Buffy Master: Life After the WB
Just days before UPN announced it had successfully snatched Buffy the Vampire Slayer away from the WB, the show's creator, Joss Whedon, confessed to TV Guide Online that the protracted behind-the-scenes contract talks were wearing him down faster than a gang of blood-thirsty demons. "I'm so tired of these negotiations," he sighed. "I'm like, 'I just want to make the show; you guys have a good time.'" Well, one week later, a deal has been finalized — UPN will fork over $102 million to Buffy producer 20th Century Fox for two years (or 44 episodes) of the acclaimed drama — and Whedon is breathing a sigh of relief. Or is he... ? — Michael Ausiello
TVGO: Are you feeling pretty upbeat about the move?
Joss: Yeah, I am. I like being at a network that needs my show. UPN [execs] have made it very clear that they are going to make the same show that I am already making, and we have the budget to do it. And they will probably put a big [promotional] push behind it, which in Year Six is not something you always expect. So, I am pretty sanguine that we will do well there.
TVGO: Will the extra money that 20th Century is getting from UPN for Buffy trickle down to you in terms of an increased budget?
Joss: Well, you know there are budget increases every year, just by nature of people getting raises in their contracts. So, every year the show gets more expensive to make. This will cover that, and it means we won't have to cut back on... We were looking at a situation where we were going to have to cut back significantly on the budget somehow. And now, we're in a situation where, yeah, we can make it for the budget. It's not like I am asking, 'Give me more money. Let me do bigger things.' I try to be fiscally responsible and make the show the way I make it. But because of all the special effects and whatnot, it's inevitably kind of an expensive show.
TVGO: Where will UPN air Buffy?
Joss: The talk is of trying to keep it in the same slot — Tuesday at 8. There is no assurance of that; they may have a different plan. But that's the expectation and the hope.
TVGO: Where do things stand with Angel? [As part of the new deal, should the WB cancel Angel, UPN has agreed to carry the Buffy spinoff for at least two years.]
Joss: The WB is going to look at their schedule and see how strong they think it is, and if it fits in and if it can help them. If they think [it will], then they'll keep it. People thought the decision would be made based on, 'It's just too weird' or 'It can't stand alone.' But it has a slightly different audience than Buffy, and I believe it can stand alone. They're going to make that decision not on the high emotions of the last week, but on just regular old network scheduling.
TVGO: We did a poll this week asking fans where they would like to see Angel end up. The overwhelming majority wanted it to go to UPN.
Joss: That is my hope as well. It's just simpler if they're together — if they're a block. The thing that doesn't come through in the midst of all this fuss is that I have a very good relationship with all the creative people at the WB, and if the show stays at the WB, I know it will be treated well and I will still make it exactly the way I hope to. We are really excited about it creatively, wherever it is. When we have conversations about it, we don't talk about networks, we talk about the characters and what we're going to do with them. And it is starting to shape up to be a really exciting year. It's simpler for me if they're a block, but Angel has been treated well on the WB, and I don't have any problem with it staying there.
TVGO: So you don't harbor any fear that the WB would, in retaliation, sabotage the show and air it on Sunday nights, for example?
Joss: You know, anything is possible. I don't see the WB acting out of spite. And although tempers got very high in this negotiation — higher than they usually do — I think they would put it where it would best serve them. But I can't make any predictions. The only prediction I can make is that they're not going to do something to harm the show even if they give it a tougher timeslot. I still think it can handle it.
TVGO: Sarah Michelle Gellar got into some hot water for saying she would quit the show if it left the WB. [She later retracted those remarks, reportedly after being reprimanded by 20th Century.] Do you know how she's reacting to all this?
Joss: You know, we haven't been able to speak because she's in Australia [filming Scooby-Doo], so I don't actually know. I couldn't really comment.
TVGO: In terms of the rest of the cast, are you finding yourself having to reassure them that this is going to be ok?
Joss: Not at all. I don't think that they mind a bit. You know, they were never really the focus of the [WB's] promotion of the show. My ensemble cast has sort of been in the shadows, so they don't feel like, 'Oh God, we were treated so well; we'll miss it so much.' The network doesn't really matter to them. They don't work for the network; they work for me. They come to these offices, they come to these stages, with the same writers. Nothing in their lives will have changed, unless UPN decides to promote them and to promote the show a little bit more as an ensemble, and that's an improvement. So, basically they don't really stand to lose anything at this point. And they know, what I know, which is we just want to make the show and we have the assurance that we'll make the same show — that's what really matters.