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Posts Tagged ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’

31 Monster Toys #4: Buffy Palz – The Judge

October 4th, 2013 No comments

Before its demise in 2006, Palisades Toys released an extensive line of “Palz” minifigures based on the fantasy TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. While adorable, in my experience their rubbery hairpieces had a distressing tendency to adhere to their painted heads, resulting in unfortunate loss of facial features.

One of the more difficult figures to collect was the Judge. On TV, this demon’s body was dismembered and stored in separate boxes; in toy form, it was offered as a “build-a-figure,” with each of its six body parts only available as a bonus accessory packed in with another figure. Kind of annoying, really.

31 Monstrous Failures #29: Adam

October 29th, 2011 No comments

The TV version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer coined the phrase “The Big Bad” to describe the chief antagonist of a season-long story arc. Season Four’s Big Bad, however, was more of a Big Bore.

That year saw the U.S. Government take an interest in the supernatural doings in Buffy’s hometown of Sunnydale, California. They secretly built a vast, underground bunker called “The Initiative” and filled it with special ops forces who began to capture Sunnydale’s demons and sequester them for scientific experimentation. Professor Maggie Walsh’s work in “Lab 314″ resulted in the cybernetic hodgepodge known as…

Adam!

Part human, part demon, part robot, Adam was a uranium-powered Frankenstein equipped with a retractable skewer and even a mini-gun. With that description from which to work, you would be forgiven for thinking that he was pretty hot stuff. And if, after murdering his creator and subsequent escaping from The Initiative, he’d gone on a stabby, shooty rampage through the streets of Sunnydale, I’d be inclined to agree.

Instead, he spent most of the latter half of the season hiding in a cave, pointedly not stabbing or shooting anyone. Ostensibly, this was because he was conducting his own experiments with the aim of building an army of cyborg demons, but mostly it was because he was The Big Bad and therefore needed to wait until the end of the season.

State Of The Art

January 20th, 2011 No comments

Let’s poke a dipstick into the crankcase of sci-fi pop culture! Is it time to add another quart?

Not-so-superheroes: I recently dropped ABC’s No Ordinary Family from my DVR schedule. I’d initially had misgivings about what appeared to be Heroes-light, but I enjoyed the pilot; there was fun to be had in watching Michael Chiklis stop bullets and leap buildings Hulk-style. I gave the series half a season to find its way, but to my disappointment it appears to have doubled-down on the “Heaven forbid we should use our powers” trope. Look, there are a lot of shows I can watch in which people don’t use superpowers to fight crime. Embrace the genre, or get out of the Batcave.

And then there’s NBC’s The Cape, which has not only embraced the genre, but is currently making out with it underneath the bleachers. I love that it’s not at all ashamed about putting its hero in a costume or having actual supervillains with names like Chess and Scales. There’s even a “Carnival of Crime” with stilt-walkers, a pint-sized strongman and a thieving raccoon. That’s all great; it makes me want to overlook that most of it is stolen goods. The writing is fairly dire, though, and the ratings are such that I don’t think there’s any point in getting hooked.

I do like street-level, pulp superheroes, so I should be all over the new Green Hornet film. I don’t have any great affection for the character, so I’m not particularly bothered that he’s been given a comedy spin. The real crime here seems to be the transubstantiation of humor into a humor-like substance.

Aliens: As with The Cape, I really want to love the remake of V. I have a lot of affection for the original and still-lingering frustration over its later mishandling and lack of closure. I’d love to see it done over and done right. The new V is a worthy try, but it’s missing a few things. The Nazi/Holocaust allegory of the original was heavy-handed, but at least it gave the story resonance. The War on Terror should provide plenty of symbolic fodder, but it’s largely been ignored. This week our heroes tortured, dismembered, skinned and ultimately killed one of the Visitors, and no one (even the priest) seemed to have any serious qualms about it.

Another problem is the lack of substantive action on the part of the main characters. As I previously mentioned, I presume that some of this is for budgetary reasons, and some because it’s an ongoing show rather than a mini-series event. In the original, our heroes rapidly gained a host of followers and “red shirts.” And while they may not have been the entirety of the human Resistance, there was no question that they were its most important cell. That’s not the case now, and it’s only been made worse by the introduction of a larger Fifth Column faction that, among other things, orchestrated simultaneous, worldwide bombings of Visitor installations. Don’t make me wish I was watching the show about those guys.

It’s not all bad. We’ve seen a lot more of the Visitors’ true reptilian nature–the skeletal reptile/insect to the right is apparently what they look like under the human disguises–and we finally got a rat-eating scene. Their agenda has finally been revealed, and while it’s a silly, ’50s sci-fi notion–they want to breed with us!–it’s not any goofier than using us for food or stealing our water. I could do without Anna the Visitor Queen railing on about how she’s going to locate the human soul and suffocate it in its sleep, but even that would be forgivable if the show acknowledged its foolishness.

I’m a little disappointed in the reintroduction of original V actress Jane Badler as Diana, former Visitor leader and mother of Anna. The catfight potential has been wasted; so far Badler has done nothing more than to stew in her Macramé Chair of Evil. Dear V producers: no one is going to look down on you if you have your characters actually do something.

Dinosaurs: The previously-cancelled Primeval has re-emerged from prehistory with a fourth series of dinosaur-fighting ridiculousness. It’s still stupid as a box of stone axes, but eminently watchable. The creature effects–such as that Spinosaurus to the left–continue to be astonishing. All that said, if you’d told me back when the series began that the two* surviving members of the original cast would be the dork with the pork-pie hat and the girl with no pants, I’m not sure I would’ve stuck with it.

Alexander Siddig, aka Siddig el Fadil, aka Deep Space Nine‘s Dr. Julian Bashir, has joined up as a corporate funder with what I assume will prove to be a shady side.

Vampire Slayers: Buffy “Season 8″ dragged its way across the finish line this week. When I’d heard that Buffy creator Joss Whedon would be shepherding an official continuation of the TV series in comic book form, I had mixed feelings. I was a huge fan of the show to the end, and welcomed more stories of the Scooby Gang by the original writers. Yet it was an obvious acknowledgement that there would never be a “real” reunion of the cast, most of whom (sorry, Xander!) have gone on to mainstream success.

Turns out that I should’ve been even more skeptical. After getting to the end of 40 issues–a single season spread over nearly four full years–I find myself grateful that the TV show ceased when it did. And I’m starting to speculate whether Joss Whedon–like George Lucas before him–has become a hack and a ne’er-do-well. His recent, tone-deaf choices (and I include Dollhouse here) have me second-guessing whether he was ever really all that.

As with George Lucas and his gargantuan digital toybox, Whedon’s move into the comic book realm offered him unlimited scope. He could depict things unimaginable on a TV budget. But, like Lucas, it seems that limitations suit him. Just because you can give your heroes their own army, turn Dawn into a giant (and a centaur, and a doll) or send Buffy into a dystopian future of unintelligible teen slang doesn’t mean that you should do any of these things.

And that brings us to the time Buffy and Angel had sex in outer space. That’s right, after the two of them spontaneously developed Superman-level powers (because the Universe “wanted” it), but before their mystical fucking created a paradisaical pocket dimension. Yes, these are things that happened.

Meanwhile, major developments were unexplained or ignored, presumably to be picked up in “Season 9.” That might wash on a weekly TV series set to return after a summer hiatus.** But when it takes four frickin’ years to complete a “season,” I don’t think it’s asking too much that some things are followed up. If, after 35 issues, you have Spike the vampire unexpectedly show up as the captain of a spaceship crewed by giant bugs, I think you owe the reader a panel or two to explain how in the hell that came about.

The arc concluded with the death of a beloved character the identity of whom I will not disclose.*** That’s a familiar Whedon trick: littering his stories with the corpses of loved ones, the better to make the danger “real” and/or to motivate his characters into taking action. Sure, that can work, but when you do it over and over: Jenny, Joyce, Tara, Anya, Fred, Wesley, Wash, Penny, Topher, Ballard…

This is rapidly becoming a marathon post, so I’m going to end it here. If Joss Whedon doesn’t somehow kill me, I’ll be back with more rantings in the near future.

*There’s actually a third cast member who has been around since the beginning, the suit who ostensibly runs the secret government organization charged with investigating time anomalies. Since he’s never been much of a character, I don’t count him.

**Though it’s telling that the season-long story arcs of the Buffy TV show were more or less self-contained.

***No, fuck it, it was Giles.

31 Monsters #26: The Judge

October 26th, 2009 No comments

Another “remember that?” pop-culture artifact of the ’90s was the late and occasionally lamented WB television network (1995-2006), which for a time was our nation’s chief exporter of angst-ridden fictional teens.

Perhaps no series better identified “the WB” than Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a spin-off of the unpopular 1992 film of the same name. While it was never the network’s most-watched series (that distinction went to religious-themed family drama 7th Heaven), its success encouraged the WB to focus on shirtless and/or mascara-smeared teens for the remainder of its brief life.

For the uninitiated, Buffy was about a high-school girl who learned that she was the “chosen one” born to assume the mantle of the Slayer. Granted supernaturally enhanced strength, dexterity and recuperative powers, she was tasked with ridding the world of vampires and other demons until the day she died. And Slayers typically didn’t live long. Let the weeping commence.

In a not-especially-surprising twist, Buffy’s broody soulmate, the mysterious Angel, turned out to be a vampire himself. I mean, really, I too have genuflected at the Church of (Buffy creator) Joss Whedon, but when a guy in a black leather jacket shows up calling himself “Angel,” you know he’s gonna be anything but.

Angel had once been an especially vicious vampire named Angelus, but was cursed with a human soul after getting on the wrong side of some gypsies. (In Buffytown, vampires were soulless demons mimicking the personalities of the humans whose corpses they inhabited.) The idea was that he would be forced to live with all of the suffering he had caused. This made him sad.

It really wasn’t until the second season of the show that it found its stride, with the introduction of a pair of Sid-and-Nancy inspired vamps named Spike and Drusilla. But even more important was the development of the tormented relationship between Buffy and Angel.

It all came to a head in the two-part episode “Surprise”/”Innocence.” The two celebrated Buffy’s 17th birthday by getting funky. In the middle of the afterglow Angel ran off into the night, only to return a changed man corpse. You see, under the oddly complicated rules of the gypsy curse, Angel would lose his soul again should he experience one moment of pure happiness. (If you know what I mean, and I think you do.) It played as a metaphor for the way that men (allegedly) change personalities overnight after successfully planting their flag.

So evil Angelus was back, and he teamed up with Spike and Dru to resurrect The Judge, an ancient demon so powerful that “no weapon forged” could harm him. Defeated but not killed some six centuries earlier, the pieces of his body had to be physically separated to keep him dormant. The Judge had the ability to “burn the humanity” out of anyone less than 100%, Grade-A evil.

Buffy’s friends looked for a way to defeat The Judge. Ultimately, they brought her a mysterious “present.”

The final confrontation took place in the midst of a crowded shopping mall. As The Judge began to (er…) judge the humans present, a bolt twanged harmlessly into his chest. Buffy stood atop a mall kiosk, covering the demon with her trusty crossbow.

The Judge scoffed, “You’re a fool. No weapon forged can stop me.”

“That was then. This is now.” Buffy set down the crossbow and pulled out her “present”: a rocket launcher.

I admit it. I find this kinda hot.

The demon’s last words were “What’s that do?”

And then he blew up in an extremely satisfying manner.

I had originally thought that they might get around the “no weapon forged” rule by the old “by man” disclaimer. (Buffy, of course, not being a man.) Instead, the answer was simpler, and oh, so sweet. According to Joss Whedon’s DVD commentary, he never loved Buffy more than in the moment she hefted that rocket launcher, and I don’t disagree.

The Worst Idea I’ve Heard All Week

May 26th, 2009 No comments

The rights holders of Buffy the Vampire Slayer are trying to launch a feature film reboot, minus creator Joss Whedon and any of the supporting characters from the Buffy and Angel TV series.

This is going to sound hypocritical, given that I’ve just been talking up the V remake, but I think this is a terrible idea. In my view, there are two huge differences between Buffy and other recently-relaunched properties such as V and Star Trek

First, it’s too soon. V ceased production in 1985. There’s an entire generation that’s likely never even seen it. It’s more complicated with Star Trek: the franchise ground to a halt a mere four years ago with the cancellation of Enterprise, but it’s been 18 years since the final film featuring the entire original cast. 

Buffy went off the air a mere six years ago, and its spin-off Angel followed in 2004. Buffyverse alums (among them Sarah Michelle Gellar, David Boreanaz, Michelle Trachtenberg, Alyson Hannigan and Eliza Dushku) permeate current pop culture. Unlike the original Trek actors, they’re still young. Launching a remake when many fans are still holding out hope for an unlikely but not yet unreasonable renuion of the TV cast is perilous.

Second, the filmmakers have not reckoned with the rabid fervor of the Whedonites. They’re on a first name basis with Joss. And, despite Dollhouse, they haven’t yet suffered the disillusionment that Star Trek and Star Wars fanboys eventually felt with both Gene Roddenberry and George Lucas. Mark my words, reviving Whedon’s baby without his involvement will bring down a swift and merciless wrath. Hell, it’s been a couple of hours since I read the story, so it’s probably already well underway.

The Eternal Question

February 4th, 2008 No comments

If Gilligan’s Island left us with anything to ponder, it was this seemingly simple question: “Ginger or Mary Ann?” Ginger Grant was the cooing, Hollywood bombshell who used her sexuality as a weapon, whereas Mary Ann Summers was the sweet, corn-fed farm girl who forever stood in her shadow. In the decades since the S.S. Minnow washed up on that uncharted, desert isle, “Ginger or Mary Ann?” has fueled many a late-night, dorm-room discussion.

Yet I can’t say that I’ve ever met anyone who admitted to preferring Ginger. Working to Mary Ann’s advantage was that despite being the “good girl” of the two, she frequently displayed a good bit more skin. She rocked a pair of short shorts when Daisy Duke was still in 1st grade.

More important, I think, was that a guy could feel like he might actually have a shot with Mary Ann. Ginger was all promise, no delivery, and once she’d talked you out of the key to the supply hut you might as well go off to the other side of the island, if you know what I mean. On the other hand, while you’d probably never get past first base with Mary Ann, she’d probably let you hang around and lick the leftover coconut cream from her latest batch of pies.

Needless to say, I’ve always been a Mary Ann kind of guy. Most of my real-life crushes were Mary Anns. Yet, to my surprise, when I consider other TV Land “Ginger or Mary Ann?” duos out there, I find that I’ve occasionally preferred a Ginger.

WKRP in Cincinnati: Jennifer Marlowe (Ginger) vs. Bailey Quarters (Mary Ann)

One of Sitcom Land’s most blatant examples of a Ginger/Mary Ann pair was Loni Anderson as buxom, blonde radio station receptionist Jennifer and Jan Smithers as mousy, brunette traffic manager Bailey. Jennifer got all the attention, both within the show and in the real world: a Google image search will draw up all manner of vintage Loni Anderson cheesecake, whereas you can scarcely find a decent photo of Jan Smithers.

Jennifer was very much a Ginger. Big hair, big…you know. She wasn’t a “dumb blonde,” she knew what she had and how to work it. She pulled down a receptionist’s salary without performing any actual duties, and collected expensive gifts while hobnobbing with the rich and powerful.

Bailey, especially in the show’s first season, was “TV plain”: glasses, loose sweater vests and toned-down makeup coded her as the less attractive of the duo. With time her character became more confident, and out came the form-fitting jeans and the “sexy librarian” look.

Oh, did I mention that I married a traffic manager?

My pick: Mary Ann

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Cordelia Chase (Ginger) vs. Willow Rosenberg (Mary Ann)

Willow started out as not only a Mary Ann, but a Bailey. In fact, all of producer Joss Whedon’s shows have included one or more Baileys, characters meant to be “nerds” played by actors far too attractive to comfortably fit the role. (See: Kaylee the mechanic on Firefly, Angel‘s science geek Winifred, and fellow Buffy alum Xander, who pulled off a Speedo for cryin’ out loud.)

At first, Willow’s dress sense was said to have come from “the softer side of Sears.” She had to be coaxed into wearing a mildly revealing outfit for Halloween midway into the second season of the series. (Not so actress Alyson Hannigan, who posed for FHM.) But by season four, Willow had transformed into both a powerful witch and, less convincingly, a lesbian. (Yes, yes, I know that they previously hinted at the possibility when Willow’s evil, alternate-universe, vampire twin turned out to be bicurious. But come on, the gal spent three and a half years depicted as sincerely and exclusively boy-crazy. So it was a bit hard to accept when she abruptly went all girl-on-girl.)

Cordelia was initially the stereotypical prom-queen-in-training, complete with a cadre of “mean girls.” Early on, I couldn’t even figure out what made her a series regular, as she had so little interaction with the main cast of “outsiders.” Cordy was quick with the barbs, but as time went on, she softened and found herself falling for Xander the self-proclaimed “butt monkey.” By the time she exited the spin-off series Angel, she had become downright (and improbably) saintly.

My pick: Mary Ann

Friends: Rachel Green (Ginger) vs. Monica Geller (Mary Ann)

Monica wasn’t really supposed to be a Mary Ann. Her backstory was that she’d been overweight in high school (nickname: “Big Fat Goalie”) but had slimmed down into a hottie. They even went so far as to put Courteney Cox in a fat suit for the flashbacks, but that joke became less funny as Cox herself grew ever more skeletal.

Rachel wasn’t quite a Ginger either. She had the looks and the hair (and goodness knows that Jennifer Aniston got the media attention), but her persona showed an appealing vulnerability. She was the object of gawky paleontologist Ross’ fancy, so there was a big dollop of nerd wish fulfillment there as well. (At least, until Ross became so insufferably self-absorbed that I began to root for Joey to land Rachel instead.)

Oh, and did I mention that when I was a kid, I wanted to be a paleontologist?

My pick: Ginger!

Scooby-Doo: Daphne Blake (Ginger) vs. Velma Dinkley (Mary Ann)

Here’s where I may just have to admit that at times I can be just as superficial as the next guy. When it came to cartoon ghost-hunters, there was never any contest. Daphne was a leggy redhead; Velma was stumpy and frumpy with a shaggy blob of alleged hair. (Granted that she came off better in the live-action version, but there she had the benefit of being personified by “TV plain” gal Linda Cardellini.)

By the way–and I’m not suggesting that you look for yourself–a Google search for “Velma Dinkley” results in a number of pornographic fan-art images that I truly wish I could unsee. Jinkies!

My pick: Ginger

Charlie’s Angels: Jill Munroe (Ginger) vs. Sabrina Duncan (Mary Ann)

Maybe it’s the hair. Farrah Fawcett, who played Jill Munroe in the first season before breaking away for an unremarkable film career, was for a brief time the “it” girl with her long, tawny locks. Her best-selling, benippled poster image was the only T-shirt design I can recall being banned from my junior high. And I had no interest in her whatsoever.

The funny thing is that I didn’t really go for the designated “smart” gal of the Angels either. I did like Kate Jackson by the time of Scarecrow and Mrs. King, but her Angels incarnation left me cold. I really think it was the hair.

I split the difference and went for Jaclyn Smith.

My pick: Er…Mrs. Howell?

30 Rock: Jenna Maroney (Ginger) vs. Liz Lemon (Mary Ann)

Jenna, the fictional star of 30 Rock‘s show-within-a-show, was originally played by ex-Saturday Night Live performer Rachel Dratch. However, someone at the real NBC felt that Dratch wasn’t quite credible (read: blonde) enough to be the star of the fictional NBC series, and the part was recast with Jane Krakowski. Dratch got the consolation prize of appearing in a number of bizarre walk-on roles in the first season, something which I felt better played to her strengths as a sketch performer. (She’s disappeared completely as of this season.)

I do think casting Krakowski was a good call. She’s a funny actress, and provides a bigger visual contrast than Dratch would have.

Liz Lemon is played by 30 Rock‘s creator, Tina Fey. And while Tina Fey based Liz on her own experiences as head writer for SNL, she certainly resisted any urge to paint the character as an idealized version of Tina Fey. Liz (Tina Fey) Lemon is thoroughly neurotic; slovenly in both dress and domesticity; and unlucky in love. Completely unlike the real Tina Fey.

My pick: Tina Mary Ann (oh, like you didn’t see that coming)

At this point, you may be thinking that I’ve put entirely too much thought into pondering Gingers and Mary Anns, and you are most likely correct. But in my view, there are two types of people in the world: those who offer lengthy comparative analyses on Ginger and Mary Ann, and those who wish those other people would shut the hell up.