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Buffy and Me

When the television show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, first started, I did not watch any shows on the WB network, so I was only vaguely aware that there was going to be a spin-off of the film Buffy the Vampire Slayer. My only reaction was that the film that was both a commercial and critical disappointment, so a spin-off series was a really dumb idea, perhaps an act of desperation.

I put very little thought into the show. The next time I remember hearing about its existence was when the WB network delayed the airing of the third season finale, "Graduation Day, Part 2." When I read about how fans were upset, I wondered two things: (1) "That show was still on the air?" and (2) "A show based on such a bad idea has loyal fans?"

I had never watched a minute of the show until I was flipping channels one evening and came across an exchange in which two college students (Buffy and Parker) were introducing themselves with one saying that he was from Kresge dorm and the other saying that she was from Stevenson dorm (from the episode "Living Conditions"). This got my attention because Kresge and Stevenson are two of the eight residential colleges at the University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC), where I went to college (starting about a year and a half after episode writer Marti Noxon graduated). In fact, my college was Kresge. I stayed on the channel to finish the show and see if there were any more UCSC references. "Living Conditions" was not good enough to motivate me to watch more of the show other than to look for UCSC allusions.

As the fourth and fifth seasons aired, I read reviews of the show indicating that it was actually good. I was aware of some of the events that occurred such as the introduction of Dawn, Joyce's death, and Buffy's death. Still, I did not watch the show. I frequently worked during the evenings and was not that interested in taking on new shows to watch. At least I accepted that the show was more than just a spin-off of a bad film.

After the fifth season ended, I decided that it was probably time to start watching the show. My career as a graduate student was winding down (albeit not as fast as I thought at the time), meaning that I had more free time. I watched a couple of fifth season repeats over the summer ("The Gift" and "Tough Love") and started watching the show regularly starting with the sixth season (along with syndication repeats of the first and third seasons). I cannot fix an exact moment when I was hooked, but it was pretty quick. I do not know if this is a cause of or a result of being hooked on the show during the sixth season, but my average ratings of sixth season episodes are better than my average ratings of any other season.

The fact that I started the show so late means that I watched the episodes out of order. In fact, I had seen 130 of the episodes before I saw "Welcome to the Hellmouth" or "The Harvest" for the first time. This also means that I was spoiled for some of the plot twists. For example, I knew that Angel would lose his soul in "Innocence" and would kill Jenny in "Passion." However, there are some instances in which the spoilers were misleading. For example, I knew that Buffy, Willow, Xander, and Giles would work together in "Primeval," but I thought it would be something along the lines of separate actions rather than as a magically combined entity. I imagined "Forever" as a dumb episode in with Zombie Joyce wandering around instead of something more subtle.

Watching Buffy was not the only thing that I did to fill time as my graduate school experience was winding down. I had also developed a hobby of collecting lists of the best films of all time and analyzing them. Eventually, I put these results of these analyses on a web site. When Buffy was winding down, various people started publishing their lists of the best (and, sometimes, worst) episodes of the show. I thought about how I could analyze those lists as well. Furthermore, I realized that I could do interesting statistical analyses with a relatively small population of television episodes that I could not do with the much larger population of feature films. When I came across the Hellmouth High's Line League analyzing the number of lines that each important character had in each episode, I realized that I could combine that set of data with what I had collected to analyze each character's contribution to the show. I soon uploaded this site to the web.

This page was last modified on January 18, 2013