On March 10, 1997 the TV show “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” made its debut.
Buffy’s story actually began with a 1992 movie of which Joss Whedon wrote the original screenplay, very different from the final one because the movie’s producers preferred a horror comedy with vampires. Years later, Joss Whedon had the chance to create a TV show and reworked the idea of Buffy, finally in his own way.
The main character is stille a teenager who overturns the horror movie cliché of the helpless blonde but the TV show is much more sophisticated. Thanks also to the longer available time available in a TV show, Joss Whedon developed feminist overtones in a horror story with influences from various genres and subgenres.
The TV show begins with a few references to the movie but there are inconsistencies between the two products, for example concering vampire powers. In essence, you don’t need to have watched the movie before you start watching the TV show: in fact I think it’s better to skip the movie as I’ve watched only once and found it boring.
“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” cast consists of:
- Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers
- Nicholas Brendon as Xander Harris
- Alyson Hannigan as Willow Rosenberg
- Charisma Carpenter as Cordelia Chase (seasons 1-3)
- Anthony Stewart Head as Rupert Giles
- David Boreanaz as Angel (seasons 1-3)
- Seth Green as Daniel “Oz” Osbourne (seasons 2-4)
- James Marsters as Spike (seasons 2-7)
- Marc Blucas as Riley Finn (seasons 4-5)
- Emma Caulfield as Anya Jenkins (stagione 3-7)
- Michelle Trachtenberg as Dawn Summers (stagione 5-7)
- Amber Benson as Tara Maclay (stagione 4-6)
At the beginning of the show, Buffy is already the Slayer, the Chosen One who fights vampires and daemons. Having a normal life for her is almost impossible, a feeling exacerbated as each day she sees Cordelia, the most popular girl of the school who has everything Buffy would like and that hoped to have before becoming the Slayer.
Willow and Xander, two of the new Buffy’s schoolmates, get involved in her mission soon after her arrival in Sunnydale. To guide her there’s Rupert Giles, officially her school’s librarian but actually a Watcher, part of a group that historically trains and helps the Slayer.
Sunnydale is not any place as in the the underground there’s the Hellmouth, just beneath the school. The metaphor of the school as hell where you have to struggle to survive is quite clear from the start of the series, is one of the bases used to launch it and to build other metaphors upon.
The first “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” season is composed of only 12 episodes because it was a replacement show of another one canceled so it began in the middle of the television season. Nevertheless, from the beginning the elements that made its success are important.
The episodes are formed in part by an self-contained story and in part by parts from a wider story-arc, developed during the whole season. This arc includes the presence of a villain, the “Big Bad”, who in the first season is a powerful vampire known as the Master. The plots put together dramatic elements alternating with comic reliefs, in any case with witty dialogues.
The first season was just a taste because from the second season the stories are even better and the characters start showing long-term developments, also having to face the consequences of previous events and choices. Angel, the vampire with a soul who in the first season was a recurring character, becomes one of the protagonists and his development becomes critical in the second season’s story-arc.
Over the seasons the show was enriched with the introduction of new characters: Oz, Drusilla and especially Spike in the second season, Anya in the third season, Riley and Tara in the fourth season, Dawn in the fifth season. News and changes in the relationships among the protagonists are an integral part of their development.
In “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” the characters don’t remain blocked at a certain age but grow up, go to college and start working. Their life is a mix of problems that are common and others related to their involvement in the fight against vampires and daemons. In all of this their flaws come out too because they’re not perfect superheroes but people in many ways ordinary.
All these elements formed a show of extraordinary richness that lasted seven seasons plus five more seasons of the spinoff “Angel”. The “Buffyverse” received praise from the audience and critics also stimulating the interest from academic scholars of popular culture who analyzed in depth its contents. Over the years both “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel” won a number of awards and the mother show was in various rankings of the best TV shows of all time.
After the end of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel” Buffy’s adventures continued in a series of comics. The show’s impact went on influencing the way to make television far beyond a specific genre contributing to a better quality of many subsequent TV shows.