Buffy The Vampire Slayer"Buffy" All Staked Out
By Julie Keller
Monday 26 May 2003, by Webmaster
After tonight, the world will be short one of its most beloved superheroes.
Tuesday night marks the series finale for the Sarah Michelle Gellar-led cult series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. For seven years, the butt-kicking bane of all things evil and her Scooby Gang of sidekicks have grown up, vanquished demons, endured heartache and loss and entrenched themselves into the heart of fans and the annals of pop culture for an eternity as they struggled through high school, college and beyond.
Though details of the finale, which kicks off at 8 p.m. on UPN, are sketchy at best, creator Joss Whedon promises tears and possibly backlash.
"It’s never my intent to piss people off, but if you’re doing anything well, you’ll be pissing off at least half the people who love your show," he tells E! Online. "We’re definitely doing some things that are a little shocking, and there’s a lot of closure."
Among the highlights of the show, which pits the pint-sized blond crime-fighter against a shape-shifting evil being called The First, will be a cameo by Buffy’s first love, Angel played by David Boreanaz, who has found success with the spinoff series, um, Angel. Also on tap will be the return of several key characters and the deaths of several longtime veterans.
Regardless of how it ends, everyone involved in the series can declare it a victory, considering the show’s less-than-auspicious beginnings.
The show started life as a little-seen 1992 movie of the same name starring 90210 hunk Luke Perry (news) and Kristy Swanson (news) as our gal Buffy. The film tanked at the box office, but Whedon managed to find an afterlife on the small screen in 1996, when Buffy launched as a midseason replacement on the teen-friendly WB Network after it was passed up twice by other networks.
The show centered around a good-looking, fashion-conscious teen, Buffy, who lived in Sunnydale, a fictitious, storybook-looking town that had the bad fortune of being smack-dab in the middle of a demon-spewing Hellmouth. Much to her chagrin, the wannabe Valley Girl also possessed super-fighting powers and was the only one who could save the citizens of her town from the fangs of local vampires and the wiles of countless other demons.
Over the years, Buffy faced the perils of high school and college, as well as the forces of evil, with the help of her best friends Willow (Alyson Hannigan (news)), Xander (Nicholas Brendon (news)) and her beloved, uptight British Watcher/trainer/guide Giles (Anthony Stewart Head (news)). And as they struggled through heartbreak, love triangles, lesbianism, bad roommates, demon lovers and more, a dedicated group of fans was hooked.
Buffy snowballed into a successful franchise for the network, pulling in lucrative licensing deals, spawning hundreds of online fan clubs and launching Gellar to the status of teen TV and movie queen. At its high point on the WB, Buffy pulled in 5.3 million viewers a week, and the cool clothes, hip sarcasm and colorful characters became water-cooler fodder for adults and teens alike.
The show hit a speed bump in 2000 when the WB and UPN went into a bidding war for the series, with the UPN eventually beating out the Frog and shifting the show to a new venue for more than $100 million over two years.
Even switching networks didn’t slow down the show’s momentum. The debut of season six pulled in a whopping 7.7 million viewers, and the show has continued to garner in strong ratings. In spite of the success, Gellar decided not to reup her contract for 2004, choosing instead to pursue her burgeoning film career.
Whedon tossed around the idea of continuing the series without her, or possibly spinning off a new franchise based on the actress’ TV sis Dawn (Michelle Trachtenberg (news)) or fellow slayer Faith (Eliza Dushku (news)). Those plans never made it off the drawing board, however, and Whedon and the powers-that-be at UPN decided to call it quits.
But the end of Buffy is not the end of the franchise. Angel just got picked up for another season on the WB, there’s a new videogame and comic book series that extends the franchise, and both Gellar and Whedon have kicked around the idea of a future big-screen version of the show.
For now, however, Gellar and her alter ego are taking a break. Whether or not Buffy returns, fans will always be thankful for her. After all, like the inscription said on her tombstone when she died (for the second time) two years ago: "She saved the world...A lot."