Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Buffy Blog: Season One

I really like season one. A Lot. Many Buffanatics, including myself (how can anyone who has seen Buffy eight times or like myself not see foreshadowings of the shape of things to come in season one?) tend to see season one through the lens of later seasons, particularly season two. In my estimation so much of what takes place in later seasons, including season two, are nicely set up in season one including the darkness that is to come in seasons two through seven (Dark Xander in “The Pack”, the character arcs for all the Scoobies laid down in “Nightmares”, the brutal and horrific speech Buffy’s Dad says to her, and the two Buffy speeches from “Welcome to the Hellmouth” and “Prophecy Girl” that bookend season one).

Yes there is a degree of the “monster of the week” quality in season one. So is there, as we will see, in later seasons. I don’t, however, have anything aesthetically against stand alones (The Rockford Files, one of my favourite television shows, has a lot of standalone episodes) nor do I have anything aesthetically against arc shows (The Rockford Files has some character and series arcs in it). Yes there is an innocence to season one. I once described this innocence to someone I was trying to get to watch Buffy as akin to the innocence of Beatles albums before Help and Rubber Soul. But it is a “monster of the week” and innocent quality that grounds the narrative and character arcs of the series and as a result crucially sets the ground for all that is to come later just as the early Beatles albums set the stage for the artiness of Rubber Soul, Revolver, and Sgt Pepper. Aesthetically, I like both early and late Beatles and season one and season seven of Buffy.

Admittedly it does take time for some books, films, and TV shows to get their feet so to speak. The BBC show Luther (2010), I have read, takes a few episodes for the first series to really catch fire. The first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994) is, in my opinion, mediocre at best. It took a while for those involved in the making of TNG to really get the characters and the crew down. Buffy seems to me to hit the ground running for the reasons I enunciated above. And the way the season unfolds provides a degree of closure, as Whedon noted, for viewers should Buffy have been cancelled after season one.

Frankly I get annoyed by the TV remote attention deficit (add) disorder generation, the generation who want everything now, everything fast, everything fast paced at 20 edits a minute (the, to paraphrase Queen, “I want it all and I want it now mentality”). The Hills seems to me the perfect show for the add generation since virtually every scene lasts no longer than a popular music video, about three minutes, and the focus of these nanoscenes either focuses on friendship, love, or friendships gone bad. Buffy, however, has a lot of old school film making in it (this should not be a surprise given that Whedon was a film studies student and is a film head). Pacing is appropriately more “realistic” when it needs to be (scenes drawn from everyday life) and appropriately faster paced when it needs to be (fighting scenes). It would be nice, in other words, if the add generation reflected on whether a tender scene should be edited like a knock down drag out fight scene and whether you want to introduce everything you intend to do in a novel or a novelistic TV show, which Buffy is, in the first few pages or minutes.

Whatever became of patience? Would people, if transported back in time to the period where the Iliad and Odyssey were “sung” in front of audiences yell “hey “Homer” get to the Trojan War” and “hey “Homer” get to the end of the story when Odysseus comes home to Penelope so we can see the two kiss”?

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