DVD Review: How is a vampire like cheese? Both can be curdling.

C: This post is about Buffy the Vampire Slayer, seasons one and two; spoiler level negligible.

But first, you may be wondering, “why review old TV? Entertainment Weekly doesn’t do that.” Well, I think most people would agree that TV-on-DVD is a fabulous thing, which I would argue changed the way we experience media more dramatically than anything since the invention of the VCR. Box sets contain 12 to 24 hours of entertainment, and shows designed to be watched over the course of nine months can be gobbled up in a weekend. A series, watched in this way, offers more extensive character development and more emotional engagement than a film, so it’s no wonder box sets get swapped around among friends far more frequently. And one of the greatest things about TV-on-DVD is discovering shows you missed when they were on the air, because you’d never heard of it or had a time conflict or just didn’t realize you would like it so much. In brief, I believe there’s no statute of limitations on TV shows anymore, so there’s no time after which a review of one becomes irrelevant.

Now to the part where I make people angry.

For years, people have been telling me that Buffy the Vampire Slayer is awesome. “It’s so witty!” they’ll say. “You like things that are witty.” Accordingly, I gave the show a try, watching about half the sixth season when it aired. I found it less than witty. In fact, I found it – don’t try to punch me through the monitor, you’ll just hurt your hand – irritating.

A few months ago, though, Roommate 1 borrowed the first season from one of those people, so common among my friend group (and family – that would be E), who think the sun rises and sets on Joss Whedon. (You can tell who they are because they call him “Joss,” like they’re BFFs.) Roommate 2 and I grudgingly joined in watching, having nothing better (except lots of icky work) to do.

And after watching the first two seasons of Buffy, this is the conclusion I’ve come to. The show has really funny lines… once or twice an episode. The show has appealling characters (Xander, Willow), characters who would be enjoyable if they had more to do (Giles, Oz), and seriously dull characters (Buffy, Angel). The show has the stupidest plots I’ve ever encountered (Demon of the Internet? Hyena possession? Brain-sucking alien eggs? Really?). I grasp that it’s supposed to be amusingly campy, like a B-movie. But they try to play the character arcs straight and the plot for laughs, and so you end up with this weird amalgam where people are having emotional breakdowns over the hokiest imaginable stuff. Even Buffy and Angel’s epic romance, though undeniably tragic when fate split them apart, was poorly written and unconvincing when they were together. In short, the show does not live up to expectations.

Oh, I’ve kept on watching. It’s like empty calories. You crave entertainment, you watch an episode and yet another, hoping. Every now and again a really funny one does come along (“Halloween,” “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered”), but most of the time you’re left feeling kind of baffled and unsatisfied. This show makes me long for the intelligence of Veronica Mars and the touching believability of her relationship with her single parent – for the gorgeous romance of Mick and Beth’s vampire/human tension on Moonlight – for the reliable banter and truly chilling monsters of The X-Files.

It’s not just me – my roommates are having the exact same reaction! So go ahead, explain it to us. I know you’re dying to. Just what is it that has you all so enthralled?

M notes: Not to split hairs, but TV-on-DVD did change things more than anything since the VCR… until Tivo/DVR came along. Just because you don’t have one right now doesn’t mean it isn’t the biggest change in TV viewing since reruns. Speaking of which, it pretty much eliminated reruns, changed the way that networks make their schedule, the and is changing the way advertisers spend their money, which changes which shows survive.

C rebuts: No, M, I thought about DVRs… they’re a big change, for sure, but I believe not as dramatic, because while they allow people to watch shows later (not live) and skip commercials, VCRs did all those things too (just less efficiently).  TV-on-DVD allows people to conveniently watch multiple seasons of TV in a hyper-condensed period of time, and I believe it’s changed the way TV is written; overarching plots and more complicated narratives are not only more possible these days, but almost seen as necessary.

DVD Review: Buffy s1 s2This post is about [Buffy the Vampire Slayer], seasons one and two; spoiler levelnegligible.You may be asking, “why review old TV? Entertainment Weekly doesn’t do that.” Well, I

think most people would agree that TV-on-DVD is a fabulous thing, which I would argue

changed the way we experience media more dramatically than anything since the invention

of the VCR. Box sets contain 12 to 24 hours of entertainment, and shows designed to be

watched over the course of nine months can be gobbled up in a weekend. A series,

watched in this way, offers more extensive character development and more emotional

engagement than a film, so it’s no wonder box sets get swapped around among friends far

more frequently. And one of the greatest things about TV-on-DVD is discovering shows

you missed when they were on the air, because you’d never heard of it or had a time

conflict or just didn’t realize you would like it so much. In brief, I believe there’s

no statute of limitations on TV shows anymore, so there’s no time after which a review

of one becomes irrelevant.

Now to the part where I make people angry.

For years, people have been telling me that [[Buffy the Vampire Slayer]] is awesome.

“It’s so witty!” they’ll say. “You like things that are witty.” Accordingly, I gave

the show a try, watching about half the sixth season when it aired. I found it less

than witty. In fact, I found it – don’t try to punch me through the monitor, you’ll

just hurt your hand – irritating.

A few months ago, though, Roommate 1 borrowed the first season from one of those people,

so common among my friend group (and family – that would be E), who think the sun rises

and sets on Joss Whedon. (You can tell who they are because they call him “Joss,” like

they’re BFFs.) Roommate 2 and I grudgingly joined in watching, having nothing better

(except lots of icky work) to do.

And after watching the first two seasons of [[Buffy]], this is the conclusion I’ve come

to. The show has really funny lines… once or twice an episode. The show has

appealling characters (Xander, Willow), characters who would be enjoyable if they had

more to do (Giles, Oz), and seriously dull characters (Buffy, Angel). The show has the

stupidest plots I’ve ever encountered (Demon of the Internet? Hyena possession?

Brain-sucking alien eggs? Really?). I grasp that it’s supposed to be amusingly campy,

like a B-movie. But they try to play the character arcs straight and the plot for

laughs, and so you end up with this weird amalgam where people are having emotional

breakdowns over the hokiest imaginable crap. Even Buffy and Angel’s epic romance,

though undeniably tragic when fate split them apart, was poorly written and unconvincing

when they were together. In short, the show does not live up to expectations.

Oh, I’ve kept on watching. It’s like empty calories. You crave entertainment, you

watch an episode and yet another, hoping. Every now and again a really funny one does

come along (“Halloween,” “[love spell]”), but most of the time you’re left feeling kind

of baffled and unsatisfied. This show makes me long for the intelligence of Veronica

Mars and the touching believability of her relationship with [her] single parent – for

the gorgeous romance of Mick and Beth’s vampire/human tension on [[Moonlight]] – for the

reliable banter and truly chilling monsters of [[The X-Files]].

It’s not just me – my roommates are having the exact same reaction! So go ahead,

explain it to us. I know you’re dying to. Just what is it about this show that has you

all so darn enthralled?

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This entry was posted in TV.

25 comments on “DVD Review: How is a vampire like cheese? Both can be curdling.

  1. E says:

    I suppose if it’s not to your taste, there isn’t anything I can say. Whedon certainly has a very specific tone, and if you don’t find it entertaining, then there’s nothing to be done about it. But uf! It’s so WEIRD for you not to like something I like this much.

    The third season is my personal favorite, btw.

  2. Rachael says:

    While I would normally agree with you on the BtVS, what with her being all boring and all, I have to disagree with you somewhat. I don’t know if it’s the kid in me that is still fascinated with magic or what but I find BtVS, Angel and oh, what the Heck, Charmed highly entertaining forms of distraction. In fact, I watch Angel every morning while I eat my cereal. (*psst* It’s must more entertaining when he falls in love with Cordelia but denies it for four years. TRUST ME.)

    This comment is all your sister’s doing. She’s trying to rustle up support for the school of Joss Love over at LJ.

    • C says:

      She’s so scheming!

      I did watch the puppet episode of Angel with friends, and laughed my butt off. BTVS has some entertainment value, I just don’t get its level of popularity! I mean, if people talked about it like they do about Charmed (“it’s cute,” “it’s mindless fun”) I would get it. But people are all “IT IS BRILLIANT LIKE UNTO THE SHAKESPEARE OF OUR TIME.” That’s when I go “huh?”

      Oh, did I mention I love Cordelia? Love her. In much the same way I love Dick Casablancas, which is appropriate since the actress went on to be a Casablancas herself.

      • E says:

        She IS a perfect Casablancas, isn’t she? So blank and so vicious.

        • C says:

          Well, I think they played her as blank and vicious at first, but now it’s more like she’s completely self-absorbed and clueless about other people, but somehow in a hilarious way rather than an annoying way. You wouldn’t want to know a person like that, but as characters Cordelia and Dick are counter-intuitively endearing.

          • E says:

            Exactly. She’s make a lousy friend, but she’s great tv.

            Actually, that was a bit unfair of me, as you’ll find out if you watch more.

  3. E says:

    Hey, M, I think cable and internet – and, yes, tv on dvd – is just as likely to have killed the rerun as the dvr. There are lots of reruns on cable. I think there’s at least one Law and Order playing somewhere every minute! I only started watching Buffy at the end of the fifth season and caught up on the rest on cable. And there’s so much content available on hulu and youtube and even the network websites; you don’t need to wait for something to air again if you missed it, you just need a computer. Or a dvd player. Or a dvr. With so many forms of competition, I don’t think the networks can afford not to air new material as much as humanly possible, which has been changing the shape of tv seasons enormously since the very defined days of our childhood.

    • M says:

      See, though, cable was around for decades and didn’t kill reruns, and the internet is still barely being used for people watching TV shows. It will be the primary way in a few years, especially with HD TV’s now being designed with web interfacing. However, DVR really changed things. People can now record entire seasons of a show and watch whatever they want when they want to or have the time to. This means that a network showing 6 new episodes, then re-running while more film just doesn’t work any more.

      And I don’t consider older episodes of shows in syndication to be “reruns”. Watching first season episodes of CSI: Miami on A&E isn’t the same as expecting a new episode of Lost on a Wednesday in March and getting the one you just saw 5 weeks earlier becuase sweeps are over. That may be semantics, but was where I was coming from with that.

      • E says:

        No, I get what you mean about reruns. The thing I meant was, if you tune in to Lost and it turns out to be the ep from 5 weeks ago, you’re likely to switch over the Discovery Channel for Shark Week or The World’s Dirtiest Jobs or whatever. We’re spoiled for choice, so the nets can’t afford to re-run eps like that the way they used to.

  4. E says:

    You know, C, I guess it’s kind of like Jane Eyre. I just don’t get your love for it.

    (Ducks)

    • Rachael says:

      Wow. All I can say is wow.

      • C says:

        Oh, don’t mind her. She always brings this up, but it’s hardly a legitimate parallel, because E’s never READ Jane Eyre. Instead she read Wide Sargasso Sea, became convinced that JE was nothing but pro-imperialist, anti-feminist propaganda, and refused to read it.

        What she also neglects to mention is that I got her to watch the 2006 movie and she liked it.

      • E says:

        Tried to read JE long before I read Wide Sargasso Sea, C. Her upbringing is so ghastly, and Mr. Rochester is supposed to be her reward? Uck. Even if Toby Stephens is somewhat charming.

      • Rachael says:

        Um – I can’t reply to your actual responses to my comment so I’m replying here.

        E – I will listen to no more recommendations from you until you buckle down and read JE. It is just that good and awesome and beautiful. And as someone who wrote most of her critical work on JE/WSS and the mad woman in the attic, I disagree on your antifeminist take – It’s more of a anti-whiteman take for completely f-ing the minds of women all over the world and f-ing civilization by trying to imprint European culture no matter the climate/peoples/languages/religion at the cost of millions of lives and more minds and souls.

        C – be generous – I still refuse to even give Twilight a moment of my attention in film or written form because of the things I’ve heard about it on LJ. Now my boss, who has steered me towards 3 books I’ve LOVED has told me I should read it because it’s that good. I don’t know what to think!

      • C says:

        Silly WordPress seems not to allow more than two layers of replies-to-comments. Bleh!

        Regarding Twilight, I read the first one in about a day and a half. It’s weirdly absorbing and nostalgic – like a direct injection of maudlin high school poetry to the veins – but I for one felt like when it was done *I* was done and I had no need to go further. I am baffled at the level of full-on obsession with it, and I do think Edward Cullen is a horrible “ideal man” for young girls to drool over, but if you read it and enjoyed it I wouldn’t think less of you!

  5. snarkhunter says:

    I came here in response to E’s plea elsewhere, and…darn it, C, I can’t believe you don’t like Buffy!

    But that said, Seasons 1 and 2? Not that good. Really. Many of the perfectly-legitimate problems that you’ve pointed out remain, but somehow the show works out some of the kinks by the 3rd season. IMHO.

    At least give Season 3 a shot–it’s probably the best season of the show.

    • C says:

      Well, you gotta give me credit – I’m giving Buffy more than a fair chance to win me over. We’ve watched a few episodes of Season 3 and, barring the ATROCIOUS season opener, I’m interested so far. I like the introduction of Faith as a character who shakes things up.

      • E says:

        Faith is fantastic, isn’t she? I really really enjoy that season.

        And yes, it’s impressive how much you’ve watched and keep watching of something you think is dreck. 😉

        • C says:

          Well, it’s become our fall-back entertainment. I’m watching Roswell with Christina and Moonlight with Danielle, but for a while there was nothing on hand for us all to watch together but Buffy. Now we have How I Met Your Mother, though, so Buffy’s been put on hold.

      • snarkhunter says:

        Oh, I give you TONS of credit for trying. And while I like the season opener for a variety of reasons, it’s not great at all. (I also enjoy the follow-up. It’s awful, mind you, but it’s hilarious. ‘Do you like my mask? Isn’t it pretty? It raises the dead!’)

        Faith rocks the house.

  6. ThisMightBeJess says:

    So, my sisters used to watch Buffy and I was very meh about it, until I watched “Restless”–I didn’t immediately fall in love with the show, but that was the episode (the end of season 4) that made me go, “huh… maybe there is more to this show than tragic romance and cheesy bad guys”. And, actually, I 100% agree with your assessment of the first two seasons. It isn’t *bad*, but there is too much camp, and WAY too much Buffy/Angel drama. I’m actually really glad that I started with season 5, 6 and then went around the bend back to 1. I promise you, it gets so much better once Angel gets his own show.

    For the record, I think season 4 is my favorite.

    • C says:

      Well, I’ve got a while to go before “Restless,” but I’ll be looking forward to it if we keep watching that far. Maybe the ideal would be to start at season 3, since even devotees of the show don’t seem to think much of 1 & 2?

      • E says:

        We have (had?) a mutual friend who favorite is the second season. He likes the whole betrayal/epic love thing. Fitting…

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