Return to Hellmouth
A couple of loyal readers recently sent me articles, posed questions, and have generally been good fan buddies of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so I thought it was time for another Buffy column. That, and I got my anxious little hands on the recently released DVD set of Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season One.
The three-disc set is just what any fan would adore. All 12 episodes are included, along with fun extras: cast and character biographies, and interviews with series creator Joss Whedon and original cast member David Boreanaz (nothing from others, like Sarah Michelle Gellar, who plays Buffy). A copy of the original pilot script is included ("Welcome to the Hellmouth"), as is a photo gallery. Unfortunately, I couldn't run them, which may be because I watch DVDs on my laptop. Screening forward requires using TV/DVD remote control functions, which I couldn't replicate on my keyboard.
Whedon offers personal insight on four episodes ("The Witch," "Never Kill a Boy on the First Date," "Angel," "Puppet Show") and full-length, running commentary for the pilot, "Welcome to the Hellmouth," and its followup, "The Harvest."
"For some ungodly reason, you've clicked onto the audio portion of this DVD, which means you have too much time on your hands," Whedon says sardonically. I don't have too much time on my hands, yet Whedon's mesmerizing voice and deadpan delivery are engrossing.
He admits he didn't know how television worked when he started work on BtVS, but managed to muddle through, finding himself in predicaments particular to the medium, like when the finished pilot came up minutes short, an absolute no-no in television. Another challenge was not always having the resources for special effects. But fortunately, challenges became opportunities for Whedon and crew.
"The less elaborate I could be, the more I had to make things matter," Whedon says. To fill airtime, Whedon wrote character-defining scenes, which turned out to be some of the most quotable moments of the show, but more importantly, helped to create full, identifiable characters in a carefully realized world.
Through his commentaries, Whedon shares several morsels of behind-the-scenes information:
Sarah Michelle Gellar was originally cast as snarky teen-queen Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter).
When David Boreanaz read for the part of Angel, Whedon wasn't sure he fit the role until he consulted female members of his production staff. Since they "were melting" in their seats, he decided Boreanaz was the right choice.
Whedon fought with WB execs (Buffy's original home network) over Willow (Alyson Hannigan). Whedon did not envision Willow as the stereotypical geek who paled in beauty next to the star of the show. The WB reluctantly went with his casting choice, but begged Whedon to sex her up. Whedon prevailed, making Willow a complex, appealing character with her own sense of style and, eventually, a loyal following.
The show's original theme was disposed of, leaving the show in a lurch until Hannigan introduced the show's creators to Nerfherder, who came up with the now-familiar theme. From then on, it became common practice to use unknown, unsigned bands to play at the Bronze (the show's hangout) whenever possible.
Mark Metcalf, who played the Master (the first demon threat to the world), is the same actor who played the Maestro in Seinfeld.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Whedon most identifies with Xander (Nicholas Brendon) and Giles (Anthony Stewart Head).
"Of course, there's a bit of me in all these characters," Whedon says. "I love writing these characters. When you're writing, it's just you and the characters. It's a great place to be."
Whiling away an afternoon with the long-awaited Buffy the Vampire Slayer DVD is a pretty good place to be as well. The collection sells for $39.99. Look for a six-disc collection of Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Two in June.
Fans of the locally produced TV show Behind the Screens will have to look for their movie fix elsewhere. The show has been canceled. Behind the Screens launched in September of 2000 and aired Saturday afternoons at 1:30pm, rerunning at 11:30pm, on KNVA, the local WB affiliate.
'Behind the Screens' Shuttered
The movie review show was a welcome burst of fun in an afternoon otherwise filled with annoying infomercials. The sometimes combative but always entertaining program brought a local flavor to the movie review format, often with lively goofiness (I still remember the somewhat bizarre "interview" with Johnny Neutron: Boy Wonder that ran a few weeks back).
"We got the news Thursday [Jan. 10] after our last taping," said Martin Thomas, who co-hosts and produces the show with Korey Coleman and Jana Lyford. A hint of things to come came two weeks earlier, when the crew found out that the Saturday-night reruns would end.
"It surprised us because our numbers were the highest they've been," Thomas said. "For a daytime show to get to a 3 rating during the summer is good," he explained, adding that their ratings were comparable to Blind Date, the syndicated show KNVA airs weeknights.
Thomas said the show's producers will discuss shopping Behind the Screens to other stations in town or pursue syndication. In the meantime, Thomas and Coleman will continue co-hosting their other movie-review TV show, The Reel Deal, on cable channel 10.
Calls to KNVA for an official response were not returned by press time.