Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Buffy Rewatch: Week 1

**To leave comments with spoilers, go here.

Welcome to the Buffy Rewatch!!! Cue opening music:
[Creepy Vincent Price organ, werewolf, screechy guitar]: Nar... nar nar nar... [screamy sound with picture from The Witch]

OK, enough of that. I know some people thought that theme song was cheesy. I, on the other hand, LOVED it. Not as much as the Angel theme song, but the Buffy one fits the show perfectly.

This is my first time rewatching the first season of Buffy since 2002, when I was working on the second edition of my Bite Me book. That was a LONG time ago. I didn’t have kids back then, and I was still in my 20s. Ah... Those were the days. Bite Me was first released in 1998 with just the first two seasons in it, and then again in 2002 with the first six (and finally the complete “Chosen” edition came out in 2007 with all of the seasons). The books were all well reviewed, but I received one criticism over and over again: I was too harsh on Joyce, Buffy’s mother. I remember watching the show and finding her very ineffectual. She was too caught up in her own life and not noticing the immense trials and pain her daughter was going through. It’s not like she had three children, she just had one. She wasn’t taking into consideration that her daughter was dealing with losing her father after he’d run off and left them (more on that in future episodes, for those watching for the first time), and there are many scenes where she simply refuses to listen to Buffy. Now, I’m going to stand behind some of my thoughts in those upcoming scenes, but I have to admit, I watched these first few episodes very differently this time. Now I watch her as a calm, collected mother, who’s dealing with a daughter who, for all she knows, is a troublemaker who burned down her school’s gym. Her husband has just left her for someone else, and she’s alone and trying to make a go of it in a new town, with a new job, and desperately holding on to the hope that her daughter won’t eff this one up. She tries to stay calm with Buffy, but it usually backfires.

In “The Witch,” there’s a scene where Buffy trounces into the kitchen and talks about her tryouts, while her mom is too busy trying to open some crates to even pay attention to her. When Buffy asks her, “Mom, what am I trying out for?” Joyce pauses, closes her eyes, and admits she has no idea. I remember watching that and, while not condemning Joyce, thinking it was too bad that she couldn’t pay more attention to her daughter. But now I find I do the same things, that I’m busily working overtime every evening while my six-year-old is trying to talk to me, saying things like, “That’s great, honey, but Mommy REALLY needs to get this thing done quickly and then I’ll have LOTS of time to talk to you tomorrow!” and tomorrow never seems to come. Parents beat themselves up and are filled with guilt, and Joyce does that, too. In the scene at the end of The Witch, when Joyce comes into Buffy’s room and says she’s decided she simply doesn’t understand Buffy and isn’t meant to, I used to think that was a cop-out... it’s clear what’s wrong with Buffy, why can’t she see it? I thought. But now I can see why Joyce thinks that.

Maybe Buffy is a great parenting tool – by watching the show from Buffy’s perspective, you understand why she’s frustrated with Joyce all the time, and you can see what Joyce SHOULD have done in the scene. At the same time, watch it from Joyce’s perspective and you’ll see how confusing Buffy can be to her. Perhaps parents and children should all be watching this show together! But in any case, I’ve wronged you, Joyce. And for that, I’m truly sorry.

Watching these first episodes again, I'm immediately in love with the show all over again. I've created an army of Buffy converts over the years -- my DVDs (and before that, VHS tapes) are well worn and well loved -- but with each one I usually hand out the same caveat, and I'll say it to the new viewers here now: get through season 1. At times it'll seem a little monster-of-the-week, but the seeds of the series are there, and once you get into the gorgeous storyline of season 2 you'll be swept away. I defy anyone to get to the Surprise/Innocence combo and stop watching.

That said, if you're REwatching it, as I am, watching season 1 is an absolute joy. The dialogue is still crisp and sharp, the ensemble cast is wonderful (there are a few hiccups in the beginning but they get past them quickly), the relationships between characters are evident from the beginning.

I started this blog in 2006, when Buffy had been off the air for three years and Lost was heading into its third season. Which means... I've never gotten to blog on a Buffy episode! So this rewatch is as exciting for me as anyone else who will be guest commentating over the next year. I've decided I'm going to format my commentary the same way I did my weekly Lost observations, but on the weeks where I'm not the primary commentator (which will be only six weeks over the year!) I'll offer a quick take and let the guest commentator take over. You'll see below that I'll put the spoilery bits after each episode (and render them invisible to anyone who doesn't want to look at them). So if this is your first time watching the show, don't highlight those sections and you'll remain spoiler-free.

So, onto my observations for the first three episodes! Some of this might double what I said in my book, but since I haven’t reread my book, I can’t remember what I wrote there.

1.1 Welcome to the Hellmouth

• The very opening, where the innocent girl in the school uniform turns out to be the vicious monster. Right from the first seconds of the series, Joss subverts our expectations of what we’ve come to know about monster shows, and he’ll keep right on doing it throughout the series.
• Xander lines: Saying the library is “where the books live.” “Xander... is me... hi.” “The only thing I can think is that you’re building a really little fence.”
• The principal. Oh my GOD I loved Ken Lerner as Principal Flutie. When he begins taping up her records again after dramatically ripping them up, it always makes me laugh.
• ♥♥♥ Willow ♥♥♥ She’s always been my favourite character, and season 1 Willow is the version of her that you just want to reach out and hug and protect from the baddies. I adored her when I first saw her (I was also the kid in high school with clothes I picked out with my mom... a fact pointed out by the Cordys of my school) and I still adore her. I think once you’re the picked-on person, you’re always going to be.
• When Buffy walked into the library, I felt like I was home again.
• Giles. This first episode is just filled with the love I have for so many characters. I still think when he’s handing Buffy the books, her question about ordering the Time/Life series (and his stuttering response) is one of the best moments of season 1.
• Again, subverting our expectations, Giles attempts to give the big speech, and Buffy cuts him off and he realizes this Slayer isn’t going to be an easy one to deal with.
• Cordy lines: “I don’t mean to interrupt your downward mobility...” “Don’t you have an elsewhere to be?” “WHAT is your childhood TRAUMA?” “Excuse me, I have to call everyone I have ever met RIGHT NOW.”
• Buffy: “Isn’t that bizarre? Aren’t you just going... ooh?”
• Giles: “But you didn’t... hone.”
• Buffy: “Live in the now! You look like DeBarge!!”

Interesting notes:
• On the DVD opening page, there’s a picture of Buffy leaning forward, and she’s all boobs and stake (this was the season where Buffy actually had boobs... before she went and lost pounds she really didn’t need to lose). That was the original cover of my first book before it was redesigned. Ack.
• Charisma is 27 in the first season, playing the 16-year-old Cordy.
• I was looking in the background at the Bronze at all of the posters of indie bands and it occurred to me that probably 99.9% of the bands on the wall no longer exist.

Did You Notice?:
• I had totally forgotten about that annoying WB announcer voice that does the whole “Into each generation” bit. Don’t worry, for those watching the first time: Giles will eventually take over that line.
• Darla is SO young! For the newbies, you’re probably saying, “Hey, check out Rita!”
• For the most part, the pop culture references stand up. But lines like, “James Spader NEEDS to call me” will cause you to wince.
• When Buffy is walking through the alley, the guy who scares her is totally the dude from Bones!!
• When Cordelia pulls out her cellphone to call everyone she’s ever met, it’s the size of a car battery.
• The Master rising seemed pretty anticlimactic. BtVS was never big in the way of special FX. Even worse than Lost, sadly.
• When I was rewatching season 1 in 2002, my husband and I noticed that the prosthetics used in the mouths of the vampires got better as the seasons went on. In season 1, they can all barely talk. For years my husband and I will occasionally do our impressions of the vampires with giant chompers. “He wash young and shtupid! You’re shtrong... I’m shtronger! You think you can shtop us, Shlayer??”

Spoilery observations (only read this is this is a rewatch for you) Read below by highlighting the white section to magically make the words appear:
• Angel telling Buffy that he thought she’d be taller is a bit of an oops... we’ll find out in Becoming that he’s been following her around for ages, and knows exactly how tall she is.
• Throughout much of season 1 and 2, Willow will be the damsel in distress, and yet she’ll be the one who will eventually save them all.
• Buffy lying in the coffin foreshadows the beginning of season 6.

1.2 The Harvest

• “Written by Joss Whedon.” Four of my favourite words in the English language. When placed together like that, of course.
• “They can fly?” “They can drive.”
• “God! I am so mentally challenged!!”
• Giles calling the computer “that dread machine” and then pausing to say, “That was a bit... British, wasn’t it?” LOL!!
• The pool cue scene, where Buffy stakes the vamp without even looking, is CLASSIC. I actually backed it up and watched it twice.

Did You Notice?:
• I love Giles spinning the globe while he’s talking. He’s nothing if not dramatic.
• Buffy can leap over a fence in a single bound... something she can’t quite do later. Her super-hero-ness will continue to change throughout the series, and it’ll never be completely clear what she can and can’t do.
• Seriously, Buffy... you talk about bad clothing choices on other people and you’re not going to say a WORD about Angel’s purple velvet outfit? Really?? Speaking of DeBarge...
• Harmony! (Cordy’s blond friend in the computer class will become a bigger character in episodes to come.) The trick that Willow pulls on Cordy is something that could only be done on mid-90s IBMs. Cordy could just hit the Undo button now.
• Why does the doorman ask for the vampire’s IDs? No one in the Bronze is of age!
• “Don’t go Wild Bunch on me.” Joss Whedon is a big fan of Peckinpah’s ultraviolent Western, and will actually create two characters in a season 2 episode that are based on the characters in the movie... to fairly disastrous results (oh Bad Eggs... how you mar season 2...)
• In the two-part pilot you could see who was comfortable in their role already, and who still needed some work (within the next episode or two they’ll all have settled into their character roles). I always cringe at the scene where Cordy is holding court at the Bronze talking about the difference between juniors and seniors. She’s comfortable giving out the zingers, but in this scene she’s stilted. Darla’s not comfortable yet, Angel’s smarmy in a way he’s not by mid-season... but the Scoobies, for the most part, are just right.

Spoilery observations (only read this is this is a rewatch for you):
• I found Darla a little inconsistent in this episode with what we’ll later know about her. When we see her backstory with Angel, she’s rude and completely blasé around the Master, and controls every situation she’s in. She announces she’s gallivanting off with Angel and rubs the Master’s face in it, leaving him behind without a care. But here she’s worshiping him and cowering before him, completely different than the Darla she used to be. This, of course, can easily be chalked up to early episode problems that exist in every show, where a particular character wasn’t very completely drawn yet.
• Xander’s insecurities of being less than a man (something that will come up several times in the series) are something he finally comes to terms with and explains in season 7’s “Potential.”
• Giles, Xander, Buffy, and Willow all walk along the pathway where Angel will chase (and eventually kill) Jenny in Passion.
• At the end of the episode, Giles stands alone and says, “The earth is doomed.” This scene will be mirrored in the series finale, when the group all begins talking about menial things right before a big battle, and Giles repeats, “The earth is definitely doomed.”

1.3 The Witch

• Giles, in one of his classic lines: “That’s the thrill of living on the hellmouth. There’s a veritable cornucopia of fiends and devils and ghouls to engage. [everyone stares at him] Pardon me for finding the glass half-full.”
• Followed by one of the classic Xander lines: “I laugh in the face of danger... then I hide until it goes away.”
• Willow retorting, “Maybe because they met her?” after someone asks why a person wouldn’t like Cordelia... then following it with, “Did I say that?”
• The actress who plays Catherine is amazing. When she’s “Amy” she has her daughter’s facial expressions and gestures, and as the mother she seems to be mimicking the performance of Elizabeth Anne Allen.
• Giles getting jumped by the black cat and then saying, “Nice... kitty?”
• Right from the beginning of Giles’s relationship with Buffy, he becomes personally involved and is more caught up in her safety than being caught out as a Watcher.

Did You Notice?:
• Buffy wanting to have a life is an ongoing theme in the show, and the key to what makes it interesting. Another take on the mythology would simply set it up the way it’s supposed to be – girl gives up her life for mankind and the British man is her Watcher. But instead, Joss opens his mythology with the first Slayer who refused to play along, and instead only fills in the blanks piecemeal as you go along to see the person Buffy was expected to be.
• Cordy’s line, “Who does she think she is, a Laker girl??” was an inside joke; before appearing on Buffy, Charisma was a Laker girl.
• Willow mentions that she and Amy would stuff themselves with brownies. At the time I didn’t think anything of that line, but now I wonder... was this a suggestion that Amy had an eating disorder?
• Willow asks, “Do you actually ride a broom?” and later she’ll become rather hostile to people who makes stereotypical assumptions about witches.

Spoilery observations (only read this is this is a rewatch for you):
• Amy seems very sweet here, but after she ends up in the body of a rat for a few years, she won’t be such a nice gal. (Not to mention what she does in the season 8 comic!!)
• Cordy as the baddie in the locker room is SO weird after you’ve watched Angel and come to love her so much in that series.
• This is Willow’s first foray into witchcraft... knowing the witch she will become, it’s wild to watch her in the beginning, mixing the ingredients together and feeling tentative about what she’s doing.
• That axe is the same colour as a certain scythe that we’ll see in season 7.
• Watch for a scene in the following season where Oz is staring at the cheerleading trophy and comments on how the eyes follow you.

UPDATE: Someone just made the excellent comment below that there should be a separate forum where people don't feel bad about posting spoilers, where they can talk about the episodes openly. So what I'm going to do each week is post-date the rewatch post to go live at 8pm, but the spoilery comment post will appear at 7:59, so it'll appear underneath. So for all those out there who are rewatching and want to talk a lot about how these opening episodes affected later ones, please click to the next post and you can leave comments there.

Next week:
1.4 Teacher's Pet
1.5 Never Kill a Boy on a First Date
1.6 The Pack

Guest commentator: David Lavery


Marebabe said...

Wonderful! As one of the newbies, I love how this is being presented. You made it easy to avoid the spoilery stuff. NEXT year, I’ll go back over these posts, to see the secret, hidden content.

Willow is my favorite character, and has been almost from the first instant I saw her cute little mug. Maybe it IS because I was also the picked-on girl in my former life, but I think her charm and appeal is broader than that. How could anyone not love Willow?!

Cynthea said...

Thanks for hosting this, Nikki! I was very excited to see the first post, and I appreciate your commentary--especially regarding Joyce.

AEC said...

I was really excited when Willow came out and I realized it was a young Lilly (from How I Met Your Mother) whom I adore!

I have to admit I was a little taken aback by all the dated clothes and technology, but once it got going I didn't notice as much.

I'm really excited for the rewatch. I can already tell I'm going to have a hard time sticking to the schedule and watching ahead, but I'll try and restrain myself.

Thanks for organizing this!

Rebecca T. said...

You picked out most of my favorite moments. The one favorite line that I had was in "Welcome to the Hellmouth" when Buffy tells Giles "You’re like a text book with arms." That made me laugh SO hard.

I do have one question - I'm assuming that you want us to keep the comments spoiler free as well for the newbies - is there some way we could have like a side post or something where those of us who are rewatching can gab about connections to the later seasons? Just a thought - Don't know how feasible that would be, but thought I'd throw it out there.

I am SO loving watching this again now that I've almost finished the series :D

Jenn said...

Loving this! Putting the DVD in, remembering where I was when I watched this for the first time, reading through your book, and taking notes as I watch. As a working mother, this is my time and I'm thoroughly enjoying it. I am finding it hard to try to watch with fresh eyes and not make connections (in my notes) to later seasons.

Willow has always been my favorite character!

Verification word: feishi=fetish without the "t"f

zoe said...

I had the same feeling when she walked into the library - like I was home! And the banter - I have so missed the banter!
I have a soft spot for Joyce - nice to see you have come around a bit about her. I think she is more sympathetic in later seasons, but seemed more distant in the beginning.
Thanks for starting this! I didn't know anyone who watched when it was on originally and there were no blogs then - I am so happy to have a Buffy community to chat (and obsess with) now!

Nikki Stafford said...

Marebabe: Check you out, first commentator on the whole Buffy rewatch!!

Rebecca: What a great question about spoilery commenting, and it's something I wondered about early on, and then didn't follow through on that thought.

I've been sitting on your question for a few minutes now, and here's what I'll do: I'll create a second post that will appear at 7:59 each week that simply says this is where you can openly talk about the episode with spoilers, and that way it'll always appear UNDER the post, so you don't have to scroll all the way to the top or anything (and the spoiler-free people won't have to bother with it). Does that work?

I figured the rewatch would have some bumps to work out in the first few weeks as we figure out spoiler vs. non-spoiler material, and I'm sure we'll come up with a solution! :)

verif word: White. Seriously?!

Nikki Stafford said...

AEC: I made the Bones joke about David, and I almost made a HIMYM one about Alyson, too. :)

Anonymous said...

It's almost impossible--OK, impossible--to watch these episodes now without flashing forward with the actors. I watched "Welcome to the Hellmouth" Monday AM, with Joss Whedon's commentary in which he calls Alyson Hannigan "king of pain" as Willow, then watched HIMYM that night! Next day critics were going on and on about Jason Segel in HIMYM, but Alyson/Lilly was the one who made me cry--still bringing the pain.

On a lighter note--I can't believe I never noticed Cordy's cell phone before! I'm pretty sure we won't see another one in Sunnydale until season three.

JS said...

Thanks Nikki - this is fun. I am already watching ahead, I'll try to slow down.

Unknown said...

Not wanting to spoil too much but regarding the perceived inconsistent character, perhaps after all that time passes and without her lover to distract/appease her she becomes more subservient or dedicated to the cause? (Hope this is ambiguous enough)

SenexMacDonald said...

@Nikki I am so with you, girl! This is my first time since I actually got my DVDs that I have watched Season 1!

Things of note for me - Eric Balfour in the first two eps. I liked him in this but it was Six Feet Under where I really started to notice him. He is currently on Haven and I love him! :)

Okay, off topic. haha

Buffy leaves the house at one point with a stake but NO bag (in her hand or otherwise). She is not shown putting it in her sleeve as she is at one point. Where did she put it? Maybe I don't want to know?

David looks like he is four! He is sooo young. Knowing what will come just adds so many layers to his presence. Or it could just be due to Joss's writing?

Loved Harmony's appearance. Ah, Fate again!

Watching the first band perform on that first ep, I expected to see Christian Kane's band. Don't ask me why - maybe it was the silhouette of the lead singer. :)

Why does Giles sound like a Newbie at times? I know that this was not his 'calling'. He knows his material but is this his first time in the field? Is that why his relationship with Buffy is not typical Watcher/Slayer?

The Master mentions an Ascension. What is it with 'Big Bads' going through an Ascension of some sort? Not that I mind - just did not remember that the Master was also to go through one. Not my favourite one though. :)

I agree that the Scoobies started to come together pretty quickly. The dialogue was already sharp as Cordie's claws. There was a sense of camaraderie, yet I did not feel their relationship was rushed and developed nicely over the first 5 to 6 eps. I am glad that the aired first ep did not lead into the next ep as if they had been life-long friends. There was some development so it felt more real.

Nik, you are completely right re. the performance of Robin Riker as Catherine in The Witch. She played teen and adult extremely well. It was great to watch the transition between 'Catherine' and 'Amy'. Still find that ep creepy. Definitely the mother from Hell! Now speaking of mothers...

I had forgotten how much I liked Joyce. I really felt she loved Buffy but she always seemed to be one step behind her. I am sure a lot of parents feel that way as their child grows older. They talk a different language, most of which does not make sense to the adult mind as we have all forgotten how it feels/works to be a TEEN. LOL

I saw Joyce as a caring parent - trying to protect her 'little girl' from the world and from herself. As the show reveals why Buffy was in Sunnydale (I had not seen the movie at this point), I saw Joyce trying to find the normal in a world where, even though she appears to not understand what happened in LA, somewhere in her gut/psyche, she does have some sense on some level of the things surrounding Buffy. She might not have a complete realization, but I believe she does 'know' inside.

And did you not love her hair!! So short and sweet.

I think that Buffy tries very hard in "Welcome to the Hellmouth" to do the right thing and avoid anything that might put her back into the same situation as LA - even to the point of walking away from Gilles as he attempts to speak to her and her role as the Slayer. But Fate will not let her do that. Ah, Fate - just keeps pulling her back in... or is it the Hellmouth?

Enough from me at this point. I will read what others say and join in again (if time) later.

SenexMacDonald said...

Going to apologize if the previous post of mine contains things that might be thought of as 'spoilers'.

As Rebecca T. says - for those of us in the 'know', we need a place to speak of everything. It is difficult to beat around the bush - not that I would not want spoilers if I was a Newbie to this.

But I need to be able to talk so thank you, Nikki - if you are able to arrange for us to diverge from the original posters so we can have fun with Joss's verse - hindsight and all!

Verification word: touche - that would be French for touchy but without the accent

Charlotte Angel said...

Thanks so much Nikki for starting this blog.

Season 1 is so fresh and fun, I don't mind the inconsistencies or Angel's goofy looking velvet jacket. Goth much? It's wonderful hearing Giles roll his watcher baloney off with such intensity as if it is the most important stuff anyone has ever said.

The first couple of shows lay out a lot of the themes and plot lines that will continue for years. Without spoiling I hope, we see Joyce and Giles and others as the questionable but usually well meaning baby boomer parents, Xander who falls off his skateboard and into love with Buffy (and who wouldn't she's so cute!), the cryptic Angel, Willow's sneaky way of getting back at nasty Cordelia, and Buffy's longing for a real family and some Mom attention.

I agreed with Nikki's comments about Joyce when I first saw her, she doesn't seem to be giving Buffy the attention and love she needs, but Joyce is also floundering and listening to parenting tapes to get a grip on her daughter who's spinning out of control which is endearing (and such a baby boom thing to do). It's the back and forth - good and thoughtful parent to busy parent and sometimes angry parent that makes Joyce an interesting and worthy character in the Bverse.

And could those skirts be any shorter? :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for starting the Rewatch off brilliantly, Nikki! Loved reading the observations -- so many are similar to what I note myself. Enjoyed your commentary on Joyce; it was great to see your re-evaluation after becoming a mom yourself. It's easy to be hard on Joyce -- she does seem rather clueless -- but I love how she'll admit that, too.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for starting the Rewatch off brilliantly, Nikki! Loved reading the observations -- so many are similar to what I note myself. Enjoyed your commentary on Joyce; it was great to see your re-evaluation after becoming a mom yourself. It's easy to be hard on Joyce -- she does seem rather clueless -- but I love how she'll admit that, too.

Nikki Stafford said...

AEC: I find it interesting that you mentioned the clothes being outdated. I didn't think they were crazily outdated yet -- nor were the hairstyles (I'm not counting the crimp job that Cordy will sport in episode 5). I mean, they don't fit in 2010, but they didn't feel like they belonged to another generation or anything. Or maybe I'm just old...

I think if it were the year 2000 and we were watching a show from 1986, it would have looked FAR more dated, but this didn't look as bad to me. The original 90210, yes. But Buffy, not so much.

Although there are many times when I'm thinking, "Oh Buffy... don't bend over in that skirt."

Page48 said...

Joyce may be living a sheltered life, but she's got Buffy's number: "I know, if you don't go out, it'll be the end of the world. Everything is life or death when you're a 16 year old girl".

Sometimes common sense is as good as Slayer-sense:

Buffy: "Oh, please, look at his jacket, he's got the sleeves rolled up. And the shirt? Deal with that outfit for a moment"

Giles: "It's dated"

Buffy: "It's carbon dated".

John Tesh is the Devil. I think we all knew that.

Eric Balfour did a season of "24" and was killed; SMG's hubby, Freddie did a season of "24" and wasn't.

Agreed, Buffy (SMG) did not need to lose the weight.

What is Giles doing with his cuffs? That's just weird. Maybe even a little carbon dated.

How the hell DO you stuff a dead dude in a high school locker?

On Harvest night, Darla and the crew approach the Bronze in full game face. Usually, as Giles points out, they don't reveal their demonic visage until they're just about to feed.

"Hiding a secret identity in this town is a job of work"

"You’re shtrong... I’m shtronger! You think you can shtop us, Shlayer??”....Michelle Obama much?

Xander and Willow, 2 character names that would later show up in "Caprica".

Nikki Stafford said...

charlotte: LOL!! I hadn't read your comment yet, but yes, I totally agree about the skirts, as I mentioned in the above comment. ;)

Lesley C said...

Oh, this is so fun. I'm a true newbie to the Buffy series but I'm already loving it. I actually made the "Buffy Rewatch" one of my new year's resolutions. Thanks for the great recap, Nikki, and thanks for all the thoughtful, detailed posts in this comment section. I'll admit that I also laughed out loud when Cordelia pulled out her cell phone - most especially because I was actually 16 in 1996 (when this first season is set, correct?) and coveted a cell phone, even if they did look like bricks at the time.

I'm trying to stay unspoiled so I'm really glad Nik confirmed that the Angel character is on Bones as well. Does the same actor play Angel throughout BtVS and in the spin-off series, Angel? Also, you made a note of how old the actress who played Cordy really was. How old was SMG when she played Buffy? Just curious...

Rebecca T. said...

@Lesley C

Yup - David Boreanaz plays Angel all the way through. It actually throws me now when I walk in when my Dad is watching Bones and I always want to yell "Angel!" Instead I grin like an idiot and walk away :D

AEC said...

Oh, I meant to mention earlier, did anyone else think the vampire master looked like Voldemort? :) That was the first thing I thought when I saw him!

Jom said...

I am definitely a newbie to Buffy. I decided to tune in to this Rewatch since I am such an avid fan of LOST and Nikki's "Finding Lost: The Unofficial Guides". I figured that if Nikki likes Buffy as much or more than LOST, it must be great, and I can watch it for LOST Detox. Nikki, I appreciate your suggestions to hang in there through Season One because I have to be honest with you, it does seem a bit like a cheesy"Monster of the Week" show so far. But I am looking forward to growing into it. And the blog and comments are helping me to appreciate the finer details. Also, thank you for keeping a spoiler free space for us that thrive on surprises!

Gosia said...

Nikki, you're a star for coming up with and hosting the Rewatch! I spent the last year rewatching and writing about Season 1, so I almost know it by heart now, but you still give me some new perspective! As for Darla, I was also thinking about why she's so different here than the flashbacks in Angel: Maybe it's like with memories? Those flackbacks must be from SOMEONE'S perspective. Like memories, they're by definition subjective. I know we can explain it by the 'weakness' of the show's beginnings, but maybe it's how SOMEONE wants to remember those events (hypothetically). Don't know if it makes sense:)

Lisa(until further notice) said...

@Lesley C and @Rebecca T: I started watching BONES this year after I started watching BtVS and Angel...all because I was completely smitten by David Boreanaz. He is wonderful as Agent Seeley Booth. Totally different than Angel, but a total doll. I think it is a fun show and with a look-see. I beceme so hooked, I ended up buying everything on DVD to get caught up to this season. never did that before.

Suzanne said...

Thanks for organizing this and writing about Buffy for this rewatch. I am delighted to have an opportunity to hear what other people think about a show I cherish as the best show I have ever seen. Unfortunately, I was too stubborn to watch it in the 90's when friends encouraged me to give it a chance since I thought the title sounded silly and the movie version had looked so cheesy. However, after watching Firefly (after it aired, too) and loving it, I knew I had to give Buffy a chance. I watched it for the first time with my husband and 10-year old son over a year ago, and we all love it with a passion, so much so that we are rewatching it with you all.

Even though I have watched the first few episodes more than once already, I was still amazed this time by the chemistry between the Scoobies -- Buffy, Zander, Willow, and Giles. They all seemed so natural together right from the beginning. I don't feel that yet with Buffy and Angel, but DB's performance was as stiff as I feared it would be on a rewatch. It was also fun seeing the Witch again since this is definitely the episode that hooked me on the show. I am not sure if I would have continued if the third episode had been about the Master since I didn't care for him.

Ronald Helfrich Jnr. said...

I haven't come across a scholarly definition of cheesy yet and am really interested what, in systematic and analytic terms, "cheesy" is? I think it would be interesting for someone to do a similar thing for "cheesy" that Susan Sontag did for "camp".

So is the anthology aspect of Twilight Zone, for instance, inherently "cheesy"? Are arc shows inherently not "cheesy"? Or is cheesy really something that is in the minds of beholders?

Marebabe said...

@Page48: Eric Balfour was actually in TWO seasons of 24. In S1, he was one of the support staff techies at CTU. Then he was busy with other projects for several years, but finally had time to come back for either S6 or S7, I forget which. 24 was the first time I ever saw him in anything.

@helfron: I was intrigued by your mention of the word “cheesy”, so I looked it up in my handy dictionary. It is simply defined as “of inferior quality”. That’s it in a nutshell. For example, the special effects in 1960’s drive-in B movies: EXTRA cheese!

You'll think I'm making this up, but I SWEAR this is my VW: slays - um, to make dead!

Bountiful Pots said...

I, myself, have been considering a rewatch, but felt silly watching it for the 11th time straight through, when there's other shows I need to catch up on. However, reading these lines made me feel all warm and happy inside. It's like when someone starts talking about your favorite shared memories, and you're immediately back there again. I believe I'll be watching along with you, and definitely excited to see what you have to say in the coming weeks. Thank you for this.

Gabby (GloryisBen) said...

This is so great! I don't even have to do a rewatch, your recaps/notes are all it takes to shoot me back there! So no time wasting. This is perfect. More Buffy is always appreciated. Thank you so much; you've made an avid reader.

Anonymous said...

James Spader should feel free to call me. Though for me it's an Alan Shore thing.

I thought Catherine/Amy was inconsistent in her first appearance. I know it was an attempt at misdirection, but I can't see Catherine saying negative things about cheerleading or being so clumsy. Yet it's established that she has already switched bodies with Amy.

Page48 said...

@Marebabe re: Balfour's 2 seasons.

That's interesting. I didn't start watching "24" until Day 4 (with central casting bad guy Arnold Vosloo, who has been in everything from "Alias" to "Chuck" to "Blood Diamond" to "The Mummy" and on and on.)

Anonymous said...

Though Arnold Vosloo replaced Liam Neeson as Darkman, who was sort of not a bad guy.

Eric Balfour was on Conviction with J August Richards (who now seems typecast as a lawyer).

EvaHart said...

Great recap Nikki!
Being completely new to Buffy, I wasn't completely sure what to expect and slightly worried as I'm not so keen on the cliqued monster-of-the week style, but like you said, in the first minute the normal expectations are completely flipped, which straight away told me that this was going to be different!

If I'm completely honest, as a pilot I thought the first two episdoes were good but not amazing. The characters were introduced wonderfully, as was the idea of slayers and vampires but the plot,the Master and Harvest was a little too built up for something that didn't take much effort to stop. Having said that I still couldn't wait to see the next episode which was was brilliant, and as some of you have already said the acting was fantastic.

Favourite character so far, has got to be Xander, you picked out all my favourite lines but that I laughed out loud at -“I laugh in the face of danger... then I hide until it goes away.” Brilliant.

I also love Giles, and after watching Anthony Head as the self-righteous and angry King Uther in Merlin for the past few years, seeing him in completely different role was wonderful. And he's so young! I'm glad to hear that he takes over the prologue at the start of each episode as it could have got annoying.

Can't wait for more, its gonna take some effort not to watch ahead!

Hunter said...

I don't have anything too original to say other thank you Nikki for doing this! After all those Lost episodes we did last year in the rewatch, I'd think you'd be over the whole rewatch concept.

Allow me to echo what several others have said for the newbies. Push through the first season. It's not that the quality is bad, but the show is still finding its feet. Seasons 2 and 3, however, are AWESOME. And the dialogue will only get wittier and banty...er.

Suzanne said...

I want to echo the suggestion many have made to new viewers to "push through" to Season 2. Even though my husband and I thoroughly enjoyed most of Season 1, I am not sure we would have pushed through the way we did (watching the whole series in about six months) if we hadn't taken advice I saw online somewhere that Season 2 was where the awesomeness that is Buffy truly began.

Efthymia said...

I don't really have anything significant to add. I just realised that this is the only season out of all 7 of them whose first episode I actually liked! I don't know why, but every other season's first episode is among my least favourites (at least compared to the rest of each season's other ones).
And I never found it hard to get through the first season, I actually enjoyed it quite a lot, and I had no one's advice on the show, I had just heard of it and decided to start watching it. The characters definitely kept me interested, I really don't mind the monster-of-the-week format and I found the Master a very charming villain.

JavaChick said...

Really enjoyed reading this! I have been having serious Buffy cravings lately, but trying to stave off a rewatch as I have watched all the episodes so many times already. However, I may just have to give in!

Michael Holland said...

Ah yes, as Buffy walked into the library, it WAS like coming home, wasn't it? I vividly remember watching the entire series when it aired (and especially when 'Angel' premiered our getting two hours every Tuesday night) and I miss the days when friends got together to make an event out of watching their favourite show. Thank you Nikki, as always, for spearheading reunions like these. I'm eagerly looking forward to reliving the series -- especially doing so "with everyone" so we can "talk about tonight's episode" all over again! Cheers ...

Jom said...

@marebabe and @helfron: I found this definition for "cheesy" on the Urban Dicitionary iPhone app called "Slango"...

Quote-Unquote Definition:

"This is an important word and nobody has it right yet. What it means is: Trying too hard, unsubtle, and inauthentic. Specifically that which is unsubtle or inauthentic in its way of trying to elicit a certain response from a viewer, listener, audience, etc. Celine Dion is cheesy because her lyrics, timbre, key changes, and swelling orchestral accompaniment telegraph 'i want you to be moved' instead of moving you. Gold chains on an exposed hairy chest are cheesy because they shout out: "I have money and I am manly" instead of impressing a woman in a more subtle way, or allowing a woman to form her own judgments. The excessive showing off suggests he's compensating for what he does not have--i.e., he's actually poor, insecure, or short with an inferiority complex. Cliches are often cheesy because they are an obvious and artless way of making a point. A movie might be cheesy if it contains 'on the nose' dialogue, like "I can't live without you" or "You had me at hello.
Example: Cheesiness is subjective. What seems cheesy to me, may be a legitimate and attractive hairstyle to you. What seems cheesy to me, may cause you to weep and hug your girlfriend tight."

Anonymous said...

I've probably watched this (and every other episode of Buffy) too many times, but I noticed a few new things this time and Nikki's angle on Joyce was one I hadn't really thought about. One thing I noticed was the lyrics of the song the band in the Bronze is singing in "The Harvest." I can't believe we were getting significant diegetic music right from the pilot. (OK, maybe I can--it's Joss Whedon, even though he didn't write the song) As Buffy has finally claimed her calling, Sprung Monkey is singing:
I just want to believe..... ,
If my life it has a purpose,
Help me to believe,

Everybody wants to find the circle,
The line of truth that has no end,
Because so many nights I've slept with the feeling of empty,
And I say,
Right now I'm ready to believe,

(Subtitles on the DVD really help.) I know we're going to hear a lot more about music in the show.

Blam said...

I am so stoked for this (notice that's with an 'o', despite the Transylvanian heritage). Yay!

First up: Remarks prompted by Nikki's posts...

I know some people thought that theme song was cheesy. ...

The Angel theme was beautiful. I liked the Buffy theme, not so much because it was great but because it signified Buffy.

I'd forgot about the totally tacky, no-frills Season One logo, by the way.

The books were all well reviewed, but I received one criticism over and over again: I was too harsh on Joyce, Buffy’s mother.

I'm reading along with the episodes, so I don't know how harsh you get on her, but while that perspective is understandable I always had a soft spot for Joyce even at her most oblivious. That's probably in part because the first episode I saw after watching the pilot in '96 and just not having time for the show — hey, I saw the light eventually — was "The Body" (not spoiling what goes on in it). Also, Joyce / Kristine Sutherland reminds me of Blythe Danner, and you have to love Blythe Danner. Finally, WB-type shows have a history of ridiculously lenient, uninvolved, absentee parents (if not actually absent ones, replaced by older siblings or other relatives and mentors), so the fact that Joyce was present, trying, and, well, an actual adult went a long way with me, maybe especially because I was raised (with a sister) by a working single mother.

When Buffy asks her, “Mom, what am I trying out for?” Joyce pauses, closes her eyes, and admits she has no idea. I remember watching that and, while not condemning Joyce, thinking it was too bad that she couldn’t pay more attention to her daughter.

I took that as another one of Joss's subversions of expectations, actually, as instead of us just seeing that Joyce is tuning Buffy out we get Joyce realizing what she's doing and her heart breaking a little bit over that.

VW: kabed — The sound made by an exploding futon.

Blam said...

♥♥♥ Willow ♥♥♥

Oh, I second that emotion. And she's even (maybe especially) "palatable" in her overall ensembles.

This first episode is just filled with the love I have for so many characters. I still think when he’s handing Buffy the books, her question about ordering the Time/Life series (and his stuttering response) is one of the best moments of season 1.

I agree, which I suspect is going to happen so often I should stop saying it when that's all there is to say. 8^)

Darla is SO young!

She's young? Look at how baby-faced Sarah Michelle Gellar is! You just want to squeeze that punim (which, for the non-Jews among you, is nothing dirty). And how slim is square-jawed, beefcake-to-be David Boreanaz?

The Master rising seemed pretty anticlimactic. BtVS was never big in the way of special FX.

Joss actually mentions on the commentary track that they added the pool of blood later because they realized that if Mark Metcalf really came up out of red gook, they'd have to match the dripping patterns on him for the rest of the episodes — lots of make-up and continuity work. I agree that it's weird for him to rise from it totally dry, without any explanation, though.

Some other, non-spoilery stuff from the DVD:

• Joss had scripted all sorts of things to be shot for Buffy's opening dream, but due to budget constraints it couldn't be filmed. Instead, since all 12 episodes were completed before "Welcome to the Hellmouth" aired, they were able to cut actual scenes from throughout the season into a prophecy montage as you mentioned.

• The first two episodes, and "Harvest" in particular, came in short (which is of course rare) so the producers had the luxury of adding in some character-based scenes for flavor.

• Joss also went back and reshot some scenes in "Hellmouth" and "Harvest" from the perspective of the completed season, in part because — all due respect to SMG, whom Joss says along with Alyson nailed her character from the get-go — Buffy came across as a bit too harsh early on. Particularly funny is that Buffy complains about her "first day" to Giles in the library, when her close-ups as aired were pretty much the last thing filmed in Season One.

VW: catedo — Ms. Blanchett's hairstyle

Blam said...

“They can fly?” “They can drive.”

A great line among many... They could fly in the movie, though, which I actually just rewatched before starting on Season 1 and reviewed the other day on my blog. (Plug!)

I find it interesting that, as Giles points out, the vamps on the series can blend in with humans until the bloodlust is upon them — except, obviously, for the likes of the Master, who's devolved into a Nosferatu-like creature over time. He most resembles the vamps in the movie, when in fact his sort-of counterpart there, Lothos, is the most human-looking vampire in the film, where all the other vamps are permanently fanged, pointy-eared, and pale.

Joss really did something brilliant by springboarding the series out of his original script for the movie rather than rebooting it from Page One. Buffy arriving in Sunnydale with a past, as a relatively new but not entirely novice Slayer, puts the narrative in a really interesting place. Yet Giles' succinct summation of demon/vampire mythology at the start of "The Harvest" is quite welcome and together with the opening voice-over gives us more backstory than we ever got in the film.

Blam said...

Buffy can leap over a fence in a single bound...

That's just a great moment. Joss said in his commentary that it's one of those happy outcomes of not having the budget to show more.

it’ll never be completely clear what she can and can’t do

This not only goes on all season, it's inconsistent within the first couple of episodes — like her breaking open the locker-room door while asking for Xander's help to close the (admittedly more metal) door underground, or leaping around in fight sequences but hopping down a short wall later more gingerly when stunts and effects aren't on hand.

Why does the doorman ask for the vampire’s IDs? No one in the Bronze is of age!

That bugged me even more than him taking cash after Cordy said there was no cover that night. I also saw a sign saying you must be 21 behind him, so maybe the real owners were out of town and he was working some kind of scam.

Blam said...

On to comments on the comments!

Page48: How the hell DO you stuff a dead dude in a high school locker?

A gym locker, no less! I know that the vamps have super-strength, so maybe they could smush him in there, but there's no way he falls out.

Lisa(UFN): I really like Bones. The cast banters well and the odd-couple dynamic (not just romantic tension, but a real partnership) between Booth and Brennan is great. If you don't watch it, think CSI crossed with a non-supernatural X-Files and some of the charm of Castle.

helfron: I think of "cheesy" as synonymous with "tacky" — maybe corny, maybe campy, but usually not in any kind of embraceable way unless it's as a very guilty pleasure. So whether something fits that description, at least to the extent where the cheese brings about a lactose intolerance of enjoyment factor, it's subjective, but it's also pretty generally recognizable. Often but not always it will be of a time we consider more "square" or simply possessed of less sophisticated special effects, dramatic structure, audience respect, etc.

Later... Jom: I appreciate the definition from Urban Dictionary. The site has a disappointing wheat/chaff or signal/noise ratio sometimes, but it's useful, and while a bit wordy (like I'm one to talk) this entry has the gist of the word right.

Gabby: This is so great! I don't even have to do a rewatch, your recaps/notes are all it takes to shoot me back there! So no time wasting.

That's how I ended up doing the Lost rewatch, with Nikki's guides as my guide, but never having done a dedicated rewatch of Buffy in its chronological entirety I'm all in so far.

EvaHart and anyone else in her boat: I can say with conviction that if you like what you've seen so far, you'll love what's coming. There will be less of the bad and the good will get even better.

VW: USNAMPAS — A joint project between the United States Naval Academy and the Association of Motion-Picture Arts & Sciences.

Marebabe said...

Oh, goody, Blam’s here! :) Of course, I enjoyed the heck out of your musings, but I want to offer my congratulations for your three Verification Words, kabed, catedo, and especially USNAMPAS. I’ll bet you always got A’s in Creative Writing!

Anonymous said...

The sign on the Bronze says you have to be 21 to order alcohol. I suspect they mark the underage kids so that they can't order it.

Rebecca T. said...

@Blam: while a bit wordy (like I'm one to talk)

Ha! I found this quite ... punny.

VW: unwat - obviously to stop watting

Blam said...

Me: while a bit wordy (like I'm one to talk)

Rebecca: Ha! I found this quite ... punny.

I didn't even get that 'til you pointed it out. Just proof that I'm more amusing when I don't mean to be!

VW: popier — More Innocent, as it were.

Anonymous said...

I always feel nostalgic when I hear her deliver the line, "James Spader needs to call me". Thinking back to the 90's...James Spader really DID need to call me, too. He was gorgeous in the 80's thru the early 00's. Today he is heavier and in his fifties but he is still great.

Blam said...

I'm pretty sure I did, Marebabe. 8^)

redeem147: The sign on the Bronze says you have to be 21 to order alcohol. I suspect they mark the underage kids so that they can't order it.

Yeah, I thought about that after re-reading the comments. When there are mixed ages at a party serving alcohol, there are always different hand-stamps.

VW: luretrom — n. Short for luretrombone. Brass intstrument hexed with aphrodisiac spell.

Nick said...

Running a little behind, just getting season one in the DVD player this morning. Nikki, you may be interested that we watched Buffy for the first time as a family, with kids who were officially speaking way too young but in fact loved it - and then Angel, and then firefly, and then Dollhouse, and then... what's next?

I think you're right that Joyce deserves more credit, and that being a parent probably makes it easier to see that. She's making such an effort, and as we parents all know, that's a sure sign it's all about to go horribly wrong.

Highlights from ep 1: the delighted grin on Giles' face as he bends down to pick up the Vampyr book, so excited that his new slayer is in town, Buffy to Giles: "why am I still talking to you?", Xander's "little fence", Buffy to Joyce: "no, mum, it's a nun club", "tomorrow you might be dead/oh that's nice", the way that the 'evil' in Sunnydale seems to relate directly to the school's bullying atmosphere - which I guess was always the point.

@kateahr points out that Buffy seems to be running round the school looking for something, perhaps "the rest of her skirt or a bigger cardigan".

Nick said...

Oh, and that opening globe-spinning scene - it's a tribute to Rocky Horror Picture Show, no? Hadn't noticed until now... one more 'thank you' for the rewatch Nikki.

Anonymous said...

Since I'm interested in the behind the scenes people - anyone think pilot director Charles Nelson Smith learned something about high school being in American Graffiti?

Anonymous said...

Of course I meant Martin Smith.

Blam said...

redeem147: Charles Nelson Smith ... Of course I meant Martin Smith.

Actually, I thought that was Charles Martin Reilly. 8^)

VW: phisel — n. Tool used by sculptors in Starfleet.

Ronald Helfrich Jnr. said...

My favourite Smith film? The one Carroll Ballard, an auteur rather than a metteur en scene like Lucas, directed, "Never Cry Wolf".

Ronald Helfrich Jnr. said...

and what is tacky? and how is tacky not a) in the social and cultural eyes of the beholder and b) related to historical and technological change, a historical and technological change that most "viewers" don't have a clue about.

My point is that most people don't define "cheesy" in a systematic and analytical way. Thank god, Sontag tried to define "camp" in a theoretically sophisticated and an analytical sophisticated and systematic way. Someone needs to try to do this for "cheesy".

By the way a colleague, drawing on Buffy, said this (or something like it): the cheesy does not wear me I wear the cheesy. LOL.

Personally I prefer old school film technologies and craftmanship to the way to easy computer technologies of today. What is sad is that most cinema today has been taken over by these new techniques (tweens love it). I prefer old school filmmaking like that in BtVS.

By the way, aren't today's cgi effects likely to look "cheesy" or "tacky" to the eyes of "viewers" thirty years from now.

Kellie said...


Like so many other long-time Buffy fans I am really enjoying this. While I have watched the series MANY times over the years, I never tire of hearing another's perceptive on my favorite show. I also really appreciate you taking a second look at Joyce. She has always been one of my favorite characters on the show so I always get a little upset when people bash her. Thanks so much for this project and I look forward to much more to come. :)

Unknown said...

What first charmed me about BTVS was the use of allegory and metaphor. I guess that's the English major in me (I can't quit analyzing, despite how long it's been since University). In 'The Witch', I really dug how Catherine, who couldn't move on from her glory days, ends up literally trapped inside the trophy that she won wayyy back in High School. The physical manifestation of her failure to progress from teen to adult. Nikki, thanks for doing this - it's been a few years since I've watched BTVS all the way through and I needed an excuse to do it again!