Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 1
Buffy Summers, played by Sarah Michelle Gellar, looks like your typical pom-pom swinging teenager. Like most high school students, she has her own insecurities and anxieties, but while other girls are worried about the school dance, a new zit or a crucial term paper, Buffy's more concerned with the next vampire she'll have to slay.
Buffy is one in a long line of young women chosen by fate to battle evil. This mystic calling endows her with superhuman strength, accelerated healing and a limited degree of clairvoyance, usually in the form of prophetic dreams. As the "chosen one," it's Buffy's job to help rid the world of its demonic forces, namely those snarling bloodsuckers known as vampires.
After burning down the gymnasium at her old high school, Buffy moves to Sunnydale, a quaint little town she hopes is vampire-free. Little does she know Sunnydale was built atop a "Hellmouth," which in the Buffyverse is an area fraught with massive supernatural activity - a gateway to Hell.
Buffy is not alone in her quest to vanquish evil, however, and is joined by her "Watcher," Giles (Anthony Stewart Head). Giles is a member of the Watchers' Council, a secret organization, which seeks to prepare the Slayer for battle. He's the Obi-Wan Kenobi to her Luke, the Mr. Miyagi to her Karate Kid. He's been sent to Sunnydale High as the new librarian, a convenient coverup for his real duty.
It's not all stakes and crucifixes though, as Buffy makes plenty of new faces at Sunnydale to make friends with. There's Xander (Nicholas Brendon), who is helplessly in love with her, computer whiz Willow (Alyson Hannigan), and your classic snobbish popular girl Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter). The "Scooby Gang" as they're known eventually finds out that Buffy is in fact a vampire slayer and help her in her quests. There's also the mysterious heartthrob known as Angel (David Boreanaz), who instantly gains the attraction of Buffy and every female on the planet.
The first season of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" has a lighter feel to it than latter seasons, or so I'm told. These episodes feel more like Buffy 90210 as the cast deals with ordinary teen problems in addition to saving the world from demonic darkness. Though the characters are shallow-cut outs with silly names, the show still manages to be entertaining. Why must all of Joss Whedon's characters have such unique names? Buffy, Willow, Xander - who would have ever thought people with such unique names would be main characters while everyone else in the school has completely mundane names and appearances. It seems that Whedon can't really develop a character without cooking up some clever name for them. "Firefly" is filled with absurd names like Mr. Universe and Hoban, while his latest show, "Dollhouse," focuses on a character named Echo.
You can make compelling characters with believable, everyday names, Joss. Jim, Michael, Dwight - you directed an episode of "The Office," I figured you would've picked up some pointers.
Sorry, mini-rant - I really think Whedon's overrated, but anyway - the biggest problem with season 1 is the unbalanced mix of comedy and serious story. There are also the silly, outlandish plotlines to consider. In "The Pack," a group of students are possessed by African hyenas and eventually eat the school principal. In "Teacher's Pet," substitute biology teacher Ms French turns out to be a giant praying mantis. Yes, that's right - a giant praying mantis.
Also, the budget is terribly insufficient for the kind of effects they're trying to pull off. The praying mantis looks like something Ray Harryhausen would have cringed at. The fight scenes, which are often pointless and don't move the story along, are slow and boring. What's the point in giving a vampire a roundhouse kick to the fangs? You could have just used a crossbow or something sweet other than atrocious wire-rigged marital arts.
What else can be said? This show has an insane cult following - people so devoted to Whedon's work that it makes "Star Wars," "Harry Potter" and "Lord of the Rings" fans look like mild dabblers in fixation. I'm not giving up on the show yet, as I've heard it gets much better - but watching the first season of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" has in no way changed my opinion of Joss Whedon's work. PS
- I don't care if he disowns it or not, he's still responsible for "Alien: Resurrection," or as I like to call it, "First Failed Attempt at Firefly." This is of course not to be confused with "Serenity," which is known as "Second Failed Attempt at Firefly."