When it was originally on: 1997-2003
Original network: The WB
Where you can stream it now: Hulu
Had I seen it before: Yes. I was specifically encouraged to watch the pilot while working on a YA fantasy script of my own and I continued to watch the rest of Season 1. I have not seen the movie the 1992 Buffy movie either.
What IMDb says: A young woman, destined to slay vampires, demons and other infernal creatures, deals with her life fighting evil, with the help of her friends.
Why I picked it: Buffy the Vampire Slayer helped introduce fantasy and horror elements to the teen drama, paving the way for so many other shows, both in the teen drama sphere and the fantasy/horror sphere. It also marks the first show created by Joss Whedon, a man who continues to be a huge part of the pop culture zeitgeist today.
What I liked: The show does a really good job of characterizing Buffy outside of her vampire hunting. She’s pretty, well-dressed, and instantly clicks with a popular girl and gets invited to a party. She’s also nice and studious enough to get along with the “nerdy” kids like Willow and Xander. High school would’ve been a breeze for this chick if not for the whole vampire thing, and it’s important that the pilot establishes that. Because Buffy realizes
The show also finds clever ways to convey Buffy’s destiny as a slayer without relying too heavily on dialog. It’s Xander finding a wooden stake in her bag; it’s Giles handing her a Vampyr book. By the time Buffy and Giles start speaking openly about the vampire aspects of this and that doesn’t happen until the middle The best example of this is the cold open, one of my all-time favorite cold opens. It quickly establishes that this is a world where monsters and demons can show up at any time, meaning that every seemingly mundane scene from here on out has extra tension bubbling underneath the surface.
What I didn’t like: None of the characters outside of Buffy and maybe Giles really stand out to me. Willow and Xander are fine, but kind of ho hum and boring. Now one could argue that that’s the whole point, that these characters exist largely to illustrate what Buffy’s life could have looked like if she weren’t the slayer. But I would still argue that such ordinary characters can still be charming or interesting or endearing, but Willow and Xander are relatively basic.
Giles exists primarily to keep Buffy on the slayer track. He’s not a fully realized character in and of himself, but instead exists to advance Buffy’s arc. But at least with Giles, I’m still intrigued. What possesses a man to uproot his life and move somewhere new just to mentor a vampire slayer? There’s interesting questions that I’d be willing to watch more episodes to answer. I don’t get that with Willow and Xander.
Do I want to watch Ep. 2: Eh? Maybe. I watched the whole first season and never got into it, but I’ve also heard it doesn’t really become the show everyone talks about until after Season 1, so maybe I’ll give it a chance again someday.