Buffy the Vampire Slayer is an American television series which aired from March 10, 1997 until May 20, 2003. The series was created in 1997 by writer-director Joss Whedon under his production tag, Mutant Enemy Productions with later co-executive producers being Jane Espenson, David Fury, David Greenwalt, Doug Petrie, Marti Noxon, and David Solomon. The series narrative follows Buffy Summers (played by Sarah Michelle Gellar), the latest in a line of young women known as “Vampire Slayers” or simply “Slayers”. In the story, Slayers are “called” (chosen by fate) to battle against vampires, demons, and other forces of darkness. Like previous Slayers, Buffy is aided by a Watcher, who guides, teaches, and trains her. Unlike her predecessors, Buffy surrounds herself with a circle of loyal friends who become known as the “Scooby Gang”.
The series received critical and popular acclaim and usually reached between four and six million viewers on original airings. Although suchratings are lower than successful shows on the “big four” networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox), they were a success for the relatively new and smaller WB Television Network. The show has frequently been cited by critics as being one of the finest shows of all time, being ranked 41st onTV Guide’s list of 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time, second on Empire‘s “50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time”, voted third in 2004 and 2007 on TV Guide‘s “Top Cult Shows Ever” and listed in Time magazine’s “100 Best TV Shows of All-Time“. In 2013 TV Guide also included it in its list of The 60 Greatest Dramas of All Time. Buffy was also named the third Best School Show of All Time by AOL TV. It was nominated for Emmyand Golden Globe awards, winning a total of three Emmys. However, snubs in lead Emmy categories resulted in outrage among TV critics and the decision by the academy to hold a tribute event in honor of the series after it had gone off the air in 2003.
Buffy’s success has led to hundreds of tie-in products, including novels, comics, and video games. The series has received attention in fandom(including fan films), parody, and academia, and has influenced the direction of other television series
Writer Joss Whedon says that “Rhonda the Immortal Waitress” was really the first incarnation of the Buffy concept, “just the idea of some woman who seems to be completely insignificant who turns out to be extraordinary.” This early, unproduced idea evolved into Buffy, which Whedon developed to invert the Hollywood formula of “the little blonde girl who goes into a dark alley and gets killed in every horror movie.” Whedon wanted “to subvert that idea and create someone who was a hero.” He explained, “The very first mission statement of the show was the joy of female power: having it, using it, sharing it.”
The idea was first visited through Whedon’s script for the 1992 movie Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which featured Kristy Swanson in the title role. The director,Fran Rubel Kuzui, saw it as a “pop culture comedy about what people think about vampires.” Whedon disagreed: “I had written this scary film about an empowered woman, and they turned it into a broad comedy. It was crushing.” The script was praised within the industry, but the movie was not.
Several years later, Gail Berman (later a Fox executive, but at that time President and CEO of the production company Sandollar Television, who owned the TV rights to the movie) approached Whedon to develop his Buffy concept into a television series. Whedon explained that “They said, ‘Do you want to do a show?’ And I thought, ‘High school as a horror movie.’ And so the metaphor became the central concept behind Buffy, and that’s how I sold it.” Thesupernatural elements in the series stood as metaphors for personal anxieties associated with adolescence and young adulthood. Early in its development, the series was going to be simply titled Slayer. Whedon went on to write and partly fund a 25-minute non-broadcast pilot that was shown to networks and eventually sold to the WB Network. The latter promoted the premiere with a series of History of the Slayer clips, and the first episode aired on March 10, 1997.
Joss Whedon was credited as executive producer throughout the run of the series, and for the first five seasons (1997–2001) he was also the showrunner, supervising the writing and all aspects of production. Marti Noxon took on the role for seasons six and seven (2001–2003), but Whedon continued to be involved with writing and directing Buffy alongside projects such as Angel, Fray, and Firefly. Fran Rubel Kuzui and her husband, Kaz Kuzui, were credited as executive producers but were not involved in the show. Their credit, rights, and royalties over the franchise relate to their funding, producing, and directing of the original movie version of Buffy.
Script-writing was done by Mutant Enemy, a production company created by Whedon in 1997. The writers with the most writing credits are Joss Whedon, Steven S. DeKnight, Jane Espenson,David Fury, Drew Goddard, Drew Greenberg, David Greenwalt, Rebecca Rand Kirshner, Marti Noxon and Doug Petrie. Other authors with writing credits include Dean Batali, Carl Ellsworth, Tracey Forbes, Ashley Gable, Howard Gordon, Diego Gutierrez, Elin Hampton, Rob Des Hotel, Matt Kiene, Ty King, Thomas A. Swyden, Joe Reinkemeyer, Dana Reston and Dan Vebber.
Jane Espenson has explained how scripts came together. First, the writers talked about the emotional issues facing Buffy Summers and how she would confront them through her battle against evil supernatural forces. Then the episode’s story was “broken” into acts and scenes. Act breaks were designed as key moments to intrigue viewers so that they would stay with the episode following the commercial break. The writers collectively filled in scenes surrounding these act breaks for a more fleshed-out story. A whiteboard marked their progress by mapping brief descriptions of each scene. Once “breaking” was done, the credited author wrote an outline for the episode, which was checked by Whedon or Noxon. The writer then wrote a full script, which went through a series of drafts, and finally a quick rewrite from the show runner. The final article was used as the shooting script.
Actresses who auditioned for Buffy Summers and got other roles include Julie Benz (Darla), Elizabeth Anne Allen (Amy Madison), Julia Lee (Chanterelle/Lily Houston/Anne Steele), Charisma Carpenter (Cordelia Chase), and Mercedes McNab (Harmony Kendall). Bianca Lawson, who played vampire slayer Kendra Young in season 2 of the show, originally auditioned for the role of Cordelia Chase before Charisma Carpenter was cast in the role.
The title role went to Sarah Michelle Gellar, who had appeared as Sydney Rutledge on Swans Crossing and Kendall Hart on All My Children. At age 18 in 1995, Gellar had already won a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Younger Leading Actress in a Drama Series. In 1996, she was initially cast as Cordelia Chase during a week of auditioning. She decided to keep trying for the role of Buffy, and after several more auditions, she landed the lead.
Nathan Fillion auditioned for the role of Angel back in early 1996. David Boreanaz had already been cast at the time of the unaired Buffy pilot, but did not appear.
Anthony Stewart Head had already led a prolific acting and singing career, but remained best known in the United States for a series of twelve coffee commercials with Sharon Maughan forNescafé. He accepted the role of Rupert Giles. Unlike other Buffy regulars, Nicholas Brendon had little acting experience, instead working various jobs—including production assistant, plumber’s assistant, veterinary janitor, food delivery, script delivery, day care counselor, and waiter—before breaking into acting and overcoming his stutter. He landed his Xander Harris role following only four days of auditioning. Ryan Reynolds and Danny Strong also auditioned for the part. Strong later played the role of Jonathan Levinson, a recurring character for much of the series run.
Alyson Hannigan was the last of the original six to be cast. Following her role in My Stepmother Is an Alien, she appeared in commercials and supporting roles on television shows throughout the early 1990s. In 1996, the role of Willow Rosenberg was initially played by Riff Regan for the unaired Buffy pilot, but Hannigan auditioned when the role was being recast for the series proper. Hannigan described her approach to the character through Willow’s reaction to a particular moment: Willow sadly tells Buffy that her Barbie doll was taken from her as a child. Buffy asks her if she ever got it back. Willow’s line was to reply “most of it.” Hannigan decided on an upbeat and happy delivery of the line “most of it,” as opposed to a sad, depressed delivery. Hannigan figured Willow would be happy and proud that she got “most of it” back. That indicated how she was going to play the rest of the scene, and the role, for that matter, and defined the character. Her approach subsequently got her the role.