THE CHALLENGE: Binge-watch and review every season of Buffy starting now through April 2. Why those dates? Because tomorrow Dark Horse, fine publishers of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer (BtVS) Season 8 and Season 9 comics, will be debuting Season 10, and following it up in two weeks with the premiere of Season 10 of "Angel and Faith."
So when I got the email today from Dark Horse challenging us to do this and to challenge our readers to do it, too, I said, in the words of Dr. Horrible himself: "CHALLENGE ACCEPTED."
Buffy is one of those shows we can't seem to get enough of. Despite relatively small viewership, it punches above its weight class in pop culture iconography. The allure is fairly simple: make a show about high school, growing up, college, relationships, parents, family, and then set it on top of a Hellmouth.
Buffy Summers is THE superhero for the Millennial Generation. Gone are the trappings of spandex and secret identities. Buffy IS the slayer. Oh, and she's a girl.
While this concept certainly isn't revolutionary for Millennials, it was like nothing before it. Even Wonder Woman, Catwoman, Black Canary, Ms. Marvel and others played second fiddle to their male counterparts. But not Buffy.
Yes, there is an allure to seeing a (physically) little girl kicking ass, especially if those asses happen to belong to all manner of vampires, demons and supernatural awesomeness. Also place her in a world where even though she is the ultimate power, and a girl, she is still controlled by forces of patriarchy. Some are benevolent, even father-like, but most of the Watcher's Council are cowards and ponces.
Despite its revolutionary social undertones that launched a thousand womens' studies college essays, Buffy was still, at its core, about basic issues: family, friendships, sex, and, most of all, growing up.
So join me as we at BigShinyRobot try to binge-watch everything we can in the next two weeks. Buffy and Angel are both on Netflix and Hulu. It's worth revisiting, and then go pick up the comic books as they come out this week and two weeks from now.
So with that, I present a review of Buffy, Season One:
Launched the first year of the new WB network's existence, Buffy's first season only had 12 episodes, appearing as a mid-season replacement. The first season definitely set the tone for the rest of the series, with the humor, introduction of Buffy's "Scooby Gang," and a major nemesis or "Big Bad" for the season.
Major plot: Buffy and Co spend most of the season worrying about the return of The Master, an uber-vampire prophesied to make his return and (gulp!) kill the slayer. Buffy continues to get help from a stranger in the shadows, Angel, who she starts to kind of fall for, then finding out he's a vampire -- but one with a soul.
Highlights: Introduction of witchcraft and Amy, thinly-veiled critiques as high school boys are possessed by the spirit of hyenas, Armin Shimmerman as Principal Snyder, a demon who lives on the internet and tries to catfish Willow before catfishing is even a thing, a "hot for teacher" episode where she turns out to be a giant mantis, and Angel, Angel, and Angel.
Lowlights: A creepy, possessed ventriloquist dummy, the show trying to find its sea-legs, and low production values associated with a fledgling network and a new show. It gets better.
MINI-EPISODE REVIEW: "Welcome to the Hellmouth"/"The Harvest," Episodes 1.1 and 1.2. Moving to Sunnydale after burning down her previous school's gym (yes, references to the 1992 movie!), Buffy Summers finds her slaying duties have not only followed her, they've become more important. It seems Sunnydale High sits atop a Hellmouth, a portal between this world and the world of the demons, which helps attract all sorts of monsters and vampires. Aided by her new Watcher, Giles, who is also the school librarian, and new friends Willow and Xander, Buffy figures out that her school is almost literally hell. Whether tormented by queen bee Cordelia or vampires themselves, Buffy looks good doing it and manages to crack some jokes. Written by Joss Whedon, you get the snark that would become a staple of the Buffy-verse. You could almost watch these first two episodes, skip to the season finale, and be ok. Because the bulk of what you need to know about Buffy is here. 7 out of 10
Overall rating for Season One: 5 out of 10. If I'm being completely honest, if we'd only had one season of Buffy, we could talk about how interesting it might have gotten. But, what may be a hallmark of Joss Whedon's shows, he takes a while to set the pieces up before everything starts working. The pilot is good, the last few episodes get good, but the monster of the week things runs a little thin, especially when it includes creepy dummies. The bad CG and makeup (and that theme song! just get to the re-recorded version from Season 3 already!!!) are almost laughable, especially considering what they were able to do later in the run of the show. But it gets better. So keep watching.
So that's season one! Join us tomorrow as we go through Season Two, and drop us a note in the comments about your favorite and least favorite moments from Season One or anything else Buffy-related you want to talk about.
FROM DARK HORSE:
There's been a lot of discussion going on lately about licensed titles and such and I thought it would be a great time to remind you about a couple franchises by JOSS WHEDON (you know, that guy).
Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a license that we've held for 16 years, believe it or not! Debuted in a DHP Annual in 1998, then had a 63 issue run up until the TV show ending with the 7th season in 2003 - 63 issues!
Then JOSS himself picked up and wrote the story right where the TV show left off with BUFFY SEASON 8 in 2007! 40 issues! Canon!
Yes, Angel did wander for a moment (44 issues at IDW from 07-11), but returned triumphantly for Season 9 with Angel & Faith in 2011! 25 issues!
And a month after the launch of Angel & Faith in 2011, we saw BUFFY SEASON 9! 25 issues!
That's a lot of Buffy.
And tomorrow… we'll see BUFFY SEASON 10 launch. With ANGEL & FAITH SEASON 10 close behind! Both 30 Issues runs!
What's the challenge?
Well friends, if you were so inclined - I'd ask you and your readers to fire up Netflix/Hulu Plus and watch all 7 seasons of Buffy (and all the seasons of Angel, if you're feeling it)
Then read Buffy Season 8 & Buffy Season 9…And Angel & Faith Season 9 (90 comics in total) in preparation for SEASON 10!
But best of all, you (and your readers) will be completely caught up and riding high as Season 10 launches!
So… You up for it?
What Would Joss (Whedon) Do?