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March 03 2006

Notes from the Wasteland: A writers medium. Article about the power of writers in television. Mentions Joss as an example of how the quality of a show declines when the head writer leaves.

Don't mean to be a pain, but I'm getting a 404 error. Anybody else?
Link fixed. Though Joss didn't actually leave Buffy. He may have had less involvement but he still wrote the odd episode or two and signed off and still involved in the plot arcs etc.
Joss didn't leave Buffy. Yet Marti Noxon did take over as day-to-day show runner, which is what this article is about - the creative power and imprint of the show runner. And not to be too picky, but the writer of this article doesn't say that the quality of Buffy declined when Joss "left" as show runner. The phrase used was "a discernable change takes place in tone." The subtext may be that the change in tone wasn't good but in the specific case of Buffy and Joss, this writer doesn't say that outright. At least that's how I read it.
It's not always the case, though. Star Trek: TNG greatly improved when Gene Roddenberry handed over the reigns to others.
It's all subjective. I think season 6 of Buffy is one of the best, for example. Flip side, season 4 of Angel marked show runner Tim Minear moving to Firefly, and I think season 4 is Angel's 'lowest' season - that said, I still very much enjoyed it, it's just if I had to put them in prefered order.
Nebula1400: It's not always the case, though. Star Trek: TNG greatly improved when Gene Roddenberry handed over the reigns to others.

Amen to that. I watched the first couple of episodes of TNG and dropped it quite quickly. Accidentally tuned in months later and was amazed at how much more interesting it had become.

gossi, I too love Season 6...but I love Angel Season 4, too...it's a bizarrely compelling creation...I call it a 16 hour single episode. But I can see people liking it the least of all the seasons.
Angel season 4 is really curious. They have some good episodes in there, but it's very insular. It's a difficult one to dip in and out of with random episodes. But, slow motion Wesley with guns fighting The Beast? It doesn't get much cooler than that.
The writer of this article mentions "Ryan Murphy turning his focus from Nip/Tuck to his new movie." The movie (Running With Scissors) was filmed between seasons. In fact, the third season was pushed back by around 2-3 months because of this. I do think the third season wasn't as good as the previous two, but it wasn't because Ryan Murphy was less involved.
Good article. I would say the 'discernable change' is there in season 6 and it does have Marti Noxon's prints on it (beware cop show talk). The whole of the sixth season (btw, I think it's terrific) feels a lot like Ms. Noxon's episodes from previous seasons. Overall, I found that there was less humor, higher emotions & blunter metaphors in S6 then we had seen to that point. These are all hallmarks of Ms. Noxon's major episodes (IOHEFY, Into The Woods, New Moon Rising) of previous seasons.
Totally, Unitas. The change is tone is fairly obvious. For me, it kind of breathed some life into the show - it was nice seeing the characters all growed up.
Personally, I enjoy it when the feel/tone of a show changes. When Buffy got Angsty-loved it, Evil Veiny Willow or Broken crayon Willow were both wonderful. It's called growth. I don't want a character that isn't allowed to change, develop new attitudes about old conflicts, make me hate or love them in ways that I hadn't thought I could.
I never thought I could feel affectionate towards or admire Cordy and hated the fact that she transferred to Angel but she grew on me...like a fungus on a rotting tree. I'm kidding...about the fungus, not the liking Cordy.
I don't really understand why people HATE a season or HATE a character for doing something. I suppose I am perverse, the more evocative the more I enjoy it. I will rub ashes in my hair and wear sackcloth with the rest of you but I still love the fact that Joss kills characters that we love.

This from someone who hasn't owned a tv in 2 years. Even so, I only watched a few shows when I did have a tv. This makes me a better person, you understand.
(I'm kidding again...about the being a better person because I don't have...oh forget it)
DejaThoris, make me hate or love them in ways that I hadn't thought I could

Yep...if you had told me at the start of Season 7 that Andrew would become a beloved character, I'd have been three worlds beyond skeptical and dismissive...and yet, I love Andrew!

How did THAT happen!

Great writing, that's how.
In regards Andrew, excellent acting too,however Season 7 of Buffy was just the worst. S6 I quite enjoyed but 7 was off, way off... too many plot points never paid off. The whole "is Giles the First or not?" was strained and laboured rather than truly suspenseful. The awful shot of the Watchers Council blowing up that didn't match the previous establishing shot... the list goes on and on and I'm too tired to enumerate them tonight, even the sets looked cheaper somehow.

Buffy 7 definitely had a marked drop in quality.I don't wish to rake Joss or anyone over the coals but I've never really seen these things addressed.
I am apparently in the minority but I thought S6 of Buffy was by the worst of all seasons; I personally loath it and feel that Ms. Noxon went and irrevocably diminshed the characters Joss had spent 5 years creating. And though this may indicate my bias, it is quite clear to me that the author of the article did indeed mean that the quality of the season diminished with the change- that was, after all, the point of the article and its over-riding theme.
You may be biased, Dana5140, but I also think the implication - taking the article as a whole, - was that the quality of the season diminished.

On the other hand, I disagree with that implication - I love Season Six, I love where the characters go, whether growing or regressing, - and the 3 Marti episodes named by Unitas (I Only Have Eyes For You, Into the Woods, and New Moon Rising) would all be among my top BtVS episodes. Maybe blunter, but also rawer. Rawer can be good too.

Episodes like the aforementioned were necessary, IMHO, to counter the sometimes overly-flip ones that might have caused the show to fly away of its own weightlessness.

Buffy 7 definitely had a marked drop in quality.I don't wish to rake Joss or anyone over the coals but I've never really seen these things addressed


Really? You need to check some of the archived discussions, malformed.

There've been some great, passionate, and insightful threads on Season 7 here (and elsewhere, it goes without saying). Special tip of the hat to dashboardprophet, who is a keen advocate of that season.
Interesting article.

I definitely think that S6 is the worst; but it's still great, because it's still Buffy...comparing it to plenty of other TV series, it still mops the floor with them.

I also seem to be in the minority when it comes to S7. I love it, and find it to be the best season after S2. (And if any of y'all have Netflix, my Netflix review is one of the "Most Helpful" ones at the top for S7.)

Now, you want a marked drop in quality, take Reno 911! S3...damn that Kimball...

[ edited by UnpluggedCrazy on 2006-03-03 05:56 ]
My name was mentioned so I thought I'd weigh in with some thoughts on this one...

I agree with those who have mentioned that the writer doesn't specifically say that the quality of 'Buffy' declined in the later seasons, but I also agree that the suggestion is there. Personally, I think the final two seasons are both superb, but I know they are prone to very mixed reactions. Of course, the inference is that Joss Whedon had nothing to do with S6 and S7, which we all know is not the case.

It's already been said here that Marti Noxon's imprint is all over S6, which is true. I think it's also true to say her influence can be identified in all the seasons from two onwards, just as the influence of all the main writers is discernible. I am not in any way trying to downplay the role taken by Joss, but one of his greatest achievements was surely to surround himself with a wonderful team of loyal collaborators, all hugely talented in their own right, ensuring that his vision was always in good hands. There is a reason why Marti Noxon took on the executive role on behalf of Joss Whedon in S6 Ė and itís not because she didnít know what she was doing or had some strange hidden agenda to muck everything up!

I must admit Iíve never really understood the criticism that the show suddenly changed in S6. Personally, I think it was the obvious progression from what had happened before. Watching the show from the first season through to the seventh makes perfect sense to me as an evolving narrative.

As to the final season, I know itís not the favourite of too many people. Yes, itís flawed, but itís also a triumph in terms of what it sets out to do and there are so many sublime moments along the way. Iím actually starting to find it harder and harder to watch because it affects me so deeply (weird, I know.)
I think season 7 is mostly good to fantastic. I've been watching it over the last few weeks so it's still very fresh in my mind.

It starts very strong. It generally stays strong, although starts to lull a bit at the mid point (and yes, the CGI council blowing up is laughably bad). The potentials? A fantastic idea in terms of pay off, but in terms of introduction they suffered, actors they suffered, writing they suffered.
SNT- no question, my favorite episode of all time from Buffy is New Moon Rising- I was very careful to not make any personal comments about Ms. Noxon, only that in my opinion she diminished the characters- all the characters I loved were altered in ways I find troubling, and the one I loved most was removed from the series. That made it hard for me to invest myself much in S7 (and the new Willow was a definite downer, reduced in impact and in time on screen), which I felt was better but not on par with S4 and 5, which are my faves. There is little question that Joss surrounded himself with great writers, but part of the thrust of the article we are commenting on is that, even with great writers, you still need to take into account the executive producer and the showrunner. And I think this is true in the case of S6, where divided loyalties and a day that is only 24 hours long caught up to people.
Hey, thanks for the suggestions and I'll check out the archived discussions.

As mentioned earlier, I Iike Season 6 but one thing still sticks out and bugs me. How much more intersting would it have been to watch Xander say: "Screw this! I love Anya and I'm not gonna let this future happen/turn out like my parents marriage?" and then watch Xander struggle with that reality?

I'm still disappointed by that turn of events.
Personally, I think it was far more interesting to have Xander say 'I can't commit to this', but still love the girl.

That's a very, very real human thing. To be in love but to not be willing to tie yourself to somebody forever in case you aren't confident in yourself enough.

Plus, how does Anya then deal with it? She turns to vengance again. Can she deal with that? No.

It's a great arch. When Xander backed out of that wedding at the last minute, for the first time I really related to Xander. Don't get me wrong - funny wisecracker guy? I get that. (Although I think my funny gene died when I hit 3). But on a human level, when he freaks out in season 6, that's what made me go 'Oh god. I love that character'.
I agree with those who say that season six was good in that it made the characters deeper. That was how it seemed to me: deeper, but not lesser. I can understand criticism of season seven. However, when I list favorite episodes many were in season seven: BY (uneven, but great moments), Selfless, CWDP, Storyteller, LMPTM and parts of all the rest. It also has moments that were extremely annoying to me. It was evocative. It just showed a lot of variety in what it evoked.
Gossi, You are right, Xander walking away from the woman he loved because he could not overcome his fear was absolutely real and absolutlely male human. Since the first timee I saw "Hells Bells" I had just gone through it (the dealing with men walking away from someone they loved because were too scared to take a chance on being happy, not the being left at the alter) for more than the first time, it was way too raw a wound at the time and I remember wanting to do physical damage to Xander of a very permanent sort. I had never really liked Xander much as a person (rather than as a character because he served the show well as a character) and that pretty well confirmed that he was all the things that depress me about...well we won't go there.

Suffice to say that I had the unfortunate experience of happening to tune into "Hells Bells" when it was first on, after having not caught BtVS for sometime. (As I have said previously, I liked BtVS when it was first on, but had a baby about the time it premiered and never got to watch it regularly until 2 years ago.) Although a couple years later S6 would be my favorite season and would be the season that totally hooked me into going back and watching BtVS from the beginning, at that point "Hells Bells" was enough to make me turn it off and avoid the show for months. (Correction: For the rest of the run of the show. I just remembered that the next thing I saw was the beginning of Chosen, and I was totally confused.)


The fear that Xander gives into is a part of human nature that I truly have never understood, but see everywhere. I appreciate the episode as putting it forward in a way that cannot be ignored. The fact that Xander never really deals with trying to get past that fear in later episodes is, in a way disappointing, but unfortunately also very realistic. Like most people that are like that he will probably give into it for the rest of his life. One very rarely hears emotional courage being discussed. I sometimes wonder if that is because it is so rare.

[ edited by newcj on 2006-03-03 19:40 ]
Yep newcj - you nailed it when you said Xander never really deals with trying to get past that fear. That was one of the hallmarks of Buffy (indeed of most of Joss' work) is that the stuff you don't deal with usually comes back and worse than before. That theme got lost after HB, I'm afraid.
The thing I find most interesting in Hells Bells is that the concept of divorce never seems to appear in Xanders head, these days when folks marry it is not 'until death do us part' it is until the fun is over and we no longer think its worth the effort.
The writers seems to have created a blind spot in Xander in regards to other possibilities to get out of a bad situation than killing each other, probably because it made for a very emotional episode but it makes me wonder what the writers think about the normal run of the mill divorce.

Although I guess the drawbacks to divorcing a potential vengeance demon could be quite severe as evidenced by Anyas ex, currently Olaf the troll.

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