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Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Buffy Chosen Collection DVD - Al.com Review

Sunday 25 December 2005, by Webmaster

ONCE MORE, WITH EXTRAS `Buffy’ lives on in DVD collection ["Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Chosen Collection."Retails for $199.98]

Much like heroin users, who reportedly spend their entire careers as addicts trying to replicate the bliss of their first hit, nothing gets a fan of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" as excited as finding someone who is just working his or her way through the TV series.

To vicariously feel the thrill of seeing, say, "Innocence," or "Once More, With Feeling," or "Doppelgangland" with fresh eyes? It’s the closest thing we have to experiencing anew our own first taste of one of the most addictively brilliant shows ever.

You don’t come across many casual "Buffy" fans, which is why there is indeed a market for the new 40-disc "Chosen Collection." Because as with "Veronica Mars," the series widely acknowledged (even by "Buffy" creator Joss Whedon) to be the successor to the throne, to love "Buffy" is to LOVE it. Conversely, it’s nearly impossible to love the show if you don’t have a thorough understanding of the richly developed backstory, which evolved over seven mostly wonderful seasons before ending with a noticeable limp in its step in May 2003.

The Chosen Collection features all 144 episodes of the show, lovingly bound in a "rare artwork case" and including a collectible book and letter signed by Whedon (who, in a video introduction to the collection, proclaims Buffy "may be the most important show I’ll ever do"). However, Fox Home Entertainment made only the bonus disc available for review, so we can’t testify to the worth - or lack thereof - of anything else.

"Buffy," which focuses on the titular heroine (Sarah Michelle Gellar), her group of high school friends (including Alyson Hannigan and Nicholas Brendon) and her forbidden love with semi-reformed vampire Angel (David Boreanaz), has always been widely dismissed as a genre show, or, maybe worse, a teen-skewed show. That misconception gets plenty of attention on "Back to the Hellmouth: A Conversation with Creators and Cast," an hour-long roundtable discussion replete with candles and wine.

(Brendon, Emma Caulfield and Charisma Carpenter, who went on to the spin-off "Angel," are the only lead actors who deigned to show up. Gellar, who may never do work as nuanced and stunning as she did on "Buffy," might want to remember that she once starred in the movie "Simply Irresistible," and then get right on over herself.)

Producer Marti Noxon, who joined the show in the exemplary second season, talks about seeing a billboard for it and scoffing at the idiocy of Hollywood for making an apparently dumb series out of a failed 1992 movie. Then, she says, she saw the Season 1 landmark episode "Angel" and decided, "This is the best show EVER."

Jane Espenson, who started writing episodes in Season 3, had a similar revelation the year before with "Ted." "It was a show," sums up latter-day staff writer Drew Goddard, "that everyone discounted."

The roundtable, shot in August, begins with a few dead spots and gradually grows into something considerably deeper and more candid (much, frankly, like "Buffy" itself). The cast and crew delve into the irony of the network having a problem with the word "virgin" being used in Season 1, only to eventually reach the point - and this is a reference every fan will get - of "Spike on the balcony, Season 6." Whedon also reveals that the only time he threatened to quit the show was when the WB tried to veto a kiss between Willow (Hannigan) and her girlfriend during one of the most remarkable hours ever broadcast on television, "The Body."

The bonus disc is rounded out with a quartet of featurettes, all about 10 minutes each. None disappoints (with the possible exception of the one about stunts, which seems tailor-made for boys - they’re predisposed to enjoy boring things, after all). The joy is in reliving your favorite moments along with the people who helped create them, and hearing, even for the millionth time, the reasons the show worked so magnificently - the metaphor, used so literally here, of how being a teenager truly can be hell.

"What Buffy did so well," muses Espenson, "is make mistakes, and pick herself up again." Even if you know this already, it’s impossible not to eat it up like candy. Band candy, even.

Phoebe Flowers writes for Knight Ridder Newspapers.