Summer TV Club: Buffy the Vampire Slayer "Welcome to the Hellmouth"
Due to the massive amount of season finales going on in TV land, a place where most of us writers at Art Attack live, we came up with the idea to watch (rewatch) an older show and report back on our findings in a round table like discussion filled with snark, wisdom and potentially fart jokes. Because Pete, Jef and myself were want for suggestions, we threw it out to you and, oh the suggestions we got; Magnum PI was one of my favorites but unfortunately it is not available on streaming because Tom Selleck's mustache takes up too much bandwidth. Because we got so many great suggestions, we have decided that each week we will pick a "best of episode" from a different television show. Rather than watching the same television program, this will give us a chance to sound more scattered and discombobulated, which is par for the course.
We begin with one of the greatest television shows of all time (according to you out there) Buffy the Vampire Slayer! We decided that we would go all the way back to the beginning for this one and kick off our Summer TV Club with the first Buffy episode ever, "Welcome to the Hellmouth/The Harvest," the series' two-part pilot.
ABBY: Trying to come at this as the first episode of a show that we know nothing about what's to come, what do you think of this as the kick-off to a show? Would you still watch it if this was the first time you ever saw it? '90s clothing aside. Would you be confused by the lack of back story?
JEF: They do drop hints throughout the episode, and later on, that the Kristy Swanson Buffy is canon, so you just kind of have to accept that. When the show came out it was more or less inconceivable that you hadn't at least caught a little bit of the original flick, though trying to show to a new audience these days might require a bit of explanation.
Here, let me try!
Cheerleader gets zapped with superhuman powers in order to kill vampires and other demons, kills a pervy vampire lord, rips off Paul Ruben's arm, saves the day, but gets blamed for destroying her school and has to move.
ABBY: I was actually surprised that I was hooked already with the pilot episode (again). For some reason, I thought that rewatching it after having known how good it gets, I would be disappointed. But not at all. The characters are strong, the quips are quippy and Buffy is already a bad ass.
PETE: Revisiting the canon question (and I rewatched "Wellcome to the Hellmouth/The Harvest" again a few days ago so I'm totally an expert), Principal Flutie specifically refers to her burning down the gymnasium.
Being as accustomed to Whedon as we are now, post-Serenity/Dollhouse/Avengers, it's easy to forget how unusually good the dialogue was for a show (especially a WB show). "You look like DeBarge?" "Don't go all Wild Bunch on me?" That's gold, Jerry.
ABBY: Something that struck me as not gold though, there is no way in hell that Willow would talk to a guy/follow him (vamp or not) or believe that a guy slightly good looking would be into her. I did not believe that. Do you think she would really have made out with him? He's like 40. Discuss.
JEF: Considering the whole idea remains, "Dumb girl that walks into a monster's bitey rape trap turns out to be the thing monsters fear," I'm pretty cool with allowing dumb actions to slide. Whatever gets us to the kung fu is fine with me.
ABBY: Yeah there are some other unbelievables for sure in this episode like why is Buffy allowed to walk to the Bronze, which happens to be in a horrible part of town but within walking distance from her house? Why does her mom think any of this is OK given the fact that she burned down her last gym? I never had a Bronze in my life and this lacking often comes up in my therapy sessions.
PETE: I'm more impressed by the bands the Bronze was able to book: '90s powerhouses like Darling Violetta and ... what was the name of the guy's band in the first season of The Real World? Reigndance? I can't keep all these JNCO shorts-wearing assholes straight.
Speaking of unbelievable, I guess Bram Stoker et. al. forgot to mention contracting vampirism also turns you into a black belt in jujitsu.
ABBY: Oh, he never mentions that in Dracula? Something else Stoker never discussed was the idea of a "Watcher," which sounds super pervy and voyeuristic if you think about it. Why does Buffy take to Giles being all up in her business so quickly? Why is he allowed at the Bronze and why is it called that?
JEF: Giles comes across a little pushy, admittedly, but Anthony Stewart Head is so panty-moisteningly cool that it's not that out of place. It's possible he likes modern rock music and obscure bands you've never heard of. Later you hear him admit he tells people he was an original member of Pink Floyd.
ABBY: Really? Panty-moistening. We know more about you Jef now than we ever wanted to. Giles comes off as pushy but knowledgeable. I would assume that Buffy is taken aback by her own super-human powers sometimes, whether she admits it or not. But if we are to understand as viewers that we already know Buffy from the movie, than Jef's right; we should just shut up and go with the flow.
PETE: Yeah, not to get too detailed and/or boring, but the movie wasn't exactly representative of Whedon's vision, but it's still a jumping off point for the series, even though it's only briefly referred to ever again.
I liked Giles' explanation of how everyone at the Bronze was able to shrug off the attempted Harvest because Sunnydale is used to weirdness, but I can't help thinking if they tried to set it in the present day, everyone in attendance would assume they were watching a YouTube stunt.
ABBY: On a serious note, Buffy already addresses her personal struggle with being the slayer and being a normal girl, which we know is a major through-line for the duration of the show and her character development, but, uhh... I forgot what the question was.
PETE: The questions was: what high school in America allows their students to dress like Cordelia Chase? Not that I'm complaining, mind you.
Join us next week as we watch and discuss Twin Peaks: 1:2 "Zen, or the Skill to Catch a Killer" (Note, this is the second episode after the pilot). Watch along with and please tell us your favorite episode that we should watch!
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