Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Welcoming a Special Correspondent

This blog has proven so popular that I have been asked to provide a forum for one my readers/friends to talk about some of his own entertainment related ideas. So please have a warm round of applause for a new section in Entertainment: Critical - Some Words of Gonch. Mr. Gonch has his own blog, a hockey-centric one, that you may read yourself by clicking on the appropriate link to the right. But stay here for a second and hear what he has to say.

Some Words of Gonch: DVD Review: Buffy The Vampire Slayer - The Chosen Collection

Greetings all, from the land of theme parks and tourists, special contributer gonch_in_goal here. Being that Adam Entertainment is a friend of mine, I thought I'd take the liberty of making my own review on his blog. It's piqued my interest enough and I'd like to see if I can't take a crack at it. So here goes nothing.

Back in 1997, I was starting high school while a certain Buffy Summers began her first (ok technically 2nd) year. She did the typical things a teenager would do: go to the mall, skip classes, slay vampires, etc. See back in 1997, I didn't know about Buffy The Vampire Slayer, not that many did. By the time I knew of it, I thought that it just had to be stupid, a bad sci-fi/fantasy show in the guise of a low budget Sci-Fi channel movie. I never once really watched the series or gave it a chance. Then the DVDs came out, and I still didn't care. Then, a few friends of mine shared their love of Buffy with me...and the rest is history.

The show revolved around a seemingly innocent yet not quite what she seems valley girl named Buffy, in Sunnydale, California, attending high school while making some new friends (and enemies). That's the idea behind, oh the first 10-15 minutes. After that, and maybe a little before, it becomes quite obvious that Buffy is actually the one girl in all the world chosen to slay vampires, demons, and other fun baddies. With her Watcher Giles, and friends Willow and Xander, they act as a "Scooby Gang" on a mission to save Sunnydale and quite often the world, even if no one else notices.

To say that the show evolves through these 7 seasons is putting it mildly. They attend high school, graduate it (in true Buffy fashion via evil means), go to college, people die, get married (or not), etc. Again all seems typical of any teenage show, but nothing on this show is ever what it seems. In fact, the most gentle of all characters is likely to be the deadliest by another season and the worst villains can become their greatest allies.

The show lives and breathes on its character interplay, and they play so well off each other. Joss Whedon created these characters and this show, often giving it some its best written and directed episodes, as well as its best lines. The dialogue is snarky, self-referential, terse, and often creative in its vocabulary. It plays well off of some of the more tense and dire situations in the show. Whedon put it best when calling it a "Genre" show, because it really has it all. Sci-fi, fantasy (with great special effects for its time), drama (because you really will care about these characters), comedy, and plenty of stuff in between. There are few shows on television that managed to create such impressive and original ideas for episodes, like musicals, sound-free, and suddenly real life issues.

The shows flaws are few and far between. It can be said that later seasons like 6 and 7 began to take a bit of a dive in quality. Season 6 in particular showcased the darkest point of the show and turned off some of its viewers...even though it ironically had what is considered the best episode of the run. As for 7, it wasn't quite as dark, but it did seem to drag on at times, often searching for a better plot. Part of the issue is that so many of the seasons raise the bar so high, it's often hard to climb back up above. But in general, Buffy The Vampire Slayer was a quality show that made characters and relations come first and battling evil come second.

I don't own the individual Buffy DVDs, this is about the super deluxe box set: Buffy The Vampire Slayer - The Chosen Collection. It's all 7 seasons, that's 39 discs, plus a bonus 40th disc. The packaging alone is neat, a blood coated box that opens up to display the seven individual season keepbooks that combine to make the image of the entire regular cast. This is an incredibly more compact version of the original DVDs and includes a letter from Joss Whedon, a booklet on all the episodes and the aforementioned 40th disc. Each keepbook contains a different season, the first season being a shortened 12 episodes due to being a midseason replacement, but otherwise 22 episodes per season. As for special features, there's almost too many to name. Interviews, commentaries, outtakes, season overviews, behind the scenes, voiceover work, fan fanaticism, it's pretty endless for so many DVDs, as one would expect. Most of these are informative, ! interesting and add to the mythology of the show. The only warning I can give, is to avoid most of these special features the first time through (or at least until a season's viewing is done) because spoilers abound for upcoming episodes.

That about wraps up this first outing of A Gonch-ed Review. Buffy The Vampire Slayer is one of the better shows in television history, it brought a network to light in the WB (now CW with UPN), promoted a great writer/director in Whedon who went on to make Angel, Firefly, the movie Serenity and other upcoming projects, and gave teenagers a female hero who could actually fight back. The girl in distress was the last one you'd want to mess with on Buffy.

gonch_in_goal awards Buffy The Vampire Slayer - The Chosen Collection the Gonch Gold Medal. (For anyone wondering, my rating system is Gold - Best, Silver - Okay, and Bronze - Worst). Thanks for playing.


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