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"Let's collar him before he lawyers up."
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February 25 2006

'Buffy' and the clones. Exploring cult versus mainstream. Also, Alan Tudyk's drama pilot now has the title of In the Shadow of the Law.

Nice link!

I had to mentally cheer when I read- "And Charmed has never generated the high-level academic attention that Buffy has (and does)."

Although I wondered about- "Charmed also has the benefit of more dollars and, to begin with at least, the modest star-power of Shannen Doherty as a drawcard." Did Charmed have a higher budget than Buffy or Angel? That honestly surprises me because I always thought it seemed much cheaper in terms of production values, and I assumed that most of the money must have been spent on the cast and their outfits rather than creating good sets, interesting fight scenes and good CGI, which I definitely felt Charmed lacked.

Not sure if I would entirely agree with the idea that Buffy was essentially about people being alone and having to rely on themselves. Sure, the concept of "One girl in her generation..." but friendship was also an important theme throughout the series, even if the Scoobies operated on the fringes of society. I could see that with AtS, though, where the location of LA was supposed to give us the impression of so many lonely people, and even within Team Angel where there was usually more conflict than within the Scoobies.
Did Charmed have a higher budget than Buffy or Angel?


Charmed is made by The WB from what I remember unlike Buffy and Angel who weren't. So there may have been a higher budget cause fees didn't have to be paid to the likes of 20th Century Fox etc.
Actually Simon - Charmed is made by Paramount and sold to the WB - but because of Arron Spelling's name alone, the budget automatically was higher because he had a track record of rescent long running hit shows and having a former 90210 star in the show did not hurt in obtaining that higher budget. However as always in a Spelling show the money went toward the actors and not the writers.
I'm not really getting the use of The West Wing as some sort of cult progenitor...great though it may be, it is most definitely mainstream, and always has been (at least here in the States).

But I dug this:

But all three of the new generation absolutely invert that. They revolve around family: the brothers in Prison Break, the sisters in Charmed, the Allen-Calloway family in Commander in Chief. They might face the same kinds of problems - demons, unwanted sex, whether to invade North Korea - but none of these problems are as dire because there's always your brother/sister/husband watching your back. You're safe.


...I am now thinking of how one would actually develop a series melding all three, in which the protagonists were jailed political leaders who had supernatural powers and faced "demons, unwanted sex, [and] whether to invade North Korea."

Creative inspiration!

...I am now thinking of how one would actually develop a series melding all three, in which the protagonists were jailed political leaders who had supernatural powers and faced "demons, unwanted sex, [and] whether to invade North Korea."


That's a spoiler for Angel season 6, sweetie.

With regards to being alone, I don't think Buffy was about that, so much as the barriers we place between each other. Buffy can't tell the world she's a slayer - she keeps that barrier between her and others. Angel can't sleep with somebody he truly loves - barrier. Wesley? Barrier central.

This is one of the core things that attracted me to Whedon's work initially. We all build barriers in our own worlds. It's what defines us as indiviuals. And I hear Joss has a motion picture in the works all about this subject, and that pleases me no end.
I think Buffy is very much about family. Family's not always a biological thing.

And Charmed on for eight seasons? That's downright dismaying.
Oh yes, cronopio. Very dismaying. Sad. Depressing. Many other painful adjectives.
Heh, don't quite agree with on all counts with the author of this piece either. West Wing as cult? If a show keeps raking in emmies and gets big, big ratings, it's mainstream in my book. However, mainstream does not equal bad, and The West Wing was a prime example of that.

I also agree with cronopio - Buffy was about family, just not the biological kind. And while I agree that Commander in Chief and Charmed are essentially dumded down versions of the 'originals', I don't think that's either because they're trying to be 'more mainstream' or simply because family plays a bigger role.

I am now wondering if I should check out 'Oz'. Never even heard of this show, but seeing as I love both of the other examples the author uses (TWW and Buffy) and I even quite like the apareantly 'dumbed down for the masses' version of this show in the form of 'Prison Break', I'm thinking it might be something to watch.
Oz is well worth checking out, from what I saw of it.

West Wing ends this year, thanks to flagging ratings - it's retained most of it's 'core' audience, but the rest is dropping off. You could speculate it's become a cult programme, but it's no more cult than, say, ER.
West Wing is a mainstream show, and Charmed, although a very bad show, is not mainstream- I don't think it gets any more viewers than Buffy ever did. Commander in Chief isn't getting very good ratings these days, so I'm not sure I'd call that mainstream. Also, Buffy is just as much a family show as any of the other shows listed. I really don't think this author's argument holds together.

I'm not sure why some programs become mainstream and others become cult TV shows. Maybe it has to with the age that the main characters begin at- most popular shows deal with adults rather than teens. It also has to do with the network that the show is on, obviously.
Yeah, Buffy was really about created family, which as Joss has said, is just as important as biological family. I think Angel also had that sense of adults forging a sense of family through friendships, people who want to work together to fight the good fight.

I actually watched an episode of Charmed this evening just to make sure I hadn't misjudged it at all. I really hadn't. The plot revolved around some demon baby, and there was this really poorly done scene where the demon baby had an extendable tongue. The very blunt attempt at moral ambiguity over whether a demon child should be killed was pretty unoriginal and really only brought up as a sort of pretense of philosophical debate. I definitely think Charmed's budget is going towards the actresses, certainly not the writers or the production values.

Even then, I really don't see why they deserve big paychecks. I had real trouble actually distinguishing them from one another, two of them physically and all three in terms of the way they spoke and the characters they played. All of them are these kind of snarky women.
Please note that this is an Australian article, and The West Wing is indeed a cult show down here... where like Buffy and OZ it is shown late at night for a small but devoted audience (at least it was until our government funded network ABC picked it up and is now showing it at 9:30pm... but the fact that it's an American program on ABC kinda means it's even more of a cult show now!) - the other show - Prison Break, Charmed and the new one all have prime time slots
What aapac says, goes for the UK too. The West Wing would be regarded as a niche cult show here. The only popular US drama here would probably be Lost and it doesn't get a lot of viewers compared to UK shows.

I think the last mass audience US shows broadcast in the UK would have been Dallas and Dynasty.
It's interesting how TV markets work around the world... our Australian market is very much dependent on the US - all their big shows are similarly big here - Lost, Desperete Housewives, Prison Break, all the CSI's and all the Law & Order's perform well here

The only Australian programming that does well is reality shows... such as our own versions of Dancing with the Stars, The Biggest Loser, Big Brother, Idol etc.

Our scripted dramas hardly ever get past a first season.... only one has in the past 5 years, and that's 'Love my Way', which is shown on pay tv

Thus, much Australian programming falls to the government funded ABC and SBS... which maintain a fairly nice balance between quality international (mostly UK) and local programming

I wish we could have a successful script industry here, since we do make such good stuff - but like our film industry, we don't have the population to support shows that don't have everyone watching it
Granted (as many others have pointed out) West Wing was never a cult show here in the US, but it wasn't passive viewing.

You needed to actively view and pay attention to the dialogue in this show in order to keep up. I think that was more the point that the author was trying to make. I am enjoying Commander in Chief and at the same time agree that it is a dumbed down West Wing.
Yes, Buffy (and Angel) was definitely about created family, but I think that's still a different thing than relying on actual family the way the three other shows in the article do. West Wing, in its way, was also a created family all those WH staffers became each other's support system, since they had no time for anything outside their work.

An interesting, well-written article. Thanks for posting it. I was also stumbling over the idea of West Wing as a cult hit, but the Australian perspective makes it clear. Also, now that I think about it, is really is amazing that it's as mainstream as it is. At least in its first four seasons, it was never dumbed-down, and had extremely complex, intelligent, rapid-fire dialogue. As the writer here mentioned, you had to pay close attention. I also was always amazed they went on for so long with no hook-ups among the cast; in many other shows, the workplace setting is just an excuse for romance among characters. It's sadly rare that a show like that can find the kind of mainstream audience and awards that West Wing did, but the fact that it managed it leaves hope that it's possible. Too bad we now seem to be heading more in the direction of dumbed-down hits.
I never did see Oz, but it's one of those that I keep meaning to check out....
Good article, I find it difficult to watch both CiC and Prison Break exactly because of the similarities to the much better predecessors, why watch the second rate copy when you can put on a DVD with the original.
You just know that if Oz's Schillinger and Adebisi met the 'bad' T-Bag they would eat him for lunch and pick their teeth with his bones.

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