Whedon: The Results and The Breakdown . . .

Well. Um. This was apparently no contest.

Favorite Joss Whedon show?

Firefly!

Firefly got an astonishing 79% of the votes, killing the competition dead (and then jumping up and down on their collective corpses). An exceptionally distant second place goes to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which at least managed to get votes. Dollhouse and Angel tied in last place with no votes at all.

While reading people’s comments on this poll (and elsewhere on the web), I was surprised by what sometimes struck me as a Firefly rules, Buffy drools sort of attitude. Though I might have picked Firefly if I’d had to choose—since I clearly didn’t have to break a tie, I didn’t agonize too much over the decision—I feel like Buffy doesn’t always get the credit it deserves. And, you know, that’s okay for this poll—I did say favorite show, not necessarily best—but I felt inspired to write a few (several) things about all the Joss Whedon shows.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer

I loved Buffy when it was on. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the WB. So, I watched episodes when I could on other people’s televisions and kept up with what was happening through five seasons before the show moved over to UPN. (It helped when FX finally started churning out massive reruns.) I watched all seven seasons of Buffy. And though I hated most of seventh season, I made it to the end . . . which is actually a big deal. I have dropped countless shows because of various problems that I’ve had with them, either with how they’ve spiraled downhill into Crazy Town or just refused to develop at all. (Ex: Glee, House, Heroes, The West Wing, Alias, Grey’s Anatomy, and easily the most painful loss of all, Supernatural.)

But Buffy was really something else, and I loved the hell out of that show. People say it went downhill after Season Three, but some of my very favorite episodes are in Season Four (examples: “Something Blue,” “Hush,” “Restless”). Seasons 5, 6, and 7 are my least favorite seasons—but it’s important to understand that some of the not-so-awesome episodes in those seasons are still ten times better than half of what’s on TV right now. (Well, except Season 7. I really hated Season 7. Though, to be fair, I haven’t given it a second chance yet.)

Buffy had a great cast, great dialogue, great soundtrack, great stories, great themes, great directing, etc, etc, etc. I sometimes actually forget how much I like Buffy until I go back and watch episodes on DVD. I’ll spend some time praising the shit out of Firefly too, but I don’t know that the gap between the two shows is nearly as large as some people are making it out to be, at least not for me.

Angel

I have considerably less to say about Angel because I still haven’t seen most of the show yet. I watched first season on DVD . . .  and then kind of just stopped. Not because the show was bad—it was fine—but I didn’t love it the way I loved Buffy, and I had other shows I wanted to try out.

I have since been informed—multiple times—that Angel gets ridiculously better after the first season, and I do plan to watch the whole series at some point, despite already knowing a few things that happen in later seasons. It’s just probably not going to happen anytime soon. Cause I still have all these things I want to try out, and Angel is pretty middle of the road on that list.

Firefly

The amazing thing about Firefly is how perfect it was from the very beginning. Most shows need time to grow into themselves. I mean, that’s natural. It totally makes sense. But Firefly came out the door at genius level, and it remains the most painful cancellation I’ve ever experienced. (Although Terriers is up there, and I still think that Dark Angel deserved a third season, despite a rocky second.)

The problem with comparing Buffy and Firefly is that Buffy lasted seven seasons and Firefly barely made one. It’s easy to say Firefly would have continued to be perfect, but there’s simply no way of knowing that. I’m not just talking about dragging out too long and losing focus, either. Sophomore slumps happen to some really great shows, and while I’d put Firefly back on the air today if I could, there’s just no way of really knowing what seven seasons of Buffy versus seven seasons of Firefly would be like. It’s easy to look at some of the later seasons of Buffy and go, Wow, those episodes aren’t anything special like “Out of Gas” or “Objects in Space” were, but Firefly didn’t face the challenge of developing characters and plot lines over multiple seasons, either.

To be clear, I really, really, REALLY adore Firefly. I just think that a straight comparison between it and a long-running show like Buffy is harder than it sounds.

Dollhouse

Dollhouse was an exceptionally ambitious project. It was also, in my opinion, pretty flawed. Still worth watching, actually, but the show had some serious problems, and most of those problems centered around Eliza Dushku. She may be able to hold a lead in some other show, and I found her enjoyable enough as Faith, but Dollhouse demanded a very talented, very versatile lead actress . . . and Dushku just wasn’t it. Compared to the rest of her brilliant cast, she was more than just drowning; she was dragging the whole show down.

On the other hand, there were flashes of sheer brilliance in Dollhouse that made it worthwhile despite some glaring problems. It was nowhere near as perfect as Firefly, but it was challenging and interesting on multiple levels. I, unfortunately, never did see the last few episodes (socially challenged as I am, Fridays are still a busy night for me, and I didn’t have a DVR at that point) but I’ve accidentally stumbled over a few big spoilers that have proven to be kind of a mental block against the series. Clearly, I’ll finish it eventually . . . three episodes! three! . . . but I have a feeling that this one didn’t end on a note that I’d be happy with.

Okay, so. Those are my thoughts. Hmmm. Maybe I should create a television category for this blog, too : )

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10 Responses to Whedon: The Results and The Breakdown . . .

  1. There might be four episodes you haven’t seen of Dollhouse — there’s a second-to-last episode that never aired in America for some super-stupid reason that I don’t know, and the last episode barely makes any sense without it. Probably on the DVD though…

    The second season of Dollhouse really seemed like it was trying to wrap up a story arc that Whedon had intended to last at least five seasons, so it’s frenzied and unfocused and rushed, and WAY too focused on moving the “grand conspiracy” plotline forward, at the expense of the individual episodes actually being enjoyable to watch…

  2. Kate says:

    I could not agree with you more regarding Dollhouse.

  3. Susan says:

    ugh, Buffy is so much better.

  4. rorf says:

    I managed to miss this voting, but despite HATING season seven of Buffy with such a passion that I had to take a 2 year break before finishing it, I’d still put it in first place.

    Angel had, by far, the best finale of any TV show I’ve ever seen.

    To be honest, I’ve always thought Firefly was stupid. I’m one of two people I know who think this, so maybe I’m just flat out wrong, but I didn’t like the lead dude, and Summer Glau’s mysterious-imbecile-earth-child thing has always made me want to vomit. I only watched a bit of it though, so maybe I’d give it a second chance, since Car has never let me down on movie/tv opinions…

    • Jeez, Robyn. Don’t sugarcoat for my little geek heart or anything 🙂

      It is inevitable that I will steer you wrong someday, although I’m totally digging the confidence in my awesome opinions. More people should think this way. However . . . yeah, Firefly‘s difficult because I LOVE Firefly, like it’s one of my favorite TV series ever. I’d definitely say to give it a second chance sometime if you’re feeling up for it. My biggest concern is Mal. Not liking Summer Glau is one thing, but if you watch it again and you still don’t like Mal (lead guy), well, that’s going to be problematic. He kinda sets the tone.

  5. Teacups says:

    I’m not sure if the “Firefly rules, Buffy drools,” attitude comment was aimed partially at me, so just to make this clear, I flove Buffy. Nothing I’ve ever seen has ever straddled the line between silly, campy fun and serious, heartbreaking drama so well. I just love Firefly even more, and I’ve seen a couple of people dismiss the fan love for Firefly as inauthentic just because *they* don’t like Firefly, and it really annoyed me.

    • Oh, sorry, it wasn’t really aimed at anyone on the site. I read the overwhelming support for Firefly here, and then I played around on Google for a while and found some people who were considerably more aggressive about it. You find so many intensely serious people on the internet 🙂

      Yeah, that is annoying. Like, we can disagree on the show, but please don’t tell me that my adoration is manufactured because you don’t know me and furthermore, you suck 🙂

  6. Fatpie42 says:

    You say that Firefly can’t be judged in the same way because it didn’t go on as long, but actually I’m not sure you can point to any season of Buffy which is as consistently awesome as Firefly’s first season was. (And of couse, the movie was pretty damn awesome too.)

    I’d agree that the worst seasons were 5,6 and 7. Season 4 has an unfair reputation. It was a breath of fresh air when they finally moved the show out of the high school and the episode with the evil roommate is just hilarious.

    As for Angel, it’s barely worth watching the first season. There’s nothing there that you wont pick up quickly enough in Season 2. Seasons 4 and 5 were both absolutely fantastic.

  7. Tom Palmer says:

    Well, Susan, what can I say? You make a persuasive – nay, irrefutable – argument. ‘Nuff said, eh?! D’oh!

  8. Akrovah says:

    I actually really liked Buffy season 5. I think it might be my favorite season actually, though I think my favorite big bad is a toss up between Spike season 2 (he started to. Bug me a little when he “changed sides”) and the mayor. And I mostly liked season 6. I liked the trio and the big bad twist at the end, though I will say they blew the wad early making the end of the season drag.

    Hmmmm. Now I’m all confused. To many thing about each season I liked/disliked.

    In any event I never ment to give an impression that I disliked Buffy. I loved it. The whole show. But if asked to choose my favorite between that and Buffy, well, the poor little cheerleader simply doesn’t stand a chance next to Serenity.

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