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Buffy The Vampire SlayerShe saved TV. A lot. - Fans mourn end of `Buffy’
By Joel Brown
Friday 23 May 2003, by Webmaster
The story of the TV series ``Buffy the Vampire Slayer’’ is a lot like the story of its title character.
A spunky underdog is chosen to fight the good fight against overwhelming odds. She triumphs with high-kicking action, sardonic wit and the help of a small group of loyalists. But her effort is largely overlooked by society - usually, her achievement must be its own reward.
For Buffy Summers, whom we first met as a transfer student at Sunnydale High School in California, it has been an arduous journey to this week’s final episode (at 8 p.m. tonight on WSBK, Ch. 38).
It was hard enough being the new girl in school, the only child of a single mom. But then Buffy learned that: A) her high school was situated over the Hellmouth, and B) she was the slayer, the chosen one, destined to battle the vampires and demons drawn to that font of evil.
Soon, though, Buffy attracted a posse of other outcasts, assembling a trunkful of weapons and a formidable run of victories. By the end of season three, when high school graduation turned into a big-time slayfest, Buffy was older, wiser and on top of her game.
The story was much the same for the ``Buffy’’ series. It started out in 1997 as a kind of transfer student - creator Joss Whedon felt his screenplay for the 1992 ``Buffy’’ movie had been screwed up, and he convinced the fledgling WB network that he could do the idea justice in a series.
Whedon’s chosen one was Sarah Michelle Gellar, a teenage soap opera actress. She surprised viewers expecting low-rent camp by bringing brains, poignance and depth to the role of Buffy.
Whedon gave her plenty to work with. The horror genre has long used its monsters, terrors and transformations as metaphors for adolescent traumas such as puberty, exams and bad dates. Whedon took it a step further and intertwined both types of dangers - most memorably in season two, when high school junior Buffy finally went all the way with the love of her life, good vampire Angel (David Boreanaz), and it cost him his soul.
Way harsh, dude.
Whedon’s dialogue was irresistible, alternating hilarious snark and a sort of desperate Hellmouth poetry.
``Buffy’’ became a cult sensation, WB’s highest-rated series to that point. It put the network on the map. There may have been some truth in the stereotype that its most loyal fans resembled Buffy’s best friend Willow (Alyson Hannigan) - brainy, cybersavvy, slightly repressed young women interested in the occult (i.e., hunky vampires) and empowered by the slayer’s courage. But there were guy fans, too; Buffy was the latest in a long line of karate-kicking hot chicks on TV, going back at least to Emma Peel on ``The Avengers.’’
The show’s greatest strength, though, was neither gender politics nor sex appeal but the lifelike camaraderie among the outcast ``Scooby Gang,’’ their interlocking crushes and friendships, loyalties and rivalries - all of which came into play, for better or worse, when it was time to battle the latest Big Bad. In the heyday of ``ER’’ and ``Friends,’’ it was the TV home of many outsiders. Whedon dared a dialogue-free episode and a musical.
No Emmys arrived, though. For all the great reviews and Entertainment Weekly shoutouts, the Buffster never quite got the mainstream respect she deserved. ``Dawson’s Creek’’ drew bigger numbers for WB. The buzz subsided. ``The Sopranos’’ became the show everyone wanted to talk about at work the next day. And after season five, ``Buffy’’ moved over (down?) to UPN.
Buffy and the Scoobies had a hard time, too, adjusting to life after high school, with roommates and classes at UC Sunnydale. Most of them, it seems, have dropped out.
Buffy herself endured all kinds of boyfriend problems, met the sister she never knew existed, lost her mother and sacrificed herself for humankind. (Tombstone epitaph: SHE SAVED THE WORLD/A LOT.) No surprise then that when she was brought back from the dead, she found a grownup life with bills and responsibilities less appealing than heaven had been.
Willow, meanwhile, discovered her lesbian side, got into witchcraft abuse and almost destroyed the world. Xander (Nicholas Brendon) dumped his fiancee at the altar. Angel got his own show, and Buffy started shagging the ``peroxided pest,’’ Spike. Now they’re banding together for one last showdown with evil in Tuesday’s final episode.
Many fans find the current season anticlimactic. But just like the Scoobies, we’re standing with ``Buffy’’ to the end, because she has risked so much for us that we never can thank her enough.