Homepage > Joss Whedon’s Tv Series > Buffy The Vampire Slayer > Reviews > 10 ways how BtVS plays with TV conventions
« Previous : Joss Whedon featured on "Monkey Man" Web Comic
     Next : Angel 4x13 Salvage - Download The Episode »

From Bbc.co.uk

Buffy The Vampire Slayer

10 ways how BtVS plays with TV conventions

By Richard Vine

Wednesday 5 March 2003, by Webmaster

As the saying goes, every generation has a slayer. Luckily for us, ours is on TV. Sadly though, if the reports are to be believed, it looks like Sarah Michelle Gellar may have had enough of saving the world without messing up her hair. So, if Buffy’s days are numbered, and series seven really is going to be her last, it’s time to count the ways this addictive series has played with television conventions and established itself as one of the all-time TV greats.

1. Mr Wrong - There are few things more likely to hook an audience than a doomed romance, a wrong-side-of-the-tracks love that screams "how can this be so right when it’s so wrong?" Buffy and Angel are up there with Heathcliff and Cathy, or Carrie and Mr Big. She’s a vampire slayer - he’s a vampire. You don’t get much more wrong than that. The beauty of this genre twist is watching how far it can be pushed: the whole "she loses her virginity/he loses his soul" storyline is a strong contender for the worst first sex encounter on TV ever.

2. Mr Really Wrong Just when you thought she’d got it together and managed to find a nice human boyfriend in the shape of clean-cut vampire hunter Riley, Buffy somehow manages to hook up with someone even more unsuitable than Angel: Spike. We’ve known about his feelings for a while (why else did he keep that Buffybot in his lair?), but he’s always had a reputation in Sunnydale for being the last creature on earth she’d ever go for. Unlike Angel, Spike’s got few redeeming qualities, writes terrible poetry and brings out the worst in Buffy. Precisely why it’s such a fun relationship to watch - and a real masterstroke to get Buffy’s character into a position where we believe she’d be interested in him.

3. Damsels in Distress - Historically, TV has not been big on heroines. From the "let’s split up so you can get captured and I can rescue you" logic of the original Scooby gang, right up to the first 24, with Jack Bauer running around LA in search of his wife and daughter, it’s still pretty much standard operating procedure for men to be doing the rescuing. Which is why it’s so refreshing to recall the amount of peril that Xander Harris has been subjected to over the years. He may have once been turned into a marine, but heís still had to put up with the ignominy of having a girl fight his battles and come to his rescue.

4. Long-Lost Sibling - When news first started floating around that Buffy was going to get a sister, many felt a shark was about to be jumped. Instead, we got shark steak. (Or a staked shark, at least.) The show’s internal logic is so developed that the Dawn story now seems like the most natural thing in the world: you’re a ball of energy? The Key to unlocking another apocalypse? And my sister? OK! Even when Buffy - and her mum - discovered Dawn’s true origin, they still accepted her; another classic moment of warped heartwarming.

5. Stick To What You Know - What is Buffy? An action comedy? A teen drama? A horror pastiche? A post-Valley Girl exercise in hip-speak using superhero-like powers as an extended metaphor for the trials of early adulthood? All this and more? Even if you wish series six was more like the early pun-filled episodes, there’s something great about seeing the show trying out different moods and the characters being forced into different situations. Especially if this means the arrival of Buffy The Burger Flipper.

6. Don’t Sing - Of all the conventions that Joss Whedon has toyed with over the years, it’s probably Once More With Feeling that stands out as his most high risk strategy. Putting aside the odd moment in The Simpsons, there’s rarely been a decent musical episode of a TV show. Buffy: The Musical succeeded on three levels: the songs weren’t terrible; there was a plausible reason for the spontaneous outbursts of song; and there was actually a point to making them sing - the Scoobies were forced to reveal secrets they’d been hiding, unleashing great swathes of character development in the process.

7. They Watch TV - It’s often been said that the most unrealistic thing about people on TV is that they never watch TV (The Royle Family not included). It has to be said that a Slayer’s schedule doesn’t allow too much time for TV, but Buffy does at least try to watch the odd video when not on patrol, and Spike’s been known to offer advice to the Dawson’s Creek cast (relating to their doomed romances?), as well as displaying a passable knowledge of Star Trek.

8. Sound Of Silence - Silence is one of the rarest commodities on TV. People talk and talk in fully formed, super-articulate sentences constantly - but they never find themselves at a loss for words, in a quiet mood or decide to just shut up. Similarly, there’s rarely a moment when the soundtrack is not blaring out a combination of effects, musical cues and songs. Time is simply too precious (and expensive) to waste on dead air. With two stand out episodes, both conventions were broken. In Hush everyone lost their voices, while The Body was shot without any background music, heightening what’s probably the most moving storyline so far.

9. No New Friends - In sitcoms - Friends for example - you’re not allowed new friends. If a new character enters the picture, you can be fairly sure they won’t be sticking around for long. It’s a plot device to allow the established circle a chance to bat around some new jokes, fall in and out of love with the new person, and then come straight back to the permanent cast clique. OK, in Sunnydale there’s a good chance you’ll be dust by the end of the show, but equally, you might get turned into a rat, and then returned to the cast (and humanity) several years later.

10. Back From The Dead - A move straight out of Dallas became yet another inspired twist in this show’s meta-narrative. Of course, Buffy had a distinct advantage over other shows who’ve tried: this life after death incident wasn’t the result of someone having dreamt the previous series, contracted amnesia, or pulled a fake-death insurance scam. Buffy died; Willow wicca-ed her back for a storyline that actually concerned the problems of being wrenched back down to earth: another convention slayed.