BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: Why a Series Revival Could Work

This week, Buffy the Vampire Slayer turns 20 years old. Though easily one of the most influential TV shows ever made, the series never topped out at more than five million viewers. That actually isn’t so bad now, but two decades ago, that kind of viewership would make you barely a blip on the television ratings radar. Yet Buffy was something special for the fans who adored it, and remains so today. The show pioneered many things in modern genre TV, like for starters the season-long “Big Bad,” the protagonist having a “Scooby gang,” and the constant pop culture referencing. One can even make an argument that the aesthetic of the entire CW network came straight from Buffy.

Naturally, there’s been talk among fans of the prospect of bringing the series back to television. Of course, there are certain things that would make a Buffy revival a disaster–not involving series creator  Joss Whedon or star  Sarah Michelle Gellar, for example, or going the “reboot” route with new cast members in the familiar roles (maybe I can handle that in another 20 years, but not yet). All of these things would indeed make a Buffy revival a bad call.But what if Whedon and the original cast were involved? After all, there have already been several official “seasons” of the show past the seven we saw on TV. What many casual fans might not know is that the adventures of Buffy Summers and her Scooby gang have been continuing in an official capacity from Whedon over at Dark Horse Comics for nearly 10 years now.

Starting in 2007, Whedon, along with other series writers and comics pros like Brian K. Vaughn and  Christos Gage have been continuing Buffy’s story for an additional four seasons past the televised series (the reason it’s not more is because, unlike television, issues of comics are monthly and not weekly, meaning one season might take years to finish). The comic’s current 11th season takes place roughly five years past the end of the show–so, around 2008–so we really still have no idea what the Scooby gang would be up to in the present day. That’s a story yet to be told.

All this considered, there’s still a good deal of skepticism when it comes to the idea of a Buffy revival. But I’m here to tackle all the arguments against more Buffy with reasons why bringing the show back to TV isn’t such a bad idea after all.

“You can’t recapture the original magic.”

No, you can’t. And you shouldn’t even try. No one wants to see “Buffy’s Greatest Hits,” or lots of gags about clothes they wore 20 years ago, or lots of stupid, “Hey, remember the ’90s?” jokes. A Buffy revival, in whatever form it would take, would have to have a real reason to happen, and a solid story to tell. But as I mentioned before, Whedon has written or approved tons of stories about what happened to Buffy Summers and her friends after the series concluded in comic book form. I can’t imagine that he doesn’t have ideas that could play out in front of the camera as well.

They say that lightning never strikes twice… except for when it does. The original Star Trek cast reunited after a decade for the films, many of which are classics today; Star Trek then came back to television for The Next Generation, which is the textbook example of a revival contending with the quality of its original. And I’m sure there are many grateful Doctor Who fans today who are glad that series was deemed worthy of a comeback over a decade ago, too. There are as many example of good-to-great revivals as there are of bad ones. Instead of desperately trying to recapture the original magic, make new magic inspired by the original series.

“Everyone is too old!”

This is maybe the argument against a Buffy revival that drives me the most crazy, and honestly only applies to the cast members who played vampires (sorry, Angel and Spike–that means you). Yes, everyone is too old to play high school-aged characters, but it’s not like Whedon kept these characters in high school when the original series aired. Everyone aged in real time, and the show spent more years out of high school than in it.

When Buffy was created, it was made in part to fight sexism on TV. Whether it succeed at this is certainly up for debate, but it certainly made a dent, leading to shows like  Alias, Charmed, Orphan Black, Jessica Jones, and more. But one thing all those shows have in common is that they all focus on women in their 20s, still seen as the most “acceptable” age for women to be the protagonists of television and movies. Buffy fought against TV sexism and arguably won, but sexism mixed with ageism? That’s still a very potent thing.

Assuming a Buffy revival takes place in the next couple of years, Sarah Michelle Gellar would be in her early 40s, an age at which it is notoriously difficult for women to get roles that aren’t “the mom” or “the mean boss,” or some kind of stern authority figure. This would be the perfect opportunity for Whedon and Gellar to make the kind of statement for women in their 40s that the original show made for teenage girls–that you are still viable, and your stories still matter.

Of course, the same diplomacy doesn’t fly for ostensibly ageless vampire characters like Angel and Spike, whose original actors would in fact be too old to play their original parts. While their absence would be felt, I’d like to think that Joss wouldn’t have Buffy still pining away for her high school and college boyfriends at age 40 anyhow. Honestly, as much as I love those fanged gentlemen, as well as Anya, Tara, Oz, etc…the only characters this series absolutely needs are Buffy, Willow, Xander, and Giles. The rest is gravy.

“Joss Whedon doesn’t want to be tied to Buffy again for years.”

If a Buffy revival were to happen, it would probably take the form of what they call an “event series” these days. Meaning, a (one time?) possibly limited run show. Something akin to what happened recently with the X-Files, Arrested Development, Gilmore Girls, and soon, Twin Peaks. No one is suggesting that Whedon and Gellar are going to attempt seven seasons and another 140 episodes. We have to imagine that Joss does want to make room to do other things, as I’m sure so do the original Buffy cast members. But a limited series event would hardly stop anyone from pursuing other projects, and frankly, would only raise everyone’s profiles further.

So what would the story of a Buffy the Vampire Slayer revival even be about? Well, that’s for Joss and company to figure out, but I will stress that 2019 would in fact be Buffy and the Scooby gang’s 20th Sunnydale High School reunion. I imagine that particular story writes itself. I could easily see not only the town of Sunnydale being built again on the very spot where it stood, but the old high school too. Because if one thing is true of life, as Joss has taught us time and again, it’s that human beings have a tendency to never learn from their mistakes. You know, like building a whole town on a Hellmouth.

In interviews over the years on continuing Buffy Summers’ story in the comics, Joss Whedon has said that he views Buffy’s story as a “life story,” not just one about high school and college. Yes, at its core it’s about the pain of growing up, but as we all eventually learn, growing up doesn’t stop at 18, or 21, or 50. It never stops. I hardly believe that Buffy Summers’ story has to be completely over. And without getting too political, it’s become pretty clear over these past couple of years that for all the progress that’s been made, the forces of misogyny are still very vocal and powerful in this world. It’s quite possible that we need what Buffy stands for now more than ever before.

Where do you stand on the idea of a Buffy revival? Let us know your thoughts down below in the comments.

Images: 20th Century Fox

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