Joss WhedonA Brief History of Mutant Enemy
Monday 24 May 2004, by Webmaster
A brief history of ME. By Ocipital
In 1995 a young and upcoming Network Executive, Gail Berman, was looking at the current crop of shows and realised that there was a shortfall of strong female characters especially in genre shows, which was handy given the fact that the company of which she was president, Sandollar, had produced a feature featuring exactly what TV was missing 3 years prior, and held the rights to produce a TV series from it. That feature was of course Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
A TV series resulted, created by the features scribe, Oscar Nominated and talented script doctor Joss Whedon, produced by Sandollar Television and 20th Century Fox. Whedon himself would be given his own production banner which he named Mutant Enemy. However the TV show was not in the most desirable situation, picked up late as a midseason replacement, and on the little watched WB to boot, it was an unappealing career choice. Former House of Buggin Supervising Producers David Fury and Elin Hampton (wife and writing partner) were interested in the show and offered the job after Fury bluntly pointed out the enormous flaws with the feature, but they were put off by their agents who pointed out they had a much safer offer with ABC’s Life’s work.
Still a TV series needs a staff of writers and thankfully not everyone had ’better’ offers. Whedon whose TV background was based exclusively in comedy was keen to attract both comedic and drama based writers (quite an unusual choice at the time). New writers Ashley Gable and Tom Swyden got their first gig as staff writers, whilst comedic duo Dean Batali and Rob Des Hotel were picked up as story Editors from the recently departed Comedy Hope and Gloria. Finally genre writers Matt Kiene and Joe Reinkemeyer joined from the critically acclaimed Morgan/Wong skein Space, Above and Beyond also as story editors. Pauly producer Dana Reston also agreed to write a freelance episode.
Still the team was missing something, or so Fox thought, namely someone with much in the way of any experience writing a TV series let alone producing it. Whilst there was no doubt in Whedon’s ability to write (few shows can boost an Oscar nominated writer even if it is for animation), there was very much doubt over his ability to write and run a television series. For a start Whedon had only just turned 32, secondly he had only worked in television for a total of 18 months (though he had wrote 9 scripts in that time); thirdly he hadn’t worked in television at all in the last 6 years. Fox decided the show needed an experienced producer in the frame at least for the first season, and let it be known they were looking. Still they cant have anticipated someone of David Greenwalt’s calibre being interested. Greenwalt was fresh off his own creation Profit, a dark tale of twisted corruption in the co-corporate world and an anti-hero who earned millions but slept inside a cardboard box. Profit had been cruelly cancelled after just 3 episodes (such is the will of Fox), but those 3 episodes were enough. Hollywood was impressed, Greenwalt had the pick of any show he wanted, so it was with some surprise that he chose to join Buffy as Co-Executive Producer.
The first season was filmed between September 1996 and January 1997. This posed a problem, the premiers’ airdate was not until the 10th of March, and whilst the extra time allowed Whedon to perfect the season, the other writers needed to know if they’d still have a job come fall. The thing with midseason shows is there not generally expected to last, there pretty much exist to fill the gaps in networks scheduling, and whilst the WB’s bottom line (they were haemorrhaging $100 million a year at the time) guaranteed the show would air, it was doubtful it would return. Greenwalt quickly moved on, he had a standing offer from the X-Files and joined them as Co-Executive Producer almost as soon as shooting wrapped. The other writers also began to move on, Matt Kiene and Joe Reinkemeyer decided to stick with the Movie to TV theme by joining freshman series Honey I shrunk the kids. Eventually they moved to Andromeda where they continued to write together until last year, when Reinkemeyer departed. Kiene though remains as supervising Consultant, recently writing the episode 4x13 The Warmth of an Invisible Light. Ashley Gable and Tom Swyden also departed but not by their choice. They eventually found work in 1998, on the syndicated series Special Ops Force. The partnership died thereafter, Ashley Gable is currently Co-Producer of The District.
The Mutant Enemy’s writers ranks had now dropped from 8 to just 3, only Whedon, Batali and Des Hotel remained, but the 1st season of Buffy had been successful, earning the WB its highest ever rating for a drama with the 2 hour premier (3.4), and now the WB wanted 22 more episodes. So it was some relief when Greenwalt decided to return. Even better he bought one of the X-Files writers and Executive Producers with him, Howard Gordon. Gordon wasn’t looking for a permanent job, but rather a resting point whilst he pitched his own show. Taking the Buffy gig part time as Consulting Producer, with a view to leave should a network like any of his pitches. One final addition was rookie writer Marti Noxon, who joined as staff writer, the move marked her first Television gig.
Still 6 writers wasn’t really enough for a full season, especially when one was only part time and looking to leave, and 2 of the others worked only as a partnership. Freelance writers were the answer. They offered one off pitched ideas for the show, which would not only keep the ideas fresh, but also give the staff writers a breather to come up with their own ideas. Even better former writers Kiene and Renkemeyer were able to fit a freelance script into their schedule (sadly it was Inca Mummy Girl). Also offering up a freelance script was Joss’s former Executive Producer at his last show Parenthood, David Tyron King, better known to Buffy fans as Ty King. King was actually semi-retired and living in Seattle, but found the time to pen Some Assembly Required before being invited back to kill of Ms Calendar in Passions. Ty immensely enjoyed working with Joss again, but he was settled way up north and so turned down the chance to work on the show again. The two did however develop a pitch for another show, a midseason replacement for Fox called Cheap Shots, about people making low-budget horror films at a B-movie company. Sadly the project did not work out. Rookie Carl Ellsworth was another freelancer, pitching the episode Halloween, Ellsworth latter found permanent work at Animorphs, and then Cleopatra 2525, he has not worked since its cancellation. Finally David Fury and Elin Hampton fired their agents for telling them to take the ’safe’ Life’s Work, over Buffy, when Buffy was still on the air, and their own show cancelled in 18 episodes. They then hired new agents (Joss’s agents) and pitched a freelance script Go Fish. The 1997/8 season was a successful year for Mutant Enemies. Fox decided they were wrong about Whedon, and offered him a $16 million 4 year deal in August 1997, which included both running Buffy, developing new shows and writing feature films. Marti Noxon also had a good year, she didn’t get to start writing until episode 9 but was thereafter a prolific writer, in the span of 5 episodes, she wrote 4 of them and wrote a total of 6 that season (Only Joss can boast the same for his debut season, he wrote 6 scripts at Roseanne). Noxon’s ability was very apparent to Whedon, especially in "the opening a vein" aspect of drama, she was promoted to Story Editor after Bad Eggs, only her third ever script. Still not everything worked out Howard Gordon successfully pitched Strange World to Fox and left to write the pilot after 12 episodes (more on him and that show latter), and it became apparent that Batali and Des Hotel were not keepers, and were ankled at the end of the season. They were unemployed for a year before returning to comedy for Fox’s "That ’70s Show" in 1999, where they both remained for the past 5 seasons, and are now Co-Executive Producers, though they have split the partnership. Allyson Hannigan recently guest stared in Rob Des Hotel’s episode 6x13 Won’t Get Fooled Again.
In August 1998 Mutant Enemy itself became an official company when it became Mutant Enemy Inc, though in reality it was a "tax dodge". Jeff Bynum (Marti Noxon’s future husband) was appointed senior Vice President of Production, and George Snyder was named director of development. With it’s establishment followed lots of ideas. An animated musical about Dracula, Grampire, a feature film family comedy about "two kids who suspect their grandfather is a creature of the night" and Alienated, a comedy about someone kidnapped by aliens who turns the tables on his captors. None of these projects actually materialised. However a Buffy spin-off did, Angel. Buffy had proved a major success for The WB in the 1997/8 season, the second part of a two-parter (Innocence), in combination with a move and promotion to a new night, proved to be a major success, hitting a then record high rating for the WB of 5.2. The WB wanted another hour, a spin off to give them the same level of success. Whedon agreed and collaborated with Greenwalt in creating the spin-off, Angel.
Still that was a year off, first they had to write the third season, and with only 3 writers left (Whedon, Greenwalt and Noxon) more staff were needed.Jane Espensen who had spent 7 years at 6 different comedies (they kept getting cancelled), joined the show from Ellen as Executive Story Editor, off the back of an NYPD Blue Spec script, and a pitching session that included Parents being turned into teenagers (Band Candy), book burnings (combined with an old pitch from Thania St-John about a parent’s group, witch hunt, to become Gingerbread) and someone whose using telepathy to cheat on tests (Earshot). Doug Petrie who had long ago written for Clarissa Explains it All before embarking on a features career with Harriet the Spy (which starred Michelle Trachtenberg), broke the cardinal rule of applying for a writers gig, by writing a Buffy spec script and getting the job at Buffy as Story Editor. Finally animated writer Dan Vebber who wrote for such shows as Daria joined as Staff writer. Following the success of Go Fish David Fury and Elin Hampton were again offered a job, and again turned it down. They decided to split up the writing partnership (not the marriage though). Hampton went to Mad About You whilst Fury would stay home to look after the kids. However he didn’t completely back out of it, and pitched another freelance episode with Helpless, and was subsequently asked to pen Choices whose story was plotted out by the other Mutant Enemy staff.
There were more promotions. David Greenwalt was promoted to Executive Producer, and signed a 4 year, $6 million overall deal with 20th Century Fox in December 1998, whilst Marti Noxon’s fast track continued as she was promoted to Co-Producer in the fall, completely side stepping the rank of Executive Story Editor, and given her 3 years worth of promotion in just one year of writing. Doug Petrie’s talent was also recognised early on and he was promoted midseason to Executive Story Editor (Petrie would continue to be promoted midseason, rather than the typical fall). Dan Vebber was not to last however and was ankled, Vebber continued to write freelance for Daria, and then joined Futorama in the 2000/1 season where he rose to Executive Story Editor, and remained until its cancellation last season. He subsequently moved to the WB’s midseason replacement The Mayor which was cancelled only a few weeks into production, and never aired. He is currently
working on a pilot
Into the 1999/0 season and there were now two Mutant Enemy shows on air Buffy Tuesday at Eight, and spin-off Angel an hour later. Whedon and Greenwalt created the new show, and both would Executive Produce it, with Greenwalt running it on a day to day basis (show runner), but also remaining at Buffy part time as Consulting Producer, though he would never write another episode (in fact he hadn’t since episode 5 of season 3). Whedon meanwhile would remain primarily at Buffy. Marti Noxon would also double up on both shows, as Consulting Producer on Angel where she would do rewrites on a number of scenes. These uncredited rewrites would continue for the next couple of years, to give another example, the line "God Doesn’t Love you but I still do", was actually penned by Noxon. Meanwhile back on Buffy Noxon was again fast tracked, side stepping the rank of Producer completely to become Supervising Producer (If your paying attention that’s five years of promotion in just two). In part this promotion was likely due to the fact that Greenwalt was gone from Buffy for the most part, and Whedon was no longer totally exclusive to Buffy, and this would result in periods when Marti was in charge of the show (i.e. when Whedon was onset directing, writing an episode, or over at Angel), and such a role demanded a decent rank that matched in stature. Another possible reason was that David Fury had finally succumbed and accepted a third offer of joining Buffy as Producer, and Marti needed to be officially distinguished as the superior. On a side note, if Fury had joined Buffy in season one, he could have been an Executive Producer by season Four. In addition to Fury, one more writer joined the staff of Buffy, Toronto native Tracey Forbes Joined Buffy as staff writer, from the Dan Akroyd’s Canadian series Psi Factor: Chronicles of the Paranormal
Generally when a new fall series is started the new shows actual writers wont get to write an episode till around episode 6, this gives the creators time to set up the show and utilise writers they are familiar with, and writers who are familiar with the style the creators want. Angel was no different, and utilised the Buffy writers Greenwalt, Whedon (both the shows creators), Fury, Petrie and Espensen to write the first 6 episodes. However only the shows creators were actually on staff, meaning they would be in the writer’s room helping shape the other episodes stories and rewriting episodes or scenes uncredited, the remaining 3 Buffy writers were all technically freelance. Meaning they came in, penned their episode but contributed nothing beyond that. Fury then went on to co-write Parting Gifts, again freelance (A necessity given the introduction of Wes who Jeannie Renshaw had never written for before, and had not been expected to)
In addition to Angel had it’s own exclusive staff writers completely separate from Buffy. Starting the season with Producers Tim Minear and Tracey Stern, Consulting Producer Howard Gordon and staff writer Jeannie Renshaw. These writers had spent the summer writing an episode of Angel that given the anthology nature of the show would be rewritten to fit in to the show at a latter date, when they were desperately short of available writers. Minear wrote Somnambulist and Stern Eternity, it is not known what the other two episodes were (they may have been about Doyle, so never used). Howard Gordon had actually been briefly consulting producer on Buffy (see 1997/8). His Fox midseason series Strange World was a flop and cancelled. But what was bad for Gordon personally worked out very well for Angel and Mutant Enemy, Greenwalt asked Gordon to join Angel on similar terms to his Buffy days, and he recommended his former Producer Tim Minear as well as some of the crew, Minear’s PA from Strange World, Mere Smith joined Angel as a script co-ordinator. Tracy Stern joined from Aaron Sorkin’s acclaimed Sports Night, whilst Jeannie Renshaw who had co-created Anthony Stewart Head’s former show VR.5 (with a team of four other writers including Strange Worlds’ Thania St. John). She had been ranked as Supervising Producer at VR.5, normally creators are ranked as Executive Producer, I would imagine the sheer number creators was the reason she was not, and the fact that the show was short lived and her first job the reason she did not keep this rank. Angel was her first job since VR.5’s cancellation in 1995. Renshaw was originally an actress, and appeared in the feature Hook as well a guest staring in shows such as Home Improvement and Dream On (Which David Fury had wrote for, though not at the time Renshaw appeared).
Only one of these writers was to last. Tracey Stern was gone by episode 7, the reasons are unknown (which strongly suggests fired). Her second episode of Season one Eternity was actually a rewrite by Minear of her summer emergency script. Stern subsequently wrote freelance for Law and Order: SVU before joining showtimes Leap Years as a producer in 2001. She has not worked since its cancellation in 2002. Howard Gordon left Angel after 15 episodes to write the pilot Ultraviolet for Fox, Ultraviolet was not picked up and neither was his subsequent 2000/1 pitch Ball and Chain, in 2001/2 he joined 24 where he is now executive producer and recently signed an overall deal. Jeannie Renshaw made it to the end of the season before departing. She worked as staff writer on UPN’s short-lived action thriller Level 9, following its cancellation she was unemployed until this season when she was picked up as Executive Story Editor on Charmed. The big find though was Tim Minear, who worked (either credited or uncredited) on 11 of the 17 episodes after ep 6. Minear’s promotion to Supervising Producer midseason was a sure sign that the powers that be were desperate to keep him. With all the writers problem was on staff in Season 1, after Howard Gordon’s departure Jim Kouf joined the show as a consulting producer. Kouf was not only Greenwalt’s former screenwriting partner from the 1980’s, but also an established feature writer and Executive Producer of such big screen hits as Rush Hour and Con Air. Even so the inclusion of Kouf and Minear on major overtime, was not enough to completely fill the void of only having 2 full time exclusive writers, and Mad-TV’s Co-Executive Producer Garry Campbell had to be drafted in to write a freelance episode Warzone.
Going into the next season the Buffy’s staff remained pretty much unchanged. Forbes was ankled, and joined the syndicated drama Code Name: Eternity as Executive Story Editor. Since then she has wrote freelance for a number of syndicated and cable shows, most recently at MTV’s Spider Man. Though she has not had a full time gig since Code Name: Eternity was cancelled in late 2000. Forbes replacement was former Freaks and Geeks writer Rebecca Rand Kirshna, but other than that the Buffy staff was unchanged at the start of the season, and everyone just got the normal promotions, even Noxon.
Angel though had been far from stable going into its second season Only Whedon, Greenwalt, Noxon, Minear and Kouf survived from the previous seasons staff. With Whedon and Noxon tied up primarily on Buffy, and Kouf only working part time they needed new writers. Thankfully they found them. Shawn Ryan, a who had spent the passed 3 seasons at CBS’s Nash Bridges joined Angel as producer, whilst Mere Smith was promoted from script co-ordinator to Staff writer. Mere’s rise to the writing ranks is one which most fans can take heart, Mere, or rather -Mere- was one of the shows initial online fans posting at the WB’s official Buffy board, the Bronze. In addition to the staffers Buffy writers Jane Espensen, Doug Petrie and David Fury penned some scripts freelance. Espensen successfully pitched the episode Guise will be Guise, Fury was needed for Disharmony, and Petrie was badly needed to help Minear write the teleplay, for a Greenwalt story in The Trial.
Mutant Enemy began setting up a third project that year, again from the Buffyverse, Buffy the Animated Series. Fox were impressed with Whedon’s pitch and agreed to commission 13 episodes likely for the fall of the 2002/3 on Fox kids (Animated series take a very long time to produce, they have only 13 episode seasons). but for the most part episodes could be written by the Buffy staff, with only 13 episodes to write in two years, the show would need only a minimum start up staff and maybe some freelancers. But it would need an Executive Producer and show runner, and perhaps one more staff writer. Jeph Loeb, who was supervising producer on PBS’s animated series Seven Little Monsters, and comic book writer for a number of runs including Batman: The Long Halloween for which he won an Eisner, the comic book equivalent to an Emmy. Also in the running for a possible staff position was MTV Undressed writer Steven S. DeKnight. DeKnight was looking to move away from Undressed, he quickly tired of the shows theme of getting attractive people to take their clothes off as quickly as possible, and the gruelling schedule which had seen DeKnight co-write 58 episodes over little more than a year. DeKnight wrote a Buffy spec script, and led to him going for a job at Buffy the Animated Series, the meeting with Joss went well, very well, and in addition to being offered the Animated gig, he was also offered the chance to write a freelance episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Initially it was planned that he would write a standalone episode, however the season 5 arc got in the way, and DeKnight ended up penning the arc heavy Blood Ties. Following it’s success he was offered another freelance episode with Spiral.
On the financial front both Whedon and Minear were to profit from new Overall deal contracts. Whedon’s whose previous contract was up at the end of the season, brokered a new 4 year deal "worth well over $20 million" in January, and featured astronomical bonus’s to get Buffy to season 8 and Angel to season 5. The contract applied only to TV work, and left him a free agent for Film. The deal whilst tying him to Buffy and Angel for another 4 seasons, also called on him to create and develop new shows. whilst Minear signed a three-year seven-figure drama development deal in August 2001.Going into the 2001/2 Season network changes were afoot. Negotiations for a sixth season of Buffy on the WB went badly, and in the end the show walked, entering an auction with rival networks, UPN emerged the victors with a $112.5 million 2 year deal. Staffing wise there was little change, everyone from the previous season returned (the first and only time in the shows history), whilst Steve DeKnight became a permanent fixture joining the staff as Story Editor. Also joining the staff was rookie writer Drew Z. Greenberg, who had previously written freelance for Queer as Folk. Whedon’s PA Diego Garcia Guiterez would also be given the opportunity of writing an episode of Buffy, penning episode 17 Normal Again freelance. Internally though the staffing dynamic changed somewhat. Marti Noxon was promoted to Executive Producer and became somewhat equal to Whedon, whilst Whedon himself began to take a much more back seat, taking 4 months off at the start of the season (including the summer hiatus) to pen the musical episode Once More With Feeling, it was to be his only episode of the season. Latter on in the season Whedon’s involvement became more diminished when Fox ordered the pilot, for a new show he had in development, Firefly. Which in effect led to Noxon becoming defacto show runner.
Over on Angel Jim Kouf and Shawn Ryan left at the end of the year, Ryan to Create and Executive Produce his own show on FX, The Shield. Kouf meanwhile returned to the features world, most recently working on the film Taxi, which features Christian Kane. He also made a brief return to TV in the 2003/4 season as supervising Producer on CBS’s The Handler, but the show was cancelled in January 2004. In addition to losing these two, Angel also had to contend the near effective loss of both Whedon and Noxon, Whedon who hardly had time for Buffy, certainly didn’t have much time for Angel. Noxon meanwhile was kept busy over at Buffy by the lack of Whedon there, leaving her Consulting position little more than honouree. Just Greenwalt, Minear and Smith effectively survived from the previous season. Two more writers were hired, Co-Producer Jeffrey Bell joined up, after 3 years of working on the X-Files (in his defence he only wrote 5 episodes in all that time), and Story Editor Scott Murphy joined Angel, having previously worked on the WB Saturday morning show The Nightmare Room. Mid season it became clear that Bell was a keeper and he was promoted to Producer, simultaneously Minear was promoted to Executive Producer. Murphy however doesn’t appear to have worked out and he wrote only 2 episodes that year, and nothing after episode 11. He hasn’t worked in Hollywood since. There was also more freelancing. After the success of Smith, they looked to Buffy Script Supervisor, David H Goodman to provide a couple of episodes freelance (Dad, and Double or Nothing). Goodman left his Buffy gig, and joined Birds of Prey as a staff writer and Director, and following its cancellation is working on ratings giant Without a Trace. Also freelancing was David Fury, who was again drafted into write The Price when a shortage of available writers necessitated.
In May, Fox picked up the rights to the new Mutant Enemy show Firefly. Whedon had created the show, but it would need its own show runner, Whedon wanted Tim Minear, and in fear that Greenwalt would quit in protest over losing his best writer, he offered to transfer Buffy’s new great writer Steve DeKnight, who would be promoted to Co-Producer. Minear would maintain involvement with Angel as a Consulting Producer. Unfortunately Greenwalt did quit in protest, but not over that, his contract with Fox was up (see 1998/9 season), and Fox "weren’t stepping up to the plate". He had an epiphany and decided that show running ABC’s Miracles was a much better idea. Greenwalt did remain nominally at Angel, like Minear as Consulting Producer. Not all contracts proved to be a disaster for the mutant enemy family though, Marti Noxon became one of only a few writers to sign new overall development deals with studios looking to trim costs, tying herself to Fox and Buffy for 3 years, with a seven-figure overall deal. However she too was to depart her consulting position at Angel.
This left Angel with a bit of a staff shortage, Minear was sort of there but not exclusively and only until episode 7 (there after he was at Firefly), Noxon was totally gone, Greenwalt was gone in all but name, and Whedon had two other shows on the air. With the loss of Murphy, only Bell and Smith remained on staff. DeKnight though had been bought in, whilst former Glory Days scribes Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain were hired as staff writers. Buffy Co-Executive Producer David Fury had written freelance in every season of Angel, was also bought in as consulting Producer, in a move envisioned to be similar to Noxon’s in the first 3 seasons. Still the show needed a show runner and former Roswell Consulting Producer, David Simkins who had an overall deal with Fox, was drafted in. However Simkins was not to last, after just a few months in the job he was fired (creative differences), and was never credited on an episode of Angel. In the end Angel’s show runner was found in-house, with Jeffrey Bell being upped to Co-Executive Producer, which gave him 3 years of promotion in just one. Fury also picked up some of the flack, and his part time gig actually ended up taking a larger proportion of his time than his day job, seeing him pen 4 episodes of Angel that year.
Mutant Enemy’s new show was Firefly, Like Angel it had its doubled up staff, this time of Whedon and Minear and like Angel the regular staff did not begin work on the show till episode 6. With Whedon writing the original 2 hour pilot (Serenity, and episode 5(Our Mrs Reynolds, and sharing honours with Tim Minear on episode 1 (The Train Job)and Minear also writing episode 2 (Bushwhacked), and as with Angel Buffy writers were bought in to fill in the blanks, this time Jane Espensen and Drew Greenberg. Firefly’s own staff consisted of Ben Edlund, creator of all 3 forms of the Tick (comic, cartoon and Live action series), joined as producer. Former Roswell writer Cheryl Cain joined as Executive Story Editor, as did Jose Molina who had previously worked on both Buffy and Angel as Howard Gordon’s PA, and was most recently at Dark Angel as Story Editor. Finally comic book writer Brett Matthews, who had previously worked with Whedon on a number of comics, also wrote for the show. Over at Buffy the staffofficially changed little. DeKnight had obviously left, but his departure was somewhat made up for by the hireling of talented new staff writer Drew Goddard, who got the job through a Six Feet Under spec script. However Whedon’s role was diminished further, with him split between 3 shows, his time was at a premium, in one case the story to Selfless was plotted out, with Drew Goddard, whilst he simultaneously directed Firefly! Noxon meanwhile was on maternity leave during the early part of the season, and Fury was required more at Angel.
In June Buffy the Animated Series was finally green lit, having spent a year in development hell. Unfortunately it was one week to late for Executive Producer Jeph Loeb who signed up as Consulting Producer on Smallville, where he remains. However by November the project was scrapped, after Fox kids, had a rethink on their programming, and decided they needed a different approach on Saturday mornings. Still the animated series was the last of Mutant Enemy’s worries when in December 2002 when Fox cancelled Firefly. Which whilst bad for Mutant Enemy was good for Angel as Minear was able to come back full time (though he remained credited as Consulting Producer). Ben Edlund was also rescued from the dying show, joining Angel as Producer. Also on Angel Craft and Fain’s talents, were recognised midseason when they were promoted to Story Editors. The rest of the Firefly writers went elsewhere however. Cheryl Cain to Threat Matrix as story editor, whilst Jose Molina recently wrote for Law and Order - Special Victims Unit. Brett Mathews returned to the comic world.
Mutant Enemy’s woes were confounded further in January when Buffy star Sarah Michelle Geller announced she would not be renewing her contract, effectively cancelling the show. The move was expected and long rumoured, and a Faith the Vampire Slayer spin-off was in the works, created by Tim Minear and Joss Whedon, it had been green lighted by UPN, but that too fell apart in February, when Eliza Dushka turned down the offer to star in it. Other spin-off ideas were pitched, but none were felt feasible. November to February was a bad 4 months for Mutant Enemy in which they lost 2 projects in production, and 2 in development.
For the most part the Buffy staff moved on. Joss of course was still attached to Angel, as was Fury who signed on permanently with the show as Co-Executive Producer. Noxon departed Mutant Enemy to show run the still unseen Fox midseason replacement series Still Life, and also had a pilot Point Pleasant in production that was not picked up. Espensen headed to The Gilmore Girls as Co-Executive Producer, where she bought actor Danny Strong along for company, next fall she’ll join the staff of Eliza Dushka’s Tru Calling. Tru Calling also was Petrie’s home briefly as Co-Executive Producer, before he left to create The Robinson’s - Lost in Space for the WB. He was however sacked over creative differences prior to the pilot being rejected. Kirshna signed on as co-producer at the frosh ABC drama Las Vegas before departing to replace Espensen at The Gilmore Girls, finally Greenberg who headed to Smallville as Executive Story Editor in 2003 will be joining The OC in the fall. Drew Goddard meanwhile became the only Buffy writer to jump ship to Angel, joining them as executive story editor.
Angel itself future though was in jeopardy. The fourth season whilst critically acclaimed had performed badly in the ratings, in the year that Dawson’s Creek was cancelled Angel averaged 18% less than it for first run episodes. With no idea if it was coming back it was hard to keep key principals, Tim Minear departed to show run frosh Fox show Wonderfalls as part of his overall deal, whilst Mere Smith headed for frosh WB drama Tarzan as Co-Producer. However luck was on Angel’s side as the show was renewed after a third successive year on the bubble and the bulk of the talent remained. Jeff Bell remained as show runner, Fury joining full time as Co-executive Producer, whilst Edlund, DeKnight, Craft and Fain also remained. Whedon divided his time between writing for Angel, and writing the next new project ME were developing, Firefly the Movie, later to become Serenity
The fifth season was however to prove to be the last. Whilst luck, fortuitous coincidence and hard work had helped get the show renewed, Luck abandoned AtS, and despite the fact that ratings increased nearly 15% the show was cancelled as a result of other problems at the WB and increased costs. It is the second highest rated program to be cancelled on the WB. Several of the writers received final promotions as this Both Jeff Bell and David Fury became Executive Producers and Steve DeKnight was upped to supervising producer. Jeff Bell also signed an overall deal, not with 20th Century Fox but with Touchstone in a two year 7-figure deal that will see him write for Alias as Co-Executive Producer in the first year, and upped to Executive Producer in the second year. Drew Goddard will also be joining Alias, whilst Steve DeKnight will head to Smallville, and Craft and Fain to former Angel writer’s Shawn Ryan’s show, The Shield. ME will continue however, Serenity will start production soon with Whedon directing, whilst Buffy the animated slayer is back in development.
Thus concludes the history of the first Eight years of Mutant Enemy, May there be another Eight years still to come.
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