Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Catching Up With Some Thoughts On Buffy

(Photo credit: Fanpop)

It's not looking good for the return of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on MTV. I don't have any inside scoop on whether the show was cancelled, but I'm wondering if it might have been pulled from the schedule because the cast wasn't skanky enough to attract their all-important White Trash demographic.

There doesn't seem to be any direct feedback link on the MTV site. Instead, it appears you need to create an account and start a thread in the MTV Community forums. I won't bother to go through all of that, but, by all means, feel free to do so if you want MTV to know that Buffy fans would like the show to return.

I'm not going to start a cargo cult vigil waiting for the return of Buffy. I'll keep checking the listings once in a while and hoping for the best. In the meantime, it does allow me to play a little bit of catch-up with my Buffy thoughts. [Note: The only Buffy episodes I've ever seen are most of the ones in Season 3 and the second episode of Season 4.)

High School Versus College. I was looking forward to seeing how successfully the show made the transition from a high school setting to a college campus. In my mind, I always think of Buffy as being a high school student, although only three of the seven seasons took place at Sunnydale High.

I'm not aware of too many TV shows that took place primarily in a college setting, outside of Paper Chase and maybe a few others. In contrast, there have been dozens (hundreds?) of TV shows that took place in a high school setting. Audiences like familiarity and structure, which high schools seem to provide in spades. It makes it easy for creators to work with a show when everyone is in or out of class at the exact same times. Writers can also work with themes that never seem to go out of style, like, will anyone ask me out to the prom, will the pretty girl like me even though I'm not a jock, etc. For college shows, unless you follow the tired old Animal House story lines, you don't get the same amount of mileage out of burning questions like, should I drop out of a class even though I won't get any of my tuition reimbursed?

From what I briefly saw in Season 4's "Living Conditions", the creators seemed to be doing a good job of portraying Buffy's adjustments to college life. I particularly loved how the episode focused on how sometimes the smallest of irritations can result in the most violent reactions. For example, I still get mad when I think about how one of my roommates always insisted on sleeping next to the window, then complained about how cold she was all of the time at night.

Fashions. One of the reasons why I like classic television is that I like looking at fashions from the different eras. It's a bit disconcerting that I'm so late to the Buffy party, the entire series is starting to fall squarely into the "past fashion trends" category.

I'm consistently surprised at how demure and/or sophisticated the fashions appeared to be in Buffy, particularly with how Buffy and Cordelia used to dress. There's quite a difference between what Cordelia Chase wore in Buffy versus what she wore in Angel. The dress that she wore when she kissed Wesley could have been straight out of a Doris Day movie circa 1963 (see image above). And that's not an insult either! Contrast Cordelia's dress with what ESPN's Hannah Storm likes to wear, which resulted in poor PTI's Tony Kornheiser being suspended for speaking the truth. I've never been a fan of ill-shapen women's clothing that look as though they've been left in the dryer too long, or look like two disparate pieces of fabric randomly stitched together.

Buffy and Faith. I enjoyed Faith's appearances in Angel better than Buffy's appearances. There always seemed to be a lot more going on with Faith, while Buffy seemed kind of boring to me. Buffy's disciplined good-girl qualities didn't seem all that realistic or appealing to me. I'm therefore surprised to find that I liked Buffy Summers a lot more than Faith in Season 3 of BtVS . I can better understand that Buffy's apparent structured blandness (imposed on her by mother Joyce and father-figure Giles) was instrumental in helping her to avoid falling victim to the same excesses that Faith found herself suffering through.

In other words, Buffy was not stagnating under the restrictions set up by her mom and Giles. On the contrary, she seemed to be thriving under their regime. As a result of the strong foundation that was built up to support Buffy, she was in a much better position to eventually successfully strike off on her own than Faith would ever have been.

I'm always a sucker for mystical dream sequences, and the one that occurred when Buffy and Faith were in those comas was one of the better ones. I particularly liked how the writer poked gentle fun at those cryptic clues we usually find within those scenes when Buffy, replying to an inscrutable message from Faith, replied snarkily, "Great. - Riddles." It was particularly touching when Buffy awoke from her coma, walked over to Faith's room and gently kissed her on the forehead. Their early palling around in early Season 3 was really quite fun to watch, and it gave nice closure to what could have been a great pairing between the two of them if circumstances had turned out a little bit differently.

Willow and Oz. I adored the two of them as a couple, and I was quite pleased that Oz was secure and mature enough to take Willow back after she had her brief fling with Xander. What can I say? I know the two of them didn't last too long together, so I enjoyed their relationship while I could.

What I find fascinating about Willow is that she gave us a little insight as to how a goody two-shoes character will all of a sudden "unexpectedly" start acting out and turning into a completely different person. Instead of having a static personality, the Willows of the world are observing and looking to see how things work. As soon as they get things figured out, they start making changes in their lives pretty quickly rather than making their transformations a long drawn out process.

Angel. It's refreshing for me to see Angel as the strong supporting character as opposed to the somewhat ignored main character. Sarah Michelle Gellar seemed to have the same problem in Buffy that David Boreanaz had in Angel, in that, she was surrounded by so many fantastic actors she tended to get lost in the shuffle. That's a good problem from an audience's viewpoint, but not so terrific for the star of the show.

I blogged not too long ago that Angel/David Boreanaz was just too good to stay on the sidelines for very long, and simply had to have his own show. I can't think of a better actor who could pull off the sudden dramatic grand entrance as well as Boreanaz. Just think of Angel's sudden appearance towards the end of "Graduation Day- Part 2" when he showed up on the scene (along with Wesley et al) to take on the Mayor's vampire army.

Xander and Anya. I've blogged before that I have mixed feelings about Xander Harris. He was smart, loyal, courageous, generous and lovably klutzy, but seemed a little too self-righteous at times. I know that he probably had good reason to not get along with Angel/Angelus, but I also don't like it when writers create conflict just for the sake of creating conflict. I hated how Xander treated Angel in this scene at the hospital in "Graduation Day - Part 2" when he said, "Well, its just good to know that when the chips are down and things look grim you'll feed off the girl who loves you to save your own ass!" It made me appreciate that scene in "Enemies" even more where Angel cold-cocked Xander while he was supposedly under the spell of Angelus.

I also wasn't particularly thrilled with his treatment of Anya when she was trying to make conversation with him in the classroom in "Graduation Day - Part 1". After rudely rebuffing her several times, Anya simply replied, "I'm trying, okay? You don't need to take my head off." It was even more poignant when Anya, the 1,000 year-old demon who was trying to adjust to her life as a high school student, explained to Xander when she asked him out to the Prom, "You were unfaithful to Cordelia so I took on the guise of a twelfth-grader to tempt her with the Wish. When I lost my powers I got stuck in this persona, and now I have all these feelings. I don't understand it. I don't like it. All I know is I really want to go to this dance and I want someone to go with me."

While Anya didn't come right out and say it, there was a definite implication that Xander, although being the original target of Anya's avenging demonic wrath, was the only unattached male student who would have been able to understand her situation. It immediately brought to mind a much more gut-wrenching scene where Illyria turned to Wesley for help in Season 5 of Angel ("Shells") even though she destroyed the woman that he loved (Fred) by taking over her physical form. Wesley, with his full Watcher instincts kicking in, ultimately agreed to help Illyria deal with her new world. It seemed to be more of a challenge for a still immature Xander to take on the same responsibilities. I've read a few hints here and there about Anya and Xander's relationship, and it will be fascinating to see how and if they ever came to some sort of mutually agreeable understanding.

Giles. I absolutely adore Giles but he/Anthony Stewart Head continues to perplex me. Is it just me, or did Tony Head mumble a lot? I can't understand what he's saying a good quarter of the time.

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