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April 24 2017

Joss Whedon shows ranked. I'm sure opinions will vary.

In this case my opinion is one of the ones that isn't varying. This is how I'd rank 'em too.
Of course, even #5 of 5 is in my Top 20 all-time TV shows.
What I'd change about the rankings is that I'd actually put Angel last. The last two seasons messed up way too much.

The write-ups for Agents of SHIELD and Dollhouse suck really hard and make it seem like the author has never even seen the shows. Couldn't they have written anything about them that's not about the ratings?
JW had thought about Buffy and Firefly for a while before he got down to making them. Agents and Dollhouse were quicker from thought to deed.
To me, it always feels weird comparing a 1 season show like Firefly to a 7 season show like Buffy. I guess I can understand a bit more with Serenity thrown in the mix, but still. Also, AoS is barely a 'Joss' show in the strictest sense.
I still refuse to call AoS a "Joss Whedon show".
Apart from that...

5. "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." - A distant fifth place. I like it (most of the time), but I don't consider it to be anything more than decent.

4. "Dollhouse" - I've only seen it once, a couple of years ago. I'm sure some of its logic can be debated, however I care more about how entertaining it was (after the first couple of episodes). Probably the most story-driven of these shows - an aspect, the other ones seldom managed to master.

3. "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" - Once my favourite show, but not without its flaws. As much as I enjoyed the major themes of Season 6, it sometimes lacked in execution, while Season 7's 'Potential'-storyline was a wasted effort. Those girls stole valuable airtime from the important characters, while never gaining any importance themselves. I also still hate that 'Let's kick Buffy out of her own house'-angle, they did. Maybe (not really, too much greatness followed) the show should've ended after Season 5.

2. "Firefly" - This one shares the spot as one of my most favourite shows, with the relationship between Simon and River being one of my favourites in all of fiction. Then again it didn't even get a whole season, so I can't put it any higher up than this. Putting it above "Buffy" is ridiculous enough.
1. "Angel" - From start to finish one of the best shows I've
ever seen. "Babylon 5" comes to mind. Maybe "Doctor Who", should it ever end. "One Piece", of course, but that's something completely different (and also not yet finished). Other than that, I'd have to think. There's some stuff outside of the phantasy genre, like "The Wire" or "Friends".
Anyway... "Buffy" always had the more legendary, remarkable episodes, like "Restless" or "The Body", but to me "Angel" had more interesting storylines and especially less flaws. While "Buffy" was HIT or miss, "Angel" was HIT or hit.
1. Buffy / Firefly (tie)
3. Angel
4. Dollhouse

SHIELD is not a Joss show.

Off-topic: I'm watching Angel for the first time. Is there any place that has episode reviews / discussions without spoilers for the following episodes?

[ edited by Ricardo L. on 2017-04-24 19:33 ]
I'd say there's a sliding scale of how much of a "Joss show" each of these is. On top, there's Firefly, where Joss was most involved all the way through (helped by the fact that it lasted just one season) and Buffy (where, even during the aeasons he was somewhat less involved due to other obligations, he was still more involved than most people think and was still giving notes, rewriting stuff etc )

Then there's Dollhouse, where the basic idea was very much his and he was involved for a while but then seems to have mostly left it to Jed and Mo to run; Angel, which I think of more as a David Greenwalt and Tim Minear show (depending on the season - those two have very different creative views) until Joss took more control in season 5; and at the bottom, where he participated in casting, creating characters and devising the overall season 1 storyline and co-wrote the pilot, but then left it completely to Jed and Mo.
Ricardo L. -- The AV Club reviews covered Buffy and Angel starting in season 4 of Buffy, lining the episodes up more or less with how they would've been shown when initially broadcast.
I would swap Shield & Dollhouse. I like AoS, but it definitely does not have that Joss feeling...
Buffy will always be first for me, but as a whole series I'd give Dollhouse second place, though it's an unpopular opinion. I'm sure Firefly would have outranked it if they'd made it to the end of a season. Then there's Angel, which has some amazing highs but I also find pretty inconsistent. I like AoS, but it's not on the same level.

Ricardo L., there's a review blog called Mark Watches that did Angel a few years back. The whole idea is that every episode is reviewed and discussed in-depth without any spoilers. The discussion is really carefully moderated to hide them.
I was wondering how far we'd get before the AoS isn't a Joss show stuff started.
@Grack21: Hopefully I've made it more interesting by questioning how much the others (other than Buffy and Firefly) are Joss' shows!

Yeah, I actually wouldn't consider Angel Joss's show (let the controversy begin!) as much as Greenwalt's and Minear's. And I also think it was by far its best when it was Minear's show.

@Sahjhan: "While "Buffy" was HIT or miss, "Angel" was HIT or hit."

I would say the exact opposite. Buffy had far less flaws and was HIT or hit, while Angel was hit or miss - and increasingly more miss than hit after season 2.
I don't consider AoS a Joss show.
@Candace: AoS doesn't have the Joss feeling, but neither does Dollhouse. I love them both and would rank them above AtS overall personally (much as I love AtS season 2, parts of season 3 and some episodes of seasons 1, 4 and 5) but you won't find much Jossian dialogue in either. Actually AtS is also barely Jossian except for his episodes, which are few and far in between.
Yeah pretty much with @TimeTravellingBunny here. Just because Joss didn;t write and direct every Ep doesn't make it not a Joss show. I know for at LEAST Season 1 he read the script for every episode. I think there is a tendenecy for people who don't like something to pretend people they like didn't actually have anything to do with it.

And to start some controversy, I absolute loath Season 3 of AtS to the point where I would rank it on the bottom of this list because of it.

[ edited by Grack21 on 2017-04-25 00:19 ]
AoS is not really a Joss Whedon show. It's not about the "Joss feeling" or even quality. It's about his involvement. Joss said so himself. AoS is Jed and Maurissa's show.

Joss only wrote and directed the pilot and then handed the reigns over to Jed and Maurissa. He was never a showrunner.

@sumogrip, thanks!

[ edited by Ricardo L. on 2017-04-25 00:49 ]
*rolls eyes*
Well, AoS is horrendous so for his sake I hope it's not "Joss Show" otherwise it just proves that his best days are well and truly behind him. It's not even just a bad show in comparison to Joss' other shows, it's just a bad show, period.

Whedon's best work will always be BtVS. It was by far his most successful series and it appealed not only to nerd fandom but mainstream TV viewers as well. It was legitimately a hit TV series in a way none of his other shows ever have been and I think that's the key to it's success. It didn't just appeal to academics, or obsessive nerds, but to everyday teenagers/young adults as well. It's stars were in teen magazines, iconic teen movies, commercials etc and it truly became a part of pop culture. None of his other shows have ever really done that and shows like DH become so niche that they're never going to take hold of the public's imagination or have the staying power the way BtVS did.

We just had BtVS' big 20th Anniversary celebration and it was covered everywhere from fansites to E News. Let's face it, nobody is going to be holding a 20th Anniversary for DH or AoS. They'll be long forgotten by then.
I'm not sure how I'd rank the others, but Angel will always be #1 for me. Always.

I've been rewatching it recently and Julie Benz's perfomanaces as Darla are just beyond words. And the transformation of Alexis Denisof's Wesley through the seasons is just a joy to behold. Absolutely flawless storytelling, with performances to match. It somehow regularly reaches an intensity that all the other shows only fleetingly meet.

But having said that, they're all good series in their own ways. And easily a cut above so many of the genres shows of today.
That's funny, I consider AoS one of the only good shows on TV at the moment.
Yep. AoS has ranged from "shaky" to "excellent." The current season is by far the best, IMO, and until Game of Thrones comes back on it's my favorite show on TV right now.
From an execution standpoint, I'd say Firefly comes at the top of the list. And it's not even my favorite Joss show. It just came out the gate, confident and swinging hard. Also, I think the small number of episodes aids to it's perfection.

Right now it's perfect as it stands.

Buffy, on the other hand, took a season and a half to find it's footing. It was always good but it wasn't until the second part of the sophomore season that it became great. Then season five happened and just blew everything else out of the water.
@vampmogs: How much of AoS have you actually seen?
I find it odd that Joss could create a show and read every script for at least two seasons, plus you know, directing the pilot and casting all the roles, but it's not a Joss show because...reasons.
@Grack21- I'd say that AoS started out as a Joss show, but his lack of direct involvement in the later seasons means it is abit like a step-child or cousin to the other shows.
With every other show he has at least one writing credit in each season (in Angel S2 he still has a story by credit on two episodes, although he didn't write any episodes)- and with the exception of Angel S2 he has at least one directing credit in each season of those shows.

With AoS his last credited work as a writer or director is the pilot- that's not to say he hasn't contributed to the show, but per what he has said himself at this point it has changed so much from their original pitch and storylines that he is reluctant to get involved with it and is happy to let Jed and Mo be the primary creative voices of the show.

And the creative voice part is probably key to why people consider something a Joss show or not- while shows like Angel went through seasons where he was less involved, there'd be other seasons where'd he be more heavily involved and it always felt like even if he wasn't the primary creative voice of a given season, he was still contributing to the overall vision of the season and arc of the show.

It's kinda like J.J. Abrams with Fringe and Lost- he was very involved with the first seasons of both shows, but was then happy to let his co-creators take over the shows for the remainder of their runs and let them take the show in their own direction without his input.
Compared to a show like Alias where he was the dominant creative voice for most of the show.
@Grack21, Andrew Crossett: In my experience, most people who claim that AoS is bad and dismiss it outright turn out to be those who stopped watching early in season 1. "I gave up after 5 episodes, but I can still tell you how it sucks..."

It reflects the change in the TV audience mentality over the last decade or so. The abundance of TV shows and ways to watch them on one's own terms seems to have led to audience impatience with new shows. You could also see that with the reactions to Dollhouse, and the way people dismiss it on the basis of its first few episodes. People now expect every show to spring fully formed and perfect right at the start, like Athena from Zeus' head, and if it doesn't, it sucks forever. It's a far cry from the time when BtVS and AtS were allowed to slowly find their footing over the course of their first seasons. Not to mention the time when Star Trek: The Next Generation was able to have the entire season 1 and most of season 2 that was absolutely terrible, not weak or shaky or mediocre but really awful, and still go on to become one of the most popular and renowned SciFi shows of all time.

On the flip side, some currently popular shows have turned to absolute shit in their later seasons, but few people are willing to admit that, and they remain popular and praised. (I'm not gonna mention any names because that would stir up some more controversy, and none of them has anything to do with Whedon.) That's another difference from the time when people were crying: "Jump the shark!" every time they didn't like a plot. People have a hard time giving up on shows they've invested a lot of time in - so they continue and defend it, at least unless the ending proves to be really disappointing. it's only then that people tend to turn on the show.

AoS, on the other hand, is a show that's been able to improve a lot - the writers and actors have really come a long way. The current arc on AoS may be the best one the show has ever done, at least if it, hopefully, ends as strong as it's been so far. I like the way they are able to build on the show's own history and past storylines and I've found the show to be have a high rewatch value. Even the infamous first half of season 1 came off much better on rewatch, knowing where it was going, with layers and moments of foreshadowing I did not notice the first time. Unfortunately they made some mistakes and didn't make those early episodes very compelling, so some people gave up, before the show got awesome in the back part of season 1 around the Captain America: The Winter Soldier tie-in.
Well I would definitely call lost and fringe J J Abrams shows, so...*shrug*
Fair enough- and that's all to do with how everyone has a different perception on these things, because while JJ was instrumental in starting the show, his choice to step away from any active role in the show after the first few episodes mean I really consider Lost more of a Damon Lindelof/ Carlton Cuse show.

(Because refering to it as a JJ Abrams show kinda feels like diminishing the roles of the writers and creators who actively shaped the show for much of its tenure...and that's how I feel about AoS, Joss played an important part in starting it up but it's Jed and Mo's show.)

And that for me is the key- it's not about thinking the show is bad and trying to pretend Joss wasn't involved with it so I can ignore it (I don't think it's bad, it is one of my favourite comic book shows on the air.) It's about acknowledging that the primary creative voices of this show are Jed and Mo, so referring to it as a Joss show seems dismissive of their active role as showrunners.
Well, I took "Joss show" to mean one he contributed to creatively, not necessarily one he was the main creative force for. Or else, like I said, I'm not sure AtS and Dollhouse would qualify, either. I think that Greenwalt and Minear shaped AtS more than Joss (except for season 5), and he also mostly left Dollhouse to Jed and Mo to run.
@vampmogs: How much of AoS have you actually seen?

The first 2 seasons and chunks of the S3-S4. I've tuned in on and off every time I heard one of its fans say it was getting "so good" and was constantly amazed by, IMO, how far standards have fallen if this is considered good TV nowadays, let alone a good Joss Whedon show. It makes Charmed look like Shakespeare.

Awful dialogue, incredibly bland cast and lame plots. And if you want to compare it to an good Whedon show just look at what BtVS had achieved by its 4th season in comparison. Episodes like Lie to Me, Innocence, Passion, Becoming, Dopplegangland, Hush, Restless.... not a single AoS episode even comes close to that kind of quality and calibre.
@vampmogs: I have no idea how you can "tune in on and off" in a show with a continuing storyline and claim to have a good idea of what is going on, let alone how good or not good it is.

I don't think the dialogue is especially great, but I don't see how the plots are "lame" (which ones?). And I don't know what "bland cast" even means - it's one of these things that people can say about any show without explanation and no one can refute it, because it's not something that can be objectively measured and it is essentially meaningless - it's like someone basically saying "I like these people" or "I don't like these people" and leaving it at that. I don't find the. "bland" at all, in fact the characters I'm invested in are one of the main things that draws me to the show.

Buffy is not what I consider just a good show, it's the greatest show of all time IMO, so if we are going by "it's not as good as Buffy", I'd write off almost any show on TV as garbage.

If you want me to compare it to another Whedon show that had at least 4 seasons... let's look at the first 4 seasons of AtS: the first season took a lot of time to find its footing, then delivered some really good episodes, but didn't have a strong arc (unlike the back part of season 1 of AoS) and didn't really have an overall story it was building towards (unlike AoS season 1). Season 2 was amazing, one of my favorite TV seasons, so at this point AtS has a clear advantage. But then, while season 3 had another really good central arc with Holtz/Darla/Connor/Wesley, about half of the episodes were pointless standalones, often really bad, and Cordelia's arc was terrible. Then most of season 4 turned out to be unbearable garbage that, among other things, crapped all over the show's own continuity (with the Angelus nonsense) and made me almost stop watching. The show always struggled to give arcs and development to main characters other than Angel and Wesley, and in season 4, Cordelia stopped being a character at all, while Fred, except for one episode, functioned just as a love interest/object of desire. If there was some award for the show that treated its female characters the worst, AtS would be hard to beat. (It gets even worse when you consider season 5.) With Gunn, at least they seemed to be somewhat trying, but didn't manage to make him more than the token black guy. (Speaking of actors, I was more invested in JAR's recurring character as Mike Peterson on AoS after just two episodes than I was in Gunn for the entirety of AtS' run.)

[ edited by TimeTravellingBunny on 2017-04-25 11:53 ]

[ edited by TimeTravellingBunny on 2017-04-25 11:54 ]
@vampmogs: I have no idea how you can "tune in on and off" in a show with a continuing storyline and claim to have a good idea of what is going on, let alone how good or not good it is.

I watched 2 full seasons of this show. That's far more of a chance than any series deserves, especially this one. And it's quite easy to tune in on and off for the next two seasons and see that the quality of the writing remains the same and that the characters are as bland as ever.

You don't have to agree with me about the cast/characters being bland. If you don't think so, great. But I feel quite confident in saying that in years to come no AoS characters are going to be making any Top 20 Character lists. They're your standard paint-by-the-number characters that are indistinguishable from a boatload of other characters out there.

AtS wasn't perfect but Five By Five/Sanctuary was already better than anything AoS has produced in 4 seasons of television so it already had it beat. AtS was a show of amazing highs and some dismal lows but I'd take that any day over an unremarkable, forgettable show that putters along on being mediocre and survives not based on it's quality or ratings but on Marvel's corporate interests.
Pretty close to my rankings, though I'd place Angel above Firefly. As many have said, I certainly think Firefly got out of the gate stronger. I just find it hard to judge 13 episodes of Firefly against 100+ episodes of Angel (I'm certain I could find 13 episodes of Angel that are of comparable quality to Firefly).

Without wading too far into the AoS debate (enjoyment of television is so subjective, I don't think anyone's opinions will be swayed here), I will say that I gave up on it about midway through season 3. Meanwhile, I never once thought about giving up on the other shows... even when Cordy slept with Connor.

I honestly can't really say whether that's a product of me disliking AoS more, or knowing Joss isn't around to eventually right the ship. And not to mention, when all these other shows were airing, there was a lot less other quality TV on air. So perhaps AoS would still be on my weekly rotation, if it weren't for The Leftovers, The Americans and countless other high quality shows.

Personally, no, I wouldn't necessarily consider AoS a "Joss" show. But I think we all have different criteria for what that means. For me, I'd want at least one episode where Joss is credited as sole writer. But I recognize that criteria may be not be valid to others and I can't say they're wrong for considering it a Joss show. (I feel like this is some variation of the age-old "What IDW Angel comics are canon?" debate.)

[ edited by Knuckleball on 2017-04-25 19:18 ]
If we're judging by raw quantity of goodness, I'd rank Angel above Firefly in the #2 spot. If we're going by average goodness per episode, I'd probably have to give Firefly the nod. Mostly due to Angel's season 4 slump.
@TimeTravellingBunny True, Dollhouse is different from the first three, and really they each have something unique. Just, for me, there is something missing from AoS...I just can't feel the same way about the characters for some reason.

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