A Look Back at TV's "Buffy The Vampire Slayer"

Herbie J Pilato

[The Classic TV Preservation Society]

High school student by day and vampire fighter by night best describe Buffy Summers, the title character played with zeal by the Emmy-winning Sarah Michelle Gellar (formerly of All My Children fame) on Buffy, the Vampire Slayer.

The action-packed TV horror/fantasy-sci-fi series cleverly laced thrills, comedy, and the macabre with a 20th-21st Century sensibility from 1997-2003. Loosely based on the 1992 feature film of the same name, the Buffy small screen edition swiftly rose to cult status, originally on the WB, then UPN, and now in syndication and on DVD forever.

In addition to Gellar, the show featured a compelling cast of then-young actors including Nicholas Brendon (The Young and the Restless), Alyson Hannigan (My Stepmother Is An Alien/How I Met Your Mother), Charisma Carpenter (Malibu Shores/Veronica Mars), David Boreanaz (Bones), and Anthony Stewart Head (of Taster's Choice commercials fame).

In the series, Geller plays Buffy as a quick-witted heroine whose birthright as the sole "slayer of her generation" was to protect the world from the undead and your general creepies. Yet she pines to be normal. During the morning and afternoon hours, she is a typical high school student. Come nightfall, she is a martial arts master, skillfully slaying her underworld foes. Trying to balance the typical high school life with saving the world, Buffy remains cheerful and fierce throughout, even as her new hometown sits atop the Hellmouth, a mystical porthole where all the demons of the netherworld converge.

Buffy's mentor and guide to the unknown evils that lurk amongst her were Giles (Head), the school's British librarian and resident expert on all things evil (he's the "watcher" to her slayer). Angel (Boreanaz) is her sensuous underworld informant who is torn between two worlds and compelled by his feelings for Buffy to turn against his own kind. (Upon meeting, Buffy and Angel found themselves drawn dangerously close together.)

While Buffy's strange behavior originally didn't make her a hit with the "in" crowd (though the hip-click-chic leader, Cordelia [Carpenter]ing around), she bonds with two fellow outsiders at school: the awkwardly geeky Xander (Brendon), who is bright and funny (and in love with Buffy); and the shy Willow (Hannigan), an intelligent wallflower (who just so happens to have a talent for computer hacking and later, witchcraft).

Director/writer Joss Whedon who, in recent years has experienced his share of controversies, penned the screenplay for the original Buffy motion-picture version and then created the small screen edition where terror and high school inextricably intertwined. Whedon, son of Tom Whedon (The Golden Girls) served as executive producer along with Sandy Gallin (Father of the Bride), Tony Award nominee Gail Berman (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat), Fran Rubel Kuzai (the Buffy feature film) and Kaz Kuzai (Tokyo Po).

Buffy, the Vampire Slayer was popular, particularly amongst the college set, as it explored the various horrific metaphors of teen angst that it played out - and with - so well.

Some prime episodes include:

* "Ted" (Season 2), with the late John Ritter guest starring as a not-so-nice android who had the hots for Buffy's mom.)

* "Bad Eggs" (Season 2), in which Buffy has to protect her mother and the Scooby gang (Giles, Willow, etc.), from an alien that journey's to Sunnyvale (via eggs distributed in school for a class assignment.

* "Dopplegangland" (Season 3), in which a spell goes bonkers and creates Willow's evil twin.)

* "Band Candy" (Season 3), in which Buffy's mom, Giles, and the school principal behave extremely out of character to very comical results.

* "Hush" (Season 4), in which very scary hovering demons somehow steal everyone's ability to speak.

* "The Body" (Season 5), in which Buffy's mother passes away via an aneurysm.

* "Intervention" (Season 5), when Buffy goes on what may be considered a spiritual retreat, the lovesick Spike (evil again/good again vampire brilliantly played by James Marsters (who later played Brainiac on Smallville) has the evil Willow construct a Buffy-android (Buffybot), who's obsessed with Spike.

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Herbie J Pilato is the author of several books about pop culture including THE 12 BEST SECRETS OF CHRISTMAS: A TREASURE HOUSE OF DECEMBER MEMORIES REVEALED, MARY: THE MARY TYLER MOORE STORY, TWITCH UPON A STAR, GLAMOUR, GIDGETS AND THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, DASHING, DARING AND DEBONAIR, and NBC & ME: MY LIFE AS A PAGE IN A BOOK, among others. He's also a TV writer/producer, and has worked for Reelz, Bravo, E!, TLC, and hosted THEN AGAIN WITH HERBIE J PILATO, the hit classic TV talk show (which premiered on Amazon Prime in 2019).

Los Angeles, CA

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