After 20 years, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” still has fans. And there’s a reason for it: It’s a first-rate show.
In fact, three generations in our newsroom are fans of the show and make a case for why you should binge-watch the show, which is available through reruns on Hulu and on DVD.
Today’s TV shows feature more strong women than at any other time, from the costumed champions of “Supergirl” and “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” to the warriors of the zombie world in “The Walking Dead” and “iZombie.” There are strong women who can solve crimes, guide dragons, handle complicated medical problems and deal with the biggest political scandals.
But the show that sparked the trend began 20 years ago when “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” a TV series based on the 1992 Kristy Swanson film of the same name, launched on the WB Network on March 10, 1997. The final two seasons aired on UPN Network.
Two decades have passed but the series remains one of the major pivotal points in television history. Instead of women being reduced to damsel in distress, like in shows like “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman,” “Buffy” turned the horror genre inside out by showing that a pretty blond cheerleader could be an instrument of doom for monsters.
And, through the clever writing of series creator Joss Whedon, there was also plenty of room for Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and her vampire-killing sidekicks to be funny, find romance and deal with the same issues of a teenager who hasn’t been predestined to be a vampire slayer.
The show’s main strength has always been the writing that at times would poke fun at the traditional trappings of horror projects and then switch to a serious discussion of life and death, relationships and responsibility. Where the show was at its best was when it could do both.
“Hush,” the episode that first aired Dec. 14, 1999, features some of the funniest dialogue written for TV while at the same time introducing the terrifying ghouls known as The Gentlemen. The mix was seamless and made for memorable TV.
Great writing was invaluable as the first effort to make the movie into a TV show didn’t work and casting changes were made, including adding Alyson Hannigan as Willow. Gellar, who was only known for her stint on the daytime drama “All My Children,” was always the choice to play Buffy. She found the right blend of teen angst, determination and smart-aleck humor to make the character larger than life but also feel very real.
Here’s what some other fans have to say about “Buffy.”
I watched “Buffy” reruns nearly every day as a kid, but it still has endless rewatch potential for me because of the variety. In the mood for something campy and fun? There’s “Something Blue” and “Buffy vs. Dracula.” Need a solid cry? “The Body” is heartbreaking, and its long shots and lack of a soundtrack make you experience every moment.
But maybe what Whedon and Co. did best was blending poignant moments into the light episodes, and humor into the heavy episodes. The classic memory loss episode, “Tabula Rasa,” is a riot, but its premise is addiction and abusive relationships. And while the monster-of-the-week episodes are good to show to Buffy newbies, the Scooby Gang’s story arcs — from Angel to the Initiative — are worth the emotional investment.
Binge watch it all. Then read the comic continuation.
Also Sarah Michelle Gellar is a cookie-baking goddess and anything she’s in is worth watching.
There are a bunch of reasons I think everyone should watch this show. But I’ll give you three specific one.
First, girl power. Buffy Summers is hands down one of the most kick-butt women ever seen on TV. She’s strong, fearless, sassy and determined. Yet, she also shows vulnerability and the ability to grow. Through each season you watch her go from cute girl to powerful woman and it’s fantastic.
Second, forbidden romance. Who doesn’t love a little love story between vampire and human? And this was way before “Twilight.” The chemistry between Buffy and Angel works up until the final episode, and it’s not always predictable. Toss in a few other romances, and this show found a way to blend love stories in with action and monsters without it feeling lame.
Third, the banter. These characters really act like friends. They have their own language that’s filled with pop culture references and inside jokes. They care about each other, and even when they have conflict, they have each other’s backs. Plus, it’s funny! Even in the most serious episodes, their banter offers comic relief.
First, this indisputable fact:
Best. Opening credits music. Ever.
I am a sucker for sci fi/fantasy and for snappy, sharp dialogue, so “Buffy” was made to order. There are countless moments where I cracked a smile at the rapid-fire lines between Buffy and Zander or Willow, or between Zander and Spike. Priceless.
Second, this indisputable fact:
“Bored now.” The scene framed by Willow’s simple line in the episode “Villains” remains the most harrowing thing I’ve seen on TV. More shocking than the Red Wedding.
Whedon was masterful at weaving between episodes with goofy, “Scooby”-like bad guys ( “Doublemeat Palace,” “Reptile Boy”), flat-out terror (“Hush”) and tearful character development (“The Body”). In the late ’90s, the World Wide Web was barely learning to walk. I found several “Buffy” fan sites that cataloged the episodes and let crazies like me argue on message over characterization, plot and the general direction a season was taking (“Who’s the Big Bad this time?”).
It was glorious. Which brings me to:
Third, this indisputable fact:
I’ve watched “Once More, With Feeling,” the all-musical episode, more than 100 times. And it will never age. Ever.