Thursday, September 14, 2006

Buffy The Vampire Slayer - Season 1 Review

US Airdate on The WB: March 10th –June 2nd 1997

The movie that failed hits the small screen with much deserved success as a sleepy town hides all things that go bump in the night. Their oppressor: a savvy, blonde sixteen year old with a destiny to fulfil.

I May Be Blonde But I Can Seriously Kick Your Ass – As I’ve said in my series review for, this is the series that made TV into an obsession and awoke the reviewer within. Not seeing this show in correct order, when I went to watch the first season, I wasn’t completely impressed. It was because I had seen the second (most of it) prior and I felt that the show’s opening year wasn’t on a par. Granted out of all the seven seasons of Buffy there is, I would still rank Season One as my least favourite but to be positive, this is one of the best debut seasons to any show past and present and while it may be a pain that it only ran for twelve episodes and had been the least arc driven of Buffy seasons, there is still a lot to recommend about it.

For instance, opening episode “Welcome To The Hellmouth” set up every single character perfectly. We had a seemingly meek and innocent blonde girl named Darla turn into a vampire and kill a random jock while the slayer herself, Buffy Summers had been set up as sweet, aloof and determined to eschew the responsibilities of her supernatural calling. Her various arguments with Giles, who manages to not be a bumbling British stereotype, even if he was a little uptight in the early years, were fabulous. How could you not laugh at how she simply spotted a vampire because he was wearing clothing from 1970’s? Then there was Angel, all dark and mysterious with the intense attraction between him and Buffy more or less asserted with minimal dialogue and strong body language between David Boreanaz and Sarah Michelle Gellar, as the clumsy and socially awkward trio of Xander, Jesse and Willow as well as Uber-bitch Cordelia. Even The Master coming out of that pool and being stuck underground in an abandoned church as he forces his cohorts into feeding on enough humans and using Luke as a vessel so he could be freed from his own entrapment in “The Harvest”. Suffice to say, The Master failed, Luke got dusted and Darla had holy water thrown in her face but everything about this show was set. The characters felt like real teenagers and even looked like them too, the adults such as Giles, Principal Flutie and even Joyce Summers felt more than accessories and we had villains to be intrigued, amused and afraid of all at once while setting up a fantastic legacy. Although the arc with The Master remained more lighter in favour of setting up Buffy and Giles as slayer and watcher, her relationship with Angel, rivalry with Cordelia and friendships with Xander and Willow and even Giles embarking on a relationship with the plucky Jenny Calendar, the twists such as having an innocent child being summoned to a dangerous vampire called The Anointed One and even the shocking connection of Angel and Darla before The Master got his way with Buffy long enough to walk the earth again . Thinking about Season One was pretty damn memorable.

The first two episodes aside, other episodes I couldn’t get enough of including “Witch”, which the only cheerleading story told on a TV series that kept my interest as it debuted naughty witch Amy Madison (who got more interesting in future appearances), “Never Kill A Boy On The First Date” which saw Buffy’s attempts of dating a regular guy blow up in her face (big hint for Seasons Four and Five then, huh?), “Angel” which was pretty pivotal in revealing that hunky David Boreanaz was a vampire with a soul determined to atone for the horrible things he had in his past thanks to Darla’s influence on him. It was here that also showed that Boreanaz also had slightly more alluring chemistry with Julie Benz than Gellar as Angel and Darla’s more than colourful past would put Jack The Ripper to shame. I also have soft spot “The Puppet Show”, even if it did introduce the loathsome Principal Snyder (think Miss Trunchbull with a penis) and I absolutely adore the concept of “Nightmares”, even if looking at the Scoobies worst fears was something to be better handled in Season Four. There’s also the penultimate episode “Out Of Mind, Out Of Sight”, which is noteworthy for giving Cordelia much needed depth and having future Carnivale actress Clea DuVall as an invincible girl with violent tendencies (though who could blame her for hurting Harmony?). This leaves the season finale “Prophecy Girl” – again snappy dialogue, a genuine sense of foreboding terror and danger and enough emotional weight that enforced your love for the characters. Buffy’s defeat of The Master was sweet and her honest and frank discussion in regards to her own mortality was needed. Essentially, this may be my least favourite season but it started and ended perfectly and even the odd naff episode such as “Teacher’s Pet” or “I Robot You Jane” didn’t deter the fun that was more or less had.

DVD EXTRAS: A good first season deserves a good set of DVD extras and what is on offer has a hit and miss quality. I like when you put in the DVD the screen has clips of episodes and the Nerf Herder theme but I hate that you have to click on the episode to get the extras. The first disc has two fantastic commentaries from Joss Whedon himself on “Welcome To The Hellmouth” and “The Harvest” as he explains about The WB having reservations for using the word “slut” and how any scene in a graveyard for the first year actually took place in a graveyard. He also notes how the show is about a blonde who doesn’t have the patience to be in a horror film, which made me laugh and his joint interview with David Boreanaz is pleasant enough. The trailer for the first season is okay but I hate the inclusion of scripts because they are hard to read and I don’t have the patience to read through. I also like Hepburn’s “I Quit” music video on Disc 2 even though it contained clips from Seasons Three and Four and the photo gallery and cast biographies on the last disc are fine. All in all, decent extras but the commentaries are the real highlight though.


1x01: Welcome To The Hellmouth = 9/10, 1x02: The Harvest = 8/10,
1x03: Witch =7/10, 1x04: Teacher’s Pet =6/10,
1x05: Never Kill A Boy On The First Date =7/10, 1x06: The Pack = 6/10,
1x07: Angel = 10/10, 1x08: I Robot You Jane = 5/10,
1x09: The Puppet Show = 8/10, 1x10: Nightmares = 10/10,
1x11: Out Of Mind, Out Of Sight = 7/10, 1x12: Prophecy Girl = 9/10.

Season One is both available on VHS and DVD.

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