Now that it’s summer, rewatch season is officially in full swing. One series that I am working through, fairly slowly, is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The snail’s pace is partly due to balancing it with other series and partly due to the millions of times I have seen most first season episodes. It has already paid off because similar dialogue to The Avengers keeps cropping up. Okay, it has cropped up twice and is not as egregious at the Sorkinisms video floating around but is a prime example of how writers have a (sometimes unconscious) stock of examples they reference.
While watching “Teacher’s Pet,” which gives us great phrases like “full-on exorcist twist,” a new section of dialogue stuck out in particular (probably because my sheltered younger self didn’t get it). With thanks to my Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season One, Vol. One Script Book (yay, a decade later I found a use for it!), here is the excerpt from the original shooting script:
Natalie: I’m sorry, would you like something else? I just need to relax a little, I’m kind of nervous around you. You’re probably cool as a cucumber.
Xander: (mile a minute) I like cucumbers — you know in that Greek salad thing with the yogurt — you like Greek food? I’m exempting schwarma here, what is that all about, big meat hive…
Are there any other hidden shawarma references (the shooting script spelling was in fact “schwarma”) hidden in Angel, Dollhouse, or Firefly? Is this one of Joss Whedon’s absolute favorite food items? Inquiring minds want to know. Other benefits to the shooting script: the inclusion of scenes that didn’t make the final cut and even alternate lines…fun! The shawarma mystery deepens…
Moving on to “Angel,” another (sort of) throwaway bit of dialogue makes a bigger impression after seeing The Avengers. Let’s compare some Angel/Darla dialogue with some Hawkeye/Black Widow dialogue: both sets of characters who have a significant and murky past together.
Darla: Remember Budapest, turn of the century, you were such a bad boy during that earthquake.
Angel: You did some damage yourself.
Black Widow: This is just like Budapest all over again.
Hawkeye: You and I remember Budapest very differently.
Logo is airing Joss Whedon’s handpicked favorite Buffy episodes this weekend and as an experiment I decided to see where Joss and I meet in terms of favorite/best episodes. Before glancing over his picks, I gave a cursory glance over a Wikipedia episode listing. Obviously, some episodes spring to mind without question and because of that, Joss and I overlap 50%. I am not going to rag on Joss for choosing eight episodes that he either wrote or directed or both especially since it stands to reason those best represented what he wanted his show to portray. Any individual fan’s list is going to be populated with odd favorites or moments that personally resonated. I looked for those while also trying to pay service to each season. I approached it with the same mindset I would use if planning my own one-day only engagement of the Best of Buffy. But let us be real for a moment: the only way you are truly going to get the best is by watching all 144.
In the past Joss has also ranked these episodes (1 = Innocence, 10 = Prophecy Girl), but with two competing lists, season by season sounded like the best way to compare:
Season 1 – I like the beginning; Joss prefers the end.
My pick =Welcome to the Hellmouth (1×01): As a first episode, it expertly introduces you to Sunnydale, the Scooby Gang, the Slayer mythology, and the colorful vocabulary of the players. Joss fact!: he wanted Eric Balfour’s name in the title credits so viewers would be shocked when he died.
Joss = Prophecy Girl (1×12): As a season finale it demonstrated how high the stakes on the show could become and how heartbreaking: witness Angel being unable to perform CPR on Buffy because he has no breath and Xander stepping in to save the day only hours after getting rejected by Buffy. Pretty cool in a depressing sort of way. Joss fact!: He intentionally saved the Buffy and Master’s meeting for this episode to avoid a pattern of Buffy repeatedly beating him in every episode.
Season 2 – Once again I prefer the happier beginning (Surprise) to the gritty aftermath (Innocence). Although after thinking about it, I would prefer to compromise and say that together it is just one really awesome story. Joss and I agree that Becoming Part II is badass.
Surprise (2×13): It is Buffy’s birthday and the Scoobies aim to make it special. Spike and Dru return to raise the stakes while Jenny reveals some hidden motivations. Angel gives Buffy a claddagh ring; Buffy gives Angel happiness which…
Innocence (2×14): …ends with him reverting to Angelus. Now Buffy has to deal with the Judge, Spike, Drusilla and her soulless boyfriend. Ugh, I think I am being convinced by Joss’ choices over mine. According to Wikipedia, this is also the highest rated episode ever and the one that Joss usually lists as his number one favorite episode. Glad people tuned in to one of the best. Joss fact!: I like the line from Joss in the commentary about fans wanting Buffy and Angel to be together: “What people want is not what they need.” Oh Joss, never change.
Becoming Part II (2×22): The season two finale is definitely the show firing on all cylinders. Seemingly impossible odds, strong character moments, and the ultimate sacrifice, all on display. And Sarah Maclachlan could still be used in the closing scene, without irony.
Season 3 – Joss likes Vamp Willow and I like the final moments at Sunnydale High.
The Wish (3×09): Cordelia wishes that Buffy never moved to Sunnydale and we get to see what that world would actually look like: it is no cakewalk. It is an interesting exploration into all the good that Buffy does in such a short period of residency.
Doppelgangland (3×16): Vamp Willow comes to torment our story’s timeline as the result of Anya’s failed attempt to get her powers back. And Joss does an excellent job of using all of what we have come to learn about our characters over three seasons.
Graduation Day Part II (3×22): The whole graduating class coming together, prepared to fight off the Mayor’s plan? That was beautifully executed. As were goodbyes to familiar characters like Cordelia and Angel. Joss Fact!: The WB delayed the airing of this due to Columbine, but it was not delayed in Canada, prompting Joss to say “bootleg the puppy.” Brilliant.
Season 4 – We are in total agreement here; two very interesting experiments:
Hush (4×10): The only episode to be nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Writing, Joss decided to tackle critics that believed dialogue drove Buffy’s success. Joss fact!: The concept for the monsters (the Gentlemen) originated from a childhood nightmare. Holy hell Joss, that is freaky.
Restless (4×22): Like Hush, the fourth season finale is a very experimental episode. I think it captures dreams in a very realistic way (and far less disturbing than The Cell). I realize that not every week can explore sweeping epic themes but when Joss goes for innovative concepts, he hits them out of the park. Joss facts!: This is a coda to season four because Joss wanted to create a character-focused episode that concentrated on what had just happened and what might be in store for the future. The Cheese Man has no meaning.
Season 5 – Joss places more emphasis on Season 3 (or Vamp Willow) whereas extended an extra season episode to Season 5.
The Body (5×16): This is just a great episode. Upsetting, thought-provoking, so much realism it hurts. It is painful to even discuss the various aspects that make it so great. Really a triumph in television. Joss fact: His mother also died of a cerebral aneurysm.
The Gift (5×22): I don’t know how fans would have coped with this being the actual finale, but it definitely has the feel. The apocalypse is nigh, everyone bands together in an epic final push to save Dawn and the world. Buffy dies. But if the show ended here, we wouldn’t have Once More with Feeling so, thanks UPN!
Season 6 – When I think of this season, Once More, with Feeling is the primary episode that comes to mind. Since this is the only episode written and directed by Joss this season, I guess he feels the same.
Once More, with Feeling (6×07): Multiple Joss facts…: After a Shakespeare reading at his house turned into an impromptu singalong, Joss realized that many cast members would be game for a musical episode. He finally found time in the sixth season, learning how to play guitar in the process of creating the score. Adam Shankman choreographed. Us fans got what is probably the most effective use of a television musical episode ever. Another groundbreaking episode.
Season 7 – Joss goes for the isolated character/death exploration and I go for the funny.
Conversations with Dead People (7×07): The result of different writers working on different characters, this episode isolates the storylines while continuing to move the plot. Buffy, Spike, Dawn and the remaining members of the Troika (Jonathan and Andrew) are each presented separately but united around a common theme: you guessed it, dead people. Secretly, a pretty ambitious episode with a lot to say.
Storyteller (7×16): When I originally watched season seven, I was stuck in a depression over the series ending. When I rewatched it a few years later, I was struck at how disturbing and unnerving this season turned out to be. While Storyteller ends on a negative note, the majority of the episode is hilarious. Andrew utilizes his unique humor and observation skills to tell his version of what is going on at 1630 Revello Drive.
Special mentions: Fool for Love and Tabula Rasa
Joss Whedon posted on his blog about the success of The Avengers and it is predictably awesome. He confirms that he is an unemotional alien and that he is ditching us to “concentrate on fame [and] Euro-trash guy-jewelry.” But seriously, he acknowledges the buzz about his new big shot status and confirms that his modesty is intact: with The Avengers he will now be recognized at Comic-Con, be able to pay for a meal that includes truffles AND direct that much anticipated Air Bud reboot. What did Whedonites need to hear? Exactly what Joss tells us: “What doesn’t change is anything that matters.” He calls us his peeps and himself a cult oddity.
“Because you knew me when. If you think topping a box office record compares with someone telling you your work helped them through a rough time, you’re probably new here.” Insert many emoticons of happy sobbing. But topping a box office record is “super-dope”! Hooray!
My fellow Whedonites, he is taking us with him into the mainstream: “this is our time of streaming into the main, to crow. To glow. To crow and go ‘I told you so’…”. He momentarily jumbles my mind by mentioning Christopher Nolan and The Dark Knight Rises. Nolan became one of my favorite directors with Memento, and he has gone mainstream with relative success at staying true to his vision. So, even more hope for a continued world of Whedon.
Anyone concerned about Dr. Horrible 2 and Much Ado about Nothing? He says Dr. H is cooking and Much Ado is on its way. Also, TV is his great love. I am pretty sure growing up with Buffy has shaped my life into Joss Whedon’s image.
Finally, as if this post didn’t just make my life complete already he concludes: “Hope you’ll continue to carry the banner even though other people may have joined the parade. (Kind of a gay pride/Newsies vibe…”. He did it. He effin’ concluded with a Newsies reference.
On the Occasion of Buffy’s 15th Anniversary: “Then there’s that period of estrangement where I think we were both growing as people…”
No, it doesn’t stop. It never stops. Do you think I chose to be like this? Do you have any idea how lonely it is? How dangerous? I would love to be upstairs watching TV or gossiping about boys or, god, even studying! But I have to save the world. Again.
-Becoming, Part II
The origins of my television fandom may lay in The X-Files, but the show that I owe the most to is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I am lucky to have been at a very pivotal age when Buffy came into my life (granted when I started watching it was the end of its third season) and as a result, the show played a major part in shaping out the entirety of my teen years. And because of its special place in my heart, a reflection, on the 15th anniversary of its premiere date.
Can everyone pinpoint a year in their life where they radically changed? For me it was the end of 1998 to beginning of 1999 (okay, a year that stretched into another). It was like I finally decided to really watch television, to pick out my musical tastes and order CDs, and to come out of my shell as a person. Of course the CDs I asked my mom to order (remember getting CDs in the mail…remember CDs? gross) were Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, etc. but hey, I was on top of ’90s pop culture. But magically that year I sat down and Buffy the Vampire Slayer was on. The episode? Band Candy. And if there were any other reasons for my instant fascination I have long since forgotten. That Christmas a barrage of presents helped me to get on top of my obsession: select episodes from season one and eventually season two were being released on VHS (ack!) and I got to see the beginnings of my new favorite show, while sitting on my Jurassic Park bean bag chair. What episodes I hadn’t seen (before the show finally went into syndication on FX and my world was a better place) I meticulously memorized facts about, using guidebooks and my Buffy trivia book. And this this was my life:
Buffy merchandise any and all, had to be owned by me. Figurines, guidebooks, scripts, jewelry (plus a claddagh ring like Buffy’s that I still wear to this day), soundtracks, trading cards, watches, posters, keychains etc. I read a Buffy standalone novel in which I really liked the plot; I wrote a fan letter to the Powers that Be and was rewarded with a signed postcard from the cast. To this day I am obsessed with this line of jewelry that Claire’s used to carry in their stores; throughout the years I have lost some pieces and others have broken, but there is no trace of these items on fansites/ebay/anything which depresses me.
I did not stop with the merchandise. I modeled my hair (with style and yes, Sun-In), my fashion, and my general personality after Buffy. I started to wear a lot of crosses (which in retrospect probably gave my teachers the wrong impression). And surprisingly, Buffy made me a lot cooler than I used to be, I think, because it gave me a level of confidence that I didn’t possess in the past. It also involved me adopting a general Joss Whedon/Jane Espenson fueled brand of vocabulary and speaking. And since Buffy was only my gateway, other movies and television shows provided me with more influences and characters to adapt into my life.
It might sound scary that my life has literally developed around a television show, but I can only be thankful. Without Buffy, I can honestly say that I would not be the person I am today nor have the same circle of friends. And I have to thank Joss Whedon for his vision and his beliefs: to have created such a powerful, female character in a time where it was so urgently needed. And yet, we still need more of them. It would be fitting to say that while Buffy was my role model in my formative years, I have found an adult one in Joss. Just like him I want to not only entertain, but also create change in our society. And hell, if he can do that with a show about teen angst and vampire slaying, then the future seems pretty bright.
Happy 15th Anniversary, Buffy and Joss. For these 15 years the world has been a better place for girls like me and the teenagers in us all.
Initially, when I started compiling my list of Thanksgiving episodes, “Pangs” from Buffy the Vampire Slayer eluded me. It is definitely not one of my favorites, but it isn’t terrible. It is just most memorable (for me) in that Xander gets syphilis from a vindictive Native American. I think that with all of the other supernatural beasties in Sunnydale, the Chumash tribe never really held a candle to the likes of Angelus, the Judge, or the Mayor. This episode, at its most memorable, is the callback lyric “his penis got diseases from a Chumash tribe” from “Once More with Feeling.”
Update: Just did a rewatch and discovered another issue for me with this episode. “Pangs” is meant to set up a Buffy/Angel crossover event. Angel eludes Buffy throughout the episode and is only on the fringes of the episode’s action. However, after learning at the end of the episode that Angel had visited, Buffy travels to L.A. to confront him in “I Will Remember You.” And that is one of the most depressing episodes of Angel, and one I tend to avoid. Therefore, I think I blocked “Pangs” as it is a precursor to that. However, Buffy’s zeal for the perfect Thanksgiving, the question of ethics involved in vanquishing the Chumash tribesman, and mini-monologues about the origins of Thanksgiving (Willow’s anti-Thanksgiving stance v. Spike’s ‘to the victor go the spoils’ stance) all make this an out of the ordinary holiday episode.
My twitter feed blew up today after Variety initially reported that David Yates is planning on bringing Doctor Who to the big screen in three years time…as a stand alone, alternate Doctor, if you will. WHAT?! I honestly can’t even wrap my head around how this movie will work. Presumably they want to re-work the story to somehow have broader appeal to Americans. Which to me seems completely odd because Doctor Who’s popularity here in the States has been on a continued rise. And also, I can’t help but remember the Eighth Doctor’s television movie that was supposed to relaunch Doctor Who for an American audience: didn’t that incorporate things meant to Americanize the series? The Doctor was literally, more human and the action took place in a familiar US city. And even then it continued the mythology, especially with the inclusion of the Seventh Doctor regenerating and The Master! (While also taking it a bit too far with its own mythology…half-human Doctor…because we couldn’t bear for him to be full “alien”). It got me to thinking (at work no less, when I feverishly started writing down notes for this blog underneath my notes for you know…Libya) about this trend toward reboots, “reimaginings,” and just plain remakes of things that have maintained popularity in their own right. And even then Doctor Who is different from the rest in that it is still on television! Unlike the time in between the Seventh and Ninth (where the Doctor Who television movie clearly had an “in”), how can this movie be promoted alongside an existing television series? “Oh no, it is about the same thing essentially, but the show exists in one universe and the movie another.” Which is all well and good for most reboots, but in the world of Doctor Who, the movie could be in another universe and the show another, and yet they could meet. (Sounds like something the daleks would want to royally screw up…wait will daleks exist?!). When I think about how SyFy acquired the rights to air Doctor Who but then subsequently dumped it due to lack of interest, I wonder what in the world makes these people think they can find a massive audience in the US unless they make something that can no longer be recognized as Doctor Who?
When I think about remakes, I think about all the movies coming out recently that decide they want to crush my dreams by making a mediocre re-enactment of a movie that may or may not have been good to begin with. This trend is not new and it only tends to hurt when it is something I cherished: Footloose, Fright Night, Halloween, Friday the 13th (actually think of the list that Hayden Panettiere rattles off in Scream 4 to get an idea of all the horror remakes). And lest I forget anything, there is a list on Wikipedia. Of course. I do enjoy some remakes over the originals and sometimes am more familiar with the remake. If anything, the field that the remake has been abusing most is the horror genre, going after movies that are cult classics as well as ones that were better left forgotten. Yes, I was pleasantly surprised by Fright Night (and the script’s ability to translate to today as well as veer off in its own direction) and yes, I couldn’t bring myself to see the new Footloose because the hurt was just too deep.
Reboots and Reimaginings
What comes to mind first in this category is J.J. Abrams’ new Star Trek movie series. This is the closest comparison I have in my mind to how a movie can exist separately from a television series with established events. This is a personal example but not being a Star Trek fan, the reboot had all kinds of success with me. And I think that is because what I was experiencing was equally as fresh to the fan from back in the day; the franchise needed that. However, it wasn’t conflicting with any current running version of Star Trek and it still worked with established characters! Kirk and Spock et. al. may be on a different timeline from the originals but we recognize the parts of them that we are meant to. And the new franchise gets to play around with established characters in different ways without infuriating the longtime fans (in theory).
What about Battlestar Galactica? Moore’s reboot deviated drastically from the original series (which had been off the air quite some time and I obviously had no exposure to it) and by most accounts is vastly superior. And now Bryan Singer is set to helm a movie version that may or may not follow the same reboot formula as Star Trek. While I am not quite sure how I feel about this, and I think I will largely decide on my feelings once I get an inkling of how this film will play out, BSG has been off the air since 2009. And I don’t think stories depicted on Caprica will in anyway affect this film; so in a way I am ready for this reboot. I miss BSG, and maybe a movie version will help others discover Ron Moore’s series.
This topic also reminds me of the last reboot news that angered me to my very core: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, minus Joss Whedon. Buffy, the show, was leaps and bounds beyond what we got with the original movie version. Joss took the bare minimum of what the movie had to offer (and even incorporated it into Buffy’s lore) and turned it into a generation-defining hit. The Buffyverse and the larger, more active Whedonverse is still active today. In my opinion, it is too soon for a full-fledged reboot. Joss is an inseparable facet to what made Buffy so great; I would much rather see a Buffy reboot many more years down the line.
Both Ron Moore and Joss Whedon took passable universes and made them into pop culture icons. Arguably, Russell T. Davies did the exact same thing with Doctor Who. I started Doctor Who with Davies and easily got sucked into the series without any knowledge of Doctors 1-8. Most of the things I didn’t understand (Time Wars and the Doctor being the last Time Lord) were things I chalked up as mysteries I would one day solve NOT KNOWING that this was part of Davies’ rebooted mythology. As I delved into the earlier Doctors and saw Time Lords running amok and no mention of any sort of Time War, I started to get the genius that was the rebooted Doctor Who. Somehow Davies knew exactly how to tweak the long running series into something for the contemporary world, and created a compelling storyline when, lets face it, the show was a fairly typical sci-fi show at its beginnings.
What will the big screen Doctor look like? Younger or older? Quirky or more human? What of the Time Lords and Gallifrey? Any reboot would have to significantly establish its own history or else leave us in the dark like the show tends to do. Would Americans even accept a time travelling alien whose spaceship is a blue police box? And here I mean the majority of Americans who are not exposed to Doctor Who and who will also be completely clueless as to why he is in a police box. Will the reboot choose some other sort of cloaking device for the TARDIS to get stuck on? I shudder to think. A big budget movie could allow for the TARDIS to actually morph into its surroundings, thus eliminating the police box and one of the most recognizable features of Doctor Who. Argh. Are there any other implications of rebooting something that is already running other than we want to make money? Doesn’t seem like it.
All of this to say, this is the strangest, most unexpected reboot that I think I have ever heard of. And the fact that I can see no way of them feasibly creating their own version makes me queasy. When we look at Matt Smith (and as the show constantly reminds us) we are seeing the sum of 11 Time Lords worth of knowledge in one person, who is also the same as those men. We know how his companions have helped shape him and what motivates his actions. The learning curve for that is substantial. I can’t imagine looking at a stranger, called the Doctor, and having no indication of who this man is or who he has been in the past (other than whatever backstory this movie can throw at me). That may be exciting for some people but for me, losing that air of familiarity that is present throughout its near 50 year run is a depressing thought.
Below I indicated my undying love for Ewan McGregor; he mainly serves as my constant. The entertainment world is populated with numerous actors and actresses who never fail to amaze me….like John Hawkes. He was primarily regarded as a successful indie/character actor before his Academy Award nomination for Winter’s Bone last year. John Hawkes seems wary of his new prominence and recognition. However, I have to admit I’ve known him for years but it wasn’t for some darling indie:
In 1999, my friends and I thought this movie was the height of all entertainment. I especially enjoyed this scene where John Hawkes and Freddie Prinze, Jr. rock out to White Snake’s “Here I Go Again.” It has left me with a legacy of forever associating John, White Snake and that song with this movie. This was, after all, my first exposure to the song. I also know the majority of the dialogue not only in this scene but in this entire movie…and I wouldn’t trade it for the world! I also later connected John to this:
My dad’s obsession with The Perfect Storm ensured I would remember him from that; he never fails to turn up and do a memorable guest role either, I especially loved his turn on Lost as Lennon. I was excited to one, buy the first season of Deadwood at a good price from Costco, and two, to realize he was a main cast member. Now I just need to find time to watch it. While he was steady working for years in the business, Winter’s Bone really put him on the map and rightly so. His performance is what sticks with me, and the implications of what his last words mean, haunting. Martha Marcy May Marlene capitalized on his enigmatic personality and he aptly demonstrated how a group could worship him as their leader. Looking at his growing docket for 2012, I expect to see his star on a continued rise, whether he likes it or not.