PLEASE NOTE: THIS IS A SPOILER-RICH ZONE. If your diet requires you to dine on television spoiler-free ... good luck with that.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Interviews With Some Non-Vampires: Part I

In which we explore the origin stories of our intrepid bloggers...

You get to pick which one of us is Brad Pitt
and which one of us is Christian Slater

Z: So tell me, Daniel-san, how did you first start watching Buffy? What sparked your interest?

Bunnies frighten me
D: Buffy was on at a time when I was too busy to watch any tv: College.  Once when I was home, however, I did see my first episode:  "Fear, Itself."  I thought it was clever and funny and scary and there was a strange cute girl in a bunny costume. (Little did I know that my love affair with Anya was just beginning!)  I always knew that Buffy was a show I'd enjoy if I only had the time for it.  A couple of years later, my then boyfriend's friend showed me the brilliance that was "Once More with Feeling".  Thought I thought it was absolutely wonderful, I don't think I realized exactly how brilliant it was because I didn't know the characters/storylines well.  But that's what made me start watching it on netflix from the beginning.  The show was already over by then, but I knew I had seven crazy wonderful seasons of Buffy and friends to watch and obsess over.  When I finished the seasons on netflix, I bought the box set and have been re-watching and over-analyzing what truly became my favorite show ever since!

Z: Now I know that Anya is your favorite character. What is it about her that you like so much?
D: I love how Anya is frank and honest and pulls no punches. The thing is, though, Anya wouldn't have been half the character she was if it had not been for her portrayer, Emma Caulfield.  Emma has perfect comedic timing and proved time and time again to be a real asset to the show.  It was also nice to see her grow; learn what it was like to be human.  While she wasn't always tactful, she was enthusiastic about at least trying to be more sympathetic towards others and often showed hints of a vulnerable side that I think we can all relate to.

Z: Of course, Xander's had tactless girlfriends before. How would you compare Anya to Cordelia? Or to Ampata? That was pretty tacky, how she spoilered the life out of her boyfriends.
D: Anya started out as the sort of "Cordelia replacement".  Their mistake was they wrote her a lot like Cordelia (whom I also love but in different ways) but the two are very very different.  Emma, smartly didn't try to make her like Cordy and I think the writers followed suit after that.  The thing they had most in common, though, was that Xander didn't deserve either of them.  Ampata, on the other hand...was almost perfect for Xander.

Z: Speaking of Xander, whom I know you adore, have you noticed how many of his paramours are now deceased? Even Buffy died twice, and they never dated! Guess how many girlfriends of his died in the comics! Guess!
D: I don't understand.  Com-icks?

D: Let's start with the same question: How did you first get into Buffy?
Z: I'm not gonna lie to you, Daniel, I saw the movie when it came out in theaters in 1992. And I ... hated it. Flat out yuck. Granted, I didn't yet understand the concept of camp, unless we're talking Clue, which is one of the best movies ever, but even on more recent reviewings, I sitll don't like the movie of Buffy. So when I heard, five years down the line, that they were actually making a TV series out of it, I audibly scoffed my disbelief and disdain, and went on my merry. I heard about it periodically in TV Guide (including that she died in a season finale, which - what?), but didn't pay much attention.

Cut to 2001 - my sister is in college, I'm in high school, and she calls to ask me to record an episode of Buffy.
     Me: What? That show's lame.
     Sister: I won't be able to watch it otherwise.
     Me: Why?
     Sister: They made a musical episode. I hear it's actually really good.
     Me: I love musicals too, but that's super-lame. Ugh, FINE.
Unfortunately, that was the year Buffy entered syndication heaven, and it was on every channel. I turned onto one, saw Michelle Trachtenberg (I didn't know she was on the show at all), assumed I was wrong, and switched to the other. That was wrong too. I switched back to the correct channel in time to see Sweet do his thing. And damn. By the end of "Walk Through the Fire," I was absolutely hooked.

Anyway, to make a long story short ("too late"), after that I watched the two hours of Buffy FX aired every day in order, and caught up on the series in time for the season six finale. I also, in the process, became like The Old Dope Peddler, lending out my videotapes of all these episodes I'd been recording to all my friends - "No seriously, guys, this show is AMAZING. Watch 'Prophecy Girl.' Watch 'Lie to Me.' Then we'll talk."

D: Convincing skeptics that it's a great show continues to be the bane of a Buffy fan's existence.  Besides the two episodes you mentioned, what other episodes would you pick to turn a skeptic into a fan?
Z: Ooh, that's a hard one - hard because a lot of my major favorites are so arc-heavy that I worry they wouldn't have the same impact out of context. "Innocence" is pretty great, but would it have the same heartbreak if you hadn't been following that relationship for a season and a half (actually, maybe yes - Sarah Michelle Gellar and David Boreanaz are both pretty perfect in that episode)? Same for "The Wish" - it's great because you know what it's contrasting. But I'd say if you want to give them a good sense of the humor of the show, go with "Band Candy," "Tabula Rasa," or "Life Serial." For good pathos, "Into the Woods" and the two-part "Becoming." For scary? Duh. "Hush." Duh. "Conversations With Dead People" could be an interesting, if supremely confusing starter. Actually, I'd love to hear your "starter" eps before we continue.
D: That's also a hard one for me. Mostly because I'm generally a very spoiler-free person.  I hate being spoiled for future events and hate spoiling it for others.  I think I'd encourage a newbie to start from the beginning by watching the first three episodes because I think it shows the direction the show will head. 

D: Who is your favorite character and why?
Z: Well, you know my deep and abiding love for Spike - but a lot of that is probably connected to James Marsters's wonderful performance in the role. Of the characters who actually made it into the opening sequence, I might actually have to go for the obvious - Buffy herself. Though I grew frustrated with her in the last two seasons, this girl was a true hero - an admirable one. She didn't always make the smartest decisions, but she also didn't shy away from making the tough ones. When the chips were down, when things were at their absolute worst, she was still able to act, to try to change things, fix things. Very rarely would she give into helplessness or despair. I feel like heroes, heroism in general, have gone out of vogue lately - with the exception of the fantastical or comic book films - in favor of "realistic" people, dripping in "humanizing" flaws. Which, while I recognize the worth of that too, I don't like it when it results in a general view of the heroic character as unrealistic in and of itself. Heroic characters like Buffy, people who act, should continue to be written and portrayed, as examples of all of our potential if we reach for it.
D: Well said.  I agree that we need more heroes like Buffy in TV and Cinema.  I feel like they inspire us to be better people.

D: Now on the other side, I know Tara and Dawn are your least favorite characters (Correct me if I'm wrong about that).  Can you tell us why?
Z: Oh, what a can of worms you have opened, sir! Of the regulars, Tara and Dawn were indeed my least favorite, and actually for close to the same reason - I didn't feel either actor really brought much to the table, and indeed failed to match what was intended. They both of them lacked depth, and I think the dimensionality of both characters in the writing ultimately suffered as a result. MT is very pretty, has poise, some comic timing, and can convey emotions - but they're general emotions, not organically grounded into a scene or interaction - couple that with my belief that she makes no discoveries means that as a whole, Dawn's emotional throughline rings as dishonest (a great example of this is the scene in "Blood Ties" when Dawn and Spike read from Gile's journal - Spike struggles through Giles's handwriting and is surprised by what he reads; Dawn has no trouble with the handwriting and is already reacting to the end of the entry before she's started reading the beginning of it). Now Tara, I was mostly bored by. I liked the idea of her, I liked the relationship with Willow, and it's clear from reading the scripts or listening to the writers talk that AB is much-adored and generally adorable, but in her actual portrayal of Tara, she left me bored. There just wasn't much going on there behind the face - contrast her with Oz, who as written was very, let's say ... expressing himself in short, non-committal phrases  - but I believe that Oz has a full emotional life and throughline because of the subtle honest work of SG.

In other words, they're my least favorite characters because they suck.

D: And on that note...stay tuned for Never Kill A Boy On A First Date and Part II of our interviews!


  1. Clue love! YAY!

    ... I have not slept and have no other comments at the moment.

  2. For the record: Hush is not a great place to start. I was very confused.

    Watching from the beginning is totally where it's at. (Man, back before the days of DVD when Zelda got me hooked on this... crazy! I was rather appreciative of your dope-peddling crack tape days.)

    This is going to be a fun blog to read; I'm excited.

    1. Haha, good to know. I also think I prefer going in order - the episodes I named ("Prophesy Girl" and "Lie to Me") are more ones I want whoever's watching to stick around until, before they leave. Because I remember with both of those episodes having the realization that not only was this a good show, but it was actually a very special show; a unique show.

      Hello my first convert!!!! I miss you and we should talk more.

  3. The first episode I ever saw (shown to me by Zelda herself :) was once more with feeling... It certainly hooked me but talk about spoilers haha. Although, since there was such a gap between seeing the musical for the first time, and seeing it again once I reached that point in the series, that I don't think the spoilers mattered that much.

  4. Wow, that's a really insightful analysis of Tara. She always kind of left me bored, too, but I always excused her because it wasn't her fault the writers didn't give her much to do. But when you compare her to Oz, it becomes apparent that the acting can make a character 100% more interesting and genuine.

  5. Hi! Love your posts. I like to read différent points of view on the greatest show of all times.
    In my case i started to watch btvs at 8! It was aired on saturday night second show. I watched once and then i had to ask my brother to record it for me cause in france it's used to be rated R! . It was season three then. I think i never stopped watching.
    Please continue posting! !!!

  6. I am not sure whether I agree with you re MT's acting, as it has been a while since I've watched the show. My recollection is that her character was inconsistent and generally horrid, which is funny because Dawn is one of my favorite characters in fanfic.
    Tara I'll agree with, although again I blame the writing as much as the acting.
    I'm in the extreme minority, I know, but I love Buffy the movie -- both as camp and (as Joss originally intended) a subversion of the horror genre. I started watching the series because of the movie, not in spite of it.