Friday, April 23, 2010

Buffy & Angel

Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel.

The Plot: Buffy is a vampire slayer. There is only one slayer, one teenage girl to fight all the vampires and demons. Pretty bad odds. Luckily for Buffy, for seven seasons she has friends and family as she stops an apocalypse or two, fights vampires, demons, gods, and assorted other big bads. In other words? She saves the world. A lot.

Angel is a vampire, but one who has been cursed with a soul. The guilt from the atrocities he has committed puts him on the difficult road of redemption.

Together for three season, Buffy and Angel fight -- sometimes the bad guys, sometimes each other. Eventually he moves to Los Angeles and assembles his own team, and for five seasons he helps the helpless.

The Good:

You knew Buffy was going to be included in this list. It is, after all, my favorite television show in the history of the world. It is the inspiration for my blog name.

Joss Whedon has a gift for television. The man is a genius; in addition to Buffy and Angel, he is responsible for Firefly and Dollhouse.

First things first.

Whedon created a teenage girl who fought back. A tiny blond, who looks like the only things she thinks about are fashion, music, dating. Looks are deceiving, and while Buffy does care about fashion, music, and boys -- she also knows how to use a crossbow. Now, books and television shows are full of strong teenage girls, like Veronica Mars. Buffy was one of the first -- and one that stuck around the longest. Seven seasons worth.

Whedon set the high mark for storytelling over multiple episodes and seasons, paving the way for shows like Battlestar Galactica. Over the course of seven seasons, there were vampires, friends who turned evil, an Apocalypse or two, a god, even the government.

Whedon respected his audience, with dark storytelling and characters who weren't perfect and who made bad choices. The person who you disliked one season, you were rooting for the next. People surprised you. Things were not always predictable, but Whedon was such a skilled storyteller that you went along with it. Storylines that on paper sounded "no way" turned out to be amazing. And the language! The lines! The quips! He can out outquip anyone on Arrested Development.

Buffy was a show about the supernatural, and some may dismiss it as "just" being genre. It's always dangerous to see something as being within a genre as meaning it's "less than" real TV. Buffy, like My So Called Life, took life seriously; took teenagers seriously. Angela Chase, had she watched Buffy, would have understood right away. High School can be hell. We are always fighting personal demons.

Buffy lasted seven amazing seasons, taking Buffy (and her friends and family) from high school to college and beyond. Like Veronica Mars, the initial move from high school to college was shaky. While many (me included) believe the best of Buffy was her high school years, Buffy at its worst (season seven) was still head and shoulders above other television. Even bad, it was good -- it was only "bad" in comparison to just how perfect previous seasons were. For example, the famous musical episode? Season six, after high school. And season three (high school) had possibly the worst. episode. of Buffy ever, Dead Man's Party, where Buffy's friends are incredibly mean, horrid, and selfish and I'm still pissed at them. So there.

Part of the "bad" wasn't really bad -- it was simply change. Buffy and her friends had to change, and Whedon was confronted with doing what he did best (believable character growth over multiple seasons) with television limitations. In other words, in the real world? Friends grow apart. In TVland, they always have to come back together. In the real world? There is no One. True. Love. In TVland, there are One True Pairings. That Buffy dealt with those limitations, went on for seven season, and remained made of awesome shows just how talented Whedon (and the cast, crew and writers he assembled) is.

Some have called Angel Whedon's "grown up" series, which I always resented. It reminded me too much of parents who mess up with their first set of kids, and fix the problem by being better parents to a new set of kids. In other words, Buffy remained "young" to Angel's "grown up and dark" only because Whedon chose to do so. Plus? Buffy didn't remain young; she was growing up, changing, maturing, making choices, becoming more her person. Perhaps part of the reason that Buffy seasons 4 to 7 were messy and uncomfortable is because college years, that time of growing up, is messy and uncomfortable. Also? You cannot convince me that Angel getting paid for fighting the powers of darkness is acceptable but Buffy doing so is not.

Angel's first season didn't do much for me, I confess. It felt too much like a show the network wanted, a show that hadn't found its footing. About half way through, something clicked -- the actors, the writing, the stories -- and Angel became must-watch TV. While some of the actors (Angel, Cordelia, Wesley) had worked together on Buffy, each character was different in Angel. Angel's focus was no longer Buffy, making him harder and darker; Wesley had gone from wimp to gruff; and Cordy. Sigh. At her best, Cordy had matured into a likable young woman with a common sense, comfortably selfish view of the world. At her worst, Cordy was a shaft of light. No, really. She was literally a shaft of light.

As a former lawyer, I had a lot of fun watching Angel battle lawyers and other corporate entities. I also enjoyed how dark things went, especially with Wesley. (All I will say is: "I'll take away your bucket.") I had such a crush on Wesley in Angel.

One man alone -- even someone like Whedon -- does not a good show make. It requires a combination of so many things: actors, directors, writers, crews who do things I do not know but make a show so perfect. Whedon does a terrific job of finding and using talent. The people who work on his shows crop up again and again in other shows and movies, and always deliver quality.

Enough of me gushing! With a total of twelve seasons to choose from, as well as so many possible spoilers, I went with some basic season previews.

The Buffy Season 2 trailer:

The Angel Season 1 trailer:

And who can resist Buffy v Edward? Especially those of us who want our vampires dangerous?

Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy


GreenBeanTeenQueen said...

Why I missed this show the first time around when I was in high school I have no idea! But my husband and I decided to watch it and we love it! (We're on season two still) I felt like I needed to watch it to fully be a librarian;) Such a great show and I'm still an Angel fan, although many people keep telling me how much I'll learn to love Spike in the later seasons.

Liz B said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Liz B said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kimberly said...

GreenBeanTeenQueen, you go on loving whomever you love - and maybe it will be Spike but as someone who's quite fond of Spike and Dru, I found Spike without Dru alternately mildly humorous and immensely grating.

Liz, re: "...some may dismiss it as 'just' being genre." When I hear this - and most especially when someone refers to it as a show about vampires - I get grouchy and insist no, it's a show about people in high school (and college and adulthood, though I'm with you on those seasons being less impressive) and the vampires are incidental, metaphorical at most. The show has never really been overly concerned with its own mythology (and still isn't, in comic form). It is a genre show, but the genre is a vehicle for powerful storytelling.

I know I'm saying this to people who already know this.

...also, I think Rupert Giles might be every 21st century librarian's inspiration.

Maria said...

What a catharctic remix video.

Unknown said...

I was always a huge Buffy fan, and I'm having a blast watching all the re-runs on Logo TV. I thoroughly enjoyed the video of Buffy and Edward...LOVED it, in fact. Thanks!

Paige Y. said...

I hadn't seen the season two trailer before -- it's really good.

It's interesting that you think Dead Man's Party is the worst episode. I don't care for it either, but Giles has some of my favorite lines ever in that episode.

I'll be forever thankful to my former associate pastor who insisted that I watch Buffy -- it truly is one of the finest shows ever on tv.

Colleen said...

Oh - Doyle! How I ever miss him (and so loved hearing that Irish accent...what a tragedy). And Lindsey! Lindsey was the best bad guy/good guy/you never know what side he's playing guy.

Buffy remains the hallmark for great TV for me and Angel is right behind her (except I can not forgive what happened Cordelia...that whole pregnancy mess....)

I commented the other day that Season 8 in the comic just jumped the shark for me though. Unless Joss fixes this big time in the next issue I'm done and that's saying something. He's lost his ever loving mind...and not in a good way.

But Buffy the TV show? Still and always wonderful.

Connie said...

I am I corporate executive and those that work with me and anyone who knows me, knows Buffy is my favorite TV show of all time. Great article. I enjoyed reading it. I have to say, I REALLY enjoyed the Edward Buffy video you posted. Great find.

Maureen said...

Once again, I agree with everything you say. I am always amazed how many people haven't seen Buffy, it is groundbreaking TV in my book. I just rewatched the first 2 seasons, and the show holds up so well. I think Joss is a genius, and the other writers so talented.

It came it me, in a nutshell, why I love these shows so much after watching the Buffy episode where the substitute teacher is a praying mantis, luring boys to her house. The original science teacher, an older man, takes Buffy to task for not working hard enough, he knows she can do better. The guy was on the screen less than 5 minutes, but I really cared about what had happened to him. How many shows make you feel that way, even about the main characters, much less the incidental ones?

These shows might have had some uneven spots, but they remain my favorite TV series. The Giles love also abounds in my house, my 15 yr old daughter swoons over him.

The1stdaughter said...

This is the perfect pick! I love both of these shows...well, basically anything Joss Whedon does is fabulous. I love that you can now buy all of the seasons and sit down for a non-stop Angel/Buffy love fest. Great choice!

Liz B said...

GreenBeanTeenQueen, part of Joss's awesomesauce storytelling is I swore I wouldn't like-like Spike, I'd only like him as a bad guy, and, well. Spike!!

Kimberly, true on all accounts. Sigh, I heart Giles....

Maria & Allison, i just showed that to my niece and she loved it. It's terrific, isn't it?

Paige, it's funny, but even in bad episodes? A good line. I also cannot stand Pangs (i think its pangs? the thanksgiving ep?) but it has some awesome lines (bear! bear! bear!)

Colleen, oh Doyle. Such a tragedy for the actor. And Lindsay. I thought of him as "Question Mark Boy": is he good? or bad? He is now on Leverage (which if you're not watching? start!) I'm behind in Season 8 so have to catch up to judge.

Connie, thanks!

Maureen, its stunning, isn't it? That someone with a handful of lines is so memorable? A credit to Joss's writing and casting choices.

1stdaughter, thanks!