Slayed: Five reasons why "Buffy" may be the best show on television
By Amy Elz
I admit it. I have a problem. It's unnatural, it's unhealthy, it's borderline obsessive, but at least I'll admit it. Heck, I'll even shout it from the rooftops. Here. I'll show you. I LOVE "BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER." See? I'll tell whoever'll listen. Why? Because it's the best show on television. P'shaw, you say? Well, lemme break it down for you in five easy steps.
1. What's Gonna Happen?
Unlike "Law & Order," you never know what's going to happen on "Buffy." Will Buffy be attacked by her city's mayor who's now a giant snake? Will she be forced to kill her boyfriend to protect the world? Will she suddenly burst into song? Who knows! And that, my little remote controllers, is what makes it great.
2. Did You Say "Burst Into Song"?
Sure, other shows have tried to be different. There's always another sweeps gimmick waiting you around the dial, but what does "Buffy" creator Joss Whedon do to trump the rest? Concocts a "Buffy" musical. Singing! Dancing! Demons? And somehow, it all makes sense, drives the season's story arc, and comes off far less frivolous than the "E.R." "live" show.
3. It's All True
No… it's not all really true, but the emotions and ideas the characters feel and invent are as real and true as any drama. For years, TV critics have pointed out the fact that "Buffy" is dramatic truth thinly veiled behind a curtain of fantasy. So called "teen shows" usually pander to their audience - anyone who's ever watched an episode of "Sabrina" can tell you that - but "Buffy" strikes at the heart of it's demographic. It frankly deals with issues like addiction, underage sex, and all the other evil little things that make most shows hide under the covers. "Buffy" goes in and drags them out, lives through them, and proves that not everything ends tidily in an hour - some pain usually remains.
4. We Don't Need No Stinking Laugh Track
If you've never seen an episode, you're missing some of the best quipping on the air. There are crushing lows in "Buffy", but there are also moments that literally make you laugh out loud. Anya, a vengeance demon recast in the body of a human, seems to have inordinate amounts of trouble keeping her foot out of her mouth and is terrified of bunnies. Xander, not the sharpest knife in the drawer, is usually just one step behind in the action but catches up just in time to point out his flaws (or those of the others). But the quippiest of them all is the show's namesake, Buffy, the, uh, Vampire Slayer, who gets called out by enemies when she skips over her sassy-retort-then-kill-you M.O.
5. Silence is Golden
I'm painfully aware that I'm not going to make a sterling case for "Buffy" viewing. You no doubt have your prejudices against it and that's fine. You may never call yourself a "Scoobie," or learn who Kendra was, or tell all your friends not to call until the commercial is on, but if there's one thing you must do before you count the little show that caused two rival networks to fight over it out for good, you must see "The Body". In this Season 5 episode (we're in Season 6 now), Buffy's mother dies of an aneurysm, but there's no overwrought sob scene, no shouting at the heavens. In fact, there's not much of anything. "The Body" is truly quiet. There's no background soundtrack, no hyped-up dialogue, few ambient sounds; there's just silence as the characters must learn to articulate their feelings with their defenses down.
Buffy, stunned and disoriented, discovers that she's unable to save her own mother despite her preternatural abilities. Her friends Willow and Tara, typically adept at discovering answers, find themselves trapped in a search for the right thing to wear so as to not appear too cheery or too dour. Anya, the former demon who finds her new human life all too hard to grasp, blurts out, "I don't understand how this all happens. How we go through this. I mean, I knew her, and then she's… there's just a body, and I don't understand why she just can't get back in it and not be dead anymore. It's mortal and stupid… and no one will explain to me why." At the height of her frustration she articulates the questions no one ever wants to ask, or ever wants the answers to. The episode eloquently deals with death in a way that forces you to realize that although originally constructed for teens, "Buffy" has grown up along with its audience and was never really restricted to them in the first place.
So, I'm addicted. I'm addicted to a show that causes raised eyebrows, shocked looks, and derisive chuckles. But frankly, I know I'm right and I know that someday, all the nay-sayers will be at my door begging for the tapes of Seasons 1-5 that I've squirreled away and will never, ever lend out. Oh, and by the way, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" can be seen on KPLR at 6 p.m. on Saturdays… just in case you're curious.
Amy Elz's biggest wish is to leave this all behind to become Spike's love slave. Until then, she bides her time in the sales & marketing department of Creative Producers Group.