Thursday 12 March 2009

Icons #1 Joss Whedon

So I'm starting gently with the icon pieces with one of mine.


Buffy ruled for a while.  She was literally everywhere.  And yet it still felt like a little secret shared amongst a few like minded souls hungry for TV to be different.  And once you scratched below the surface of Buffy the Vampire Slayer the hidden depths revealed so much more than a pretty blond girl and a stake.

Buffy started life as a movie, written by, but not directed by Joss Whedon.  The film got a luke warm reception and pretty much bombed.  It is not one of those films that has got better with age.  Whedon regrouped and managed to get a then fledgling TV Channel that Warner Bros had just started to take it on as a TV Show.  Season one was only twelve episodes long when it aired in 1997 and looking at it now, some of it has dated.  The effects are dodgy at best and some of the weekly monsters were a little cliched but what shines through is the writing.  Whedon's writing.

Buffy tried to capture what it would really be like to be a teenage Vampire Slayer and hide it from your mom.  It also injected a knowing humour to the genre that had been seriously missing previously.  Whedon created a show that sucked you in, made you love the characters and coaxed amazing performances from his cast.

Buffy ran for Seven seasons and for me there are three episodes that stand out as three of the best 45 minutes of TV ever.  Bold statement, I know.  If your not a fan of Buffy or the spin off Angel I'm sure there are other TV shows that you have followed devoutly.  Can you name episodes?  Probably not.  But those three episodes stand out so much that I know the names of them without referring to Wiki.  I promise.

Hush, The Body and The Gift were all 45 minute masterpieces.  For at least two thirds of Hush the cast are unable to speak, yet the show retains its humour throughout.  It won awards.

The Body was very different.  Buffy's mother dies and the episode shows each characters reaction without the use of any music.  You simply believe the acting so thoroughly it's not needed.  Heartbreaking and difficult to watch but amazing TV none the less.

The Gift is the last episode that never was.  At the time of filming Whedon was unsure whether there would be anymore Buffy.  It was picked up by another channel in the States for two more series, but they suffered as a consequence of this episode.  Buffy's gift to the world was to sacrifice herself in order to save it.  The last shot was of her headstone.  The last scene, as she jumps into the void to close the gates to the hell dimension, a voice over playing with her message to her friends, is still one of the most difficult things to watch.  Whedon at his best.

Angel was Whedon's vehicle for David Boreanaz's character, the Vampire with a soul.  Was it as good as Buffy?  Sometimes yes.  Darker at times, at others even more fantastical, it still had moments of brilliance.  It could also very funny and had a great cast.  Yes, it certainly lived in Buffy's shadow and only lasted one season after Buffy finished despite a re-boot.  Still five years of great, well crafted TV though.

Next came Firefly.  This if nothing else showed the level of love that Whedon inspires.  Firefly failed as a show big time.  Set in the far future it was very different from Buffy but the humour and care taken in it's production shone through.  It didn't get the ratings though and only lasted one season.  And that looked like that.  But Whedon hadn't given up hope, and neither had his fans.  Firefly sold well on DVD.  Very well.  Word had spread at how good it was.  Not quickly enough for the TV companies that need instant gratification but enough for a movie to get the green light.

It would be crazy to suggest that Sernity was a massive success.  Modest I guess would be the best way to describe it.  But it is a near pitch perfect follow up to the TV show.  Nathan Fillion is superb as the lead and if you haven't seen it I would highly recommend it.

Whedon hasn't directed a movie since although a new TV series has just started airing in the States called Dollhouse.  Reaction has been poor so far, so maybe my first Icon is about to slip up.  For me though he continues to entertain on  a regular basis.  Season 8 of Buffy is airing right now as a graphic novel in a comic store near you and it works brilliantly.

So Joss Whedon is my first Icon.  Why?  Because he didn't just raise the bar for Sci-Fi TV shows, he just rasied the bar generally.  He proved that a TV series could have a plot arc that lasted for 22 episodes without sagging.  I'm looking at you Lost.

But most of all Joss Whedon made me laugh, he made me cry and he made my all time favourite TV show.    

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