or The Wire because they're supposed to, rather than because they actually enjoy it. Which, if that's your deal, fine, and I've certainly been guilty of it myself (I have to give up on Supernatural, I have to give up on Supernatural) but it does seem a little... joyless.
Yes, you can skip lesser episodes that have no long term impact in the season/overall arc, but then you will be missing small character moments or brilliant lines of dialogue. Take 'I Robot, You Jane' for example, it has that amazing scene at the end with the three main Scoobies.
Not sure why, but I have seen when someone new asks for a show to binge they get suggestions and then people that have seen it almost always instantly offer suggestions on which ones to skip. (Example: it's almost unanimous by fans to suggest newbies skip the bug episode in the first season of Supernatural.)
I'm one of those that thinks you should watch all... but if someone only has time for X amount I don't see the harm if giving them a list of the highs. But for me it becomes difficult for shows like Buffy (or Doctor Who) because I always think of a small thing that makes the episode.
Well, if newbies are not willing to go the whole way, they might as well meet us halfway there and be the better for it.
That is some really stupid advice, some of those episodes are too important to be skipped. ("Into the woods" is a beautiful episode).

The only thing I agree with is about season 1. My advice (depending on the person) is usually to start with "Prophecy girl" and watch the entire season 2. So that you're probably hooked once you've seen "Becoming". You can then go back and watch season 1, which you'll probably enjoy more because of what you've seen.

But that's only a way to get into it, no episode should be skipped otherwise.
Wired did a summer binge-watching guide (presumably no pun intended) for the Sarah Connor Chronicles last month which I found to be quite insightful as welll. You can take or leave the actual recommendations - props to Wired for running such a well-thought-out series of articles.
I'm very much in favor of any recommendation that encourages people to experience this wonderful show, even if it offers options to skip certain episodes. Some people without the patience to sit through the more "optional" episodes might give up on the series altogether without this guidance. And that would be a shame. As long as the end result is more people enjoy Buffy, I'm good.

Or to paraphrase one of the founding Scoobies: "Me like Buffy. People watch more Buffy. Me glad."

[ edited by Squishy on 2014-08-05 02:45 ]
This reinforces my view of American network television in general. "Oh noes, it has SEX in it, be extremely wary of watching."

Sure, Where the Wild Things are is probably not the strongest of episodes, but to skip it just because it has sex? That just seems wrong to me. And In To The Woods, that was a crucial plot development, just because you don't like it, people shouldn't skip it. And as a list of this kind, spoiler much?

All in all, if you want a list of bypassable episodes, make it a proper list. Total of 3 skipped episodes in 5 seasons just seems pointless.

I kind of agree on the season 1 skipping, go with the two-part opening and the finale. On later watchings, the episodes in season 1 are still (mostly) awesome, but I guess they're not that great for making you invest in the characters when watching the first time.
Season 7 is anything but "anti-climactic." I understand someone not liking it, but that's just a downright lie.
It's unfortunate advice, agreed, better to suggest there are some lesser episodes but that every episode has moments of value. For Babylon 5, JMS & fans provided a must-watch list, providing an alternative, shorter, way to view the series.

On the bright side, once a newcomer has Buffy binged following this advice, they will then still have a whole season to watch when they do eventually find out season 7 is not universally panned.
Everybody has their own "least favorite" and "most favorite" episodes, so I don't really like this kind of list. However, my real issue with it is that it is one long spoiler, and that really ticks me off. And to use the word "spoiler" once in the whole article, at the very end of an especially spoiler-y paragraph? Gr Argh.
I love I Robot You Jane! Its the most 90's rific episode of the show!
I actually just finished re-watching all of the episodes. And now I'm halfway through S1 of Angel like MrArg. However, my original Buffy run started with Innocence, when the air date changed. Now I don't skip episodes, but I may not focus as much on particular episodes. For instance, The Body I watch like I'm about to write an exam on it, but some others may become background entertainment.

And JCS is right, you have to watch WtWTA just for Giles singing.
YES! Hearing Giles sing is always a huge treat. Although .... I got Tony Head's "Music for Elevators" CD, and that type of music isn't to my personal taste, which made me sad. But there's always the OMwF CD to make up for it.

I once re-watched all of Buffy & Angel, chronologically, so that I could see the effects that each show had on the other. That was pretty neat.
Who skips "Into the Woods"? It's basically the polar opposite of "The Prom," with Buffy having a totally closed off attitude to Riley; it's fascinating character development.

Xander's transformation definitely sticks out to me. Most fans say he lost his spark toward the end of the series. I disagree. He was a jealous, unaware kid in the beginning (S1-S3). S4 humbled him, making him a better friend and contributing factor to the group dynamic; everyone could come to him for advice.

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