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Buh-Bye Buffy?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer's creator is about to drive a stake through the hearts of the show's diehard fans: According to Joss Whedon, the Chosen One and her trusty gang of Scoobies will likely call it a doomsday in May. "I'm beginning to suspect that it may be [Buffy's] last season," he tells TV Guide Online. "Nothing's official, but it's starting to feel possible. The way people are talking, there's a finality to it."

Might the folks with whom Whedon's been conferring work at A.C. Nielsen? Compared to this time last year, Buffy's ratings are off an alarming 16 percent. In fact, last week more viewers watched Buffy's bloody brilliant spinoff Angel than the mother show itself. "It had a really good seven-year run and it's time to call it quits," implores Mediaweek columnist Marc Berman. "Leave with some dignity."

For his part, Whedon insists his gut instinct is not numbers-driven. "I never check Buffy's ratings," he says. "It doesn't really affect me. It may affect the network." Responds a UPN spokeswoman: "Buffy is an extremely important franchise to UPN. There are a lot of options, whether it be bringing the show back, bringing it back in a different form, possibly doing a spinoff... But really, it's just way too soon to say what's going to happen. We just started our conversations with the producers and the studio." (The rep also points out that ratings for last season's Buffy premiere were inflated because of the show's much-hyped move from the WB to UPN, thus a year-to-year comparison is unfair.)

Another factor that may be influencing Whedon's vibe: Sarah Michelle Gellar's contract expires in May, and the Scooby-Doo star has thus far expressed ambivalence about slaying on. "Everything is one day at a time," she told TV Guide Online last May. "That [decision] is about everyone sitting down and [evaluating whether] there's story to tell and if I think it'll be, you know... interesting." Fast forwarding to present day, Whedon says Gellar remains undecided. "She hasn't told me one way or another, but I know she has movies she wants to do. She has been doing [Buffy] for seven years, so if she did decide that this was her last year, it's certainly a decision I'd respect."

Whether or not Whedon's vampire saga bites the dust, the workaholic says this season's plots will not be impacted. "It doesn't really make a difference to me creatively, because I build every season to be self-contained," he explains. "I do think where we're heading this year is kind of monumental. It's going to be a big finish in May, so that if it is the last season, that's great. And if it's not, if Buffy continues or some incarnation of Buffy continues, it will serve that as well. There's always more stories to tell."

In other words, it's probably no small coincidence that Eliza Dushku will reprise her role as Buffy's Slayer nemesis at season's end. Speculation has it that should Gellar opt to hang up her stakes in May, Dushku may be recruited to headline a spinoff. "That possibility exists," confirms Whedon, adding cryptically, "It's one of many."

Michael Ausiello

The Usual
The Usual

Random Quotage:

We have one more award to give out. Is Buffy Summers here tonight? Did she, um... This is actually a new category. First time ever. I guess there were a lot of write-in ballots, and, um, the prom committee asked me to read this. 'We're not good friends. Most of us never found the time to get to know you, but that doesn't mean we haven't noticed you. We don't talk about it much, but it's no secret that Sunnydale High isn't really like other high schools. A lot of weird stuff happens here. But, whenever there was a problem or something creepy happened, you seemed to show up and stop it. Most of the people here have been saved by you, or helped by you at one time or another. We're proud to say that the Class of '99 has the lowest mortality rate of any graduating class in Sunnydale history. And we know at least part of that is because of you. So the senior class, offers its thanks, and gives you, uh, this.' It's from all of us, and it has written here, 'Buffy Summers, Class Protector.'
-Jonathan (The Prom)

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