Sunday, June 23, 2013

Day One Hundred and Seventy-four - Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Season 1, Episode 1, "Oh, Sunnydale... how I've missed you."

It's an almost inevitable constant of every television (or, perhaps, any media) generation that there are shows which encompass the zeitgeist of what it is to be a teen.

In the 80's, the argument could be made in favor of Family Ties, Growing Pains, Family Matters. For the 90's, you would almost certainly throw 90210, Dawson's Creek, and Saved By The Bell into the arena. For the Millenium, you'd be hard pressed to argue against The O.C., Gilmore Girls, and Friday Night Lights.

My favorite started in '97 and carried through seven seasons and a network switch, spawning a spinoff and continuing off the air in the form of Season 8 and 9 comic book series.

Of course, you know already that I'm referring to Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Buffy came out at the perfect time in my life as I was the exact same age as all the characters involved. It mixed elements of horror, scifi, and teen dramedy... what could be more perfect for an ubergeek like myself?

This particular episode started it all (on television anyway)... picking up where Kristy Swanson left off with the movie, Buffy (now played by Sarah Michelle Gellar) is starting her sophomore year in a new town hoping to divest herself of her Slayer identity and reboot her life.

Unfortunately for her intentions, Destiny has other ideas and has lured her to The Hellmouth, Sunnydale's ancient name, where all the various big bads and evils of the world tend to gravitate.

In the first episode we're introduced to the majority of those who would become the Scooby Gang: Xander, Willow, Giles, and an oftentimes reluctant Cordelia. They're all staple archetypes that include the stuffy librarian, the shy brain, the goofy sidekick, and the scene girl. We're also treated to brief scenes with her first love interest, the brooding Angel (David Boreanaz of BONES fame), and her first season long mortal enemy, The Master, who is trapped beneath the city in a ruined church, straining to escape and wreak havoc on the world.

The episode (and the series, as a whole) is a mashup of your prototypical teen drama and the supernatural horror films it loves to emulate. Both of its constituent genres are often fraught with cheesiness and there's no difference here. If anything, they're both amped to extreme levels, the vampire makeup and fight scenes eliciting, at the very least, serious eyerolls to newcomers.

That said, I love every second of said cheese.

It's just so over the top that is bounces right off terrible and firmly in the land of completely entertaining. The bad lines, the awkward social interactions, the silly villains... mixed together as they are, they make all the terrible elements into a relatively thrilling teen dramedy that's much more compelling than anything the networks were throwing at us before, during, and pretty much since.

I highly doubt my seventeen year old self would look anything but askance at today's Vampire Diaries which, thanks to the Twi-hard crowd, is all doom and gloom and none of the glib that made Buffy so great. And my thirty-two year old self can still safely enjoy the uber-cheese from the distance of well over a decade, cringing only here and there at obviously dated fashions, catch-phrases, and pick up lines.

Fair warning, this first episode is a two-parter, ending on a "to be continued" moment as the mid-boss of the pilot, The Master's right hand vamp Luke (Brian Thompson), closes in for the kill (you know he'll get dusted and Buffy will prevail)... but I certainly recommend a series watch.

While the cheese remains the same, the characters developed startlingly well over the arc of the series, shifting from uncertain teens to dedicated adults who suffer loss, love daringly, and find their passions... even if a lot of said passion is kicking evil's butt!

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

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