On March 10, 1997 a young Sarah Michelle Gellar entered our lives as the plucky high school rebel Buffy Summers and we immediately sank our teeth into the teenage-vamp hybrid. It dominated the weeknight viewing of my late 90s childhood... we even named our dog after it! But, 19 years later, how do we remember T.V.'s original vamp girl?
From day one we were completely hooked, watching for seven seasons and 144 episodes, slurping up the break-ups and make-ups that came with it. While there were the inevitable 'jump the shark' moments, and many seeing the final season and introduction of many slayers as exactly that. What we must never forget, is the golden era of Buffy. We were gifted episodes like "Hush" and "Once More, with Feeling". In many other shows an episode with 90% silence or a complete musical dedication would almost certainly flop, but for Buffy these were among its best.
It was amazing that show proved so popular, especially since the 1992 movie of the same name (yep, we remember it) ranks a measly 35% on Rotten Tomatoes. Buffy's ever stoic 'watcher' Giles was on hand to be the father that Buffy had, but was always strangely absent. Anthony Stewart Head recently reflected on his time on the show:
The number of people who've come up to me and thanked me because Buffy helped them through their teenage years, because it gave them a voice. I can't take the credit for that! But with Giles, he was so supportive.
Then there were the rest of the relationships themselves. The popular girl at school was Cordelia, the outcast bookish one was Willow, then there was Xander, the boy who never gets the girl. It also had varying LGBT issues at a time when they were still a little talked about taboo. Every teenage boy and girl could relate in some form to Buffy and her teenage angst, maybe not her demon boyfriend, but we will forget about that one. This wasn't any pre-watershed show, it dealt with death and delivered us shocking blows long before Game of Thrones twists hit us hard.
Buffy was never afraid to off an actor without a moment's hesitation. The critically acclaimed episode, "The Body", dealt with the passing of Joyce Summers, not only Buffy's mother, but her rock. What made the biggest impact, was that Joyce wasn't killed by a demon or bitten by one of Buffy's vampire lovers, she passed away from natural causes. The aftermath elevated Buffy from 'The Slayer' to the De facto mother of the Summers' household as well as saviour of the world.
But the payoff was bitter-sweet. For every episode that had had you reaching for the tissues, you had one that had you reaching for the cushions. Villains (on the whole) were fleshed out, real life Draculas. Buffy's first nemesis The Master was an on screen baddy who dominated the powerful first season. Then we had the ever creepy British Drusilla and her equally creepy British 'hubby' Spike. The rogue's gallery of monsters and ghouls was endless and included the likes of cyborg Adam in the shaky fourth season. Special effects budgets were big and this was no Jim Henson puppet workshop.
It was James Marsters' role as Spike which got the majority of the one liners. His cheeky Michael Caine-esque english wit added to the shows already punchy comedic value. Spike's arc was one of the most rewarding of the show, turning from antagonist to mellowed anti-hero. It was also the arrival of Emma Caulfied's revenge demon Anya in season three, who upped the belly laughs. Buffy had it all, something that can make you laugh, cry, or scream all in one episode. What more could you want?
It made household names of its core cast, with a young Seth Green going on to be one of the most standout successes. Meanwhile Buffy herself became an unknown sex symbol, with Sarah Michelle Gellar dominating magazine covers worldwide. She became an instantly recognisable face at a time when other blonde bombshell Britney Spears was also making headlines. But outside of Buffy, Michelle Gellar herself went on to have mixed success, starring in Cruel Intentions, Scream 2 and even her own short-lived 2011 show Ringer. She could never quite top the fame which Buffy brought her.
The central Buffy show spawned the long-running Angel, which starred Buffy's on-again, off-again boyfriend played by David Boreanaz. The smouldering Taylor Lautner lookalike held his own spin-off for five seasons and took several Buffy cast members like Cordelia Chase and Wesley Wyndam-Pryce with him - unfortunately both met their demise on Angel.
If it weren't for Buffy, it is doubtful that the likes Twilight or True Blood would have proved anywhere near as popular. The latter served as a grown-up deep south version, but failed to capture our imaginations as Buffy had. It may just be me, but the humour of Buffy was sorely missing from True Blood and Anna Paquin (whilst a great lead) wasn't a patch on Ms. Gellar. Couple this with the brooding Stephen Moyer and you just didn't have the Buffy/Angel chemistry.
As for the franchise now, it has moved off our screens and onto the pages of several long running comic book series. For fandom, the many storylines created in Buffy season seven were thankfully carried on in comic books titled season 8 etc, etc. Whilst the cast constantly reunite, the rumours of an official reunion aren't as popular as they once were. In an era of reboots, sequels and prequels, it is odd that Joss Whedon hasn't returned to one of his favourite creations. Hopefully the Buffyverse hasn't taken a stake to the heart just yet.