Joss Whedon fans! Listen up! On May 1, the new book “Joss Whedon: The Complete Companion: The TV Series, The Movies, The Comic Books and More” will be released. Whedonites are going wild! Zap2it has an exclusive excerpt for you. Check it out and let us know what you think!
Read the excerpt here:
The story of the
transformation of Buffy the Vampire Story from a low-budget
feature film into a critically acclaimed television series is an
improbable one. Joss Whedon was not, in fact, the instigator. That
credit goes to producer Gail Berman, who in the mid-1990s was looking
for new projects to develop for television. In 1992 the film version
of Buffy had been released, based on Whedon’s original
screenplay. Exasperated with changes being made to his script during
filming, he eventually left the set and avoided the studio during the
later stages of filming. Whedon had gone on to enjoy a flourishing
and highly remunerative career as writer and script doctor and had,
in fact, put Buffy behind him by the time Berman approached
him about the possibility of turning the film into a television
series. Berman had presciently anticipated that the movie would
provide the basis for an excellent series and sold Whedon on the idea
(Whedon 25). Although she would later be mercilessly castigated as
the villain who pulled the plug on Firefly when she was head
of programming at Fox TV, the fact is that without Berman’s
initiative, neither Buffy nor Firefly would ever have
Berman and Whedon took
the idea of Buffy to all of the major networks but were
rejected by each one. The fledgling WB network, however, was in
search of original programming and ordered a pilot. Although they did
not place it on their schedule for the fall of 1996, they did order
it to series as a mid-season replacement in the winter of 1997. While
a number of major TV critics were immediately taken with Buffy‘s
clever dialogue and meshing of comedy and drama alongside fighting
vampires and demons (Matt Roush of TV Guide was perhaps the
show’s first high profile fan), the ratings through its first
season were never strong and renewal was uncertain. The WB finally
decided to give the show another chance and during its second season,
with greatly improved writing and a larger budget that made possible
higher production values, the show became a hit.
The TV series picks up
three months after the end of the movie, with Buffy Summers
relocating from Los Angeles to a new school in Sunnydale, California.
The move by Buffy and her mother was forced by her expulsion from her
former high school after she burned down the gym, which was filled
with vampires, an event contained in the film’s screenplay but
which was eliminated due to budgetary limitations. The TV series is,
therefore, strictly speaking not a sequel to the movie, but to the
screenplay that Joss wrote that the movie was based on. Those wishing
to see something like what he had in mind in writing the screenplay
should see “Buffy: The Origin” in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Omnibus, a comic that was “Adapted from Joss Whedon’s
original screenplay” by Dan Brereton and Christopher Golden
In the film high school
cheerleader Buffy Summers learns that she was the Chosen One; the
formulation is sharpened in the TV series: “Into every generation a
Slayer is born: one girl in all the world, a chosen one. She alone
will wield the strength and skill to fight the vampires, demons, and
the forces of darkness; to stop the spread of their evil and the
swell of their numbers. She is The Slayer.”
As Joss Whedon has
pointed out, as silly as the title of the show is, it hints at
several major aspects of the series. “Buffy” is intrinsically
comical and leads the viewer to expect humor; “Vampire” indicates
that the viewer can anticipate the scary and supernatural; while
“Slayer” promises action, with the expectation that the action
will involve girl with the silly name.
One of the central themes
in the show is Buffy’s reluctance to embrace her calling, from
denying it in the show’s pilot, to begrudgingly acknowledging its
inevitability in the next few seasons, until fully embracing it in
Season 5. Being The Slayer, the Chosen One, was thrust upon her,
without her having a say in it. Although the show is frequently comic
in tone, Buffy’s story is at its core a tragic one. Why? Because
one only becomes The Slayer when someone else has died, which points
to the future and one’s own inevitably death, which is likely to
violent. As Buffy tells Giles in Season 5, “Look I realize that
every Slayer comes with an expiration date on the package, but I want
mine to be a long time from now. Like a cheeto” (“Fool for Love”
5.7). But the brute fact is that for Buffy many of the dreams she had
when fifteen are no longer possibilities; instead her life situation
is truly Hobbesian, a perpetual war against vampires and demons in
which her life could well prove to be “solitary, poor, nasty,
brutish, and short.”
Though, in fact, not
solitary. One of the major differences between the film and the
series is that in the movie Buffy, though with some help from her
love interest Pike, fights more or less on her own; in the series she
instantly acquires a group of friends who form a team to aid her in
her struggle against the demons and vampires. Willow and Xander,
along with her watcher Giles, form the core of the Scooby Gang–whose
ranks swell and ebb as the series progresses–who aid Buffy both as
friends and sidekicks, in addition to engaging in the ceaseless
research that backgrounds all their activity. The more frequent
paradigm of the hero–such as Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name–is
of a loner, someone who neither desires nor can afford friends or
companions. Although Buffy is the most powerful of the Scoobies
(though she is rivaled in later seasons by Willow’s emergence as a
witch) and the only one who has no choice about fighting the powers
of darkness, what sets her apart as a hero is the support she
receives from friends and family. As the vampire Spike (later himself
to be a member of the Scoobies) remarks after his first encounter
with Buffy, “A Slayer with family and friends, that sure as hell
wasn’t in the brochure” (“School Hard” 2.3).
The narrative format of
Buffy was established in Season 1. A Big Bad (in the first
season, an extremely ancient vampire known as The Master) is
introduced, against whom Buffy engages in a season-long
confrontation. Each season features several standalone episodes, but
even in these some portion of the longer narrative is developed. The
season-long arcs are focused mainly on the struggle against that
year’s Big Bad. The arcs of the various characters are not,
however, necessarily limited to a single season, but extend over two
or more seasons. While neither Buffy’s, Willow’s, nor Xander’s
personal stories are articulated in single-season chunks, those of
The Master, The Mayor, and Glory are.
Joss Whedon is a risk
taker, and that fact accounts for some of the most thrilling as well
as some of the most disappointing moments in Buffy. The upside
of taking risks is that when they pay off, the results can be
extraordinary. Seasons 2, 3, and 5 show what can happen when the
risks pay off, these being some of the most compelling seasons of any
show in the history of TV. The downside of risk taking is that
gambles don’t always pay off. Season 4, with its rather
unconvincing and somewhat off-putting arc dealing with The
Initiative, never really becomes particularly compelling, while the
cyborg Adam is one of Buffy‘s least interesting Big Bads.
Season 4 is one of the show’s weakest, despite an abundance of
outstanding standalone episodes. But despite this plethora of great
episodes (“Wild at Heart” 4.6, “Something Blue” 4.9, “Hush”
4.10, “A New Man” 4.12, “This Year’s Girl”/”Who Are You?”
4.15-16, “Superstar” 4.17, and “Restless” 4.22, to name only
a few), they could not compensate for the weak central narrative.
Buffy was the WB’s
flagship series through Season 5. Then, after bitter contract
negotiations between Twentieth Century Fox, the studio that produced
the series, and the WB broke down, the show moved over to UPN. The
final two seasons are generally not felt to be Buffy‘s
finest. Both seasons were dark and featured too many weak episodes,
while the Big Bads were not up to the level of previous baddies. The
show nonetheless managed some spectacular episodes, such as the
unforgettable musical episode “Once More, With Feeling” (6.7),
“Conversations With Dead People” (7.7) and “Chosen” (7.22),
the series finale. The show continued to take risks and refused to
repeat itself; if the risks did not quite pay off, neither can it be
said that Whedon and new show runner Marti Noxon were ever willing to
The story of Buffy‘s
success remains one of the most improbable in the history of TV.
After all, most attempts at converting films to TV involve successful
films, not failures. Not merely a successful television series, the
show not only created a cultural icon in the character of Buffy
Summers, but established new precedents in what it was possible to do
with television. Few seeing the film in 1992 would have imagined that
the little blonde vampire-slaying cheerleader would become an
indelible feature of our cultural landscape.
Brereton, Dan, and
Christopher Golden. “Buffy: The Origin.” Adapted from Joss
Whedon’s original screenplay. Buffy the Vampire Slayer Omnibus.
Vol. 1. Milwaukee, OR: Dark Horse, 2007. Print.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
The Chosen Collection. DVD Boxed Set. Created by Joss Whedon.
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, 2006. DVD.
“Chosen.” 7.22. Writ.
and dir. Joss Whedon. Buffy.
Dead People.” 7.7. Writ. Jane Espenson and Drew Goddard. Dir. Nick
“Fool for Love.”
5.7. Writ. Doug Petrie. Dir. David Solomon. Buffy.
“Hush.” 4.10. Writ.
and dir. Joss Whedon. Buffy.
“A New Man.” 4.12.
Writ. Jane Espenson. Dir. Michael Gershman. Buffy.
“Once More With
Feeling.” 6.7. Writ., dir., and music by Joss Whedon. Buffy.
Writ. and dir. Joss Whedon. Buffy.
“School Hard.” 2.3.
Writ. David Greenwalt and Joss Whedon. Dir. John T. Kretchmer. Buffy.
4.9. Writ. Tracey Forbes. Dir. Nick Marck. Buffy.
Writ. Jane Espenson. Dir. David Grossman. Buffy.
“This Year’s Girl”
(part 1 of 2). 4.15. Writ. Douglas Petrie. Dir. David Grossman.
Whedon, Joss. Interview
by Tasha Robinson. The A.V. Club.com. 5 Sep. 2001. Onion. Web.
Joss Whedon: Conversations. Ed. David Lavery and Cynthia
Burkhead. Jackson: UP of Mississippi, 2011. 23-33. Print. Television
“Wild at Heart.” 4.6.
Writ. Marti Noxon. Dir. David Grossman. Buffy.
“Who Are You?” (part
2 of 2). 4.16. Writ. and dir. Joss Whedon. Buffy.