Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel.
The Plot: Buffy is a vampire slayer. There is only one slayer, one teenage girl to fight all the vampires and demons. Pretty bad odds. Luckily for Buffy, for seven seasons she has friends and family as she stops an apocalypse or two, fights vampires, demons, gods, and assorted other big bads. In other words? She saves the world. A lot.
Angel is a vampire, but one who has been cursed with a soul. The guilt from the atrocities he has committed puts him on the difficult road of redemption.
Together for three season, Buffy and Angel fight -- sometimes the bad guys, sometimes each other. Eventually he moves to Los Angeles and assembles his own team, and for five seasons he helps the helpless.
You knew Buffy was going to be included in this list. It is, after all, my favorite television show in the history of the world. It is the inspiration for my blog name.
Joss Whedon has a gift for television. The man is a genius; in addition to Buffy and Angel, he is responsible for Firefly and Dollhouse.
First things first.
Whedon created a teenage girl who fought back. A tiny blond, who looks like the only things she thinks about are fashion, music, dating. Looks are deceiving, and while Buffy does care about fashion, music, and boys -- she also knows how to use a crossbow. Now, books and television shows are full of strong teenage girls, like Veronica Mars. Buffy was one of the first -- and one that stuck around the longest. Seven seasons worth.
Whedon set the high mark for storytelling over multiple episodes and seasons, paving the way for shows like Battlestar Galactica. Over the course of seven seasons, there were vampires, friends who turned evil, an Apocalypse or two, a god, even the government.
Whedon respected his audience, with dark storytelling and characters who weren't perfect and who made bad choices. The person who you disliked one season, you were rooting for the next. People surprised you. Things were not always predictable, but Whedon was such a skilled storyteller that you went along with it. Storylines that on paper sounded "no way" turned out to be amazing. And the language! The lines! The quips! He can out outquip anyone on Arrested Development.
Buffy was a show about the supernatural, and some may dismiss it as "just" being genre. It's always dangerous to see something as being within a genre as meaning it's "less than" real TV. Buffy, like My So Called Life, took life seriously; took teenagers seriously. Angela Chase, had she watched Buffy, would have understood right away. High School can be hell. We are always fighting personal demons.
Buffy lasted seven amazing seasons, taking Buffy (and her friends and family) from high school to college and beyond. Like Veronica Mars, the initial move from high school to college was shaky. While many (me included) believe the best of Buffy was her high school years, Buffy at its worst (season seven) was still head and shoulders above other television. Even bad, it was good -- it was only "bad" in comparison to just how perfect previous seasons were. For example, the famous musical episode? Season six, after high school. And season three (high school) had possibly the worst. episode. of Buffy ever, Dead Man's Party, where Buffy's friends are incredibly mean, horrid, and selfish and I'm still pissed at them. So there.
Part of the "bad" wasn't really bad -- it was simply change. Buffy and her friends had to change, and Whedon was confronted with doing what he did best (believable character growth over multiple seasons) with television limitations. In other words, in the real world? Friends grow apart. In TVland, they always have to come back together. In the real world? There is no One. True. Love. In TVland, there are One True Pairings. That Buffy dealt with those limitations, went on for seven season, and remained made of awesome shows just how talented Whedon (and the cast, crew and writers he assembled) is.
Some have called Angel Whedon's "grown up" series, which I always resented. It reminded me too much of parents who mess up with their first set of kids, and fix the problem by being better parents to a new set of kids. In other words, Buffy remained "young" to Angel's "grown up and dark" only because Whedon chose to do so. Plus? Buffy didn't remain young; she was growing up, changing, maturing, making choices, becoming more her person. Perhaps part of the reason that Buffy seasons 4 to 7 were messy and uncomfortable is because college years, that time of growing up, is messy and uncomfortable. Also? You cannot convince me that Angel getting paid for fighting the powers of darkness is acceptable but Buffy doing so is not.
Angel's first season didn't do much for me, I confess. It felt too much like a show the network wanted, a show that hadn't found its footing. About half way through, something clicked -- the actors, the writing, the stories -- and Angel became must-watch TV. While some of the actors (Angel, Cordelia, Wesley) had worked together on Buffy, each character was different in Angel. Angel's focus was no longer Buffy, making him harder and darker; Wesley had gone from wimp to gruff; and Cordy. Sigh. At her best, Cordy had matured into a likable young woman with a common sense, comfortably selfish view of the world. At her worst, Cordy was a shaft of light. No, really. She was literally a shaft of light.
As a former lawyer, I had a lot of fun watching Angel battle lawyers and other corporate entities. I also enjoyed how dark things went, especially with Wesley. (All I will say is: "I'll take away your bucket.") I had such a crush on Wesley in Angel.
One man alone -- even someone like Whedon -- does not a good show make. It requires a combination of so many things: actors, directors, writers, crews who do things I do not know but make a show so perfect. Whedon does a terrific job of finding and using talent. The people who work on his shows crop up again and again in other shows and movies, and always deliver quality.
Enough of me gushing! With a total of twelve seasons to choose from, as well as so many possible spoilers, I went with some basic season previews.
The Buffy Season 2 trailer:
The Angel Season 1 trailer:
And who can resist Buffy v Edward? Especially those of us who want our vampires dangerous?
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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy