Into every generation a series is born: one series in all the world, a chosen one. It alone will wield the strength and skill to fight the critics, naysayers and the forces of generic scripted drama. That series is Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Back in 1997 Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a little known movie which had bombed at the box office. Written by creator Joss Whedon, studio meddling and producer panic watered down his concept of a strong female lead in to something which utterly failed to ignite a strong fan base.
But the elements of a hit were all there: a witty, pop culture referencing, badass fighter able to take down the forces of darkness.
The entire premise took the notion of physical demons and used them as a perfect analogy for the trials and tribulations of being a teenager at the turn of the century.
20th Century Fox saw something in that premise and commissioned Buffy the Vampire Slayer to TV in the form of a mid-season replacement.
Despite little faith from the audience, Buffy would go on to last seven seasons and long over 100 episodes and form a lasting legacy which is visible in plenty of contemporary TV series to-date.
What makes Buffy the Vampire Slayer binge-worthy TV? It’s the godfather of the modern serialised-but-accessible series. Taking the episode of the monster-of-the-week made popular by The X-Files and weaving in plenty of on-going plot lines and seasonal big bads which will keep you coming back each time.
Though Joss Whedon stands on shaky ground as I’m writing this, it’s difficult to argue with his (and his creative teams) ability to create a cast of characters which reflects the lives of teens the world over.
Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) might look like the archetypical girl who dies at the beginning of the horror movie. But she is anything but. Over the course of seven years she grows from a self-centred adolescent into a beautiful, empowered leader and role model to young girls.
For anyone of a similar age, her journey through boys, high school, college and loss rings absolutely true and remains completely earnest. Even at the height of its supernatural storytelling – giant snake anyone? – the series still able to teach life lessons to its audience in the best way possible.
But it wasn’t just Buffy with whom audiences found a connection. There’s was unlucky-in-love Xander (Nicholas Brendan), teen Wiccan and eventual lesbian trailblazer Willow (Alyson Hannigan), vapid cheer-queen Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter) and stoic cool-kid Oz (Seth Green). All were in their own way reflective of teen culture both at their time and even today.
For the more mature audience member the group was shepherded through their tumultuous teenage years by quintessential British librarian-with-a-dark-side Gile (Anthony Stewart Head) and for the romantic there was brooding vampire-with-a-soul Angel (David Boreanaz).
Throughout the course of its seven seasons Buffy threw a plethora of different villains at our screens. From monster-of-the-week challenges like zombie high school jocks and the demonic college roommate right through to the mayor of fictional Sunnydale turning in to a giant snake at graduation and eating the new principal (the first one got eaten by hyena people).
But whilst it’s villains became larger than life their analogies rarely strayed from outside of the characters emotional journey. Even when Willow, distraught at the murder of her lover Tara (Amber Benson), turns evil its portrayed as a brilliant cautionary tale about loss and addiction.
As with many shows from the late 90s/early 00s era, the VFX on Buffy the Vampire Slayer are beginning to look a little rough around the edges. A hack job remaster in to HD is currently available in the UK on All4 and is something to be avoided at all costs.
But generally Buffy holds up well for a show which is approaching the 25th anniversary of its pilot episode.
- 1×01-2 “Welcome To The Hellmouth” / “Harvest”
- 2×21-22 “Becoming” Parts 1 & 2
- 3×09 “The Wish”
- 3×22 “Graduation Day” Part 2
- 4×10 “Hush”
- 5×16 “The Body”
- 5×22 “The Gift”
- 6×07 “Once More With Feeling”
- 7×07 “Conversations With Dead People”
- 7×22 “Chosen”
Buffy the Vampire Slayer is available on DVD to purchase now. The series can also be purchased on iTunes, or streamed via Amazon Prime and All4.