In 2014, the name Joss Whedon carries a lot of weight in the nerd world. It was not always so.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer was originally a movie released back in 1992. Having not read the original treatment for the movie, I cannot speak to if it was close to the vision that Joss Whedon originally had. I can say that the movie and the series are as different as night and day.
When the series originally came on back in 1997, I stayed away from it. Far away from it. I had seen the movie and did not like it. It was mildly entertaining, but not something that I could see watching week in and week out. The series ran for seven seasons on both the WB and UPN and, while it was on, I did not bother with a second of it. No, I was late to the Buffy party.
In 2008, I began watching a spin-off of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Buffy) called Angel in repeats early in the morning. At the time, I was suffering through a bit of insomnia and would wake up at odd times of the night. Being unable to fall back to sleep, I would begin to flip channels. The television channel TNT would show repeats of Angel every morning at 5am and 6am. Knowing that this show was a spin-off, I then went in search of the original show itself, thinking that I had possibly not given it enough of a chance.
My search for the tales of Buffy on TV proved fruitless. In casual conversation, I mentioned this to a friend who began loaning me his DVDs of both shows. I plunged into the realm of Buffy, Willow, and Xander head first. This friend, Scott, even told me the best way to watch these shows. He recommended that you can watch the first three seasons of Buffy, uninterrupted. Starting with season four of Buffy, though, you should alternate an episode of Buffy with an episode of Angel. At the time, they were on the same channel, so the story-lines would often overlap. This should continue throughout the run of Buffy, leaving the fifth and final season of Angel.
Since this time, I have become an unapologetic Whedon fan. I tore through Dollhouse and still lament the loss of it and Firefly, along with what seems to be the rest of the known nerd world. I geeked out when he was announced to helm The Avengers and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. He has even made Shakespeare cool again. (All apologies to my high school Drama and English teachers.) However, on top of all that he has done over the years, I keep coming back to these two shows.
From the very first episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you knew that nothing was out of the question. There was a death in the first episode of someone that was being apparently set up as a major character. From then on, you did not know what to expect. Over the course of the seven seasons, he and his team delivered some of the best television I have ever seen, including the mostly silent “Hush” and the musical “Once More with Feeling.” Angel had it’s moments as well. The season five episode “Smile Time” saw our titular hero get turned into a puppet in what was one of the more fun episodes of any series that I have seen.
So, why are they still important?
1. Vampires. While not as trendy as they were a few years back, one could say that the modern trend of the moody good guy vampire started with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. The character Angel was himself a moody vampire who became a good guy with moments of evil. There might have been no Edward had there not first been an Angel.
2. The Whedon-verse. I believe that everything that Joss Whedon has ever done exists in the same reality. For instance, one of his early writing gigs was writing Alien:Resurrection. As even a casual fan of the Alien movies knows, the company from those movies was the Weyland-Yutani Corporation. Weyland-Yutani’s legal representation at one point was Wolfram-Hart, the big bad lawyers from Angel. Weyland-Yutani also manufactured the weapon that Mal Reynolds used in the premier episode of Firefly. This links Firefly with the Buffyverse. Another much beloved Whedon property is Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. Most know this to be a musical web series. While not stated, there is only one explanation as to why so much of it is told in song. It must happen at the exact same time as the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode “Once More with Feeling.” I realize that this is reaching. Until a more concrete explanation comes along, I will go with it. As for how Dollhouse and the different Marvel properties fit in, only time will tell. (There is even a glimpse of a ‘Reaver’-esque creature in the Whedon-penned Cabin in the Woods.)
Both series (along with Firefly, Dollhouse, Cabin in the Woods, and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog) are available for streaming on Netflix.