August 2003 posts

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O/T -- Rob, I feel like you don't want to date me because you... -- Rochefort, 14:23:38 08/22/03 Fri

think I'm just trying to use you so that I can go to Little Shop with you and then try to meet Kerry. But I'm so OVER Kerry. This isn't about Kerry. I really want to be your date to Little Shop just cause I want to be your date to Little Shop. NOT because of Kerry. Even if we go to talk to her after the show and she asks me out, I would wait till after OUR date was finished before I hooked up with her. And I would still like, totally treat our relationship with all seriousness and weigh it for its own merits and as I said, I'm totally over her. I mean she's not such hot stuff. I was listening to Bat Boy the Musical the other day and I was like, "I bet Rob would be cute singing 'Inside My Heart' too." So what do you say? Take me to the show?

[> Okay, you can be my long as you wear your sheriff outfit. Meow. ;o) -- Rob, humming "Somewhere That's Green", 20:19:19 08/22/03 Fri

[> [> Hell yes. I'll bring my gun, too. Yay! I can't wait! -- Rochefort, 22:39:48 08/22/03 Fri

[> [> [> Oh, I'm so happy for you boys!! **sniff, sob** -- dub ;o), 08:09:33 08/23/03 Sat

[> [> [> [> We want a full report. And pictures. Fanfic is optional. -- Arethusa, 08:39:28 08/23/03 Sat

[> [> [> [> [> Hmmmmm.... :-) -- LittleBit (setting up for BehindATPo), 20:47:59 08/23/03 Sat

[> [> If Rochefort is dressing up as sheriff, will you be sportng the pom poms? -- Tyreseus, 15:22:10 08/23/03 Sat

[> [> [> shhhhhh. If I'm lucky. -- Rochefort, 17:34:29 08/23/03 Sat

OT, but something that's been discussed before -- Darby, 15:06:12 08/22/03 Fri

For gender and writing style, you can go to
The Gender Genie

I submitted this week's "Revisited" (just a cut-and-paste into the window) and it correctly pegged it as written by a male, although its overall numbers suggest it's not much more accurate than flipping a coin.

[> It got Sara right too. -- Darby, 15:09:39 08/22/03 Fri

[> Is it now better than flipping a coin? -- d'Herblay, 16:21:53 08/22/03 Fri

While I was testing the Gender Genie last night, its correct rate was under 42%, which means that I'd have had better success flipping a coin. (I ran through various posters: it successfully determined that Rah and Masq are female, but pegged ponygirl as male and KdS as female. I ran through about ten of my LiveJournal entries, and it called me male maybe three times.) I've just checked now and it is above 50% accuracy, so you're right, it is better than flipping a coin (barely).

Anyway, I'm not sure what this new web obsession will tell us: for one thing, it is not clear how faithfully the Gender Genie reproduces the algorithm of Koppel and Argamon (the programmers based their construction on a New York Times summary rather than the original paper); on the other hand, one could explain away the low accuracy rate with the simple explanation that one cannot expect more than about 50% accuracy on the web. One thing I have noticed is that the Times algorithm specifies fiction; the Gender Genie makes no mention of fiction vs. non-fiction, and I suspect that the vast majority of trials have been with non-fiction.

I'm currently experimenting with fiction, running through the first chapter of the Fanged Fic. It has returned male for both Marie and Dead Soul, and female for me, but correctly named deeva as a woman and JCC as male. At this rate, I'll need only about 800 more trials to get it back under 50%.

[> [> Just out of curiosity... -- Masq, 16:30:06 08/22/03 Fri

What writing of mine did you submit? Because my live journal, concerned with personal matters, might be pegged as "female", while my website, using formal language and abstract concepts, might be pegged as "male".

[> [> [> Hey, I'm a guy!......;) -- Rufus, 17:12:08 08/22/03 Fri

The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: Male!

I took that post I wrote without the quotes in the Home thread.

[> [> [> Re: Just out of curiosity... -- d'Herblay, 21:03:47 08/22/03 Fri

The algorithm makes no such allowances for personal or impersonal subject matters. It's entirely based on grammatical choices. But, yeah, I took one of your LJ posts.

I haven't tried anything from, but your Kate essay reveals that you're female.

[> [> Re: Is it now better than flipping a coin? -- ponygirl, 18:04:49 08/22/03 Fri

It was pretty consistent in having all my work-related writing as female, while my personal writing came back as male. It must be the nurturing all-inclusive nature of my copy compared to my rugged Hemingway-esque posts!

The post was long. Yes. And deep. Shot through with wisdom, like the hide of the old elephant. The one that I killed with my long rifle. There would be time to post again. But not tonight.

[> [> [> LOL! -- Arethusa, 21:07:30 08/22/03 Fri

I was female the first time, male the second. The deciding factor seemed to be the number of times I said "the." Which doesn't seem to be a reliable indicator, since I got two different answers. So men really say "the" more often than women?

The Arethusa

[> I've just discovered something frightening about myself -- Tyreseus, 17:11:59 08/22/03 Fri

Despite HonorH's tongue in cheek claim that I'm actually a hermaphrodite, I have only boy parts in real life. However, after running about 15 of my posts, articles, editorials and works of fiction through this thing, all but one came back as female. (Including this post)

I'm having terrible high school flashbacks - only instead of hearing those jocks taunt me because I throw like a girl, now my English teachers are chanting "writes like a girl... writes like a girl..."

[> Right now it's at 50.65% correct -- Vickie, 17:22:39 08/22/03 Fri

It got me right, but thought James Tiptree (Alice Sheldon) was a man. It also thinks Masq the philosopher (a piece of the I in Team analysis) is a man.


[> I submitted my reply below. Female? Wrong! -- CW, 17:44:50 08/22/03 Fri

[> Got me right every time -- Diana, 18:08:04 08/22/03 Fri

Guess I'm a chick after all. It didn't matter the style, the subject, the formality, or any other variable I could come up with. Fiction/non-fiction. Technical or designed for a lay audience. Didn't matter.

For once, I'm not on the boarderline of something. YIPPEEE!!! I'm a girl and girls just wanna have fun.

[> [> Re: Got me right every time -- Eryn, 20:18:50 08/22/03 Fri

Oddly enough--when I put in scholarly writing, it judged me to be a man. When I put in fiction I'd written, it said I was a woman.


[> I'm a guy, too. -- dub ;o), 21:32:01 08/22/03 Fri

My recent LJ entry on returning to work came up male.

[> It got me right -- Celebaelin, 01:55:09 08/23/03 Sat

Used the Hollywood Waltz parts I & II. Interesting criteria it uses but don't you think you could do better than 50/50? I'd give some guesses but it would only annoy the non gender stipulators amongst us.

[> ME writers are female too! -- ponygirl, 07:23:57 08/23/03 Sat

I ran bits from the shooting scripts through the Genie, I tried to stick to dialogue since I thought the directions might screw up the results, but everyone I put in came up femme. Joss, Jane, David Fury and Doug Petrie all chicks - though the Jane thing wasn't a surprise. I even copied some Joss posts from the Bronze archive over and again female. Maybe "you write like a girl" will be the cool new compliment?

[> Well, oddly enough.... -- Rob, 08:13:49 08/23/03 Sat

I submitted three separate paragraphs from the same essay. Two of them labelled me feminine, and one masculine. When I clicked "No," that it hadn't labelled me correctly, for the two feminine ones, a graph showed up, with its accuracy results. So far, it's only been correct 50.34% of the time, whereas according to the algorithm, it should be correct 80% of the time.


[> Got me right, and a friend too -- mamcu, 08:52:31 08/23/03 Sat

And both were just very similar passages giving directions to students about starting online courses. Very strange.

[> [> Now I'm gender-confused -- Katrina, 10:11:46 08/23/03 Sat

I tried it three times: once with a paragraph from an academic essay, once with the introduction to a personal essay, and once with a poem I wrote. All three times it pegged me male. Which I guess goes to prove I'm as improperly socialized as I've always suspected.

Good thing my husband doesn't mind.

[> [> [> Just don't write in bed! -- mamcu, 12:49:18 08/24/03 Sun

[> Odyssey update -- Tchaikovsky, 14:49:50 08/23/03 Sat

The reviews for 'Home', 'Peace Out' and 'Sacrifice' were all written by a female apparently. Which is odd because I had myself pegged as male. Back to the drawing board...


[> [> Don't feel bad. Jane Espenson came out as a male. -- s'kat, 22:14:24 08/23/03 Sat

My essay above came out as female. But Jane Espenson's quote about writing came out as male.

Which means that we can't figure out each other's gender by submitting writing samples to the website. Dang. ;-) (Not that I was going to...I mean honestly who has the time?)

[> [> [> Re:Tara's alternate fates? -- DEN, 09:35:28 08/24/03 Sun

Kat--or anyone else--perhaps you can help me on a point of story planning. At the end of S6/start of s7, Joss and Amber seemed to agree that Tara's only prospects were as a mask for the First Evil--something Amber did not wish to do. That has been the "Canonical story." Now you cite an interview where Joss talks about a plan to bring Tara back alive late in s7, but Amber wanted to do other things. I'd never heard of that as even a possibility, so am interested in picking up the thread. WTF was the real story.

BTW,Kat--the essay is magnificent! I've seen masters' degrees granted for far less scholarship and analysis. My compliments on your achievement.

[> [> [> [> It is interesting to speculate on. -- s'kat, 11:13:54 08/24/03 Sun

"Kat--or anyone else--perhaps you can help me on a point of story planning. At the end of S6/start of s7, Joss and Amber seemed to agree that Tara's only prospects were as a mask for the First Evil--something Amber did not wish to do. That has been the "Canonical story." Now you cite an interview where Joss talks about a plan to bring Tara back alive late in s7, but Amber wanted to do other things. I'd never heard of that as even a possibility, so am interested in picking up the thread. WTF was the real story."

I'm not sure to be honest. The IGFN interview certainly suggests that was the case. Which made me wonder about Benson and what we accept as canon.;-)

We do have proof he planned to have Tara as First Evil to start with. Benson also tells us that he had told her all the twists and turns of S7 and she found it to depressing and didn't want to go there. Amber is 25/26 and right now focusing on writing and filmmaking more than acting. She also makes close to $50,000 at the conventions and is trying to sell a movie she wrote and directed herself. It stands to reason that she would try to put as positive a light as possible on why she did not wish to return as Tara in S7. She needs those fans.

JW's comments in IGFN are equally interesting - b/c they state that he planned on bringing her back as both the First Evil and as Tara eventually. My gut tells me he is probably telling the truth - especially if you look at Tara's interesting role in Restless as guide. I would not put it past ME to have wanted to reprise that idea. What you would have is Tara as FE up until...a breaking point where the real Tara makes an appearence to Willow and/or Buffy dispelling the FE's influence. It would have been a fantastic and moving metaphor for the battle inside Willow between darkness and light - using Tara as spiritual guide and FE. So I think that was Whedon's plan. Whether Whedon successfully conveyed that idea to Amber? We'll never know. My guess is he probably didn't. I think she is probably telling the truth when she states that she found the idea way too painful. In ten years? She'll probably curse herself for passing up on the opportunity to play such an interesting dual role. Actors are interesting - in their 20s - several of them, not all (some of the more successful ones will play anything - such as Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, Brad Pitt, Edward Norton) are afraid of tarnishing their image and don't want to play anything negative, or if they portrayed a positive character close to their heart - they fear tarnishing it in any way. SMG really had problems with how Buffy was portrayed in Season 6, according to interviews after that season concluded. Alyson Hannigan also struggled with Willow. Both are still quite young at 26 and 28. When actors get older - they'd give their eye-tooth to play those types of characters. Example: Denzel Washington refused to play negative characters until he got the role he won the oscar for, and he was in his 40s at that point.

OTOH - perhaps Amber was correct in her estimation of both the fanbase and the role. Playing the negative aspects of TARA may not have gone over well with her fans and she does need their support at this point in her career. It is her fans after all that are paying her rent and getting her self-made movie Chance sold. For an entertainer - your fans are your bread and butter.

So my hunch for what it's worth is that both Amber and Whedon are telling the truth here. Whedon saw his story as gripping and a tale of true love, Amber saw it as a painful deconstruction of the character she loved and depressing.
Don't know about anyone else? But I'd love to have seen whatever script or outline JW pitched to Amber. Otherwise all we can do is speculate on what happened and what might have been.

PS: Thanks - regarding the essay!

[> [> [> [> [> Re: It is interesting to speculate on. -- Yellow Bear, 15:11:16 08/25/03 Mon

Really thoughtful little essay on the whole 'Tara-return' storyline. I tend to agree with you on the above, although I have a difficult time believing that Ms. Benson wasn't informed that she was meant to return as Tara and not some aspect of the First as she has stated. You never know in these situations but it sure doesn't keep us from speculating.

[> [> [> [> [> [> AB made quite a few public comments -- Sophist, 20:58:33 08/25/03 Mon

in which it was clear that she understood Tara would only return as a manifestation of the FE. She said this repeatedly over the course of about 6 months. Only after Chosen did JW suggest any other story had been pitched to her. Given all the circumstances, I'm inclined to believe that AB has it correct.

[> [> [> God and Jesus are female. -- Arethusa, 09:45:47 08/24/03 Sun

I used a passage from Genesis for God and the Sermon on the Mount for Jesus.

[> [> [> [> LOL- but we already knew that -- sdev, 11:45:34 08/24/03 Sun

[> [> Shakespeare's female, too! I just fed the Gender Genie some Hamlet monologues. -- Rob, 10:16:56 08/25/03 Mon

[> Everything I write is female, female, female -- Masq, 11:04:42 08/25/03 Mon

But I'm pretty sure I'm writing with my hands, not my girl-parts.

BTVS(also ATS) and The Pitfalls of the Television Medium ( long w/footnotes) -- shadowkat (trying something new), 09:56:39 08/23/03 Sat

Okay never done this before and not sure it is going to work, but attempting it anyway. Thanks in advance for indulging me. ;-) I call this my frustration management essay. Spoilers to Home and Chosen only. With the well known casting spoiler that only people living under rocks don't know. ;-)

(*A NOTE, or rather, A WARNING REGARDING CITATIONS: Although I've planted footnotes where appropriate, there is a full bibliography at the end. Apologies for any errors in the footnotes. They appear as endnotes at the end of each section b/c I couldn't figure out how to post them as footnotes at the end of each page. Also since I couldn't figure out how to get the little raised numbers to appear on the internet, I put the numbers in parenthesis like this (1). So suffice it to say this is the last time I attempt footnotes for an internet essay - I'll leave footnotes to the tech savvy from now on. Since I haven't written a footnote since 1994 when I graduated from law school, I think I may have abused the footnote. In fact after this essay you may come to the conclusion that I should be banned from using footnotes in the future. ;-) Even more annoying, I can't remember where I got everything from and since I'm not being paid for this and it isn't being published in an academic journal, hunting down and verifying every single statement is not something I feel overly inclined to do. So you'll just have to give me the benefit of the doubt on some of the stuff, most of which is pretty widely known anyways and has been discussed on the internet ad nausem - so shouldn't be a problem. Thanks for your indulgence.)

Buffy The Vampire Slayer and The Pitfalls of The Television Medium

(This essay is something I've been playing around with off and on for two months - more as frustration therapy than anything else. It was inspired by a few posts on the Angel After Spike board and criticisms on assorted fan boards and in articles of BTVS and/or ATS. It includes a bibliography, footnotes, and arises from my own study of television. It is also incredibly long and split into 6 sections with an Introduction and Conclusion. The focus of the essay is on the pitfalls of the process of making a television show not on the inner meaning of the content or metaphors within the shows - an important distinction and one that distinguishes this essay from all my others. Have no idea where to post it, it is a critique of the television medium and BTVS/ATS yet also oddly enough a celebration of them - hope here is fine. Thanks again!!)

First a couple of relevant quotes to get things started, these quotes introduce several of the themes I'll address in the essay:

"Do you judge a show based on its potential or only on what you've seen in the first episode or so? The great thing about TV is that a show can always get better or worse, often when you least expect it. But to cut a show too much slack just because it may improve in the future would not be a very useful approach to writing a review, I think."From TV Critic Matt Roush, The Roush Room.

"One of ME's strengths is finding good actors to bring their characters to life. That's why they reuse the good ones they find." Cheryl, Discussion Board.

Jane Espenson during her interview with Hercules on AICN: "I think it's very natural that TV is better. The system of making television allows for strong individual voices, like Joss's. Movies are always made by committees, and the writer is not at the head of the committee. Thus, mush."

"Collaboration; the art off passing off work to someone else." The audience applauded and laughed as David [Fury] gave them an example. "I'm in the midst of episode two right now of our next season. Mr. Edlund here, I was having so much fun, I had to bring someone else into it. And I think Ben here is going to help me do it. Basically, when we're in the room we are going off a general idea that Joss has. He'll have maybe one small story point or some emotion that he wants to bring out in the episode and then it's up to us in a room trying to brainstorm a bit and trying to figure things out." From the Angel the Series Writers' Panel Discussion at Comic Con, courtesy of

"We were working on the very first presentation," Anthony Stewart Head told the convention-goers, "which was the half-hour version of the first episode. It felt like it was going well, but it wasn't going brilliantly - because Joss had the crew from hell. None of them wanted to be there, they were all mid-season workers who hadn't been picked up by any of the regular shows, so they all had quite an attitude. But I remember saying to Joss, 'This is going to go. I think it's a brilliant script and I think [the show] is a goer.' And Joss said, 'Oh, yeah, it's going to go. It's not going to go because the TV people get it.' Which was certainly true because the WB didn't get it and Fox definitely didn't get it. He said, 'The fans are going to get it. It won't happen immediately, but it will be world-wide and it will slowly build. The word-of-mouth will just spread and spread and spread'. I still get little chills because he's just such an extraordinary man." Anthony Stewart Head from Moonlight Rising, Epitaphs: Life After Buffy by Matt Clark.

"The words aren't mine, the camera placement isn't mine. There are so many things that make me look cool and I'm not doing it." James Marsters, Epitaphs: Life After Buffy.

"I knew a long time into the show what was going to happen with Tara," Amber Benson said. "Joss and I had talked about the whole character and the story. When Joss first told Alyson and I were going to be lovers, we had no idea [the characters were heading in that direction]. Joss came to us and told us that he was friends with this couple, these two women who were in love and he based the relationship on them. I got to meet them, and realized that Willow and Tara cared about each other the same way these two friends of Joss' did. The bond between them was really strong and really special. And when it came to the point where Tara was killed - Adam Busch is always so apologetic [for killing "Tara"], he's such a nice guy - it was really about Willow's addiction. Most people understand about obsession - we all get obsessed with something and the only way to come back down is to have the rug pulled out from under us. And the only way Willow was going to hit bottom was to have her lover, her soulmate, taken away. And as much as we all cried and didn't want it to happen, story-wise, I knew it was the right thing to do."

Benson continued, "I don't think Joss really expected the ramifications of it, or that he'd get faxes up to about last week. It didn't come from a bad place, but a lot of people were really destroyed by it. For me, I didn't want her to die for selfish reasons. One, I really loved working with everyone and two, I really cared about Tara. When you spend three years as someone, they kind of become part of you. And she really did, in an odd way, Tara was me and I was her. She was special to me. And the day she died it was devastating to me. Actually, the day we shot my last scene, they brought out this cake shaped like a tombstone with 'Tara McClay, Rest In Piece', and that was the last straw. Sarah lost it, Michele lost it, I lost it. We were all these girly-girls crying our eyes out. I don't think anyone on the show realized what the relationship was going to mean to a lot of people out there. I feel really lucky - Alyson felt really lucky - to have set a precedent [for lesbian characters]."

"I didn't really watch much of the final season," Amber said. "I knew what was going to happen, Joss told me the whole story, I knew all the plot twists, and I didn't want to get sad and cry. It's the reason I didn't want to come back as Tara on season seven. I'd really debated, though. I knew that they were having the story with The First, and that Tara would only be back as The First in disguise and I thought that would be very upsetting, for me and the fans. [Tara's death] was so upsetting, I didn't want to go through that or put people through that. I was miserable after [Tara died]. People really cared about this character. So in the end, it was mutually decided that it would be easier to just let her, let her rest in piece. Bringing her back in the future is definitely an option - though I don't think Tara would work real well on Angel. I think she'd just get really annoyed by everybody. [laughs]" Amber Benson at Moonlight Rising.


God, I hate TV sometimes. Give me a good book that I can flip to the end of or a movie that lasts two - three hours or one of those cool plays that Shakespeare or Euripides excelled at, because television unlike those mediums is at the mercy of so many variables. A play is just the writer, the cast, the director and the crew. Each time it is performed it is a different experience, and as much as the actors may affect what we see on stage, they are replaceable if the play has any lasting quality. The actors do not make the play, they don't inhibit the characters to such a degree that the audience will accept no substitutes, because the audience usually just sees the play once. If we get new actors - that's a whole new audience. And if someone is re-watching it? They come to it prepared to see a whole different piece. A book? The writer is the king or queen - s/he controls the characters, the plot, the set, everything along with the reader - who envisions it in their head. We can cast anyone we dream of in these parts. We can place the piece in the set of our dreams and direct it ourselves. In a book - the writer and reader are the kings and queens. We also can read the book backwards, forwards, in our bed, upside down, or aloud if we so wish. We can start at the end and work our way towards the beginning or just read the last chapter first. Movies? Director is king/queen, with the actors, then writers coming in second and third. The fans don't really affect movies or plays or books. They may participate by watching them or reading them or just by going to them and reacting. But they do not change the plot arcs or cause actors to decide not to reprise characters or cause writers to insert problematic scenes. The fans/audience/reader of plays, movies, and books stay firmly in place behind that fourth wall - exactly where they belong in my humble opinion. Not rearing their ugly heads and poking their noses where they don't belong.

Another wonderful thing about movies, books and plays is that they are wonderfully self-contained. In most, not all cases - we don't have an on-going serial that could be disrupted mid-flow. Actors are contracted to finish that film - which takes place in a short workable period of time and once they are cast the plot is thoroughly written without too much disruption. We don't have someone suddenly jumping ship after the first hour of the movie, saying uhm I'm sorry, but I have this great gig in Australia and you just have to work without me for a week. (Oh some try to do that - but believe me, it's rare and usually results in very nasty consequences and awfully long court cases - the most famous being the case against Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor for Cleopatra.) We don't have network brass or executive producers telling the author, s/he has to change a character mid-story because ratings are dropping or they are worried about ancillary products. How much you want to bet - J.K. Rowling's editors did not interfere or make her change Order of the Phoenix mid-stream because it got too dark? Daniel Radcliff didn't come up to J.K or announce in the press - he's unhappy with how dark Harry is becoming, or that he feels Snape is coming out better than he is - resulting in poor JK inserting a new scene with Snape and re-writing two chapters. Nor do we end up with JK or the latest director of Harry Potter and Prison of Azkaban having to write out Dumbledore because Richard Harris died or changing another key character because the actor decided he wanted out.

Also in movies the actor is cognizant of all the things he has to do in a film. If he has to rape the lead? He knows about it before he signs the contract or even auditions for the part. Rarely is an actor surprised by film. He knows where it's going. Actors have been known to get out of films it they differ from what they contracted for. (1) In TV, the actor seldom knows what will happen. The part they audition for may change over time. They can in fact be forced to portray a role they would turn down elsewhere. (2)

Editors do change books and try to make them more commercial. Executive producers and celebrities change movie scripts and directors and actors change plays but somehow it's not quite as drastic as it is on TV. Television is a very special medium in of itself. Perhaps the most collaborative of all the current mediums we have, and certainly the most inter-active. With the internet - fans have instant access to television writers, each other, and an ability to influence their favorite shows. Oh they can try this with books, plays and movies too - but the fourth wall is more firmly intact there, these mediums are a little less dependent on things like ratings to determine how many viewers watch each week. (3) They have nifty things like actual dollars and sales figures. But a network television show unlike a book, movie or play - has one purpose to draw the largest audience possible to advertisers. (4) Advertising rules TV. It does not rule books, movies or plays. And through advertising - fans/audience influence what is on TV, they always have - as early as Father Knows Best when they sent mail to the advertisers begging the show be renewed. Based solely on those letters - a new advertiser decided to sponsor Father Knows Best and it survived the ax. (5) Other more modern examples include "Save our Shows" campaigns for Cagney and Lacy, Party of Five and most recently Angel the Series. These campaigns, if the program is just teetering on the ledge, often succeed in saving the show. They also demonstrate the amount of power fans truly have both to the writers and the fans themselves. While I love the fact that viewers can prevent their favorite shows from being prematurely completed, I am not fond of the fact that fans, even more so now with the advent of the internet, can influence the framework and internal story of the show. Call me crazy, but I prefer the fourth wall intact. Too many chefs in the kitchen ruin the stew. And I have yet to see a TV show survive this problem. Sooner or later, the mighty advertising dollar coupled with fans will influence the writers of a show.

Most of the critiques I've read regarding Buffy The Vampire Slayer's final seasons (6) - have more to do with the opportunities and limitations of the medium this brilliant show is in than people may realize. In fact, every single criticism may be a result of those opportunities and limitations - a direct result of this marvelously frustrating, at times brilliant and at times quite pedestrian medium called television. I hope to address some of those complaints/criticisms in this essay.

Even though the main thrust of this essay regards how BTVS operates as a TV show, I will briefly address issues such as the genres it operates within and how successfully it operates within those genres. (While I've set up the essay so that you can read and respond just to sections of it, I strongly suggest you read all of it before making any response, especially the conclusion.)
1.Interview with Anthony Stewart Head, IGN : in film Metal God, when Head's role was truncated, the director contacted him and asked if he still wanted to do it. Interview with James Marsters for SFX Aug. 2003 edition - Marsters saw the entire script to Venetian Heat ahead of time prior to signing. He knew he had to get past his own reservations playing a gay lead.
2 James Marsters Interview in The Official Buffy Magazine #8, June/July 2002, pp.20-21: "In Voices in the Dark, I played a serial killer who has a 10-minute fight scene with a woman. I dragged her across the stage by her hair, she dropped me off a 10-foot drop into a spa. That scene is the end of the play, and you get an emotional release. If you do movies or plays, you choose what kind of projects you would be willing to do." James is against doing rape scenes and traditionally will turn down any role that does not punish the perpetuator immediately after-ward. He can't watch films where women or children are hurt. "On a television series, however, actors are bound to perform the scripts as they come in." According to other assorted interviews and online posts, James did not know about this scene until he came to work that day. In Interview with Anthony Stewart Head, IGFN, 1/6/03, Head mentions going out for drinks after work with Nicholas Brendan (Xander) and discussing where the show will go next and always being wrong.
3 See The Business of Television, Blumenthal & Goodenough, 1998, pp. 402-415 for more on ratings.
4 Blumenthal, p.402 : "the effectiveness of an advertisement is based upon the estimated number of people who saw the advertisement. To be more precise, it's not the total number of people that matters. Instead, it's the total number of people within the advertiser's demographic that matters." P. 2, "Each [network] is a giant company with a single goal - to supply the largest number of desirable viewers to the advertisers who provide the networks with revenues and thus the programs."
5 Brilliant But Cancelled Documentary - Trio Network
6 Reviews on the internet, specifically 3Strikes, cjl, Darby, Kds, Shadowkat's Season Seven Critique, RabidRaen, Spoilerslayer,, amongst others. See archives, season 7 review, article archives, and Angle After Spike archives.

(TBC in Part I ...) SK

[> Part I. Tragedy, Television and Buffy the Vampire Slayer -- s'kat, 09:58:59 08/23/03 Sat

Part I. Tragedy, Television and Buffy the Vampire Slayer

I don't believe Mutant Enemy's ( the writing staff and producers of BTVS and ATS under and including Joss Whedon, hereinafter ME) goal was to do a classic tragedy per se, regardless of the medium, although the medium may have had a role in this decision. ME's writers are first and foremost television writers - they know the medium, they've done a bulk of their work in it prior to BTVS, they know what works and what doesn't from those past experiences. Heck, Whedon is a third generation television writer, I'd say he's an expert or the closest we'll get to one. (7)

So why not do classic tragedy on TV? Is it because the modern audience is intolerant of tragedy? If that were the case we wouldn't have tragic movies and books - go to your bookstore some time, check out all those contemporary novels - I bet you'll find a few classic tragedies amongst them. Same with the cinema-plex. Also Shakespeare? Still popular. And Medea? It was quite successful on Broadway this year, thank you very much. The Greeks and Elizabethans? Experienced more tragedy than most of us sitting nice and comfy in our little homes will ever experience. They were lucky to make it to 30, we complain if we don't make it to 100. Tragedy was part and parcel of their lives. We, having only experienced it through television sets via the news, books, theatre, plays and the newspaper - are a tad desensitized to it - it's not real to us, not in the same way. (Speaking generally here, I'm well aware of the fact that there are folks out there who have experienced tragedy first hand - but these people are the exception not the rule in our society. And in some ways, they seem to experience and look at fictional tragedy the same way the Greeks did, with a deep abiding appreciation. Preferring it to the more gratuitous and somewhat exploitive newsreels.) No, the reason is far more simple - advertisers don't like to have their products associated with tragedy. Honestly, are you going to go out to McDonalds after watching Xena get her head chopped off? Or buy that new Lexus convertible? I don't think so. You might think about eating that box of Rocky Road ice cream in the fridge though. There's also that teeny little problem of coaxing the viewer back the next week. The Greeks didn't really have this problem, nor did Ms. Bronte. Their story was done. They don't have to coax the reader back again. Television? Unless you don't plan on doing an episode next week, have a spin-off, or a franchise of ancillary products - you want and need people to keep watching. We want you to tune in again - we also want you to watch us in syndication and re-runs. So if we give you deep dark tragedy this week? We promise next week it will be lighter and somewhat fluffy. Everything will come out swell in the us. That's the reason Fox, The Kuzuis, the WB and UPN don't want ME doing anything too tragic. It is not, however the reason ME decided not to do tragedy.

Whedon and the other ME writers have stated in numerous interviews and commentaries that they took items from numerous genre's, subverting and twisting some in the process.(8) Because Btvs has elements of each of these genres (fantasy, gothic, horror, science-fiction and noir/pulp) within it - it doesn't really fit the model of any single one exactly. Trying to press it into that structure is akin to pressing a square peg into a round hole, believe me I've tried it. By using a hodge-podge of techniques, ME have oddly enough appeared to create a new genre, something that stands a little apart from the others. I can see why people may think that Btvs is meant to be a classic tragedy or just a tragedy - but it's not really. (9) Btvs while incredibly "tragic" at times is hardly ever a "tragedy" in the classic sense nor has it ever been one. Ats is actually more in keeping with the styling of classic "tragedy" but it's modernized and comes across more as "neo-noir tragedy". In Noir, a sort of subversion of the classic form, created in the 1940s and early 50's - the tragic hero is less a hero than an anti-hero, he is not necessarily likable, yet we root for him or her (usually a him except for a few neo-noir films in the late 80's, early 90's where it was a she) and the ending is always a tragic one, the best we can hope for is he survives. Unlike the classic tragedy, the tragedy in neo-noir is not the hero's death per se but his failure to reach his goal - a failure often caused by hubris, just like the classic form. Examples are Kiss Me Deadly, The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, and The Killing (a Stanley Kubrick film that satirizes the form). (10)

Xena: Warrior Princess was actually more of a classic tragedy, which is something that is incredibly difficult to pull off on television. For how difficult - just look at the negative fan response to Xena's end or for that matter Nick Knight's in Forever Knight.(11) Both heroes died tragically as a result of their own fatal flaw and the episodes were not well received. Most gothic dramas are styled in this manner by the way - from Wuthering Heights to Ann Rice's Interview With A Vampire. Why didn't fans react negatively to them? Well how do you know they didn't? The difference is Wuthering Heights is a book, Xena is a cult television show. Same with Gone with The Wind - Rhett Butler could tell Scarlett to go to hell in the book and movie - these mediums did not depend on fans coming back to see episode two or watch in perpetuity in syndication. They do not depend on the all mighty advertising dollar, product endorsements, and ancillary products. Same with Euripides and Shakespeare - you know each audience will be different and the audience for a play or movie? They have no problem being hurt - their investment in the characters is short lived - it began at the start of that three-hour movie and ended when they left the theater. Oh they may dream and fret over Scarlett and Rhett, but they can't influence the writers, they can't un-see it. The money's been spent. If they despise it? That means it dies never to be seen again. But it doesn't change the story. They aren't like the nutty television fans who get to see a new chapter in their characters' lives every week - just making them more obsessed. Sooner or later you're going to get tired of rewatching the same three-hour movie. But a TV show with a spin-off, movie possibilities, and ancillary products?

Btvs wasn't meant to be a tragedy. We know this from the very beginning - re-watch Prophecy Girlwhich we are mislead to believe will end in tragedy yet ends in triumph. The Gift is hardly a classic tragedy per se since Buffy by dying saves the world. She goes to a better place. Becoming II isn't really true tragedy, the only major character that dies is Angel - who comes back, and while it's tragic she has to kill him - it's not tragic on the scale it would be if this was "classic" tragedy or pure tragedy. Also in both The Gift and in Becoming, the character returns from the dead the very next season. Fans only have to wait six months. (The same can be said of Spike in Chosen, who apparently will be resurrected in some form for Angel S5. Tara was one of the few characters in BTVS history not resurrected in some form and that was partly due to the actress' unavailability. )

According to the rumor mill, Whedon's original intention was to end the whole series with pure "classical" tragedy. I'm not sure how much of this is true and how much is just fan speculation: In Season 5: Glory was supposed to kill Tara, Willow was supposed to go dark and be overwhelmed with vengence. Xander was supposed to be the one housing Glory not Ben. Giles kills Xander to defeat Glory. Anya dies trying to save Xander. Spike dies trying to save Dawn from Willow. Buffy dies to save the world and preserve Dawn. Leaving Dawn and Giles and the cast of ATS the only survivors. Sunnydale would be sucked into the hellmouth. The only portion of this that I've seen validated in interviews was the Willow bit. (12) I mentioned this to a friend of mine and he said - if this happened, over a 100,000 BTVS fans would be asking for prozac.

So why did Joss change his mind? Several reasons - Btvs is not just his creation, it's a collaboration. Heck he even got voted out of the writers' room once. (13) If you look at the credits of each episode you'll notice how many executive, co-executive, supervising producers there are. Also the writers change each time. As do the directors. Then of course there's all the camera people, the stunt people, the makeup people, the set designers, the short unlike a book - this baby has more than one mother and father. (14) Marti has stated in interviews that she told Joss he wasn't allowed to kill everyone in The Gift - since they could get picked up for another year - also he couldn't destroy the entire set. Joss may have wanted Btvs to end with The Gift, but Joss does not own the rights to Btvs, the Kuzis and Fox do. Joss may have creative control over who is cast, general story arc, who writes the episodes, and produces each episode - but the executive producers still have some say in the proceedings. They still get to okay whatever appears on screen as do the network brass. They don't like something? It does not get aired. Just look at what happened to Firefly. Also, even though Whedon may run it like the military (15) - these are still artists not soldiers - they bring whatever is inside them to the piece and he has made it clear he's open to that.(16) In fact from what I've read - it's clear that Btvs is NOT tightly plotted. They figure out the general arc each season, make sure it builds from the last season, then writers pitch ideas for specific episodes.

Examples: Jane Espenson came up with the idea of Wood being Nikki's son. Oh Whedon wanted Nikki's kid to come gunning for Spike - they just didn't know who it would be until episode 9. (17) The whole Kennedy arc they came up with around CwDP after Amber Benson nixed coming back. Amber Benson was chosen as Tara in S4 by Marti not Joss. Same with Buffy and Spike - also from Marti's experience. (18)

Whedon was probably told to scale back his original concept by assorted players: Fox, Kuzuis, his writers, the actors, etc. Then of course, BTVS was renewed after Season 5 and Joss under his contract with Fox and UPN was honor bound to keep producing it for another two years, hence the decision not to end with a complete tragedy.
7 Interview with Joss Whedon, June 2003, on IGFN web site. Whedon states he's a third generation television writer. His father and grandfather wrote for assorted situation comedies including the Golden Girls, Benson, Dick Cavette. Whedon got his first job writing for the Roseanne Show.
8 See Whedon Interview with IGFN cited above. Also End of the Series Whedon Interview on and Joss Whedon Interview: Ending Buffy at (Note the second one is free, the one requires you subscribe.)
9 See the thread "Tragedy and BTVS & ATS" by WtP from The Stakehouse, posted by Rufus on AASB board on 8/1/03
1010 Film Noir Reader 2, Alan Silver & James Ursini
11See - discussion board archives, Xena's end or Forever Knight's.
12 Sarah Michelle Gellar's Exit Interview with Entertainment Weekly, March 2003; Marti Noxon's Interview in SFX regarding Season 6, Dec. 2001; In the SMG Interview - Gellar states Whedon put off killing Tara and turning Willow, because he fell in love with the Willow/Tara relationship and wanted another full year of it. But Willow was supposed to turn dark ever since Season 3. It was pre-planned. According to Noxon - Whedon had planned to destroy Sunnydale in Season 5, but they begged him to leave some of the set in case they got renewed.
13Not sure which interview this came from - my guess is (which I can no longer access) or (the site referenced in note 8). If I'm completely off? Be a sweetie and let me know. ;-)
14Interview with Anthony Stewart Head for IGN, Head relates a story about a costume designer who created his look for two seasons and informs the interviewer that due to lighting and camera problems, they had to place everyone around the table in the library, the lighting and camera angles were horrid everywhere else.
15IGFN Interview with Joss Whedon
16 Interviews with Anthony Stewart Head for IGN and with Danny Strong, IGN; James Marsters Interviews on, Demon Lover: "Joss Whedon is letting (producer) Marti Noxon come more into the fore with this story. And her crucible of experience - one she'll always go back to as a writer - is in issues that relate to people in their mid-twenties. It's brilliant that although Joss is still very much in charge of the show, there's another voice that's coming in, using the metaphor to her own ends."
17 The Official Buffy Magazine #8, June/July 2003, Writer Revelations: Espenson states -" We'd been talking quite a while about what if Nikki had a daughter who survived and came to Sunnydale seeking vengeance. Then I had a literally sit-up-in-your-bed brainstorm, where I went, 'She didn't have a daughter, she had a son - and we've already met him. It's Principal Wood."
18 IGN Interview with Joss Whedon; Commentary to Hush, Josh Whedon, S4 BTVS DVD; James Marsters Shore Leave Q&A regarding Buffy/Spike relationship : "I am really serious. I don't think Joss went there, I think it was Marti. She has a dirty mind. How much heat was there last year? Whoa! That was Marti's year. As much as we talk about Joss, Marti is the Bomb! She is, like all the writers, using her personal life and she is incredibly brave about what she admits has happened to her. She has lived the life."

[> [> Re: Part I. Tragedy, Television and Buffy - The Noir thing- -- Rendyl, 07:30:51 08/25/03 Mon

***Noir, a sort of subversion of the classic form, created in the 1940s and early 50's - the tragic hero is less a hero than an anti-hero, he is not necessarily likable, yet we root for him or her (usually a him except for a few neo-noir films in the late 80's, early 90's where it was a she)***

Ack! Overcome by terrible compulsion...must correct misconception...must introduce female hard-boileds...must...aghhhh ;)

Violet McDade and Nevada Alvarado - (Cleve F Adams) - Created in 1935 Violet is probably the first female dick. Violet was just as tough as the guys she shared magazine space with.
Carrie Cashin by Theodore Tinsley (over three dozen stories featuring her) who runs 'Cash and Carry' detective agency (sue me, I like puns).

Bertha Cool (and Donald Lam) -Erle Stanley Gardner (writing as A.A. Fair) Bertha was in over 30 stories from 1939 to 1970.

There's also Grace Culver, Cassie Gibson, Kitty Keene (radio show), Marla Trent, etc.

(I skipped Madge Hatchett by Lee McGraw and Sharon McCone by Marcia Muller since they originate in the 1970's.)

(I also would skip The Beagle Sisters, Nancy Drew, and Mary Roberts since they are much more mystery solving/deducting rather than noir)

I could have listed more but I tried to keep everyone between 1935 and 1960 and I tried to list women who appear in multiple stories or episodes.

Rendyl - thanking s'kat for giving us the "rumble" on TV. :)

[> [> [> Question : were any of those female hardboiled in films? -- s'kat, 07:48:24 08/25/03 Mon

First off - Thanks for this!

I probably should have made it a little clearer I was limiting noir to film and television. (Books and Magazines have a bit more room for this - since they don't cost as much to produce, films and television? Different story.)

Am I wrong? Did these ladies actually make it to the screen? If so can you list the films? I'd love to see them.
Only ones I was able to hunt down were from the late 70s, and 80s and early 90s - with Kathryn Bigelow and Lizzie Borden amongst the directors.

Again Books? A whole different debate - so much more room for change and risk there. With film? You're getting into serious money, what with salaries, etc so less room for risk. So it would be wonderful to see that I'm wrong and the female dick predated neo-noir in film.

[> [> [> [> Re: Question : were any of those female hardboiled in films? -- Rendyl, 10:38:11 08/25/03 Mon

Ack..sorry to veer off into left and tv..

There were several Torchy Blane films made in the 1930's. I am not sure if she counts in as hard boiled but she was tough. She was a newspaper reporter who did more investigating than reporting.

Honey West is generally considered 'hard boiled' (I cough here) but when she made the switch from books to film she became more of a techno-spy type. (At least in the movies she gets to keep her clothes on. I suspect bimbo to sexy spy is an improvement)

I am sure there are more but I haven't personally seen any except a couple of 'Torchy' movies and the 'Thin Man' series of movies. (you mentioned Nora Charles previously)

'Cool and Lam' ran on CBS in the early 50's. It is reported that when his editors complained about Bertha's profanity, Gardner refused to tone her down claiming that "he swore as much as Bertha" and telling the publishers "they would just have to accept Bertha as he portrayed her".

(Bertha was kind of...rough...grin)

There are several series in the 50's and 60's (Detectives Wife, Crime with Father, etc) that feature women private eyes but most of them are husband/wife teams or intrepid Nancy Drew types. Much more Miss Marple than Mickey Spillane.

Ren - off to put down a can of coke and finish folding my rags -

[> [> [> Noir heroes -- sdev, 08:26:57 08/25/03 Mon

In Double Indemnity (original not remake), Fred McMurray plays a highly likeable guy. The audience very much identifies with the sympathetic character he plays. If you haven't seen it I highly recommend it as one of the original and outstanding films of the genre.

[> Part II: The Pitfalls of Plotting Television Shows -- s'kat, 10:01:02 08/23/03 Sat

Part II. The Pitfalls of Plotting Television Shows

So how much of BTVS is truly plotted way ahead of time? How much of any Television show arc is plotted ahead of time?

Alarmingly little, believe it or not. I know that's hard to believe when you watch shows like BTVS - but that's b/c the show is done that well. All tv shows are done in this manner. Very very few can be tightly plotted ahead of time and even those? Get screwed. This where the opportunities/limitations of the medium come into play.

Plays and movies - are one self-contained two to three hour drama or comedy, cast well ahead of rehearsals, the play script or movie script may be written by one or more people. In some cases plays and movies are re-written for the cast. But the main thing is that the story is generally plotted in advance. They usually have a complete outline and sketches of each character. The actors meet to discuss the script and scenes. Cast/Actors do affect movies and plays but not quite in the same way they do TV. (19) Fans? Almost zero effect on what happens - just on whether it makes any money and lives to see another day. Although preview audiences can affect these mediums to an extent, they rarely come into play until after the entire thing is done. (20) We usually don't get some fan group or network producer screaming at the creator to change the story after chapter one of a book or act one of the play has aired or been published, usually the whole thing is published or aired at once - there's no changing it in mid-stream. Not so with TV - which is more akin to a work in progress - each chapter airing as the writer begins writing the next. (21)

TV - the difference between a television series and a book or movie or play is simply the fact it is an on-going series with new episodes once a week with no more than a month or two in between during a seasonal arc and three - five months between seasons.

A book that is an on-going serial - is dependent on just the writer continuing it. A movie? On actors, director, writer, producer, distributor, crew continuing - but, it is usually self-contained enough that if someone doesn't want to come back, they can handle it. Example: Halle Berry doesn't want to do X-Men 3, fine, just write the next movie without Halle Berry in it. Doesn't really hurt the franchise. You might even be able to recast her if you want. Or you can stop the franchise...and the fans are satisfied, story self-contained. Example: Amber Benson doesn't want to do Buffy S7 because she hates the script or isn't being paid enough or feels it would hurt the fans, oops big problem, we wrote this whole Willow story arc around her, dang it. Have to change the arc and gut that whole story. In fact the arc may have been considered way before they killed her.(22)

On top of this - we have the problem that the series is on network television not cable and not a movie - this means advertisers, this means censors, this means the network on your ass, and this means ratings. With a movie - it's box office, but you don't have to worry about advertisers or censors or those pesky ratings or fans doing mail-ins for the next episode. You don't have to worry about someone throwing a hissy fit because Spike isn't wearing his leather jacket. (23) In a movie or book - it's done. In TV? You can be forced to change it to accommodate others.

Then there's the whole money factor - each episode of BTVS costs approximately 2.3 million dollars. (24) A third of that goes to the cast, (25) the rest to writers, special effects, crew etc. Movie budgets can be increased as filming goes. TV? Nope. That budget is set in stone during the contract phase. So say you want to hire Amber Benson to do S7 of BTVs and Amber has raised her asking price? You can't do it. You also can't hire this other person you have your eye on. You're stuck. You can't make new deals with the contracted actors, producers, or ask them to lower their price like in a film - their salaries are written in stone. In a movie? You can do all this negotiating. TV - not after you did the initial stuff.

So you have this budget written-in-stone and a cast written-in-stone. No, wait they aren't. Seth Green took off in S4 and he had a contract. Lindsey Crouse also took off. Amber didn't sign a new contract after S6. Emma Caulfield announced she's done after Season 7. And the star, Sarah Michelle Gellar? She's not sure she'll sign for another year. Joss Whedon? He's sick of Btvs, wants to do something new after S7 (26) ...but hey you can continue without him, just not the cast. In a movie - they'd have replaced Whedon, Seth Green and Lindsey Crouse probably would have taken off, filming would stop, or they'd be recast and they'd re-film the scenes, or they'd wait for them to return or they'd sue them. In TV not so easy. Books? You're the writer, you're god, not a problem. And if you decide to call it quits? No one sees the book. Only person who hurts a book by calling it quits is the writer - and you can always hire a new writer - if s/he doesn't own the rights to the characters and story.

So you're a TV writer, you've plotted out your arc - five years complete. But wait, the lead? The network brass doesn't like him. He's not charismatic enough. No chemistry. Too stiff. They want a name to carry it. Or you're cancelled. Dang. Got to do a little re-writing here. (This is what happened to the creator of Bablyon 5).

Or you've decided to do that series - with the vampire with the soul, a half-demon companion and the cheerful cheerleader, only one problem the actor you wanted for the half-demon? He's in jail. So you find another actor. But whoops he has a substance abuse you re-write and bring in someone new. (This happened to Angel The Series in Season 1).

You can't plot out your entire story ahead of time. Too many movable parts - too many things can go wrong. You have to make it flexible. There is no way Whedon and his writers would have been able to plot all of S7 - they had too many uncertainties. If it had been a book or a movie? No problem. But not a TV series with 22 episodes on a struggling network with financial problems. UPN had major problems last year - they lost money on Buffy just as the WB had before them, the only difference is UPN was paying more and was at the bottom of the network ratings game.(27)

So if you think BTVS was plotted way ahead time? Hate to burst your bubble, but nope. What they did do, was build off of previous episodes. (28)They took elements from Restless and built stories from those elements and themes, so that it appears to the audience that the show was plotted to some extent in advance. Whedon and Fury and others have admitted in assorted interviews that they took elements from S5 and S6 and took the characters emotional arcs from there. (29)They did not figure out S7 or S6 prior to writing S5. Whedon didn't know what he was going to do with Buffy past S5, prior to The Gift. He figured it out after The Gift.
19 See James Marsters Interview in SFX Aug. 2003 edition, specifically on the play to screen edition of Venetian Heat; Anthony Stewart Head's IGN Interview
20 See Adventures in The Screen Trade and Which Lie Did I Tell, both by William Goldman
21See David Fury Interview on City of Angel website; Joss Whedon Interview with IGN; Tim Minear Interview in SFX December Edition - 2002: the scene where Angel attacks Darla sexually was changed by network brass, as was the scene where Kate pukes in Epiphany.
22 Joss Whedon IGN Interview; Amber Benson Q&A at Moonlight Rising
23 See Tampa Vulkon Q&A with James Marsters at , where Marsters mentions WB freaked over the fact that Fox sold Spike's leather jacket on Ebay. Also fan speculation on discussion board - archives, that the jacket came back due to network complaints.
24Consoli, John "Moonves to Creatives: Days of Big, Fat Paychecks Are Over" JULY 15, 2001,;
" Ironically, it was UPN, which Moonves now oversees since both UPN and CBS are under the Viacom umbrella, that prior to Moonves assuming oversight over it, paid more than $2 million per episode to acquire the rights to Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, when the WB refused to pick it up for that price." ; See also: Francis, Rob, "News - 23rd April : Buffy Wrestles With Her Future", "According to the American press, UPN has agreed to a two-year, 44 episode deal for the series, reportedly paying US$ 2.3 million per episode."
25In articles archived on in fall 2002, Sarah Michelle Gellar was reported to be pulling in a paycheck of $735,000 per episode, in a recent article in the Dublin Times, Alyson Hannigan admitted to be pulling in $200,000 per episode for Season 6-7.
26See assorted Joss Whedon interviews including IGFN Interview with Joss Whedon in June 2003;'s exit interview with Joss Whedon; NyTimes Interview with Joss Whedon and interviews archived on and
27 See Consoli, John "Moonves to Creatives: Days of Big, Fat Paychecks Are Over" JULY 15, 2001, "UPN has lost a sizable amount of money on Buffy, about $1 million per episode by some industry estimates..."; See also: Battaglio, Stephen, "Buffy's Studio Shows Its Fangs", May 14, 2001, : "The two sides never even got close to a deal. The WB, which lost $ 50 million last year, stopped bidding at $ 1.8 million an episode. (At that amount, insiders say, the network would lose $ 200,000 per show.) Fox wanted $ 2.3 million--and got it from UPN. The network, which is desperate for a hit beyond WWF wrestling and Star Trek spinoffs, bought two seasons' worth of Buffy for more than $ 100 million."
28 Interview with Marti Noxon, CBC 2003: ". So a lot of times people who see this as a grand design, an opera about good and evil. It's just really a slowly evolving thing, and sometimes form follows function." Q&A with Joss Whedon at the Paley Festival, March 30, 2001: "Very specifically in terms of huge -- arcing these things out as far in advance as we can. Some of them are fortuitous acts and as we look back and say, 'Oh you know we had this and it will connect this with this and that.' Eventually, and some of them come from disasters. For example, one that we did on Buffy, 'Lovers Walk,' the episode where Spike came back and Drusilla had left him. Juliet was shooting a movie and they were gonna come back together. They were Spike and Dru and we couldn't get her and we said, 'Well, what if they broke up?' So eventually, as I've said before, the story's telling us what's going to happen. There a symbiosis between what we're doing and what the story's doing to the point where when we come up with something, even if it surprises us we look back and go, "Wow, we've been building towards that and we didn't even know it.' The Xander and Cordelia romance -- a long time on Buffy. The intensity of their arguments had been increasing and increasing and we had not thought about giving them a romance. When we looked back and it was like we had been trying to do it from the second episode. So it really just takes on a life of its own and some of it's planned, some of it isn't. Some of it comes from the trouble but it's like riding the rapids. And we keep going and it all seems to fall together . . . sometimes."
29IGN Interview with Joss Whedon; Jane Espenson Interview with Hercules; Sound of The Fury : Interview with David Fury,; Drew Goddard Interview with Succubus Club.

[> [> Nothing new, nothing new, gotta come up with something new -- Celebaelin, 17:29:58 08/25/03 Mon

?@#%$=*^!(+) I'd have to have more control than that. I'd be saying things like 'Why don't you just give me the money and 'run along' while I do this to the best of my ability.' for the whole 3 seconds before I was out on my ear. However if we can all dream our dreamy dreams... Modifications that have to be made for practical reasons would obviously stand out rather because of the inflexibility but for the writer it gives that element of solidity to the plot as a whole that allows you to do some clever stuff with plotlines and timelines. I have an idea (one that probably wouldn't work out) about thematically based series rather than chronologically sequenced series, I'd love to give it a try if the problems could be overcome (like the fact that no-one would get the first series, they'd just think the time line was a bit loose - six month jumps half way through an episode, that kind of stuff). And then, later on, you could show it chronologically instead! Or not! Or could you? What if you could release two separate DVDs of the same material structured in different ways and have them both sell? Am I talking your language now? And for the connoisseur maybe a DVD of the scenes which appeared in multiple episodes, and maybe one of the already recorded scenes which were intended for inclusion in series which were never filmed in their entirety? There's a kind of creeping chronologicallity to the filming in my mind but the scripting has to be done way in advance of the filming as regards critical plot details.

Then there's the idea I ripped off from found had been used in a comic book about repairing temporal anomalies and incursions into this reality. I kinda like this one, could work.

And of course there's 2000AD's D.R. and Quinch, this one will never get made because the leads are irredeemably criminal, psychotic, murderous, sociopathic aliens on a galaxy-wide killing spree. 'Live fast and leave a good-looking corpse, preferably someone elses' is their motto, oh, and one of them is an extremely bad war poet (not in itself a crime, but it should be).

From "D.R. and Quinch Get Drafted."

I used to sit on sunkissed fields
Watching the buphlinks grazing
But now I'm here on Gohoigi
Which is like, totally amazing

D.R. His first war poem

All soldiers leave a girl behind
That worships and adores 'em
But mine's here on Gohoigi too
Which is like, unbelievably awesome

D.R. His second war poem

The clock is ticking, I wonder if I'll ever write any of this stuff down.


[> Part III:The TV Show Grind and Writer Burn-Out (The Very Special Episode) -- s'kat (most lengthy footnotes here!), 10:07:14 08/23/03 Sat

Part III: The TV Show Grind and Writer Burn-Out

Seven years is an incredibly long time for a drama to be on TV. Few television shows last that long and retain their worth. TV is a grind. Long hours. Lots of pressure. Not that much recognition in the industry. You have approximately 8-10 days to kick out a 43 minute episode. (30) To give you an idea what that means, it can take a day to shoot a 30 second commercial. You have what amounts to anywhere from 8 days to maybe 15 hours to write the episode. (31)The actors get the script pretty close to the time they have to perform it and they do enough takes to get the lines right. It's not like plays and film - where you you get the script way ahead of time. The actor often doesn't know what the script is until s/he arrives on the set. And you don't have the time to re-do the episode if it's horrible. Time is money. (32)

Like all TV shows - Btvs fell into some common pitfalls partly due to the grind and partly due to the challenges of writing innovative episodes over a seven-year period. (33) Writers can get tired of the same stories and characters after a while, they want to do something new. (34) Add to this actor burn-out or restlessness, partly due to normal work-place tensions, and the fact that most people in the film/theater business are nomadic by nature and don't like doing one thing for too long. (35) They're used to movies or plays - six months doing this, six months doing that. So due to these pressures, after about four or five years, even the best TV shows and television writers fall into the following traps:

The Very Special Episode

This is when TV writers decide to tackle big issues and be brave. What happens is they flip the show out of its genre/reality than flip it back the very next episode. As a result the audience loses its trust in the writers. Examples: situation comedies who decide to do the drug or domestic abuse or eating disorder or rape storyline. Btvs did it with Seeing Red and to an extent with Wrecked . They skirted the problem barely with Earshot and The Body by staying true to their characters and universe. Seeing Red? Well let's just say the infamous bathroom/attempted rape scene was like watching an episode of Law and Order meets Beverly Hills 90210 not an episode of metaphorically layered Btvs. It was even filmed in the same gritty white on black, naturalistic style as Law and Order, with tight camera angles and close-ups, while the surrounding material was filmed more in the style of BTVS. The contrast jarred the audience - emphasizing the violence of the scene and the victimization of the heroine more than may have been intended. The audience was in effect no longer watching a vampire and a vampire slayer - they were watching the girl-next door and her ex-boyfriend. Other examples of the very special episode in BTVS include: Warren's shooting of Buffy and Tara in Seeing Red and Willow's visit to a molesting drug dealer and subsequent magic addiction arc in Wrecked. They stripped away the metaphors. Then put them back again. Just like those situation comedies do - dramatic one episode - then snap - comedy the next...the writers trust that the audience followed and didn't just decide to jump ship.

The problem with The Message episode or Special Episode - is the writers think they are being new and innovative and shocking - truth is? The audience have seen it all before. I If you've ever in your life watched a prime time or daytime soap opera, an after-school special, Lifetime Original Movie, Beverly Hills 90210, Boston Public or an episode of Seventh Heaven, etc: you probably have seen the heroine almost get raped/or get raped by her date or boyfriend, usually someone the audience likes and a relationship that the writers need to break up for some reason but can't figure out how. (36) To Whedon's credit, he attempted to subvert the attempted rape/rape cliché by concentrating on the perpetuator of the crime as opposed to the victim. Whedon felt that too often our society demonizes rapists and/or attempted rapists by their acts, instead of treating them like human beings who made a horrible mistake and aren't completely defined by their crime. They can be redeemed. (37) So he tried to tackle through Spike the issue of rape from the perpetuator's point of view. The problem with doing this is two-fold: 1.) In our society most rapists get-off, rape is a very hard crime to prove and up until the last couple of years, one that wasn't acknowledged. 2. The day-time soap operas and movies of the week already beat him to it. (38)

A recent review from film force suggests that viewers are not able to appreciate this story and it may even be offensive to some. Note the reviewer fails to recognize the fact that we're not discussing a human character or "man" but a soulless vampire with no conscience, who because of the attempted rape, hunts a soul to become a better man - one who would never force himself on a woman. A soulless vamp who after winning his soul redeems himself by sacrificing his life for the world.

"For all of the protestations of "girl power", it was Spike, the man who attempted to rape Buffy last season, who winds up ultimately saving the day. In a true General Hospital moment, Buffy even professes her love for the vampire who tried to kill her more than once. If last season's tryst was supposed to be about women who find themselves in bad relationships, what the hell was that supposed to be?" From the film force review of Chosen, "Buffy Gets Dusted; 24 Keeps on Ticking" at

The reviewer refuses to see Spike's attempted rape as the crime of a soulless vampire and suggests that the idea Spike sought a soul afterwards and could be forgiven is offensive. Odd considering people generally accept the idea that the most vicious vampire in the history of the show, someone who raped and murdered a chaste girl entering a convent, could be redeemed, that this is not offensive. If you accept Angel's journey for redemption at all, than you should be able to accept Spike's, but several people can't. Why? The television rape cliché started by General Hospital in the 1970s. People viewed a violent attempted rape on their television screen against the heroine. So violent that the UK censored the scene for viewers because it aired prior to 9 pm. Some viewers just can't get past it. No matter what the writers do. If our society had a history of punishing and rehabilitating rapists, it may work. But instead, we have a history of vilifying the victim. Odd, considering viewers had no problem forgiving Xander's attempted rape on Buffy in The Pack, Faith's attempted rape of Xander in Consequences, Angelus' rapes of Drusilla, Holtz's wife and daughter, the gypsy girl, torture of Giles, and murder of Jenny - of course a lot of people have dealt with Angelus' crimes by deciding Angel isn't Angelus at all. (39) Why? The reason is the naturalistic manner that the attempted rape scene in Seeing Red was filmed. (40) The writers dropped the metaphors. By dropping the metaphors so, Buffy became a victim and Spike an attempted rapist in Seeing Red - for those five brief minutes, both characters fell out of the fragile mythology the series had spent six years developing. If the scene had been filmed in the same style as the Faith/Xander sequence in Consequences or Xander/Buffy sequence in The Pack or even Angelus/the gypsy girl in Darla - or Angel/Darla in Reprise, several viewers may have reacted differently to the stimuli. (*Note I did not say all viewers reacted this way, quite a few understood where ME was going and accepted it.)

Unfortunately, there are no new interpretations when it comes to the "rape" issue, attempted or otherwise. It's been over-done. Add to this the fact that Buffy The Vampire Slayer is a gothic horror serial that for the last seven years has used vampires as a metaphor for sexual taboos ranging from incest to S & M sex to sexual assault. Just about every vampire on the show has in some way shape or form committed a sexual assault. Angel certainly did on his show, but always within the context of the metaphor. To strip away the metaphor in a gothic horror show risks exposing other realities, such as the fact that the heroine solves her problems by slaying things with a sharp stick or her fists. Also what is ME saying about rapists in general - when all the male characters who attempt it are in fact soulless or infected with a demon at the time of the act? If they left the metaphor intact, the vampire bite, then we would have no need to ask these questions. By doing the "very special episode" and dropping the metaphorical veil, ME may have risked the fragile framework of their own universe.

The other issues ME tackled in Season 6's version of the special episode was drug abuse and the shooting of a loved one. If you have watched any television in your lifetime, you have seen this story line, in which the main character or a regular struggles with drug abuse, addiction, grief, or insanity, hits rock bottom, slowly comes back after betraying all the other characters or losing something or someone close to them. Cheers did it with Sam Malone twice - alcohol and sex-addiction, MASH did it with Hawkeye going insane, and Family Ties did it with Alex P. Keaton and grief. (41) You have also probably seen someone get shot on a tv show. Soap operas love this plot device. Usually it happens at a huge event or a very intimate moment, the villain everyone has ignored or not taken seriously shoots two of the leads, one lives and one dies. The one who dies is usually a wonderful character that everyone adores and the most mature one in the cast. Dallas is one of the few programs that subverted this idea and shot the villain - but then the glory of Dallas was the villain was the star of the show, JR Ewing and that shooting got the highest ratings ever. Dynasty shot two characters. Beverly 90210 did it their last season. Actually they did it more than once. Melrose Place? All the time. The rape, the drug addict, the heroes getting shot are plot devices that have been used so often in TV they have almost become clichés. West Wing did the whole gunshot thing their very first season and then again in 2002. I look forward to seeing the TV dramas that don't do it. Was hoping since BTVS is a fantasy show, it wouldn't - but it hit the six year time span and sure enough out came the television clichés.

Meta-narration, Reunions, Flashback Episode and Clips - a TV specialty.

The day I see a tv show that does not feel compelled to bring back old characters or do clips of past episodes or even refer to them in its last season, is the day Television stops being a guilty pleasure.

a. The Meta-narration/clips Episode

Sooner or later all TV shows will fall into this trap. Star Trek The Next Generation did by referencing its predecessor and doing meta-narration on past episodes in its series finale.
Instead of building on what it had - it felt the need to become nostalgic. Same with MASH. Cheers also did it. And Friends? All the blasted time. It's a wonderfully cheap way to kill time, I suspect. But it is never as entertaining as it's meant to be.

BTVS did it a lot in S7. Not only did we get the 15 minute previously on Buffy section, which now included bits from almost all the previously aired episodes, but we got old regenerated clips in the middle of episodes - most notably the Faith sequences in Dirty Girls.

And just in case we didn't notice? They would meta-narrate on past episodes - using obvious mentions of the first - fifth season episodes in the narrative, something that happens a lot with Television. Movies? Not so much since they are self-contained. If part of a serial? A little just to catch you up. Although I noticed to my delight that Peter Jackson avoided doing this in Two Towers, Part II of LoR, he apparently thought it silly and demeaning to the audience to show what happened previously in the first movie. George Lucas set the precedent with Empire Strikes Back - similarly not showing what came before or dwelling on it too much. Odd that tv writers who know we watch their shows in syndication, feel the need to refer to past episodes constantly. Books also don't really do this. JK Rowling did it a little in Harry Potter, but pretty quickly. Most? Don't. And Shakespeare? He avoids doing it too heavily in Henry the V, the sequel to Henry the IV. Yet, most, possibly all TV shows do. Dawson's Creek certainly did. BTVS did. And I suspect next year - Angel the Series will. It seems to be part and parcel of the form. If you dislike this, I suggest you focus your time on movies and books. TV will never change.

b. Flashback Episode

In a recent New York Times article, television critic Emily Nussbaum raves about the flashback. "The flashback episode: it's a television specialty worth looking back on. Perfectly suited to TV's episodic nature, flashbacks bend the rules of television time, creating an instant set of memories and allowing viewers a prison break from TV's seemingly eternal present tense." (42) She ranks them from the previously mentioned low on the totem pole: "dumb clip-show aka filler" to the more profound "flashback episode", which is usually best done by taking the audience inside the characters heads with little more preamble than a line or scene transition. The better episodes - use the flashback to reveal something new about the characters, explain a plot point, or a long unanswered question such as how does Monica on Friends afford that great apartment? Or how did Angel and Spike become vampires?

ME may have overused this device in Season 7, Btvs. In prior years the flashback was used sparingly to explain Angel's background in Season 2 finale Becoming. More importantly, it lent itself to whatever plot was unraveling at the time. It was not just an excuse for the writers to experiment. It did not stop the action - rather flowed from it - establishing for the audience Angel's motivation in Becoming and the irony of his actions. Fool for Love in Season 5 Btvs is another example of the flashback working brilliantly - in this episode key information about Spike's past is revealed which in turn shed's light on what Buffy is up against and the central mythology of the series. Plus none of these episodes rely on previously aired scenes, instead they provide brand new ones which build on the characters. We get both Buffy's motivations and Spike's in the episode. Compare this to Storyteller, Dirty Girls, and Him all of which use previously aired scenes as flashbacks with comic twists akin to a blooper episode. Him flashes back to Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered - succeeding only in reminding the audience of how much better that episode was regarding a similar theme. Dirty Girls flashes back to Bad Girls and Consequences, also far better episodes than how the writers twist them in the flashbacks. Storyteller uses clips from Season 6 throughout the episode. ME attempts to do it's own twist on this form by making the clips comical in retrospect or changing them slightly, but all this does is make me miss the original version. Storyteller does introduce other sequences, several scenes of Andrew talking to Warren behind Jonathan's back, but these don't really lead us anywhere plot-wise or character-wise. Also they tend to be on the repetitive side - since we've already seen these scenes in Conversations with Dead People and Never Leave Me. They do not add to the story. We know why Jonathan and Andrew go to Sunnydale in Conversations With Dead People - Andrew's remembered conversation with Jonathan in Mexico merely repeats that information. The knife that Andrew brings back with him from Mexico and used to kill Jonathan, which is supposed to be the point of the flashback, is never really explained or used in the episode. It appears to be a device or excuse for the writer to do the flashback between Andrew and Jonathan. Instead of using these scenes to explain who Andrew is or his family background or why he ended up with Warren and Jonathan in the first place, the flashbacks appear to provide little more than comic relief. The scenes provide no true depth, do not really tell us anything new, and just feel like more filler, creative, maybe even comical filler, but filler all the same. (43) Contrast this with Lies My Parents Told Me, which through a series of flashbacks caused by a memory device magically inserted in Spike's brain, reveals the source of Spike's psychological trigger and the source of Wood's vendetta against Spike. The flashback sequences do provide depth to the characters and move the plot along. While not as strong and entangled in the plot/mythology as Fool for Love and Becoming's flashbacks, they do serve a clear purpose outside of filler or comical clips. When done well - the flashback sequence is a remarkable device specific to the television medium; it advances both character and plot seamlessly with wit and little artifice. Done badly? It's little more than filler.

c. Character Reunions

These are used principally to obtain ratings. I honestly think that the network brass insists that the writers insert some long-missed character in an episode, specifically one towards the very end of a series run, just to get those ratings, regardless of whether this long- missed character actually fits in the story.

Cheers did it with Diane Chambers in the Cheers Season Finale.
Happy Days with Ron Howard.
Btvs with Angel and Faith.
Star Trek the Next Generation with characters from the first series
Voyager with characters from the other series if available
Xena did it with Hercules
Hercules did it with Xena
Spin City did it with Michael J. Fox in the last season, his character had left two years before.

Sometimes it works beautifully. But usually it feels contrived and the character that comes back or crosses over feels stiff and uncomfortable as if he/she is aware of the contrivance. I have yet to see a television writer or network exec avoid this obvious and admittedly successful ploy for ratings. It has become an expected piece of the television formulaic style. Oh and if the long missed character had been in a romantic relationship with the lead? They immediately fall into bed with them, have sex, or share a passionate kiss as if they never left and the two have been humping like rabbits for the last five years. Diane and Sam immediately went after each other and tried to get married, after barely saying a word to each other for two-three seasons. It's like: 'ohhh look here comes h/ir one true love! Let's all swoon.' Please. Obvious ratings grabber and rarely done well. That said, occasionally writers pull this off. I actually liked the Sam and Diane reunion - it did a wonderful job of reiterating why these two should not be together. Of course Diane was allowed to interact with everyone, was made a central part of the episode and was not just a device, but a strategic part of a plot arc centering on Sam's sex addiction. Also she and Sam did not immediately kiss, they worked up to it. It was earned. No one else has come close to pulling this off as well or demonstrating it as more than just a ratings stunt. ME came close with Faith on Angel The Series and BTVS, but fell short of the mark with Angel's long-awaited cross-over to Buffy, where the character came across as slightly stiff and adolescent in marked contrast to the maturity he'd shown in his own series the week before. Also he only interacted with Buffy, no one else. Outside of the amulet - a plot device that could have reached Sunnydale by other means, Angel's appearance did little to add to the character's growth or the plot. He may have helped Buffy reach a sort of epiphany, but that epiphany would have just as easily been reached in a scene with Xander, Willow or Spike. Angel was not necessary. Except to make ratings climb and tease B/A fans who were oddly split regarding it. The ratings also did not climb. Barely hit 2.9 nationally. (44) Faith by comparison was redeemed by her appearance and interacted with all of the major characters. ME might have been better off letting Angel stay on his series and only bringing Faith and the amulet over.

30 The Sound of The Fury, David Fuy Interview, City of Angel: "I've discovered how long it takes to write a script without killing myself, which is eight days. That's why when I get these stories that break four days into prep, I usually have to go 'Hey Steve [DeKnight], Wanna write this with me?'"; Interview with Anthony Stewart Head on IGN: Discusses filming that took 22 hours. See also James Marsters Q& A at Chicago Convention transcribed by atzone, regarding the television show grind: "You know we worked twelve to twenty hours, five days a week. We begin on 4 am on Monday morning and we get out about 5am Saturday morning, which we call Friday night. You know it's really fun but at the same time there is this quality of exhaustion that is behind everything. My memory of doing the show is a little hazy, frankly. Most of the time I feel like I'm stumbling around and as soon as we get the lines right, we move on and I'm always amazed by how good it looks. I read the scripts and I get these grand ideas on all this stuff I want to do and then the crush of television happens and it's just about trying to get these scenes filmed in the time we have."
31 Documentary on Filming of The Sheild (Trio Network); The Sound of The Fury
32Although at Moonlight Rising Adam Busch told convention goers that he'd been brought back to re-do a line for a scene once. See also, James Marsters Interview, pp.20-21, The Official Buffy Magazine #8, June/July 2003: "If you do movies or plays, you choose what kind of projects you would be willing to do." But on a "television series [....] actors are bound to perform the scripts as they come in." See also the James Marsters Q& A on atzone.
33See Joss Whedon Interview on and where he discusses why this was his last year of BTVS: "TV is such a grind." Marti Noxon in The Official Buffy Magazine #9: states that if they were to do a season 8 it would probably about doing laundry.
34After BTVS ended it was reported on AICN that the writers went on to other shows. Only three of the BTVS writers joined BTVS' spin-series Angel, and one of those three writers just joined BTVS in Season 7. Jane Espenson went to Gilmore Girls, Doug Petrie to Tru Calling, Rebecca Rand Kirshner to Tarzan, Drew Greenberg to Smallville, and Marti Noxon to Still Life. At least five left before BTVS finished filming in Season 7. In numerous interviews - Whedon and Noxon state they were ready to move on, Gellar's decision to quit came more as a relief than a surprise. Official Buffy Magazine #8; AICN interview, IGN Interview with Joss Whedon amongst others.
35 Emma Caulfield, Sara Michelle Gellar, Alyson Hannigan, and Michelle Trachtenberg all commented in exit interviews that they were ready to move on to movies. Emma Caulfield reported that five years was a long time to be in any one place - in her Interview in The Official Buffy Magazine #7 and in TV Zone.
36Here is a partial list of the television shows who did the special episodes on "rape" and how they explored the issue: According to promotional ads - Boston Public will do the "rape story line" in it's season premiere. The episode raises the age old question is it rape or just violent sex? The witness claims it was rape. The victim claims violent sex. It's a new twist torn from the headlines. This week according to TV Guide there's a made for TV movie on the Andrew Luster case about the Max Factor heir who was serial rapist. Currently on Television (July -September 2003) - All My Children and As the World Turns have rape storylines. It's been a soap opera standby for over 30 years. 24 in their very first season had the wife of the lead character get raped. Beverly Hills 90210 (Kelly was the victim of a date rape towards end of series by her boyfriend)Angel The Series (see the flashback episodes Dear Boy, Darla, and Reprise where Angel is shown raping or intending to rape different women - one Drusilla - Dear Boy, two - the gypsy girl Darla, and three Darla in Reprise. He is also mentioned raping and murdering Holtz's wife - but it's not a very special episode, nor emphasized, more implied), Melrose Place, Dallas, Dynasty, Law & Order, All in the Family (in this situation comedy they featured and were proud of dealing with elderly rape, Edith Bunker was raped by an intruder), St. Elsewhere (major character was serial rapist), China Beach, NyPd Blue, and Hill Street Blues (Joyce Davenport was the victim of an assault). BTVS has done five attempted rape scenes/sexual assault's in it's history: 1) Xander attempted to rape Buffy in The Pack - she hit over the head with a desk, 2) Buffy's date attempted to rape her in Go Fish - she punched him in the nose, 3)Faith attempted to rape Xander in Consequences, Angel yanked her off him and knocked her unconscious, 4) Spike attempted to bite Willow in The Initiative in what could be described as a metaphor for date rape. 5) Seeing Red - the infamous sexual assault in the bathroom. Apparently there are no new ideas in TV since they keep relying on what has now become a cliché - how do we put the heroine into jeopardy or show her boyfriend is dangerous? Regardless of the fact he's a vampire? I know let's do a sexual assault. (And they wonder why Seeing Red had such low ratings. See
The whole marital rape or boyfriend/girlfriend violent relationship drama was actually done best on a soap opera, partly because the writers had a 20 year time period to do it and the flexibility of writing the characters out over the long haul. And no, it's not General Hospital, which did it so poorly, that years later a new writer came in and attempted to re-address it. No, the soap that did it right was The Guiding Light, when the misunderstood/villainous Roger Thorpe raped his wife Holly, out of jealousy and rage. Holly was married bad-boy Roger, but wanted good boy Ed. Out of rage and jealousy - Roger raped her. She turned him in. He escaped and kidnapped her. Ed saved her and Roger appeared to fall off a cliff. Only to return in true soap fashion fifteen years later. Holly also returns and they are forced to deal with what happened all those years ago. The two characters had a rich and complex relationship that spanned over 20 years, included a child and concluded with forgiveness and both characters finally moving on. No one else has done it as well as they did. Nor did it ever come across as believably and naturally and not as a contrivance as it did here. The writers responsibly had both characters deal with the crime in more than one way, first violently, then responsibly. Which is surprising since Guiding Light is a soap opera, the oldest one actually - started on radio.
37 Comic Con Q&A with Joss Whedon and ATS writers in San Diego, June 2003, (courtesy of who posted a transcript): "It's something that we had been debating for years and we figured our ambivalence was exactly what we wanted to project and we used that on the show. We knew that we couldn't come back from an attempted rape to a romantic sexual relationship. But what we did want to say was that we could come back to a place of trust between these people. That man could redeem himself. And in time what went on with Spike and Buffy was very textured and complicated you couldn't just say, 'Well now he's the villain again.' I think that does a disservice to the complexity of what went on and we went back and forth endlessly. Should they get together once, should they never get together, should she serve her emotional need, should she feel guilty bout that emotional need? Hopefully some of that spilled out into the show because it is probably the most complex question that is asked in the entire run of the show."
38 See note 36, also: General Hospital - in 1996-99 the show revisited Laura's rape by Luke through Luke and Lucky's eyes. It came close to destroying their relationship and tormented Luke. In this version - we were forced to relive the crime through Luke's eyes, Laura's husband at the time- Scotty's eyes, and through Laura's. It was an attempt to show a complex topic from a new angle. One Life to Live - the rape of Marty by Todd Manning, was explored through Todd's eyes and Marty Seabrook's. Todd eventually redeems himself by selflessly taking a bullet for Marty and in the process giving up his happy life with child and wife Blair, who had nothing to do with his past crime. Even after his redemption - he is forced to wear Marti's scar on his cheek as a reminder. Guiding Light, 1989-1997 dealt with Roger's remorse over the rape of Holly that occurred fifteen years ago. Rape and attempted rape storylines are soap opera stand-bys. Jack Devereux of the romantic Jack and Jenn duo on Days of Our Lives, also was a rapist, he raped his first wife way back when he was first introduced. He was also redeemed eventually.
39 See Darla, Dear Boy, Ats S2 Becoming Part II S2Btvs, Passion S2 Btvs, and Offspring-Lullaby S3 Ats which detail several of Angelus/Angel's misdeeds.
40Finn MaCool's media savvy post on discussion board in May 2003; See also KdS' post in response to Claudia's thread Btvs Impressions, 8/7/03, on discussion board: "The Seeing Red rape scene. Recent discussions here have convinced me that the brutal naturalism of that scene was a truly disastrous decision if the way Spike and Spuffy were to be developed in S7 was already planned." See also Entertainment Geekly's review: "Sarah: Speaking of disastrous, my most hated plot device this season actually has to do with Spike, and Dan, I believe this relates directly to your lazy writing comment. There were a few elements that were obvious, "let's get from point a to point b" type of things, but none so much so as that wretched Spike/Buffy attempted rape scene. OK, first of all, what was that? Has Meredith Baxter-Birney suddenly replaced SMG in the credits? This was probably the biggest TV movie moment ever to grace Buffy. Even worse, it didn't make any sense. You could see the little wheels turning in the exposed writerly brain: OK, we need to get rid of Spike for a couple of episodes. OK, you know what? We really need to remind people that he's bad. He's a vampire! Forget the fact that he hasn't done anything much badder than walking around with an exposed torso for a coupla years. To me, that was just a dumb, gratuitous plot device. So obvious. Really hated it. Dan: Yeah, the attempted rape struck me as cheap, unmotivated melodrama. I almost can't comment on Spike's development because I can't accept that that actually happened. And I'm really not looking forward to another brooding guilt-racked vampire wandering the Buffy universe."
41 Sam Malone - had an alcohol problem in Season 2 Cheers - where he fell off the wagon, in Season 10 he was attending sex addicts group - both were done more for laughs than pathos. Mash - had Hawkeye Pierce go through post-traumatic stress syndrome & Father Macaughy lose his hearing in the final episode. Family Ties had Alex P. Keaton go nuts over grief and have to see a psychiatrist. Growing Pains dealt with eating disorders. Blossom - drugs.
42 Emily Nussbaum, "Thanks for the Instant Memories", New York Times Arts Section, August 10th, 2003.
43 As Emily Nussbaum states, regarding the use of flashbacks by reality dating shows and sitcoms : "Prevalent in 80's sitcoms, clip shows paste older scenes together with a corny trigger [...] a narrative technique so transparently dorky that contemporary shows can perform it only with a wink. As if reality dating shows haven't done enough damage, they've generated their own clip format: the penultimate-episode rip-off, in which the audience is force fed reshuffled memories from the week before, a display necessary only for a viewer with severely compromised short-term memory." See note 35 for cite.
44 See which calculates the Neilsen ratings for the shows.

[> [> not edith -- anom, 22:49:20 08/24/03 Sun

I know, s'kat, you said read the whole thing 1st. I'm just a little over halfway through, but I have to pick a slight quibble w/a couple of the examples you cite.

"...All in the Family (in this situation comedy they featured and were proud of dealing with elderly rape, Edith Bunker was raped by an intruder)...."

Edith wasn't raped. She stalled until her oven timer rang, got the would-be rapist to let her take the freshly baked, hot cake out...& shoved it into his face, giving her the chance to escape! (I also have to object to the word "elderly"; Edith was middle-aged at most, in her 50s, I think. The episode actually takes place on her birthday, but I don't remember which birthday. The would-be rapist does tell her he likes "older women," but I think that just means older than his own age range. BTW, the series also had an episode in which Gloria was sexually assaulted [also unsuccessfully] on the street, & made reference to it in a later episode when she says she still feels scared passing the place where it happened.)

"Odd, considering viewers had no problem forgiving...Angelus' rapes of Drusilla, Holtz's wife and daughter...."

I don't think there's any implication that he raped Holtz's daughter (literally, as distinguished from metaphorically by vamping her). Not that Angelus might not have, but there's nothing that specifically suggests he did. And is it even a question of viewers' forgiving these acts? Or do you mean that Angel isn't held responsible for them? Does it count as forgiveness if he isn't considered the same person?

Overall, this is an amazing series, shadowkat. I hope I can finish it before it's archived so I can comment more generally--& given how it's taken over the board, there's probably a good chance!

[> [> [> Re: not edith -- s'kat, 09:50:36 08/25/03 Mon

Overall, this is an amazing series, shadowkat. I hope I can finish it before it's archived so I can comment more generally--& given how it's taken over the board, there's probably a good chance!

Thank you! It is on Angel After Spike board as well and will probably last there even a little longer - if you need to comment.

Also thanks for the added information on All in The Family - actually the statement I used is a semi-quote from reviewers who say ALL IN THE FAMILY was the first to show an older woman get attacked. (I was sure she got raped in that episode, but it has been several years since I saw it, so I'll take your word for it.) Also thanks for the information on Gloria (I had a hunch she got it too, but
decided not to mention it since I couldn't remember for certain.)

Another drama that I left out was The Practice - where Lindsey is date-raped via the date-rape drug.

Odd, considering viewers had no problem forgiving...Angelus' rapes of Drusilla, Holtz's wife and daughter...."

I don't think there's any implication that he raped Holtz's daughter (literally, as distinguished from metaphorically by vamping her). Not that Angelus might not have, but there's nothing that specifically suggests he did. And is it even a question of viewers' forgiving these acts? Or do you mean that Angel isn't held responsible for them? Does it count as forgiveness if he isn't considered the same person?

You're right he probably didn't rape the daughter - I was using vampirism as a metaphor for rape, sorry for not making that clearer - the show jumps back and forth regarding it - wish they'd stay consistent.

Well, here's the thing - if you can't hold Angel responsible, how can you hold Spike? Both didn't have souls at the time. Both get souls. If you hold ensouledSpike responsible, you have to hold Angel - otherwise...a little hypocritical, don't you think?? Same with Xander and the hyena. The only character who attempted rape with a soul and not under demonic influence was Faith.

But how they filmed the AR scene caused viewers to reacte differently. Yet - if you think about it, Spike's act was no worse than Angelus or Faith or Xanders in any way.

Does it count as forgiveness if he isn't considered the same person? Interesting. Don't know the answer to that.
I guess this is a question we've been struggling with for some time in our society. A while back there was a woman who was going to be executed for a vile and very violent murder - what was famous about her case, was she really wasn't the same person who had committed that crime. She had changed. When she committed the crime, she'd been under the influence of drugs, was out of control. Now she tutors in-mates, has helped juveniles, etc. She became a Christian.
A good person. The Warden of the Prison did not want to execute her. Numerous conservatives petitioned the Governor to let her off the hook. But they couldn't. Texas had the death penalty. She had committed this horrible crime. It did not matter how much she had changed.

Another real-life case - is the case of the 1960s activist who had robbed banks and bombed buildings, went on the run, changed her name, her identity, and changed. Years later they find her, married, two kids, a normal loving housewife with a job. But she is still arrested and held responsible for those crimes she did while a teenager, a young adult.
Would she have done them now? No, of course not. But she had done them then.

We are who we are - no matter how much we appear to have changed. So yes, we are responsible for past acts even if they were done when we felt differently about things. Does that mean we shouldn't be forgiven for them? Of course not.
If anything we should. But by the same token we should not get a "get out of jail free card" just because we've moved past them or got away with it way back when. I believe that all our acts should be weighed not just the bad or just the good. People should be granted the opportunity to redeem themselves, to become better people, to overcome their negative acts. To regret them and show by their deeds they've become better than that and won't do it again. That's one of the many reasons why I'm against the death penalty and always will be. But that's a whole other debate that I do not advise getting into. ;-)

[> [> [> [> Re: not edith -- anom, 21:55:09 08/25/03 Mon

"It is on Angel After Spike board as well and will probably last there even a little longer - if you need to comment."

Yeah, but I want to comment here! I've read the whole series now, & I'm feeling like I should've taken notes! I'll see what I can get written in response; meanwhile, I'll just answer your response to me.

"(I was sure [Edith Bunker] got raped in that episode, but it has been several years since I saw it, so I'll take your word for it.) Also thanks for the information on Gloria (I had a hunch she got it too, but decided not to mention it since I couldn't remember for certain.)"

I can. @>) In fact, I'm kind of amazed at how clearly I remember it. Maybe a comedy, even an issues-oriented one, couldn't go so far as to have a main character raped, although there was an episode where a transvestite friend of Mike's was attacked; when the attackers tried to rape the friend & found out "she" was a man, they killed him. The attempted rape of Edith was pretty intense, though, even if it didn't get very physical. To me, the most frightening line was when the rapist told her, after she'd stalled him a while, "Look, this is gonna happen." I was so proud of her when it didn't! She played her dingbat image enough to make him think it couldn't hurt to let her take the cake out of the oven; then she used it as a weapon! Gotta admire her resourcefulness.

"You're right he probably didn't rape the daughter - I was using vampirism as a metaphor for rape, sorry for not making that clearer - the show jumps back and forth regarding it - wish they'd stay consistent."

From the context, it sounded like you were talking about literal rapes. If you're using it as a metaphor, well, every turning of a victim or even every vampire bite could be counted. I'd even say the "impotence" scene between Spike & Willow wasn't intended to portray a literal rape attempt (as some posters have treated it) but rather played w/the metaphor. Otherwise there wouldn't have been the shifting of gears that made it funny.

As for the question of who gets forgiven, I agree that it's hypocritical to forgive in one case but not the other. I wonder if some people are less willing to forgive in Spike's case because it's more recent--he hasn't had as much time to agonize over it as Angel has. The fact that the attack was shown so graphically--no cutting away after it started--could also have influenced opinions. Good point about Faith. She's certainly the same person (in the literal sense, no possession or absence of soul), yet there doesn't even seem to be any residual animosity toward her from Xander, or from anyone else on his account, when she returns in Season 7.

And I really like how you took my question as an opportunity to talk about real people who changed after their crimes! In this sense, it could be argued that Faith isn't the same person she was before the Sanctuary arc. I agree that people who've harmed others still bear the responsibility for their acts--in fact, if they don't take that responsibility, they haven't really changed. And they should--maybe even need to--face the consequences, to themselves & others. This applies not only to the legal consequences & penalties but more generally. A person who has abused or betrayed others may genuinely change, but the people s/he hurt aren't likely to accept that change or to trust that person until s/he has proved s/he won't hurt them again--& that may take a long time, if they're even willing to give s/him the chance to prove it. There are plenty of examples of this in real life & in the TV series you've been discussing--too many to cite, so I won't.

[> [> [> [> [> Angelus did rape Holtz's wife -- Finn Mac Cool, 22:45:23 08/25/03 Mon

Holtz specifically says that Angelus, "violated and killed my wife".

[> Part IV: Difficulties of Operating Within Structure and Boundaries of TV Formula -- s'kat (no footnotes in this section), 10:09:36 08/23/03 Sat

Part IV Difficulties of Operating Within Structure and Boundaries of Television Formula

Television serials have a basic structure and formula, which no matter how creative and innovative the writers are - they can't really break. Advertisers and network execs won't let you.

A. The General Television Formula

With the possible exception of reality shows, which are in a class by themselves, you have 13-22 episodes, 6 if you are in the UK, to produce a year, 43 minutes each to tell a story. The story may be told in an episodic stand-alone format, a serialized format, or a combo of the two. It may contain:

1. One central character - usually the one in the title - with a bunch of supporting characters
2. A central character, supporting and guest stars,
3. Change the lead and supporting characters each episode,
4. Just change the supporting characters each episode and have only one contracted character,
5. Have an ensemble with no one as the lead.

B. If the story has a lead or central character it will most likely fit one of the following formulas. All have been done numerous times and all are comforting tried and true methods to the network brass and advertisers. (ie. Guaranteed audience getters.)

1. The "Cursed Hero On A Quest" or "Quest of The Cursed Hero"

This formula usually has the name of the central character or their profession in the title. It is most generally a combo of episodic and stand-alone, rarely is it serialized except in a few instances. The over-arcing plot is the hero's quest for whatever it is s/he is lacking and this part is important: the hero cannot resolve or obtain hi/r goal until the final episode of the series or it is over. In some cases the hero may never obtain it.

Requirements of the formula:

a. The hero must be stoic and brooding and the straight man, seldom is the central character snarky or amusing. They must be serious-minded and guilt-ridden.

b. Usually, not always, the hero has a dark side - a Mr. Hyde just lurking beneath the surface that makes hi/r dangerous. The villain does not want to push the hero too far. "You really don't want to make me angry!" (David Banner, The Incredible Hulk)

c. The hero has a secret that he can't tell anyone - something that keeps him apart from society and any potential love interest. This secret explains the Mr. Hyde persona.

d. If there's more than one character in the cast - these characters act as the heroes support group or trusted allies in hi/r quest for whatever.

e. The hero may be an anti-hero or just misunderstood with a tragic flaw that keeps h/ir from accomplishing hi/r objective. Usually the flaw is hubris or vanity, something basic to the human condition, which the audience identifies with. But deep down, the audience must believe the hero is good. (Series where the central character's moral condition is too ambiguous or negative rarely survive - advertisers feel uncomfortable with it. Sopranos and Blackadder are rarities and neither has appeared on US network television. The ones that have are Maverick and Nichols. Nichols was a western that aired in 1971 and barely made it to 13 episodes. The main hero was considered too ambiguous. Maverick was a Western with more than one hero.)

f. Important: while the hero can't be too ambiguous or become evil in any way, the supporting characters can. The supporting characters can also be depicted as fools or clowns, as long as they never supersede the hero or take over the spotlight. Why? Because that would be very bad and subvert the formula and we mustn't do that. Fans might revolt and who would buy the advertisers products? When you have a central character in the title - the series is built around them - it is essentially all about them. Veer from that formula and you might get a fan revolt and lose advertisers. Bottom line - bring as many people to the advertisers as possible that is your mission.

Examples of this formula: Angel The Series, The Pretender, John Doe, The Fugitive, Forever Knight, Highlander, Xena: Warrior Princess (which actually tried to subvert the formula and make Gabrielle the lead, but didn't completely - everything else fits), Have Gun Will Travel, The Equalizer, The Incredible Hulk, Brimstone, Millenium, Miracles, and Quantum Leap. Genre TV loves this formula. And no, Angel The Series has not in my opinion subverted it in any way - now if Spike, Lorne, Fred, Connor or Wes took over? That would be a subversion but remember point (f)? Very bad things would happen. If they turn it into an ensemble? That would also be a subversion. If Angel became the villain? Yep, subversion. But I wouldn't worry - it looks to me as if ME is bound and determined to continue with the formula. The most experimental they'll get is adding a little comedy and whoops! Quantum Leap, Highlander, and Xena beat them to it.

2. The Hero's Journey :

Basically we have a hero who has some sort of mission, be it a job, a calling, a task which they alone can do. They aren't cursed. They don't have a Mr. Hyde lurking beneath the surface. They just have this sacred mission.

Requirements of the formula - pretty close to the Cursed Hero actually. The hero is usually the title character. They may or may not have a bunch of sidekicks who help them. It's important the hero/heroine themselves never turns completely evil or villainous, although they can get a little nasty from time to time. They must NEVER be happy.

a. Unlucky in love. The more unresolved the hero's romantic life, the better. As long as the show is on the air - the hero will be unlucky in love. Everyone else in the hero's life can be lucky in love but the hero. Often the hero's best friend will either be married, be engaged, be happy, or have a long-term relationship in the series, while the hero flits from one bad relationship to the next. If there's a long-term love relationship? It will never be resolved, the writers will pull out every possible contrivance to keep the two apart and preferably from having sex - since once you have sex - things tend to get dull.

b. Unrequited love triangles are really popular under this formula. Usually it's between the hero, someone the hero wants but can never have, and someone who wants the hero but the hero can't see because of the unattainable object. With love triangles the trick is to have no one happy. The writer's job is to keep all three characters conflicted as long as possible. It helps if it's a quadrangle - thus removing too much sympathy from the character who wants the hero but the hero won't give the time of day. The hero must have the audience's sympathy. Triangles are seldom resolved and only when the writers come up with a new one.

c. If the hero has sex - bad things happen and mostly to the significant other. They will either go evil, attempt to rape her (if the hero is a her), get killed (if a guy), sacrifice themselves to save the hero, or abandon the hero due to a misunderstanding. Rarely does the significant other get more than half a year of sex with the hero. Remember point a? Must be miserable. Woe to the character who falls in love with or gets sexually involved with the hero, they are doomed.

d. Supporting characters tend to evolve more than the hero.

e. The hero is a bit of a martyr - no one else can do their job, they are alone, they are constantly saving people but never getting any money or thanks for it. The cops or authorities are constantly against them.

f. Cops are stupid - if the hero isn't a cop or FBI agent, but lone wolf. If the hero is a cop or agent - Cops are bright. Depends on who the hero is and who the hero's associates are.

g. The hero has some quality that requires the audience to suspend disbelief. Superstrength, super-smarts, super-sight, etc.

h. The hero is misunderstood by their friends and feels like an outsider. (See Martyr)

i. The hero will risk h/ir life to save everyone, good or evil. The hero is the voice of reason and judgment, redeems the villain, saves the day.

j. The hero must be likable and usually has some tragic but completely understandable flaw that makes the audience sympathize with them.

k. The hero can often come across as self-involved, but never to the extent they alienate the audience. The majority of the audience must either strongly identify with or fall in love with the hero.

l. The hero must always win in the end. Rarely does the hero lose. The audience must root for the hero and want the hero to win. Mustn't depress the audience.

Examples of the Formula: Buffy The Vampire Slayer, La Femme Nikita, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Dark Angel, Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Smallville, Six Million Dollar Man, Bionic Woman, and now - Jake 2.0, Tarzan, and Tru Calling.

3. The Hero as Detective

This one is usually more realistic or more based in our reality. It also tends to be far more episodic in nature with no clear plot arcs. This formula has pretty much the same qualifications as 1 and 2, with the difference being that the super-human quality is usually just super-smarts or Sherlock Holmes complex. Ie. This character can solve the crime when no one else can. Examples: Monk, Diagnosis Murder, Murder She Wrote, The Rockford Files, Columbo, and Profiler .

We also have the duo - a male/female detective team, which was created by Dashielle Hammett in the Nick and Nora Charles mysteries: The duo involves two heroes, usually a romantically inclined couple that investigate crimes, the duo can be either very bright or stupid or just of normal intelligence. They usually do it together and neither overshadows the other. The humor is their witty repartee and or sexual chemistry. In order to preserve the sexual chemistry and/or tension between the characters - they seldom are shown having sex or consummating the relationship - at least not until the series ends. Examples of this form include: The X-Files, Remington Steel, Moonlighting, MacMillian and Wife, Hart and Hart.

The important thing to remember about television dramas with a central character - is that each has a tried but true formula. A few TV shows have attempted to jump away from the formulas, examples include Xena: Warrior Princess and The X-Files. Xena did it by making the story as much if not more about the sidekick than the cursed heroine, also it killed Xena in the end, redeeming her through her sidekick. The other stretch Xena made was the love story was more between Xena and Gabrielle than Xena and Hercules, if it had stuck with the formula - Xena would have remained more or less in love with Hercules throughout, ie. The unattainable object, reason for the redemption, trophy. X-Files does it by making Mulder and Scully question the cases they are investigating. Most of the suspense in the X-Files came from the mythology as opposed to the chemistry between the actors. Viewers were more concerned about whether aliens had manipulated Scully's brain or stolen her child than if she would have sex with Mulder. The serial nature of the X-Files took it a step beyond the usually episodic nature of the duo formula. The creator, Chris Carter, continued to subvert it by mixing comedy and heart-wrenching drama and chills. X-Files contained at least three genres within its format: the horror genre, the sci-fi, and the detective story. By doing so, it successfully stepped outside the formula. On top of this - it attempted to change the lead characters - a big mistake in this format. You can only change principal characters and leads if the formula is an ensemble and within a workplace setting, which focuses more on the procedures/ins and outs of the workplace and less on the characters- ie. Law and Order, ER, The West Wing, or CSI - the reason is the audience can accept the characters changing in these formats - they are less invested in the characters and more invested in the setting. In these dramas the setting mustn't change. X-Files attempted to change lead characters in a duo detective drama where the audience was mainly invested in the two lead characters. As a result the last two seasons of the show dipped in ratings. By attempting this - the writers/producers subverted the formula but not in a good way. The new characters, while interesting, just left the audience missing the old ones. When you attempt to break free of the rules of your formula - you must provide the viewers with a hook or a reason to follow you. Remember they don't have to watch and the point is to get as many of them to watch as possible.

So did BTVS subvert its "hero" formula? Not really. BTVS came close but may have missed the opportunity to truly subvert the formula. If Spike had been redeemed sans soul and had never raped Buffy? Maybe. If Willow had merely gone dark on power without losing Tara or following the route of the classic addiction storyline? Maybe. If Warren hadn't shot anyone? Maybe. All these are soap clichés and ME fell right into them as discussed in Part III. Not that there's anything wrong with that. It's television - everyone does it. It's part and parcel of the formula. Same with Angel - if Angel starts to fall into the background? Then yes they've subverted the formula. If Angel goes evil? Yep. If Angel never gets redeemed? nope. If Angel gets redeemed? nope. It's hard being different when so many people have gotten there before you. Not that you have to be of course, after all the advertisers prefer it if you're not. Besides - you don't have to subvert the formula to be cool and entertaining. You do have to subvert it to be legendary. But you also have to do it well and preferably without losing your audience in the process. (Which is what happened to both Xena and X-Files).

Don't get me wrong, I love both ATS and BTVS, think they are amazing, and believe they have subverted other things, but they have not subverted the essential television formula they base themselves on. Both shows still fall victim to the clichés. They don't really try to jump outside the box that supports them. And in a sense ME is justified in not jumping too far outside that box, ATS and BTVS have never been high in the ratings department and they are cult/genre TV shows. Cult TV shows are already on the networks hit list, they are already being subversive just by being a cult tv show, you don't want to push your luck.

In order to subvert the formula - ME would have had to do a few things that probably would have pissed off a good portion of their fan base not to mention the networks and advertisers. Buffy did not really do anything that heroes before haven't done. Nor did she veer in any way from the traditional hero's journey. Also the show remained the Buffy show, it did not become the Xander, Willow, Giles or Spike show, Buffy was still the central focus. We still saw everything through her eyes. It didn't take any serious risks against the form - ie. casting moral doubt on Buffy's slayer calling by redeeming Spike sans soul, or ending the show with Buffy waking up in an insane asylum. Or killing off any of the principal human characters such as Willow, Xander, Giles, Dawn, or Buffy in the finale. No serious risks that could alienate fans or advertising dollars. (Oddly enough the risks they took that did alienate fans - were the soap opera clichés not the creative risks that other programs have taken.) Xena came far closer to subverting the formula than Buffy did and actually is more legendary due to the risks it took - risks that pissed off the fan base. It killed its heroine, it made the supporting character Gabrielle more important at the end and the survivor. Angel the Series hasn't done anything to subvert the formula either. Not really. It's no different formulaically than the shows that came before or will come after it. The closest Angel came to subverting it's formula was turning the sidekick/love interest Cordelia evil, but this actually sticks with the formula if you think about it - remember the hero can never be happy? The significant other of the hero is doomed? The moment Cordy became Angel's love interest - she was doomed. Same thing with Spike on Buffy, the moment he became Buffy's romantic interest - he was doomed. They came very close to subverting the formula with Spike, but they pulled back. If Spike had been redeemed without a soul, if Spike had been redeemed without dying - and if they managed to pull it off without unraveling their universe or losing the audience in the process? If the show became the Willow show and Buffy took a back seat. Or Xander came front and center. Or Anya? Then yes, BTVS may have risen above its formula and the dictates of the television form. Same goes with Angel the Series. So far? Neither show has accomplished it. Not entirely their fault, they are after all slaves to the formula.

[> [> Changing main characters -- Ace_of_Sevens, 12:04:40 08/24/03 Sun

Many shows do sort of successfully change main characters. The problem is that if you hve a main character, your show is probably abotu a character. make it a different character, and you have a different show. Usually shows in this situation will change the name and call it a spin-off.

Profiler did successfully change leads and keep the name, but that's about the only one I can think of. Unless you count Babylon 5, but that's more of an ensemble.

[> [> [> Didn't Blakes Seven kill Blake in the third episode? -- Anon, 12:15:04 08/24/03 Sun

[> [> [> [> No, (complications within) -- KdS, 12:22:30 08/24/03 Sun

At the end of the second (of four) seasons he was missing. In the final episode of the third season, we thought he was back, but it turned out to be an impersonator. In the final episode ever, he turned up again, the characters assumed he was either an impersonator or corrupt, killed him, and then discovered it was the real Blake and he was still a Good Guy. Oops.

[> [> What you call 'subverting the formula' I call 'jumping the shark.' -- ZachsMind, 19:45:53 08/24/03 Sun

Otherwise, this is a VERY impressive read. Great essay. Perhaps one of the best essays ever to grace this forum.

[> [> [> Thank you!! on jumping the shark point? -- s'kat, 21:32:36 08/24/03 Sun

I sort of agree actually. I've been mulling it over and I honestly can't come up with any show that has successfully broken with the formula without jumping the shark.

Xena - arguably did. Read Rob's excellent analysis and Ace of Sevens who both make that point in depth. Although Rob points out and very well I might add, that Xena should not be dismissed - it did push through some barriers. Without Xena we may not have gotten Buffy. Who knows?

Twin PEaks - also arguably did in it's second season, derailing into a mis-mash of metaphorical images but no clear cohesion.

You could argue that the Prisoner broke with these boundaries or Red Dwarf did (having never seen Red Dwarf, I have no idea) but both are UK series not US and I believe that makes a difference.

And X-Files? Well it can arguably be said that it lost viewers when it attempted to change its formula. Although I'm not sure it broke with it.

So, I'm beginning to think you may be right - you really can't break with the formula without jumping the shark or losing your story and/or audience in the process. Perhaps the structure/formula is a necessary safe-guard?

[> [> [> [> Formula, Golden Turkies and Bubble Programming -- ZachsMind, 07:19:56 08/25/03 Mon

In looking over your examples listed in your previous response, my brain went off on a curious track. Xena. X-Files. Twin Peaks. Red Dwarf. Prisoner. This list intrigues me because in my opinion these shows jumped the shark almost from their inception. It is the very premise of a show like The Prisoner which becomes impossible to accept that makes it so breathtakingly wonderful. That one man would be powerful enough not to be just murdered outright, but be so knowledgeable as to be a risk to governments unmentionable. Ultimately, The Village is unbelieveable with it's white balloon guards and eccentric characters, but it's this very quirkyness about the series which lends to its undying charm. Likewise for Red Dwarf. It is ultimately about the plight of one man, the last Earth man alive, and how he survives his own prison alone in space. Again, the characters are eccentric, the predicament is completely unbelieveable, and the very laws of physics within the confines of the series itself seem to be made up as they go along. Yet it is this very lack of seriousness which makes it such a fun ride, every episode. There are some shows which buck the formula not just by attempting to create their own, but by surrounding a formula with unique characters and environments.

Forty or fifty years ago many movies were made for low budget and they were sped through the process of film making, leading to many internal mistakes and consistency errors. Some of these are lost to obscurity while others retain a loyal cult following. Manos the Hands of Fate, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, and the works of Ed Wood come to mind. There are many others, which I lovingly call "Golden Turkeys."

There are many 'straight to syndication' series which by their very nature tend to jump the shark from day one, by design. I equate them to be the B-rated movies of our generation. Xena is a wonderful example - an enjoyable sho and a largely successful series in many ways, but also suffers from a campiness which while appealing to its core cultish audience, caused it to never quite achieve the mainstream. Hercules, Beastmaster, Lost World, Mutant X, Baywatch, Sheena, and She Spies are just a few examples of series which have qualities about them a niche audience appreciates, but yet fail to allow suspension of disbelief for most. There are some who would include Buffy & Angel in their company. However, Buffy & Angel are on the bubble. They're still not quite able to approach the mainstream successfully, but they kick and punch against that membrane that separates the two.

And for these series I've mentioned, since they're already breaking past accepted norms of entertainment which cause other programs to wallow in formula, if these series were to break formula it really doesn't matter. I mean they will of course never achieve mainstream if they break from formula, but they weren't really successful at that anyway. Again, Buffy & Angel differ, because though like these other series I've mentioned they were trying to impress the crowds with death defying stunts, Buffy & Angel were attempting to accomplish this while still driving the speed limit. So they run a much finer line between the boring but successful sitcom or cop shows, and the more daring but less successful 'straight to syndication' programming.

Other examples of bubble programs include Enterprise, Charmed, Twin Peaks, Firefly and Birds of Prey. If examined in more detail, comparisons and contrasts of these series would perhaps show the success and failure of adhering to or breaking from formula at inopportune times. Birds of Prey didn't really ever have a specific formula, and wallowed in its writing so that it couldn't keep an audience's attention. Firefly was besieged by external forces and never given a chance to fly. Charmed is formulaic, but deliciously eccentric, which appeals to a niche following.

Twin Peaks ultimately existed to entertain David Lynch, and much of the audience got left behind, except for those who could keep up, and those who found their own way to enjoy what was otherwise artistic masturbation on the part of Mr. Lynch.

The shows 24, X-Files and Alias are examples of bubble programming which break into the mainstream. I am predicting that shows like Still Life, Tru Calling and Tarzan will also turn out to be bubble programs, either breaking into the mainstream after three or four fretful seasons, or crashnburning into obscurity after an unsuccessful half season run. These shows fight to create formulas which are uniquely their own, but ultimately can get categorized into something that has gone on before. There Is Nothing New Under The Sun, but old stuff can appear new in different packaging.

[> [> [> [> [> Interesting, I agree...curious how you'd catergorize... -- s'kat, 08:30:06 08/25/03 Mon

There Is Nothing New Under The Sun, but old stuff can appear new in different packaging. Or as an old Creative writing prof of mine once said - There are no new ideas, just new ways of telling them.

I give BTVS and ATS a great deal of credit for kicking at the bubble and remaining somewhere between mainstream and cult without ever falling into one or other - which in a sense might be a way of giving a new twist to an old formula?

You're also right when you state that the shows which arguably have broken with formula - did it at their inception. They started there. Creating their own formula more or less. Hercules brought back the campy formula of the 1950s/60s cult action adventure shows. Another series
about detectives hunting monsters that was on UPN for a season and a half and I can't for the life of me remember the name of - tried it with cult horror shows. While you could say and some do - that BTVS and ATS were campy horror, it doesn't quite hold up - Charmed maybe, but the other two seem to be above the camp, they don't quite take themselves so seriously (which falls into camp) but by the same notion they introduce topics and themes which are serious and camp would never accomplish.

Anyways this brings me to my question about a couple of programs that I think did break with their formulas and didn't do it at their inception - I did not include them in my essay because they are all without exception ensembles - which is whole other formulaic form and may actually provide more room for breakage than the central character formula does. At least that was my impression.

1. MASH - up until MASH, situation comedies that dealt with war, did it as pure slapstick or comedy (ie. Hogan's Heros,
Gomer Pyle come to mind) MASH turned the situation comedy into the dramedy. An ensemble half-hour comedy/drama that poked fun at war, brought war into Americas living rooms, and showed blood and guts. Like the movie it was based on - it challenged the public's perception of war and comedy.
And it lasted 11 years - longer than the Korean War it portrayed.

2. St. Elsewhere - prior to St. Elsewhere the hospital drama was usually a central character drama a la Dr. Kildare or just a bunch of nice interns or maybe a soap.
Here it was an ensemble drama with comedic undertones in places and pushed at the barriers - not all the characters in the ensemble were nice, one was a serial rapist. Another was an overbearing louse. Also for it's final episode it did something we haven't seen outside of the twilight zone - it introduced the concept that the entire series took place inside an autistic childs' brain.

3. Hill Street Blues - re-designed the cop drama as pure ensemble. This show did for cop dramas what Robert Altman, the filmmaker did for NAshville and war movies. Hill Street had over 20 characters - no true central character. It killed main characters off like a soap opera yet was not a soap opera. Characters were shown with warts and blemishes and their storylines intermingled, jumping from one to the next. It wasn't like the older cop shows which if an ensemble - usually had a lead or focused on one story each week or were episodic in nature. Hill Street was serialized. If you hadn't caught the week before, you'd get lost. But the focus was more on the work the cops did, the daily chores of their lives, the banter in the cafeteria or in the main room - Bocho, the creator was interested in the daily lives of the beat cop on up to the commander - and instead of falling into melodrama or soap opera - the story stayed focused on the characters and procedures.

4. Dallas - true it was a soap and we've seen these before, but this one has as it's lead an amoral character who slept around, stole, double-dealed, manipulated, etc. A character everyone including the audience loved to hate. Before Dallas the lead wasn't an anti-hero, he/she was an upstanding citizen. OR a misunderstood hero. Dallas changed the rules.

5. All in The Family - a situation comedy about a sympathetic bigot. This comedy also pushed at the barriers
of what was considered comedy and drama. IT had dozens of very special episodes, but Norman Lear, the creator made them work. IT starred unattractive family who were unwholesome and normal. A complete switch from the family oriented situation comedies that came before it. It also had grown children as opposed to little kids.

6. Seinfield - prior to Seinfield, situation comedies fell into two categories - family or work-place. Seinfield was neither. Seinfield was a comedy about nothing, the situations it made fun of were everyday things like hunting your car in a parking garage or why cereal comes in a box or why the local guy at the corner who sells soup is such a pain. It also was about characters that weren't necessarily likable.

7. Roseanne - did for the family situation comedy what All In The Family had done years ago. It was also raw. The parents weren't attractive, the kids weren't cute, we didn't have a nice moral. It handled controversial issues and challenged what we consider funny. Crass and loud, it pushed family situation comedies out of the box.

8. ER - in the beginning this show also pushed at the barriers of formula. Speeding up the work-place drama, forcing the action to take place in the ER and making the setting as chaotic as possible. It also refused to focus too long on any one story or patient, drifting quickly from one to the next - often introducing something that appeared dramatic and moving only to make it comical or to move away to something else. In it's first two seasons it arguably re-set the tone for the work-place drama, later seasons it became increasingly melodramatic and soap operaish, but the first two? Arguably different.

9. Homicide Life on The Street - down-sized Hill Street and Took it to a darker place. Much gritter than NYPD Blue and far more realistic in tone. The predecessor to Law and Order, filmed in somewhat the same gritty handheld camera style. Homicide was a show that was a bit like watching snapshots of cop life. The characters were raw and unattractive and real. The looked beat down by the job.
One episode dealt with the characters struggling through a hot slow night and little happened. It was like Hill Street before it - innovative in how no one was a true hero or villain, just human and detailed in how it described the nitty gritty nonsense of a detective's life in an urban area.

My question is - did any of these dramas/comedies break their formulas? OR did they just redefine the boundaries?
ie. Make the most of the formula instead of just being comfortable inside it?


[> [> [> [> [> [> Hill Street and Homicide -- KdS, 04:51:05 08/26/03 Tue

Interesting that Hill Street and Homicide are bracketed together, because both of those shows were forced by the network to become more conventional after a highly-praised but unpopular first season. More self-contained episodes, more sympathetic (in the Homicide case better-looking) characters, more soapy stuff about characters' private lives. IHMO both of them stayed in the top 1% (Homicide is still my favourite long-running TV show of all time, more so than any ME show) but didn't quite match their format-breaking first seasons.

[> [> [> [> I don't think breaking the formula is necessary; we just need some new ones -- Finn Mac Cool, 22:00:14 08/24/03 Sun

I don't think breaking formulas is really necessary. However, I do believe that writers should try to create their own formula to work within, rather than working with a pre-packaged one. The difficulty really comes when someone tries to change or break the formula in mid-stream.

[> [> [> [> Thanks, s'kat. :o) -- Rob, 10:52:50 08/25/03 Mon

[> [> Where category would The Sentinal fall into? -- Seven, 16:22:21 08/25/03 Mon

[> [> [> Uhm, didn't watch most of it, but I'd guess -- s'kat, 23:23:26 08/25/03 Mon

The Cursed Hero scenerio?

Again I only saw five episodes of it. And it was a loonnng
time ago. ;-)

[> Part V: Can Actors Really Break or Make The Show? -- s'kat (back with the footnotes), 10:12:18 08/23/03 Sat

V. The Importance of The Actors: Can They Really Break or Make the Show?

"Don't act just speak the lines." Kathryn Hepburn's advice to Anthony Hopkins in one of his first movie roles, as Richard to Kathryn's Eleanor in The Lion in Winter. (45)

"For me, I took a workshop with Maximilian Schell for six weeks when I was SC, and he would refer to the text of the play that you were working on as the Bible. He'd say, "This is the Bible. All your answers are here. If your answers aren't here, then you're going to have problems, because this is where you need to find your answers." Danny Strong Interview with IGFN (46)

"I've been hired to learn lines. They're paying me to learn lines. That is the only transaction that is occurring when an actor is hired. You are getting paid to say these lines. So I need to say them as believably and as honestly as I can, and pretty much nothing else matters besides that." Danny Strong Interview with IGFN.

"Here is where I make a mistake. I imply that the success of Buffy isn't just down to the writers (who are, of course, brilliant) but to the cast as well. From his reaction you'd suspect that I had just called his mother an old trout. James Marsters becomes vehemently defensive. "It is not. It is not. It is all writing, and a really good actor understands that. Good acting is Not Messing Up Good Words. If you can release the potential of the words... if you find yourself in the position of having to overcome the material, you're in the doghouse. The best thing is to recognize a good script and then serve it" Yes, but without a good cast, no-one would know if it was good writing or not, I counter. "There is a lot to be said for good acting, but most actors will mess up good words. I'm not saying that acting's not valuable, and good acting is not rare - it is. But good acting is serving good words. It's releasing their power." James Marster's Interview in SFX Magazine, August 2003.

I actually agree with these guys. Television is first and foremost, more producer's/writer's medium than an actor's or a director's. Writers may have more say in a television production than in a film or play, even though the print medium remains their strongest arena. Theater likewise is the actor's, regardless of how many hours or minutes a director, playwright or producer spends on a play - the actor is in charge once the curtain comes up. (47) There is very little the producer/director/or writer can do to change a live theater performance, short of switching off the lights. Mel Brooks parodies this a bit in his film The Producers, where an actor turns the playwright's serious script into a comedy by the virtue of his performance.

Film is a director's medium, the director can cut out the actor's performance, force the actor to re-shoot it, re-cast and re-film the performance, or just select a different take. The actor is a hired hand in a film and at the mercy of whomever is directing and editing it. Also as Jane Espenson notes in her interview with Hercules on AICN, "most movies are written by committee" (48), this is not entirely true - some directors write and direct their own films. George Lucas wrote and directed Star Wars. The Coen Brothers wrote and directed all of their movies. On the other hand a majority of films go through a series of writers and the producer/director chooses which sections of the scripts make the screen. William Goldman relates a particularly unpleasant story about screenwriting in Adventures in The Screen Trade. The story is about the making of All The Presidents Men. Goldman wrote the script. Robert Redford, the producer, sent the script to Carl Bernstein and Nora Ephron who wrote their own script. Goldman was then asked to meld Bernstein and his scripts together. Initially Goldman had been hired to write the script based on Woodward and Bernstein's novel and had stuck fairly close to it. Bernstein veered sharply away from the novel. After the thousandth re-write with no clear direction from anyone, Goldman gave up. The end product was based mostly on Goldman's script but had several scenes from Bernstein's stuck in it. (49) Joss Whedon relates a similar experience regarding the Buffy Movie, " What I started with was Horror Action comedy. It had fright, it had camera movement, it had acting, all kinds of interesting things that weren't in the final film." The Buffy Movie was a disaster, which he mentions initially watching in tears, thinking his career was over. (50) Whedon's vision had been greatly altered by the director. An experience he was to repeat on Alien Resurrection and X-Men, until he finally came to the conclusion that the next film he wrote, he would direct. (51)

Television? A whole different ballgame. In Television the producer and writer are more often than not the same. The writer may even be the director or at the very least is standing over the director's shoulder telling hi/r what to do. (52) That said, actors can still make or break the show, they can throw off the story, muddy up the works, and create all sorts of headaches for everyone involved. The writer may be the General but without his soliders he has no army and in Television, no show. So even though the actors basic job is to read lines - s/he must read the lines well and obtain the viewers sympathy, otherwise no one tunes in.

"Honestly, I don't see why they just can't hire new actors to play all the roles and pick up where they left off. I mean really this is television - they do it on soaps all the time, don't they?" Zachsmind commenting on BTVS' end., Buffy Book Reviews Thread.

Why indeed? If actors are only hired to read lines well and TV is truly a writers/producers' medium, why can't you just replace the lead roles with new actors? If you can replace the writers who run the medium, why not the actors? (53) Certainly would solve a lot of problems. Think of what ME could have done if they were able to just re-cast Amber Benson's role in Season 7 or Seth Green's? So why didn't they?

Because, the actor, like it or not, not only can define a role they are visible to the audience - even soap operas have run into this problem. Susan Lucci, for instance, has played Erica Kane for over twenty years, if she died or left the role for any reason - they would most likely have to kill her off. Same with Genie Francis who played Laura on General Hospital or Anthony Geary who played Luke. In soaps it only works if the character has had plastic surgery or the actor has not defined the role - ie. they haven't played it on and off for twenty years. Of course that's daytime television, it seldom works in prime time - the prime time audience is less willing to suspend disbelief. That does not prevent television producers from attempting it occasionally. The prime time soap operas Dallas and Dynasty certainly tried it. And it can work, if and only if it is done early in the character's run, the character is a supporting player or had a disfiguring accident and if it occurs before the pilot aired. Willow was originally played by Riff Regan, but since Ms. Regan's pilot never aired, ME was able to recast the role with Alyson Hannigan. (54) Dynasty successfully recast Fallon but the recast happened after she left for the spin-off the Colby's - they also did it by having Fallon get in a disfiguring car-accident. Or Barbara Bel Geddes role in Dallas - which was taken over by Donna Reed and was not much more than a bit part. The bigger parts of JR's brother and father were not recast after the actors left them. In Bablyon 5 - they created new characters and wrote the old ones out. Same with BTVS and ATS, something X-Files also attempted in its final two seasons. The problem the X-Files had was that it was attempting to replace the leads not the supporting characters. For the same reason you can't really re-cast or replace the lead roles of Mulder and Scully after six years, you can't re-cast or replace Buffy, Xander, Willow, Giles - once the audience identifies the character with the actor playing the part, there is no going back.

Audiences tend to be more accepting of re-casts in theater - after all it's rare you'll get the same audience for each show. When Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick left the Producers, it continued to play to sold out audiences. Same with Chicago, which has had numerous leading ladies or Caberet. In movies - the audience doesn't know about re-casts, so there's no effect.

So how did the actors decisions adversely or positively affect the writing and or plot arcs of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel The Series ?

1. David Boreanze - The character of Angel was only supposed to last one season, but the actor playing the character, a relative unknown who had appeared in very few things prior to the role, (55) had amazing chemistry with the lead. So the writers expanded his role and took a risk, hoping he could play a prick as well as a heart-throb. To their delight Boreanze delivered the goods in a tour-de-force performance in the Joss Whedon written and directed episode Innocence. (56) Boreanze's chemistry with the camera and ability to portray the multi-faceted vampire cursed with a soul - led ME to create a spin-off around his character's quest for redemption.

2. James Marsters - The character of Spike was slatted for just six episodes in Season 2 BTVS. ME planned on killing the character in Innocence. But Marsters, like Boreanze before him, had chemistry with the camera, the other characters, and the lead. So the writers' re-wrote the episodes and changed the character. Marsters ability to add depth to what had originally been a two-dimensional villain kept his character alive in the Buffyverse. (57)

3. Juliet Landau - Drusilla and Spike were considered "lightening in a bottle". These two had more on screen chemistry than just about anyone on TV and ME wanted to keep them. In Season 3 BTVS the plan was to bring Spike and Dru back to Sunnydale in the episode Lover's Walk. The character of Drusilla had in fact been written with Juliet Landau in mind. But Juliet was unavailable in S3 so ME just brought back Spike. The character worked so well that Whedon decided to sign James Marsters to Season 4 with or without Juliet Landau. (58) In Season 4, according to Jane Espenson's interview with Hercules on AICN, both Spike and Dru were supposed to be regulars. But again Juliet was unavailable. (59) So they created the character of Harmony. Would Harmony have become a vampire if Juliet had been available? We'll never know.

4. Seth Green - In S4 BTVS, Seth Green made it clear to ME that he wanted to broaden his horizons. Was it possible for OZ to be placed on recurring status, just come in and out occasionally like he did in Seasons 2 and 3? ME said no, OZ was central to the group and it wouldn't work if he wasn't present in every episode. Green nodded sagely and told ME he wanted out. So ME scrapped the huge Veruca (Werewolf)/Oz/Willow/Tara quadrangle they had planned and went with Willow/Tara. OZ was supposed to be the character Willow lost not Tara. Tara was originally slatted as just a wiccan friend of Willow's, an experiment, nothing more. But Seth Green's departure changed the direction of the story and the Willow/Tara relationship was born. (60)

5. Lindsey Crouse - Professor Maggie Walsh was supposed to be the Little Bad of the Season 4 plot arc in BTVS. ME had plotted out an arc with Prof Walsh spying on and manipulating the Buffy/Riley relationship with all sorts of twisted Freudian overtones. But Lindsey Crouse wanted out to do movies and they had no choice but to kill her off. She kindly agreed to return for one episode near the end, just as Seth Green agreed to return for one or two episodes near the end of the season. (61)

6. Amber Benson - After Tara was killed off in Season 6, ME planned to bring her back in a dual role in Season 7 as both Tara and the FE. But Amber didn't want to do it so ME rewrote the plot and did the Willow/Kennedy arc. (62) If Amber had come back in the dual role - we may never have had the Willow/Kennedy relationship.

7. Charisma Carpenter - in Angel The Series, ME had decided to make Cordelia evil, she would be even more evil than Willow was. But something happened over the summer - Charisma got pregnant. Now here's the thing - in most jobs taking a sick day or getting maternity leave isn't going to screw up the product. Your boss can get a temp to take your place or you can work until you need to leave. Acting? Your body is your product. From your hair to your feet. If a character is stick thin - you lose weight and become stick thin. If a character is 238 pounds or 17 stone? You gain the weight. Tom Hanks gained over 30 pounds to play the lead in Cast Away. He gained 50 to play the lead in Catch Me if You Can. Russell Crow mentions gaining weight for his current role as Captain Aubrey in Master and Commander, he stopped short of 17 stone, due to the fact that the director wanted him to be active on set and that amount of poundage weighs a bit too heavy on his frame. (63) Uma Thurman ended up delaying the filming of Kill Bill due to her pregnancy. Quentin Taratino was so found of the actress, he agreed to delay filming an entire year. Otherwise he would have had to recast the role and re-shoot the scenes. (64) In Television - the writer can't replace the actress and is often stuck filming around her pregnancy or writing it in. Unfortunately in ME's case they'd already done a pregnancy/baby storyline the year before and this was the year they had planned to make her evil. Charisma did not warn them ahead of time, like many actresses do, Kelly Ripa warned All My Children each time she chose to get pregnant or was considering it - providing the writers ample time to write around it, twice they wrote it in. Also, regarding sick leave? Actors often go on stage or screen sick as dogs. James Marsters had been recovering from a severe bout with the stomach flu in 2001 while filming Smashed and Wrecked - that's why he's so thin in those episodes. Sarah Michelle Gellar had a cold in First Date. You work around it. You dye your hair - even if it causes blisters. (65) That's what acting on television is about. It's also why you get paid any-where from $50,000 to $750,000 per episode (just in case you're feeling sorry for these people, remember they are paid very well.) (66) But actors are human beings and life does not always go as planned - so Charisma got pregnant and ME had to change the story from Big Bad Cordelia to Cordelia has Jasmine. If it weren't for Charisma's pregnancy - we wouldn't have the Jasmine arc. (67)

8. Emma Caulfield - Emma made it clear before the end of Season 6 that she was not renewing her contract after Season 7, she was ready to move on regardless of what they offered her. Nor did she have any interest in appearing on Angel. As a result, Whedon decided to kill off the character of Anya in S7, since she was the one cast member he knew would not come back. (68)

9. Sarah Michelle Geller - the show is called Buffy The Vampire Slayer and SMG plays the title role. Without Buffy there isn't a show. Even though the writer is king or queen on Television, s/he can be replaced easier than the star. Why? The audience usually doesn't see the writer unless they look at the credits and are obsessed. The audience generally remains oblivious to whomever is writing the show, but they do notice when the star of the show changes. For example: the head writers/creators of Seinfield, Dawson's Creek, ER, The West Wing, and Roseanne have changed over time. They might do four years - then burn out. Writer turnover is big in television. ME has had numerous writers come and go over the years. Whedon handed most of the operations of BTVS over to Marti Noxon and David Fury in Season 6 and 7 of BTVS. Angel The Series was being over-seen by Tim Minear, David Greenwalt and Jeff Bell respectively. So change in writers? Not an issue. Season 7 was Joss Whedon's last year on BTVS - as he stated in numerous interviews (69) but it did not matter - the show would have continued without him. Whedon did not own the rights, Fox and the Kuzuis did. But it could not continue without Geller. Her decision to move on to other things ended Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Even though she was only hired to read lines and perform the role - her performance defined the character to the extent that Kristy Swanson's turn is almost forgotten. While it may be possible to recast the part in the distant future, it is unlikely the audience will accept anyone else in the role that SMG faithfully and brilliantly brought to life for seven years.

10. James Marsters, Juliet Landau, David Boreanze, Julie Benze and the redefinition of the vampire in the Buffyverse. Originally, ME wanted vampires just to be monsters - no staying power, no real depth. Staked after a few episodes. But Julie Benze and David Boreanze changed all that in Angel Season 1 BTVS - by making the vampire sympathetic and sexy. Juliet Landau and James Marsters continued the trend - creating a villainous duo that was more interesting than most heroic duos on TV. Ratings climbed and Whedon had to change his whole take on the vampires and vampire mythology as a result. If the actors playing these roles had been less charismatic and unable to add another dimension to the characters - they may have faded into the background like Luke, The Master, Trick and The Annoying One. (70)

11. Alyson Hannigan's portrayal of Willow. Joss Whedon has openly admitted that Willow is his favorite character and he's a huge fan of Hannigan's take on the character. (71) Hannigan's performance may be the reason Whedon backed off of turning Willow truly evil. It may also be the reason he could never kill Willow off.

12. Glenn Quinn and Max Perlach: Doyle and Whistler. Rumor has it that ME planned on using Whistler in Season 1 ATS as Angel's guide with the visions. It certainly would have explained the Whistler character mysteriously introduced in Becoming Part I & II in Btvs S2. Unfortunately Max Perlach recently released from Homicide Life on The Street was in jail for undisclosed charges. ME had to find someone else to portray Angel's half-human/half-demon sidekick - so they decided on Glenn Quinn, whom Whedon knew from his days at Roseanne, to play Doyle. Unfortunately Glenn Quinn also had a personal problem that interfered with his work, drugs and alcohol. Whedon was forced to write Doyle out after six episodes and introduce a new sidekick. Fans and critics alike continue to debate whether Doyle's death was pre-planned by Whedon or caused by the actor's unreliable habits.

13. Elizabeth Rohm: Kate Lockely. Rohm had gotten a coveted role on Law and Order. So ME had to write her out. She was slatted to be Angel's love interest, but due to Rohm's departure, Greenwalt and Whedon decided to have Cordelia take on that role instead.

Whether the writers like it or not - actors define their characters and by doing so can make or break a plot arc. This is true in movies and TV, imagine if you will what Raiders of The Lost Arc would have been like if Tom Sellack had taken the part? The difference between movies and TV is that the television serial is 22, 43 minute movies a year, not one two to three hour feature. If an actor opts out in mid-stream than so does the character, they can't re-cast. What would have happened if David Boreanze's movie career took off in Season 2 BTVS? Would we even have Angel The Series? Or how about James Marsters' career? What if he hadn't been available? The writer/producer/director may control the lines, how the actor comes across on screen and which scenes make it to the screen - but they can't force the actor to stay in the role. Nor do they have any control over how the actor interacts with the camera. A friend of mine, who is a set designer for a soap opera, once told me - that someone who is drop-dead gorgeous in person can be ugly on camera and vice-versa. There's really no way of knowing how the camera will react.


45 TCM Tribute to Kathryn Hepburn August 2003
46 IGFN Interview with Danny Strong: Buffy The Vampire Slayer's Jonathan Levinson discusses his career. June 2003.
47James Marsters Q&A at Baltimore Shore Leave, 7/14/02, transcribed by Tara Dilullo for" In stage, writers don't really have a lot of power so if you go to one and you tell them their work is really top notch, it's just really a worker to a worker." Also from same convention: "On stage, you are really in control in a way that you are not in control on TV at all. On stage, you tell a story. In film, you are just a building block for someone else to come and tell the story later on and that was kind of a hard adjustment for me."
48 Jane Espenson Interview with AICN, "The system of making television allows for strong individual voices, like Joss's. Movies are always made by committees, and the writer is not at the head of the committee."
49Goldman, William, Adventures in the Screen Trade, p. 215-227, Warner Books: 1983
50 SFX Vampire Special Edition, Fall 2001, p.37; See also IGFN Interview with Joss Whedon: ". The fact of the matter is, I remember having a conversation with Kristy Swanson. She was like, "Please, tell me how to do this. Tell me what you want." I literally said, "I can't." Because I have always treated film and television like the army, and I'm very strict about it. It was not my place. It was the director's movie. At that point I was there to try and help the director realize her vision, and that's all. Even though it was my script and all this stuff, the director... who had also financed, gotten the film off the ground. Fran Kuzui came in when nobody else wanted the film, said, "We're going to put this together"... And they did. Howard Rosenman and Sandollar and all of that. Without them, there would be no film - and possibly not this phone conversation. So I didn't agree with the way the movie was going, but I also kept my mouth shut because you respect the director."
51 Joss Whedon Interview with SFX, The Vampire Special Edition.
52IGFN Interview with Joss Whedon:"I said to one director... he said, "One of these days, I'm going to come down and look over your shoulder while you're shooting." I brought him up to my office the next day and I said, "Let me explain something to you. It is my job to control the way you shoot, not your job to control mine. My name comes at the end of every show. You do very good work and you're going to come back for us, but I am never going to let you do something that I don't approve of."
53List of television shows with writer turn-over or who have replaced their writing staff: Angel The Series (David Greenwalt handed the reins to Jeff Bell in Angel S4), Buffy The Vampire Slayer (Joss Whedon handed the reins to Marti Noxon and David Fury in Season 6), The West Wing (Aaron Sorkin left and John Wells took over), The Practice, Ally McBeal, Chicago Hope (David E. Kelly handed the reins over to other writers), and Dawson's Creek (headwriter and creator left after the first two years).
54See The Buffy Pilot.
55EXTRACTS of David Quotes from TV Zone #166 'Avenging Angel' article - By Steven Eramo ( to purchase)
56 Season 2 DVD Commentary by Joss Whedon for Innocence.
57 See Introducing Spike on Season 4 BTVS DVD Commentary
58 Joss Whedon at Museum of TV and Radio, Angel event, also Introducing Spike on Season 4 DVD Commentary.
59 "AICN: At the ANGEL event at the Museum of TV & Radio a few years ago, Joss Whedon mentioned the original plan was to bring Spike AND Dru back as regulars for BUFFY's fourth season, but Juliet Landau turned out to be too busy to return. Do you think Buffy and Spike would have eventually coupled-up anyway had Dru returned? JANE: Oh yeah. Joss doesn't like to leave any couple together too long. We'd already seen what Spike and Dru were like as a couple. If she'd returned I think we'd've played 'em like an interesting divorced couple -- a bit of heat and love still there between them, but mostly challenged into conflict and jealousy."
60 Season 4 DVD Commentary, specifically Wild at Heart with Seth Green, Marti Noxon and Joss Whedon.
61 Primeval Season 4 DVD Commentary.
62 Interview with Joss Whedon for IGFN, June 2003: "Amber didn't want to do it. She wanted to do other things. I had a whole - I used to tell people, "Here's what we're going to do. We're going to have her in a couple of flashbacks, keep her alive, and then at the end ..." I had a whole show figured out that ended with the return of Tara. I used to cry every time I pitched it. It was going to be Tara's her one true love, people are going to be blown away, they'll never see it coming - except on the Internet - and it's going to be just about the biggest thing. Quite frankly, Amber just didn't want to do it - which is her decision. I was like, "Okay, the thing where I cried, and we all cried, and I told you about? That's gone. So, instead, we're going to go out and find somebody really hot, and we're going to make this about moving on, because that's the only option we have. I don't want Willow stuck in typical gay celibacy on TV. I'm interested in where her heart will go once she's lost her true love, so let's do that instead." So, you know, hence Kennedy."
63 Svetkey, Benjamin, "Rocking the Boat: Russell Crow Interview" Entertainment Weekly, Fall Movie Preview, Aug 22/29, pp. 26-27
64 Coker, Cheo Hodari, "View to a Kill", Premiere, Sept 2003.: "...there was the year long delay when Thurman got pregnant in early 2001. Tarantino says he never considered replacing the actress."
65 James Marsters' Q&A at the Tampa Vulkon Con.
66 In articles archived on in fall 2002, Sarah Michelle Gellar was reported to be pulling in a paycheck of $735,000 per episode, in a recent article in the Dublin Times, Alyson Hannigan admitted to be pulling in $200,000 per episode for Season 6-7.
67 Tim Minear and David Fury at The Succubus Club, May 2003. Original plan was for Connor to kill Cordelia, but Charisma became pregnant, so Cordelia was supposed to kill Jasmine, but Charisma couldn't be active, the most she could do was just lie around, so Connor killed Jasmine instead.
68 Mason, Dave, "Buffy Creator Sinks His Teeth into A New Season of Angel", 7/16/03:``I knew she [Emma Caulfield] wasn't going to come back. And if I killed any of the core group, you couldn't consider it a happy ending,." (Whedon explaining why he killed Anya.)
69 Entertainment Weekly Exit Interview with Sarah Michelle Geller, March 2003; IGFN Interview with Joss Whedon, June 2003
70 A&E Tvography, May 2003, also available on the S6 DVD Commentary.
71Whedon's Interview with IGFN and the Comic-Con Panel Interview via

[> [> Re: Part V: Can Actors Really Break or Make The Show? -- Ames, 08:24:21 08/25/03 Mon

(First let me say this is a great essay.)

I always find it a little bit of a shock to read the shooting script of a TV episode and see that the actors who played the scene so believeably are just reading the lines. I guess the actors themselves can't help but realize how great a great part the writing plays.

Nevertheless I feel instinctively that it's the actor who makes or breaks the role. Either the written role and the actor "click" with the audience, or they don't. I'm not even sure we can define exactly why the same lines read by different actors, all competent professionals, work so well for one and not at all for another. With a theatrical play we may get to see the interpretation of different actors, but seldom with a television show (aside from the rare role replacements like Darren on Bewitched, or perhaps UK/USA crossover shows such as Man About The House -> Three's Company, although they typically have a lot of small cultural changes).

How can we know if BtVS would have succeeded with a different Buffy? If you watch SMG in the movie role of I Know What You Did Last Summer, which she did just before the Buffy pilot, I don't see anything particular there that would make anyone think she would be a great Buffy. And yet she was.

I would also point out that there is inevitably some crossover between the actor and the role over the course of a long television series. The writers often see the actor off-screen, and know them personally. They get a chance to see what works best for them on screen, and what doesn't. They probably begin to slant their writing to take advantage of that, or else the exec producer starts selecting writers who seem to understand the characters and the actors better. As the actors feel a little more confident in the role, they begin to make small changes of their own to the lines and the delivery, and to ask for more of one style and less of another. I think a lot more of this happens over the course of a long televion series than in a movie. It makes me wonder: is it a coincidence that as the character of Buffy becomes the Slayer, one apart from the rest of humanity, SMG develops a reputation for being the hardest worker but aloof from the rest of the cast? Or that the character of Spike becomes more and more sympathetic as people realize that JM is such a nice guy?

Perhaps the conclusion should be that the initial casting director is the most important person to the success of a TV series. As you've pointed out, the writers can be replaced, and the actors are just doing what the writers wrote. The decision you can't change, i.e. which actors you selected for the lead roles, is the contribution of the casting director.

[> [> [> Re: Part V: Can Actors Really Break or Make The Show? -- Kate, 19:39:45 08/25/03 Mon

Ames - you make some excellent points about how the actor comes to influence his/her character on a television show and I agree in that the strongest reason for such an influence is longevity. When an actor plays a character for 22 episodes/year over the course of several years then there definitely starts to be a melding between the real and fictional entities. Regarding this influence, Joss has even been quoted as admiting such. I wish I could remember the specific articles and/or interviews, but I remember reading (fairly recently) that it was because of AH's work in "American Pie" and her newly discovered sense of sensuality and sexuality through that role that he allowed Willow to become a sexier, more sexually mature character. Additionally, I also remember reading that when asked about the rumored tension on set between actors, especially original cast members, he said that as SMG was singled out more and more as the star and became, in some ways, more isolated because of that fact, it influenced and affected Buffy's relationship with her friends and her isolation from them. So yes, there definitely seems to be a corollation between actor and character and even cast/crew/writer relations and storyline(s).

S'kat...amazing essay. Some really great analysis and thought-provoking points raised about the nature of television. Great job!

[> Part VI . Fans: Breaking the Fourth Wall Part A: Media Critics -- s'kat, 10:19:20 08/23/03 Sat

VI . The Effect of Fans: Breaking the Fourth Wall (72)

"Audience: Do you read or routinely scour the websites, because we've talked about stuff and then like 4-weeks later it'd be on screen?
Joss: "Obviously I've gotten most of my ideas from you. When we go to websites what we're looking for is a general feeling of; what's not playing, what are people really passionate about and what are they debating and where are we getting it right and where are we getting it wrong? If you see something 4-weeks after it comes out on your website that means we've been working on it about 8-weeks before that, at least." Comic-Con Writer's Panel, (73)

The main purpose of a television show is to bring as large an audience as possible to the advertisers. To do this, a tv show must hold the viewers attention span past a commercial, it must tempt the viewer with that dramatic act break/cliff-hanger before the scene switched to commercial so that the viewer does not flip channels between acts for fear of missing a second of the next act, thus ensuring that the viewer watches the commercial. (Tivo and RealPlay devices sort of counter-act this, but that's a whole other essay.) Television is nothing without viewers. TV shows from the moment the first crossed over from Radio are nothing without fans. And the creators of the TV shows from the network exec's to the actors who play the parts know this by heart.

At the conventions where actors are paid anywhere from $30,000 to $200,000 to appear in front of busloads of fans, they know who is behind their fame and fortune. (74) James C. Leary and Charisma Carpenter have been known to publicly ask their fans to send post-cards regarding their characters to ME, Fox, WB and UPN in order to keep them on board. James Marsters has personally thanked his fans for Spike's continued presence on the show, recognizing the fact that he would not have a job if it weren't for their interest. (75) The Writers of Angel The Series informed the audience at Comic-Con that if it weren't for the fans - they would not have jobs. (76) Angel was only renewed because of the fans support.

But how does a network or a television production company know that a TV show is taking off? That it has fans? Market analysts make their living analyzing Neilsen Ratings, scanning newspaper and magazine articles for reviews, and the internet for responses. Did you know that the Neilsen Company now has a software package that tracks which sites people visit on the internet? Now they can collect data on the top internet sites just as they currently collect data on television shows. The system is similar - they choose a random sampling of viewers/users and on a weekly basis download which sites or shows the person visits or watches. (77) The data is compiled and analyzed. If you're interested you can check out for the Neilsen ratings for TV shows. The numbers are in the millions and represent the analyst's approximation on how many viewers each show received based on the available data. The box compiling the data is pretty sophisticated, it can tell you for instance exactly when a viewer tuned into a television show, if they taped it, and how long they watched, when and if they switched it off or turned to another channel. The data is then broken down into age demographics and in some instances race and gender demographics, this information is collected from the selected viewers prior to the distribution of the software. How many men watch BTVS/ATS? How many women? What race? What age? How often? When do they tune in? And all pulled out of the Neilsen data, which has been downloaded from a random selection of viewers in counties across the United States. That's just one method and all it tells the advertising and/or the network/studio exec is how many people in each category are watching a specific television show. It does not tell them why people are watching the show or what it is about the show that appeals to them. It just tells them people are watching it and how they are watching it. (78)

Why do you watch a specific TV show? Or even turn on the set for that matter? I asked this question once last year on a fanboard and without exception the responses fell into one of three categories: 1) To be entertained. 2) To escape. 3) To be informed or enriched in some way. Most shows just meet one of the three requirements, but sometimes a show will come along that meets all three requirements. BTVS fit all three requirements for me. But my "individual" reasons/tastes aren't really that important. What is important is figuring out why the "majority" of fans watched - what attracted the "majority" to the show - is what matters most to the television executives, producers, and advertisers.
To determine why people watch and what it is about the show that attracts them, studio and advertising/marketing executives rely on two things: 1) television and media critics, specifically the ones being paid to write criticism about television and are established in the field. 2) online fans who post to internet posting boards, chat-rooms, set up websites, and write fanfiction. Prior to the internet, they relied on fan-clubs and fan mail. Also on conventions. You honestly don't believe that Star Trek movie was financed on faith alone? Please - the executives knew about the Trek Conventions and how many fans out there the series had - the movies were tailor-made for those fans. Same with Star Wars - Lucas knew about his fans through the internet and the conventions. Also ancillary product purchases.

A. Television and Media Critics

Television and media critics are more often than not the voice for what works and what doesn't work in television. They provide the studios with insight on what the audience considers quality. Not a perfect gauge by any means, since five times out of ten - the mainstream audience's taste and the critics don't exactly jive. But what can you do? Short of telephoning every television watcher in the country, there really is no precise way of figuring out what is working in a TV show. So network execs to a small extent follow what critics say about their television shows.
In his interview with IGFN, Anthony Stewart Head stated: " the critics were always with [BTVS]. I remember the first tour that we did, the first sort of media tour, we all camped out at a hotel and you sort of field questions from various newspaper critics and TV critics, and right across the board it was unanimous that we had a hit. When I went back for the second season, the critics were actually really excited to see us, and ask us what was going to go on, and I remember vividly one critic saying, "I knew the line was crossed when Principal Flutie was eaten..."" (79) Often critical approval of a show will keep it alive even if the Neilsen ratings are low. If the show is critically panned and the ratings are down, the show is dead in the water. If the ratings are high but the critics hate it? It may last two or three seasons depending on ratings. Examples: Party of Five, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel The Series, The Practice, Once and Again, My So Called Life - all had low ratings when they started but the critics loved them so they stayed longer than expected. (80) In the case of Party of Five, Angel The Series and My So Called Life - the critics helped save the shows. Critics and fans started mail-in campaigns. Often a combination of positive critical response and fans can keep a show from being cancelled even if the ratings are below the coveted mark, which is what happened to Angel The Series. But if the show does not have a positive critical response or ratings, such as Firefly, than it is dead. You need both to keep yourself alive. Firefly oddly enough had higher ratings than BTVS and ATS (81), but it did not have the devoted fan following (it just started) nor the positive critical response. Most critics either panned it or were largely ambivalent. Without the Neilsen ratings to counter this response - Firefly did not have a chance. It did not help that the "majority" of internet fans were largely lukewarm towards the show. (82)Note, I said "majority". I personally liked Firefly, a lot better I might add than the current hit O.C., but I'm in the "minority" and in the wonderful world of television - the "majority" rules.

72 Meaning of the Fourth Wall, "The term signifies the suspension of disbelief used by the audience, who are looking in on the action through the invisible wall. The audience thus pretends that the characters in the story are real "living" beings in their own world, and not merely actors performing on a stage or studio set, or written words on the pages of a book. In order for the fourth wall to remain intact, the actors must also, in effect, pretend that the audience does not exist, by staying in character at all times and by not addressing the audience members directly. Most such productions rely on the fourth wall." By Fourth Wall - I mean the invisible wall between the audience and the show - the audience does not dictate plot, casting choices, anything regarding the show - they suspend disbelief and treat the show as operating in a reality they cannot affect or change, as real as their own. When they break through that wall - they change the plot, the characters and the cast - the audience affects it and the story suddenly becomes an "interactive work" between the audience and the performers, writers, etc.
73 See also Joss Whedon's Interview with IGFN for his thoughts on the internet fanbase: "IGNFF: What are your thoughts on the Internet's role in television production? WHEDON: The Internet, you know... The bitch goddess that I love and worship and hate. You know, we found out we have a fan base on the Internet. They came together as a family on the Internet, a huge goddamn deal. It's so important to everything the show has been and everything the show has done - I can't say enough about it. It drives me up the frigging wall that I can't keep secrets, that I can't keep things off the Internet. The crewmembers of my own shows are feeding things to the Internet so that people will know what happens before it happens."
74David Boreanze is making $200,000 for the UK Convention in August. Anthony Stewart Head made over $50,000 for Moonlight Rising according to convention organizers and
75 James Marsters Q&A at Tampa Vulkon, Chicago, and Moonlight Rising amongst others. For transcripts see any of the Spike centric sites:,; or see
76 transcript of the Writers Panel at Comic-Con
77 Personal experience - I recently was contacted and got one of these packages. I turned them down. While I don't care who knows what television shows I watch, I do care about my internet privacy. A close friend and a relative had received Neilsen TV boxes - so I know what is involved in that as well.
78 See generally: Blumenthal and Goodenough, The Business of Television, pp. 402-415, Billboard Books, New York: 1998.
79 See IGFN Interview with ASH, January 6, 2003. p. 34
80 TV Guide's Save Our Show Campaign and The Association for Quality Television - both spearheaded by media critics are campaigns geared to protect television shows adored by critics.
81 - Firefly had approximately 12.2 in contrast to BTVS' 3.8 and Angel's 3.2. Firefly was also ranked at 129 in contrast to BTVS at 136 and Angel at 139 respectively.
82See The Firefly archives on and televisionwithoutpity's reviews.

[> [> Part IV Breaking the Fourth Wall Part B: Fans & Majority Rules -- s'kat, 10:28:12 08/23/03 Sat

B. Fans and the "Majority" Rules

While it may be interesting to see what individual fans think about a particular character or episode, marketing/network execs could care less. They want to know what the "majority" of fans think, what the "majority" wants - because their goal is to provide their advertisers with the largest group of viewers possible. So they need to determine what works for the masses not what works for a small group of viewers or individuals. In order to determine this they hunt and/or scan for patterns. I seriously doubt they spend much time reading an analysis on the meanings and metaphors in BTVs or how Spike is a male fatale. What they notice is that the board is filled with Spike threads or Angel threads or B/S and/or B/A threads.

What they are looking for is the answers to these questions: how many people post or debate on a specific character, relationship or plotline? Is the "majority" of responses negative or positive? What is working in the story? Are people bored? Are they interested? And again - what they want to know is the majority view. So even though you, personally, may hate or love a particular character or plot arc - if the majority of viewers and critics feel otherwise, you're out-voted. Frustrating? Yes. Right there with you. But that's the problem with our society - majority rules especially in television. In movies - you can produce a feature that the majority of people don't like and do okay - independent movies do this all the time. And with video, it happens even more often. Books? Same thing - you can self-publish or get a small press. Television? Especially network television, which depends on advertisers for money? Majority rules. And just between you and me? Nine times out of ten, the majority has lousy taste. If they had better taste - such idiotic programs as Who Will Marry My Dad and The Family would not be in the top ten. On the other hand, in those rare moments in which I happen to share the majority's taste on something - I do a happy snoopy dance.

I think the fear that: 1)we're in the minority regarding our favorite character and/or relationship, and 2) that the majority (who is for another character and/or relationship we aren't fond of) is going to ruin the show or affect the writer's judgment in an adverse manner (ie. against our desires) - may be the reason behind the "character" posting wars I often see and occasionally participate in (to my own incredible dismay and embarrassment) on fanboards. (83) Online fans are instinctively aware that someone is scanning their responses and in the hopes that their favorite character will get the juicy storyline over their least favorite, they religiously attempt to sway other viewers to their way of thinking. Often bashing the character they despise in all sorts of creative ways in order to promote their favorite. If you are one of these poor deluded souls? I wish you luck. Have yet to see it work. Actually it usually just pisses everyone off, causing people to come out of the woodwork or cybernet, leaping to their poor character's defense. (84) Including the ME writers who scan the net. Tim Minear got so furious at an Anti-Spike thread on ASSB this spring that he came out of hiding and blasted the posters. David Fury made fun of the Spikehaters on Succubus Club in response to mail he'd received. (85)

On the other hand, negative responses to the character of Riley were taken seriously - but the critical elite also disliked the character. Actually I think Riley's problem wasn't so much hate as pure ambivalence (lack of support), but I wasn't online at the time - so I could be wrong. More to the point though - the ratings dipped around Riley-centric episodes. Same thing happened with Connor this past year - the majority of viewers and critics found the character and his arc to be annoying. Now here's where I fall in the "minority" - I actually liked Connor and Riley, I found them to be interesting and engrossing characters. I would love to see Connor re-appear on Angel next season. Connor is one of my favorite characters on ATS. But from what I've seen in the reviews of Angel Season 3-4 and the online fandom, I'm in the minority. Damn it.

Now, for the record, Vincent K. who played Connor was only contracted for two years. Minear and company planned on ending the characters arc at the end of Season 4 regardless of what happened. (86) So nothing that happened online or offline changed the writers'decision regarding that arc. If fans had taken to the character the way they took to Angel in Season 1 BTVS or Spike and Drusilla in Season 2 BTVS, then Connor may have lasted an additional season; he may still make it back - who knows. But because the writers had not planned on him lasting past Season 4 and the fan/critical majority did not fall in love with the character, demanding in a loud voice that they wanted more of him, Connor more or less ended his story in Home. (87)

In contrast, James Marsters portrayal of the character of Spike has just continued to grow in popularity since his first appearance as the character in School Hard. It's worth noting that prior to School Hard, BTVS had lackluster ratings, it's ratings climbed significantly in Season 2 with Spike and Dru and the Angelus arc. Fans rallied ME for more of Spike. Sending out postcards requesting ME treat Spike well. That Spike be redeemed. That Spike not be killed off. That Spike continue in either his own spin-off or join Angel. (88) Marsters appearances at all the conventions were sold out. Spike action figures and license plates huge sellers at Comic Book conventions. (89) Magazines begged him for interviews. The Offical Buffy Magazine #8 got angry letters from subscribers for delaying the James Marsters interview by a month. (90) He has more web sites than most of the other characters on the net. SFX Magazine recently ranked him as number one in the top twenty-five science-fiction characters of all time. (91) When fans heard that BTVS was ending it's run in season 7, they raised over $4000 to put two advertisements thanking James Marsters in Industry Magazines (Variety and Hollywood Reporter) right after the Oscars telecast when these magazines would be read the most. (92) They were the first fans to come up with this idea. According to an interview with Marsters - this rarely happens. (93) Industry reps were calling Marsters' agent asking him what he did to his fans. Fox and WB reported to fans that they had seen the ads and were suitably impressed. The ads mentioned a website which described the amount of money raised for charities in Marsters name. (94) When James Marsters indicated he may not be able to join Angel The Series due to a) not being renewed, b) financial and time considerations - fans started a post-card/email campaign to get Angel The Series renewed and get Spike on it. Most of the pre-written post-cards read simply: "I will definitely watch Angel The Series if James Marsters joins it. I am male and 18-34 or female 18-34." Or they read: " I don't watch it now, but I will if Spike joins." (95) Once it was announced that James Marsters would indeed be joining Angel The Series, fans rallied to send thank you emails and post cards to everyone concerned. Did this work? Well, Spike was added to Angel, although there's evidence that Whedon had always planned on adding Spike to Angel and/or a spin-off. (96) James C. Leary and Charisma Carpenter requested their fans do the same for them, stating that sending post-cards did affect their characters arcs. (97) Fans have complied for Carpenter. (98) Xander fans have also taken up the fight and started a petition to get Xander on Angel next season. (99)

A potential pitfall of this level of fan interaction with television shows is the "Fonzie Complex". The term comes from Happy Days - a 1970s situation comedy about a bunch of kids in high school, featuring Ron Howard from The Andy Griffith Show in the lead role of Richie Cunningham. The show was supposed to be about Richie, his parents, his friends, and high school during the 1950s. Up until approximately the third season, Fonzie was a peripheral character that Richie befriended - the cool outsider. After the first two seasons, network executives and producers determined that ratings climbed whenever Fonzie was featured and dipped whenever he was absent. Fans wrote in for more Fonzie. Television critics adored the character and fans mobbed the actor who played him at events. So the network executives informed the writers to feature Fonzie more if they wanted to stay on the air - remember bottom line is how many viewers can we bring to the advertisers. Many television "geeks" or "aficionados" believe this decision destroyed the show. Whether it did or not depends on your point of view, Nielsen viewers certainly didn't agree.

When other television shows repeated the Happy Days scenario - television geeks labeled it "the Fonzie Complex." The 1990s situation comedy Family Matters fell into this trap early in its run - when the character of Steve Urkel overtook the comedy, which was supposed to be about a cop and his family not about their geeky next door neighbor. But producers quickly realized fans tuned in to see Steve Urkel not the cop, so Urkel slowly became the central focus. Some fans believe Star Trek and Star Trek The Next Generation fell into the trap with the characters of Spock, Mr. Data, and Worf. In the third and final season of the original Star Trek, Mr. Spock seemed to overtake the series, overshadowing even Captain Kirk. Trek not high in the ratings department may have been experimenting with ways to get an audience. Spock certainly had taken off at conventions. Same thing happened with Star Trek The Next Generation when Mr. Data, Worf, and Captain Picard quickly became the central focus overshadowing Riker and Crusher. Picard and Data are also the central focus of all the films, especially the last one. Of course the people who complained were fans of Riker and Crusher. Other shows accused of falling victim to The Fonzie Complex include : MASH - with the character of Hawkeye Pierce. Xena: Warrior Princess - the character of Gabrielle. Everbody Loves Raymond - Brad Garrett's character. Fraiser - the character of Niles Crane. The list goes on. Whether or not any of these characters have truly taken over and hurt the series as a result - is open to debate and often the source of fan wars. What it all comes down to is the fans' fear that their favorite character will end up on the backburner due to the popularity of another one, so they attack the show and fans that favor the popular character.

In BTVS - some fans believe Spike overtook the show in Season 6-7, regardless of the fact that he was in less episodes and had less lines than other characters. (100) In Season 5, he wasn't even in the big Joss Whedon episode, The Body. In Season 6, Xander and Anya had the big musical number that got critical attention and the huge wedding episode, Hell's Bells that focused on Xander. Spike was not the central character of any episode in S6, except to the degree that he affected Buffy or Xander. We also met Xander's entire family in Season 6, that's more than any other character on the show. Unlike Fonzie in Happy Days - the show did not revolve around Spike. In Happy Days, Ron Howard, Ralph Mouth, and Potsie left the show during the last few seasons and it really did center around Fonzie. Fonzie had the most lines. All the action and/or conflicts surrounded him. When Sara Michelle Gellar quit, BTVS ended. Spike remained a peripheral character during the show's run - Xander, Willow, and Buffy the central focus. Willow and Xander actually came closer to over-taking the show in Season 6 than Spike ever did, the action in Hell's Bells, Villains, Two to Go and Grave really centered more on their characters than on Buffy or even Spike, whose role was comprised of a few quick action scenes in a distant country, taking up less than ten minutes in each episode. Yet fans worried - partly do to Spike's increased popularity, his involvement with the lead, and the diminished role of Xander in later seasons. Had Spike taken Xander's place? It's worth noting that fans worried about Riley overtaking the show in Season 4 and often comment about Season 4 being all about Riley, because they felt Willow and Xander were gypped. This fear may be the cause of the wars we see on the internet - and it is a valid one, since the television medium falls into this trap all the time. But did ME truly fall into this television trap? I don't believe the evidence available supports this conclusion, although I can understand why some fans fervently believe ME did. If ME had, Spike would have been featured far more than he was and with other characters outside of Buffy, as Fonzie had been in Happy Days. If anything, Spike had a more prevalent role in Season 5 than Season 7. To say Spike took over the show in Season 7 would be akin to saying Angel took it over in Season 3 or Riley in Season 4. While these characters may have been more prominent due to their close relationship with the heroine, they did not overwhelm the show as Fonzie did on Happy Days. It really wasn't all about Spike, it was all about Buffy and Buffy's relationships or isolation from them.

Another example of how fans can affect a television show, from a less character centric angle are shippers, fans invested in a romantic relationship between two characters. Shippers have a history of driving Mutant Enemy and Fox nuts with email and post-card campaigns. Last year Buffy/Angel shippers not only sent post-cards, they reportedly posted an ad in Variety requesting Buffy and Angel be reunited. (101) Did ME notice them? Well, we got the Buffy/Angel kiss in End of Days. Same with the Buffy/Spike shippers - they also launched campaigns in Season 5 - 7 to get Buffy and Spike together. (102) Did it work? Buffy and Spike entered a sexual relationship in Season 6 and Buffy told Spike she loved him in Chosen and told Angel that Spike was in her heart.

On the other hand - fans did not cripple the Willow and Tara story in any way. The Willow/OZ shippers and Willow fans certainly tried, inundating ME and the network with hate mail. James Marsters relates an interesting anecdote in SFX Magazine, August 2003. Marsters states that the network requested Whedon end the Willow and Tara relationship and edit the kiss from The Body. Whedon refused. He told network executives and Fox that he would pack up his desk and leave before he would do that. Hung up the phone and literally began to do just that. Several phone calls later the network capitulated. Whedon fought to tell the Willow story in his own way. Fans did not prevent him from killing Tara, even though Tara fan boards waged campaigns against it. Whedon and his writing staff did not budge. Amber Benson may have reacted to fan sentiment by refusing to resurrect the character as the First Evil. But Whedon didn't, except to the extent that he let fans influence him to create the Willow/Kennedy relationship and keep Willow gay. (103)

Is this level of fan participation good for a TV show? Some people love the idea that they have a say in how their favorite TV show progresses. Others hate it. It's one thing to push for a favorite character's longevity or continuation in the series. It's another to keep characters trapped in a romance, even when the significant other has moved on to his own series, a movie career, or the great beyond. Has ME capitulated to fan and network pressure? Not really. Spike died in Chosen. Buffy and Angel are not together, if anything they are even further apart at the end of Chosen, then they were before it. Whedon gave both the B/A and B/S shippers a moment. He doesn't promise there will be more, but he wisely gives them just enough to tune in next year to see. The savvy writer keeps track of what hi/r fans want, what works, and manipulates it in such a way that s/he only gives hi/r fans enough to stay obsessed. He is wise enough never to give them exactly what they want, if he did he'd only satisfy a portion of them, but by providing everyone with something to whet their appetite- he keeps their interest alive. Sort of like dangling a carrot in front of Bugs Bunny and Roger Rabbit. This is why Whedon has obsessed fans - he knows how to keep their interest.

Fans also don't have complete authority over which characters continue. If Whedon and ME did not like Marsters, he would not have lasted past Season 2. He'd be gone. Look at Charisma Carpenter - a fan favorite who has even had an ad placed in a magazine - but ME still dropped her from regular status for S5. We may never know exactly why. But one thing we can be certain of - the decision had nothing to do with the fans. Faith was a fan favorite and she didn't come back full time. Yes, Whedon loved her, but Eliza Dusku, the actress playing Faith, had a movie career. Whedon wanted to do a spin-off with Faith, but Eliza preferred the show that Fox offered her, Tru Calling. Same with Amber Benson whom the fans adored - Whedon killed her off anyway. He loved Amber, he knew the fans loved her - but he did what was best for his story. The fans response to her death - did motivate him to write the Kennedy/Willow romance instead of bringing back OZ or building a romance between Xander and Willow, alternatives that he may have been mulling over in case Amber was unavailable in S7. But it did not keep him from killing the character. Any more than fan response to Angel kept Whedon from turning Angel evil and keeping Angel and Buffy apart. The fan response did motivate Whedon to give Angel his own show but not to have him mope for Buffy all the way through it. Nor did fans prevent Whedon and ME from doing the attempted rape scene in Seeing Red ( a scene many fans believe ME did just to punish them), or anything else in Spike's general arc. If Whedon had gone with what the majority of fans wanted - Spike may have been redeemed sans soul, not been redeemed at all, never raped Buffy or had sex with her for that matter, and not died in Chosen. So while fans may affect some of the choices ME makes, they do not affect all of them. ME does not enlist the help of fan focus groups like many daytime soap operas do. They do however test the fan base to see what will take off and what won't. And they aren't always right in their estimations: the Cordelia/Connor arc in Season 4 being a good example.

Just as it is difficult understanding and predicting the majority of fans' tastes, it is equally difficult to predict how studio executives and producers will respond to those tastes. Do fans adversely affect what appears on the screen? There's no way of telling. I'm not sure we can blame fans for what we liked or did not like in a particular season any more than we can blame an individual actor or character. The fault may lie with the creators of the episode and, even in that case, it's hard to judge since so many factors come into play. It's a collaborative process after all. Can we blame Seth Green or Lindsey Crouse for the plot-holes in S4? No - since the writers could have filled those in with other characters, in the case of Green they did. Can we blame or credit Amber Benson for the Willow/Kennedy arc? No again, since Whedon came up with Willow/Kennedy not Amber and he could have found an alternative. Can we blame or credit Spike or James Marsters for being the main focus of S7? No, again that was the writer's decision. Marsters just did whatever was on the page. Can we blame Nicholas Brendon (Xander) and Emma Caulfield (Anya) for not having a stronger arc or Spike? Nope. The writers weren't interested in Xander and Anya's story. (104)

I feel for marketing executives who attempt to understand and analyze fan responses. I really do, because I remain bewildered by them. I've been posting and lurking on BTVS and ATS internet fan boards for almost two years now and I have yet to figure out fans. Why does poster X hate Spike as much as they do? Yet love Angel or Xander and/or Willow? Why does poster Y love Spike but hate Angel? And why does poster Z love them both? And how can someone who supports the B/S relationship see Spike as overrated or hate Buffy? Recently on ATPO board, a poster named KdS hosted a thread on Character Impressions 1997-2003 for BTVS. I went through this thread, which had approximately thirty-two responses, and tried to tabulate the likes and dislikes of the posters in hopes of coming up with a formula or pattern. After taking down all the data - I quickly realized it was an exercise in futility. (105) People will have their opinions and there's zip I can do about them. Analyzing them seems to be somewhat headache inducing, but then I'm not overly fond of statistics. Best just to be civil and tolerate them hoping against hope that their opinions won't adversely affect my favorite show. Whether they do or not is up to ME, the networks, the producers, and the advertisers not me or you or the man down the block. Why? Because that's how television works.

As much as some fans would like to think they had broken through that fourth wall, changing the show to their liking, they haven't come close. While ME pays attention to the majority's tastes, they skirt giving into them completely. That I believe is the meaning behind Whedon's infamous statement: "Give the audience what they need not what they want." To do otherwise would allow their fans to break through the fourth wall and ruin the show.

83For examples of character wars - visit any board that is NOT character centric. (Hint: usually involves Spike.)
84Check out the board wars on the non-centric character fan boards for examples. (I refrain from naming names or posting specific threads to protect the innocent or rather not so-innocent, but easily embarrassed. )
85Tim Minear and David Fury at the Succubus Club, May 2003; good luck finding Minear's post at ASSB, it might however be in the ATPO archives. ASSB doesn't archive it's posts. It was posted the first week of May shortly after WB announced the decision to add James Marsters to the cast.
86Succubus Club with Tim Minear and David Fury - see transcript in discussion board archives or go to the site and listen to the Mp3 recording, May 2003. See also Bronze Beta VIP posting archives for Tim Minear; & Jeff Bell at Comic-Con Writer's Panel,
87Jeff Bell at Comic Con Writer's Panel, June 2003, "It was difficult because Charisma had just had her baby and we did everything we wanted but what we wanted was a really nice emotional payoff. We set up Wolfram & Hart for next year in terms of what next year would be and in addition we have the real emotional component of something that means a lot to our central character Angel, which is the happiness of his son, the one thing that he was never able to give him. And we thought if we just paid that off emotionally for the character we hoped it would be for the audience as well."
88See Save Spike Campaign:; See also:
89Deanna's post on Angel's Soul Board in response to SilverAgent, 8/7/03: "At the San Diego Comic-Con, the booth next to Inkworks trading cards (where Andy Hallett and Amber Benson were signing, BTW), they were selling BtVS plates. On the last day of the 5-day con, I asked the guy behind the table which plate was selling the fastest. He immediately pointed to Spike, saying that he was "by FAR" the best seller, then Buffy and Willow were selling about equally, but Xander was basically only selling to those who were buying the whole set, and he gestured to a large stack of Xander plates that were sitting unsold. is already selling the Spike plate for $20 more than the others, since they're quickly running out of that one. Last year's SDCC, among the several thousand dealers (no exaggeration), I was able to find two vampire Spike action figures, selling for $75 and $90, no regular Spike figures anwhere, Series 1 Angel figures for $40 and up, and one Series 1 Vampire Angel figure for $100. Giles and Oz figures, released the same time as the Spike figures, were $1 apiece in loose bags, $4 on cards. The rare, exclusive Entertainment Earth Oz figure was $8, mint on card. Xander was $5 mint on card. The exclusive Military Xander was $8. (Dark Horse's "Things From Another World" store in Universal Studios Citywalk was also blowing out Xander and Giles figures for $5 apiece last Christmas). The point is: they couldn't give away figures of the "normal guys," while dark, morally-ambiguous vampire figures were fetching a huge premium. Sure doesn't sound like they're not popular with the audience."
90See Official Buffy Magazine #8 - editorial page: "In the meantime, I just want to say a quick apology to the fans who were expecting a James Marsters interview in Issue 7 (as advertised in the previous issue). Plans don't always work out, so we had to delay him for one issue. I was totally unprepared for the barrage of angry letters I received on the subject!"
91See for article blurb, July/August 2003
92 See note 88.
93 Transcript by atzone of James Marsters Q&A James is discussing the Thank You James Variety and Hollywood Reporter Ads that appeared in March 2003. "That was one of the sweetest experiences. I understand that some of the people responsible for that are in the audience today and I want to really thank you guys. Thank you. That had an effect in L.A. that I don't know that you are aware of. To have fans come together and do something, that frankly, costs that much money and takes that much planning apparently doesn't happen very often - if at all. We just were swamped with calls after that asking, "What do you do to your fans?" I didn't tell them everything. [Giggles] To some degree, it's hard for me to take compliments and so in a way I don't know how to react but at the same time, I am very deeply touched. I feel like I have worked hard and I do put in extra effort and, no matter how tired I am, there is a certain kind of passion that comes through. And I am glad that is in some way resonated with you guys."
94 See note 88
95 For details of these and other Spike campaigns, see,,,
96 See James Marsters Interview in SFX August 2003: "Joss is so excited about it, too. He started to write my entrance scene in Angel as he was supposed to be writing the death scene in Buffy, and he had to stop himself! He was getting so excited about the potential, and the things that he could do." See also the conventions where James Marsters mentioned Spike was to be in the Faith spin-off and possibly on Angel. Also David Boreanze at a convention prior to Angel's renewal being announced, stated Spike would be added to Angel next year in some capacity and he was looking forward to it. (not sure where - try May 2003 or, David Fury mentions it in Dreamwatch and Tim Minear in TV Zone. They even mention how Whedon planned on bringing Spike back in the spin-off.
97 See Charisma Carpenter's interview in May 2003 on (can't recall exactly where I found it); see the transcript of Moonlight Rising and Tampa Vulkon Conventions.
98 See Thank you Charisma Campaign:
99 LET'S GET XANDER TO VISIT ANGEL PETITION, posted on listserve in August 2003.
100A website called The Hellmouth Line League actually tabulates this. According to their statistics the following had the most lines per episode overall: Buffy, Willow, Xander, Rupert Giles, Spike. In Season 7: Buffy, Willow, Xander, Spike. In Season 6: Buffy, Willow, Xander, Anya, Dawn/Spike. In Season 5: Buffy, Willow, Xander, Spike.
101The Buffy/Angel Warriors Website. David Greenwalt comments on the B/A shippers in SFX The Vampire Special Addition, 2001. Marti Noxon mentions them in a interview in February 2002 (I think, it might have been later - check discussion board archives for a mention of it).
102 See any number of Buffy/Spike sites on the internet. Marti Noxon also commented on the B/S shippers in SFX Vampire Special Edition, 2001 and in assorted online interviews.
103 See James Marsters Interview in SFX August 2003; Amber Benson Q&A at Moonlight Rising; Whedon Interview with IGFN. In an Interview with Kristin (Wanda) at the end of Season 6, Whedon states that he had considered making Willow bi-sexual but with Tara's death, he feels that would be impossible and send a negative message to fans.
104 Jane Espenson, Drew Greenberg, Rebecca Rand Kirshner Interview on Succubus Club, stating that they lost interest in Anya once she broke up with Xander in Selfless. See also Espenson comments regarding how Xander's arc ran out of steam in The Replacement and David Fury's response to a poster at Bronze Beta regarding how they just weren't focusing on Xander - Whedon came up with the emotional arcs and they followed them. If you check the fanboards, you'll discover that the majority of fans and critics were actually in agreement with the writers. Also according to, Xander specific episodes dipped in ratings. Go Fish was one of the lowest rated episodes in S2.
105 If you're really interested? (ie. masochistically taking the time to read the small print of this footnote) Here's my findings: Buffy had the most votes (11) with Willow a close second (8). Xander in third with (6). Buffy/Spike was the most popular ship (8). Willow/Tara in second place (7). Spike and Dru in third (5). The rest aren't worth counting. Spike most overrated character with seven votes and Tara in second with four votes. Anya, Buffy, Angel, Johnathan, Andrew, and Amy all tied with two votes each. Xander also got a vote as overrated. What's interesting is the B/A shippers (3) all voted Spike as most overrated. The Willow lovers (4 - Spike as overrated). Xander lovers? (none - they were all over the place). So nope no consensus. And I'm sure if we did this on other boards, we'd get completely different responses. So it's only indicative of thirty out of 500 Atpobtvs discussion board posters, bad statistical sampling. Add to that - at least 50% of those polled have a tendency to change their mind or weren't taking it seriously. Although I have to say the person who said Spike's bod was overrated, yet wanted more of it, was a personal favorite. That and whomever voted for Spike/Buffybot ship.

[> [> [> For a really good example of a character war?? -- shadowkat, 08:40:45 08/24/03 Sun

Go to the ASSB Board - at the url above.

It demonstrates some of my points in this portion of my essay brillantly. In fact I'm half tempted to save the thread and add it as a footnote. It is an excellent example of how someone hurts their favorite characters by bashing a popular character.

Also a good example of the points I raise about the Very Special episode.

[> [> [> [> LOL I brought over some quotes as an example (couldn't resist) -- Anon, 11:12:41 08/24/03 Sun

A selection of responses (they do prove your point beatifully and feature bashing to various degrees of Spike, Xander, and Angel):

"While Spike does have his straight male fans, they tend to be the angry loner/loser type, wanting payback for every social slight, real or imagined, and nailing every gal...NOTHING and NO ONE for male viewers to enjoy...fantasy shows can't survive without male viewers...I'm not sure what that comment about Xander plates is supposed to be...Spike fans by defination loathe Xander and what he stands for because he presents an alternative to the bodice ripper fantasy...Xander's prominence marks Buffy's highest ratings".

"As for your drivel about how rapists are not demons...Mutent Enemy pandered to their Spuggy fanbase...I really can't believe you're defending Joss on this...I must say I've lost all respect for you....lobby the date rapist Andrew Luster to be released"

"Spike fans don't normally loathe Xander fans. They only loathe the Xander fans who constantly spew forth about how much they hate Spike and Spike fans, and after reading the same arguments ad nauseum about how superior Xander is over Spike, find themselves starting to hate Xander by reflex"

"Thw whole Angel, can rape who he wants, we still want him with Buffy, does hurt the credibility and "genuine" outrage a bit..The B/A board never cared about rape before"

[> [> [> [> [> is fascinating isn't it? -- s'kat, 11:23:38 08/24/03 Sun

It really does prove my points on what causes bashing, the psychology behind it, and why character/poster/writer bashing does not work. All it does is start a board war and make everyone involved look sort of silly.

Usually ASSB and B C & S delete these threads. The reason?
Because if they didn't it would take over the board. I'm was actually sort of pleased they didn't this round, probably b/c the moderators appreciated the irony as much as we do. LOL!

[> Conclusion (also has footnotes, spoilers to Chosen&Home) -- s'kat, 10:31:44 08/23/03 Sat


While the process of making a television show and the boundaries of the medium may have adversely affected BTVS in its final season - the writers have to their credit circumvented or subverted some of these pitfalls. Neither the actors nor the fans dictated what the show should do. Oh they tried, but the writers ignored them. Sarah Michelle Geller noted in the press that she did not like Dead Things and the UK censors chopped out fifty percent of it. (106) Yet, Dead Things is considered by the writers, the critics, and the majority of fans to be one of the show's best. (107) If it had been up to B/A shippers - Angel would never have left BTVS and started his own series, we would not have had four seasons of Angel or Connor. Likewise if it had been up to fans, we would not have had the Willow/Tara relationship. The trick is figuring out what tactic garners ratings - usually it is the opposite of what fans want or think they want. (108)

Although BTVS and ATS had difficulty keeping certain actors, which hurt plot arcs - they worked around them. If Juliet Landau wasn't available? No problem let's explore vampire divorce with Spike. Seth Green wants to pursue a movie career? Okay, we'll create a lesbian relationship. Anthony Stewart Head wants to go back to England and spend more time with his family? Fine, let's see how Buffy handles his departure.

While Btvs and ATS never truly subvert their hero formulas, they do skirt the pitfall of becoming overly predictable. Buffy doesn't ride off into the sunset with her one true love at the end of Chosen. She doesn't die making the ultimate sacrifice. Nor does she continue her lonely thankless task of saving the world. Instead, she does something few superheroes on television have done - she shares the power, allowing everyone to become a hero in the end, walking off into the sunset with her friends and family, her future an open book. Writers rarely attempt this twist. Meanwhile on ATS the writers pull a stunt that has only really been pulled once or twice before and in both instances the series was cancelled anyway. (109) They did a finale and a pilot in the same episode. A finale that blew critics away but left several fans annoyed. Did they stay within the bounds of their formula - yes, but they did it with a modicum of grace under pressure, allowing their hero to remain murky. (110)

Even though Btvs fell into the formulaic sixth and seventh season traps of the very special episode and clips episodes, they constructed their tales with a certain panache. The Very Special Episode of Seeing Red - could be seen as an interesting exercise in blending naturalistic cinema with mise-en-scene techno-color. Stripping away the metaphors only to bring them back again in a new way. It may not have worked quite as they intended and they may have picked an incredibly over done issue to do it with, but I give them points for ambition. Same can be said with Wrecked, which also attempted to explore an well-traveled issue with a new twist. Neither story arc irreparably damaged the show or the characters. While some fans and critics saw it in a negative light, most applauded the effort. (111) As WickedBuffy, a frequent poster on discussion boards, noted - at least Seeing Red made us re-think the issue. In the end that may be ME's greatest accomplishment. Not the subversion of the form so much as what they accomplished within the narrow boundaries of a tough and increasingly competitive medium, which more often than not caters to the lowest common denominator. ME through BTVS and ATS not only made the portion of us lucky enough to discover them think, but also enriched our lives by introducing a complex yet empowering female icon to our culture, entertaining us along the way. That, if we think about it, is more than most TV series deliver.

106 SMG's Exit Interview with Entertainment Weekly; , Slayage Journal #8 for article on Censorship of BTVS in UK. See also KdS, response to sdev's question on UK censorship, discussion board archives, 8/13/03.: "Because BtVS and AtS are considered "fantasy", and hence "for kids", the BBC, which showed BtVS, and Channel 4, which showed the first two seasons of AtS, put them in early evening slots. All the early-evening showings of BtVS on the BBC were heavily censored for sex and violence, in some cases (reportedly including Consequences [whole X/F scene cut], Who Are You [whole R/F scene cut] and Dead Things) doing serious damage to the plot of the eps. There is a detailed and very disturbing article on about the nature and effects of the BBC cuts to Dead Things. After protests from fans, the BBC agreed to reshow all episodes in uncut form in a late-night time slot the night after the cut early-evening broadcast, both for new episodes and reruns."
107 Dead Things had higher ratings. Marti Noxon and Joss Whedon state in interviews it was one of the better episodes of Season 6, next to Once More With Feeling and Tabula Rasa. (can't remember where exactly - try - online interviews in 2002 Summer. )
108 According to Joss Whedon's Interview on IGFN - when ratings dipped in S2, Buffy and Angel were happy, they spiked in Innocence when they split them apart. Same with Season 3.
109 Now and Again - one year series, tried to change things by having the lead reunite with his family and take them on the run as opposed to continuing to work for the secret organization; Nichols, a 1971 Western, killed it's anti-hero and had a new more heroic character ride into town.
110 Home, for those who did not see it or are unfamiliar - was the last episode in Angel season 4. Tim Minear wrote it with the realization that it could very well be the end of the series. WB did not let ME know they were renewing Angel until after the episode was filmed. The episode concluded with Angel, the hero of the show, signing on with his arch-nemesis the evil law firm Wolfram and Hart, erasing his side-kicks memories of his son and the events associated with the boy, as well as erasing and replacing his son's memories with new ones and setting that son up with a new normal family. The leading lady, fan favorite, Cordelia Chase who had become evil in the finale season, was left in a coma. For a more complete summary: go to or search the discussion board archives.
111Check the professional critical reviews on that came out before or right after Chosen aired, without exception, all were glowing. See specifically Entertainment Weekly and New York Times.

[> [> Xena (many spoliers for all seasons of Xena) -- Ace_of_Sevens, 00:06:19 08/24/03 Sun

Xena, for all its faults, was a very daring show. Perhaps the most daring show I've ever seen. Unfortunately, it many ways, this was its fault. There are certain things that aren't done for a reason.

Sometimes, the risks worked. The vague setting and lack of any concern for actual history or mythology left things wide open for them. It's also one of the very few shows that caught me off guard on a regular basis.

The rather non-traditional score was also a huge success and won the show its only Emmy as well as the ASCAP Top TV series for every season it was on the year except the first.

Its willingness to tamper with standard genre storylines was also very big. For instance, in season 2 when Callisto stole Xena's body, she kept it for a few episodes, leaving Hudson Leick as the temporary lead on the show.

Other things are debatable. Xena and Gabrielle's falling out in season 3 that they never entirely recovered from, for instance. Also the musical. It was certainly interesting to see it tried and the art direction was excellent, but it was hampered by songs that came off sillier than they were supposed to and a very bad singing double for Gabrielle.

Toward the end of the show, we get to things that almost everyone agrees didn't work. Brining in heaven and angels didn't really fit the established mythology and some of the theological points didn't sit well with anyone (for instance, Xena's being sent to hell for her compassion and Callisto's instant transformation). This brings us to the most maddening aspect. The producers wouldn't pick a direction and run with it.

There are good ways to mix comedy and drama. Buffy did this, so did X-Files and Angel. Even Xena did a few times early on. The key is the comedy has to be consistent with the drama. A treatment that says to some degree, the whole show is funny. From season 3 on, however, the Xena characters in the comedy episodes seemed like Mad-magazine parodies of their usual selves (there are few notable exceptions). Character development was forgotten, various traits were pushed to the extreme and plots went completely off the deep end. Then the next week, we were subjected to another hour of pain. I buy into Joss's theory that comedy makes the drama bearable. However this only works when they connect. I know I and many other fans find episodes such as the Deliverer and Maternal Instincts far too emotionally painful to ever watch again.

As far as directional changes, we'd get several a season. Apparently, the producers listened both too much and too little to the fans. Essentially, they would take the show in radical new directions constantly without consulting the fans, then drop them when the fans didn't like them. The result was a mess of continuity holes and dropped plot lines.

For instance, Soul Possession makes no sense when viewed in light of Sacrifice part 2. In Sacrifice part 2, Gabrielle pushes her daughter Hope into a chasm to kill her and falls in herself in the process. According to Soul Possession, she made a deal with Ares to save Hope, even though she had killed her only a few seconds before this happened. Doesn't make sense. They also played down the possibility of Ares being Xena's father because fans who cried incest or thought if Xena had superhuman heritage it diminished her accomplishments as she wasn't overcoming as much.

Or for a less extreme example, the Amazons. How are they organized and how does their government work? It seems different every appearance.

The worst examples of this, and part of why people hate the finale, happened in season 6. The moved the show 25 years into the future so they could have Xena's daughter Livia/Eve as an adult. When they did this, they essentially dropped all storylines dealing with supporting characters, except, sort of, Joxer. If you wanted resolutions for any of the Amazon characters, for instance, you would be disappointed. Also gone, the story about Raphael, Michael and the other Angels. Fans reacted negatively to Eve so after episode 14, she was gone as well. You were left with Gabrielle and Xena separated from everything established in the first five seasons for no apparent reason.

Add in Xena's illogical behavior for much of this season, and you're left with something that doesn't seem connected to the rest of the series.

The problem with the finale wasn't so much that Xena died. The fans had all been expecting this ever since The Xena Scrolls in Season 2. The problem was the way in which it was handled. Number one problem was that Ares was nowhere to be seen. Considering how closely tied he had seemed to Xena's destiny throughout the seasons, it felt like a rip-off to not put him in at the end. Also, they never bothered resolving the aforementioned storyline about Eve. So they were in a new place, with new characters dealing with a situation we'd hadn't heard of before. Most fans' biggest problem, though is the reason Xena died. For those who didn't see the episode, Xena could have been brought back to life, but then all the people who she had accidentally killed about 37 years earlier wouldn't be avenged and their souls would be trapped forever. So she chose to stay dead. The problem is that the whole show had been about how vengeance was empty and meaningless. To suddenly give it such weight contradicted the main theme of the show for the last 6 years.

I think Hercules is a much better example of subversion. It changed from a light adventure-comedy to a disturbing horror-drama, then back again while hardly missing a step. (There were Porkules and One Fowl Day, but best to forget those) They also made very successful use of flashback with four Young Hercules episodes in season 4. And at the end, they tied it all back together with an appropriate send-off for each character, including some that had only appeared in the Young Hercules spin-off. Granted, it was less daring than Xena, but I think it was just daring enough.

Same with Buffy. Buffy and Angel have either done or teased us with almost everything on the jumping the shark list, yet managed to never actually jump. They haven't been afraid to take the focus off the lead temporarily and in the case of Angel, especially season 2, make the hero more morally ambiguous than you normally would.

Also, with Buffy, they went farther with the tragic flaw than normally done in a hero's journey show. As I watched, I slowly came to the conclusion that Buffy has a fairly serious problem with depression. You can see her start off a little shaky in the pilot and slowly sink before finally hitting rock-bottom in season 6.

Also, I give ME points for half-listening to the fans. Particularly in the case of Buffy and Spike. You give the fans the pairing they've clamoring for, then portray it as a horrible, abusive and ultimately destructive to both people.

Also, they get big points for the handling of Spike. usually when the audience likes a villain, you soften them so as not to be so much of a villain. With Spike, this didn't really happen in the usual way. Spike slowly seemed less and less dangerous. He almost was a part of the gang, but then, there were the constant reminders that inside, he's hardly changed. He still doesn't know the difference between right and wrong. He still longs to kill. This never changed until season 7.

I liked X-Files last two seasons more than most people. My roommate is the same way. I can't find many other people like that, though. In my opinion, the show really went downhill in seasons 6 and 7. Mulder's behavior became increasingly bizarre, Scully's skepticism increasingly improbable and the arc episodes increasingly harder to follow. Doggett was not only legitimately skeptical, he had a magnetic determination rather unlike Mulder's. Granted, if they had tried to stretch out the finding Mulder story too long he would have worn thin, but I think this was the best way available to end the show.

[> [> [> Hmmm...good points! -- s'kat, 09:20:25 08/24/03 Sun

Thank you for the overview of Xena and Hercules. I really stopped watching both series way before their final seasons for seperate reasons. (Not a huge Kevin Zorbo fan - so never could quite get into HErcules) and for Xena? I liked it until they tried to take it 25 years into the future, where they lost me. I sort of off and on watched it after Xena got pregnant and had EVE. But stopped completely after
EVE was born.

Xena tried to break the rules - but after a while I think the show did it just for the sake of breaking them and not for any true purpose. From the description you provided above it sounds as if the characters became little more than stick figures for the director to play around with. I honestly think the difficulty X-Files had was the "majority" of the audience had difficulty accepting Doggett as the new lead or what they were doing with the two characters the audience was invested in - Mulder and Scully.

I'm on the fence about formula. I don't believe BTVS and ATS ever subverted it. I do believe they pushed at the boundaries. What I'm on the fence on is whether it matters.
Perhaps it's better that they didn't subvert or break or change the formula too much? I'm not sure how they could have without losing the story.

Your point about Buffy is a good one - in some ways the story does discuss depression. Here's a young girl who had been a cheerleader, the most popular girl in school, had a normal boyfriend, parents, etc - and all of a sudden some stranger pops into her life and tells her she's a vampire slayer. In a flash she loses her popularity, her role as a cheerleader, her father (who leaves her and her mother),
and is fighting monsters. If you think about it - the vampires/monsters are an excellent metaphor for the pitfalls of depression - ie. the psychological monsters in our mind. Angel represents the teen's/adolscents romantic dreams and fears of realizing that dream, while Spike represents the young adult's sexual/erotic fantasies and fears and how both those are part and parcel of Buffy's own fears regarding her ability to ever have a happy relationship - or if she is doomed to live her mother's life. We could argue that Whedon uses the central character/hero formula as a metaphorical structure to discuss the psychological journey of a young girl. Just as he uses the cursed hero formula as a metaphorical structure to discuss the psychological process of living with addiction. In which case - instead of subverting the formula, Whedon uses it to further his story and themes, which may be why the show never unraveled like Xena, instead of feeling a need to change the formula or subvert, ME was content to just use to further it's own ends.

[> [> [> [> You nailed it -- Ace_of_Sevens, 11:52:57 08/24/03 Sun

I think you nailed Xena's problem. While as you pointed out, shows can't be plotted too heavily in advance, they do need a loose plan or at least a clear vision. Xena sufferred horribly in its final two seasons (and somewhat in three and four) from an apparent lack of these.

Buffy and Angel Angel may have never completely subverted the basic structure of tv, unless you count putting the structure of a soap into the form of a genre show as subversion, but they did do a number on many traditional storylines, which apparently have a lot more wiggle room than the basics. Dawn and Connor can both be seen as subversion of cousin Oliver Syndrome, for instance.

I think what it comes down to is the rules are there for a reason. They're essentially what's required to make the audience care about the characters. There is a little room to mess with it, but not much.

[> [> [> [> [> Re: You nailed it -- DEN, 12:36:53 08/24/03 Sun

It comes down not only to rules, but respect. I had the increasing feling that Xena's producers/directors and to a significant degree the actors lost respect for the show and its characters. Joss and Co., whatever their flaws and errors, sustained that respect to the the end.

[> [> [> [> [> [> Don't really agree...Read my 2-part essay above. -- Rob, 16:08:38 08/24/03 Sun

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> Or, um, below, rather...LOL. -- Rob, 16:13:28 08/24/03 Sun

[> [> [> [> My analysis of Xena's later years... Part 1 -- Rob, Xena expert extraordinaire, 15:16:35 08/24/03 Sun

Interesting...I agree with a lot of what Ace_of_Seven said, but not all, particularly regarding the 3rd season, which is my very favorite...but regarding the flaws, particularly near the end of the series, yep. Hope you find this interesting, too, s'kat...It's a bit O/T, but it does definitely have tie-ins to what you said about Buffy and the troubles of writing a television series.

This article of mine was actually published at the
On-line International Journal of Xena Studies:


The Show:

Xena: Warrior Princess has evolved more in its six year run than most television shows ever accomplish. Much has been written about its unique ability to swiftly careen from high opera one week to comedy another, from self-parody and camp to serious drama and tragedy. A great deal has also been said about its highly experimental nature: this show has done musicals, historical epics, alternate universes, modern day stories, special effects extravaganzas, and fairy tales. What has been most fascinating about this highly unusual program, however, is its exploration of the relationship between two remarkable female characters. Behind all of the mythology, science fiction, and other over-the-top elements, it has always been able to paint a story that is true to human emotion and to portray characters as real as any in "real life".

True to human nature, these characters have not remained the stagnant caricatures that often populate television worlds. Think of sitcoms like Friends, Frasier, and Seinfeld, or dramas like Melrose Place, The Practice, and Providence. Have any of these characters truly grown emotionally or changed the least bit since the show began? They might be a few years older, but that does not mean that they are necessarily wiser. I have yet to see a character on any other show (with the exception of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, reach a true epiphany, question his or her very ideology, or, in essence, grow up. On Xena: Warrior Princess, however, this has happened. Both Xena and Gabrielle, the main characters, have been profoundly changed by their experiences together.

In Sins of the Past, the premiere episode, Xena was an emotionally distant loner, tortured by the atrocities she had perpetrated in her dark past, and with the belief that humankind would never embrace or forgive her previous indiscretions. Through the course of the series, she would learn that this is not true. She goes on to become the greatest hero the world has ever known and opens herself up to human emotions and love. By the end of the series, she is in touch with both her stereotypically masculine and powerful side, and her extremely feminine, adoring side.

The changes in Gabrielle are even more amazing. From the gutsy but inexperienced farm girl, capable of seeing the good in every one, and with a penchant for getting herself into trouble, Gabrielle has evolved into a seasoned warrior, strong and mature. She has gone from Xena's tagalong sidekick to her equal in every way.

Throughout the years, their relationship has not always been smooth. Conflicting backgrounds and beliefs lead to the famous rift in the third season. Whereas on another, lesser show an argument between two characters might last an episode or two at the most, the effects of this major falling out were felt for months, if not years, later. During the fourth season, Xena and Gabrielle questioned whether they should be traveling together in the first place, and Gabrielle questioned who she was as a person, an issue not fully resolved until the end of the sixth season.

Volumes and volumes could be written merely analyzing Xena and Gabrielle's relationship. That, however, is not the purpose of this article, which is to analyze the faults and accomplishments of the sixth, and final season. It is important, nevertheless, to understand that the sixth season has succeeded phenomenally, perhaps more so than any other, in its celebration of the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle and in its returning to the roots of what has made us fall in love with the show in the first place. Where it has been less successful is in focus and story continuity, unfortunately making for one of the weakest overall seasons in the show's history.

Lack of Focus:

The sixth season's major flaw, the one from which all the others spring, is its lack of focus and drive. While watching all other seasons, the viewer was lead to a specific place, with each episode adding another piece into the mosaic that made up the year's overall story or theme.

In the first season, we were becoming acquainted with Xena and Gabrielle, and Xena and Gabrielle were becoming acquainted with each other. Although this year was the most episodic, in that each story began and ended in the weekly installment, it was fitting of the early stages of this show, which was setting up its formula. Throughout the year, we watched Xena and Gabrielle build a solid friendship whilst fighting a succession of bad people.

The second season continued the spirit of the first, but allowed us a more in-depth look into these characters. We were allowed to learn a great more about Xena's dark past, how she came to be the great evil force she once was, and were allowed to greater appreciate her reformation and the strength she derived from Gabrielle's love. We watched Gabrielle grow into her own as a woman, and, for the first time, consider murder, to avenge the death of her husband in Return of Callisto, and become a leader in The Quest. In A Necessary Evil, she acquired her own mortal enemy in the form of Velasca. Whereas before Callisto had hunted her due to her association with Xena alone, she now herself was the primary target of an enemy.

Both the Rift saga and the loss of Gabrielle's blood innocence drove the third season. As far as plot goes, it was the most interconnected season, meaning one could not casually view any episode and expect to understand what was going on without having seen every other episode. The season had a definite purpose from beginning to end, stretching the boundaries of Xena and Gabrielle's relationship, forcing Gabrielle to grow up quicker than expected, and culminating in a climax that both redefined Xena and Gabrielle's love for each other and set the stage for the next year.

The fourth season was held together by a vision. This vision, first seen in Adventures in the Sin Trade II, simultaneously proved to Xena that Gabrielle was still alive and convinced her that she and Gabrielle should go their separate ways. Xena saw herself and Gabrielle being crucified by the Romans atop a snow-covered mountain. She realized that if Gabrielle stayed with her, she would die with her, and she could not accept this. This vision drove the entire season, inspiring a trip of self-discovery in India, leading both Xena and Gabrielle to question and renew their love for one another, and, in the end, die together.

Similarly, the fifth season had a specific goal. Xena and Gabrielle were sent back to life with a purpose. Xena discovered, to her astonishment, that she was pregnant and that her daughter would be the instrument that would destroy the Greek gods and make way for monotheism. Thus, all of the Greek gods vowed to find and destroy Xena's baby. Xena spent the year protecting her baby, both before and after she was born, and in the end brought about the Twilight of the Gods.

Coming from previous seasons that were so tightly woven, the sixth season was quite a surprise. One would expect that in the final season of a show such as this, the writers would attempt to create a spectacular season- long story arc, one that would both tie up any loose ends from previous seasons and would steadily build the season, and the entire show, to a huge, stunning climax. This, however, did not happen. Besides some mini-arcs, such as the trilogy, comprised of Who's Gurkhan, Legacy, and The Abyss, in which Gabrielle finally resolved her stance on violence, and the Ring Trilogy, in which Xena and Gabrielle's status as soul-mates was firmly renewed after their seeming distance in the fifth season, this season lacked sweep, and most importantly focus. Taken as a whole, it seems slipshod and thrown together.

Although it can be argued that this season is in many ways meant as a homecoming, as implied by the title of the first episode, Coming Home, and that its overall purpose was to return Xena and Gabrielle's relationship to the way it once was, before the complications of the third, fourth, and fifth seasons set in, this purpose could have been accomplished through a solid story. Instead, we are given disjointed episodes that, while in many ways do feel like the "Xena" of old, and do have their merits when taken separately, feel disappointing when viewed as a whole.

Consider Friend in Need, the last episode, which does attempt to bring the story of the show's six seasons full circle. Unfortunately, we have had no build up to the epic plot of which Friend in Need is comprised. The ending, in which Xena sacrifices her life in order to redeem the souls of ten thousand people she had killed years before, would have possibly been more accepted by the fans had they been made aware of Friend in Need's back-story earlier in the season. We have been on Xena's side for the past six years, but have only met these victims the second-episode-to-the-last. Of course, we would not want Xena to die for a sin of which we had only just been made aware. In seasons three through five, the actions that lead to the conclusion had been in evidence for the full year. To deprive the viewers of such a progression in the final year was a fatal mistake.

Sloppy Writing:

The second great fault of the sixth season was a reliance on hasty, rather than thought out, writing. Unpopular plots from the previous season were quickly resolved, seemingly in an attempt to please all the fans at once. Unfortunately, this drive to erase the past as swiftly as possible lead to stories made unbelievable by major plot holes.

For example, a huge, vocal portion of the fans disliked the fifth season, due to its extermination of almost all of the Greek gods and its separation of Xena and Gabrielle's characters most of the time. Although I was not one of these people, I understood their reasoning and would have expected the writers to come up with some creative way to fix these problems while maintaining the integrity of their own creation. Unfortunately, the writers did not seem to understand that most intelligent fans would like an intelligent wrap-up to even a less-than-beloved plotline.

The God You Know is probably the most egregious example of the sixth season's attempt to quickly write its way out of a situation with its tail between its legs. The Archangel Michael, who had previously helped Xena, tells her that God has decided Eve, Xena's daughter, should sacrifice her life. He immediately becomes Xena's enemy, and Xena fights him to save her daughter. The instant she attacks him, however, Xena's power to kill gods is taken away, and the audience is left wondering why. Why did the God who created Eve in order to wipe out the lesser gods decide she should now die? Why was He now punishing Xena for protecting her daughter? Was this meant to say that this God had used Xena just as the others had tried to? That this God was evil as well? Was Eli then just using Xena and Gabrielle all this time as well or did he have no say in Xena's powers being taken away? None of these issues are ever answered, and except for a brief mention in You Are There, this plot is never heard from again.

A few years ago, in an article printed in The Chakram, the official Xena fan club's newsletter, the writers made it clear that they only spend time explaining necessary elements on the show. Having an entire episode, for example, dealing with how Gabrielle escaped the lava pit after Sacrifice II is unnecessary, because it would bog down the plot. The brief explanation given in A Family Affair, that she had been thrown against a wall of the cave and slowly crawled her way out over a period of many days, was totally acceptable and fit the logic of the Xenaverse. Ironically, the writers went against their own methods in the sixth season when they attempted to again explain Gabrielle's escape in Soul Possession. This time, however, the explanation did not fit into the continuity of the show and proved the merits of the writers' earlier theory of leaving some aspects to the imagination. Of course, The God You Know is an example of not enough information being given. The writers should have taken time later in the year to explain this inconsistency, rather than an all-but- forgotten one from the third season.

Continuity Flaws:

The lack of continuity constituted the third major flaw of the sixth season, which is a direct tie-in to the hasty writing. The writing, overall, was sloppy in the sixth season, and in many cases, it seemed that no attention was paid to either episodes from previous seasons, or even from that very season. The previously mentioned Soul Possession completely disregards the fact that Hope, Gabrielle's demon daughter with whom she had plunged into the lava pit, had made it clear in A Family Affairthat her father, Dahak, had saved her. In this episode, Ares says that he did it, and that Gabrielle had asked him to do so. That makes no sense considering the fact that Gabrielle had poisoned Hope in Maternal Instincts, pushed her off a cliff in Sacrifice II, and immediately set about trying to kill her again in A Family Affair. Are we expected to believe that Gabrielle reconsidered after one murder attempt and then changed her mind again? That is not even factoring in that in A Family Affair, Gabrielle was surprised that Hope was alive, and that we are also asked to believe that at this point in the story, Ares, the god of war, wanted to marry Xena. Why, then, was she surprised at his proposal in the fifth season?

The flaws in this episode, however, extend beyond mere logic. In one scene, we see Xena carrying the new chakram, which she did not get until the episode Chakram, which took place over a year later. A minor flaw, perhaps, but indicative of the lack of care or effort the show had this year.

If we return to The God You Know, we are expected to believe that, since Xena can no longer kill Caligula once her god-killing powers are taken away, she convinces him to kill himself. It, however, has been previously established on the show that a god cannot kill himself. Callisto informed us in Sacrifice that the only way for a god to reach oblivion is to be stabbed with Hind's Blood. A god cannot die merely because he wants to do so.

In Friend in Need, a continuity flaw could be recognized from earlier in the year. Xena teaches Gabrielle how to do the pinch, Xena's method of interrogation by which she cuts off the flow of blood to her victim's brain, and both act as if this has never happened before. This completely ignores the fact that early this very year, in Heart of Darkness, Xena had taught Gabrielle the pinch, or at least how to remove it. Why was teaching her how to put it on someone much different? Further, in that episode, Gabrielle did not want to learn how to do it. In Friend in Need, she complains that Xena had never taught it to her.

Two less inexplicable, but still hard to believe, episodes occur as a result of continued additions to Xena's back-story. In the Ring Trilogy, we learn of a brief time Xena spent in Norway, while in A Friend in Need, we learn of a brief time in Japan. What does not, however, gel is the fact that both are said to have occurred after she left Chin in The Debt II. Previously, we were lead to believe that the events of Adventures in the Sin Trade occurred immediately after those in The Debt. Xena was very vulnerable at that point, still conflicted from the kind teachings of Lao Ma, who tried to convince her to become good once more. A new mentor, Alti, came at that point and set Xena further on her path of evil. It was very important, however, that Xena be confused by Alti after recently being affected by Lao Ma. Xena could not have immediately gone conquering in Japa, or explaining her belief in the non- existence of love in Norway, unless meeting Alti happened between this. Even in the Xenaverse, however, it is hard to believe that Xena came back from Chin, later went to Norway and then went all the way back to Japa, farther east than Chin. That presses the believability of even a fantasy show such as Xena.


[> [> [> [> [> Part 2 will be coming later today. I don't have time at the moment to format the HTML. -- Rob, 15:17:36 08/24/03 Sun

[> [> [> [> [> Part 2 -- Rob, 16:07:22 08/24/03 Sun

Missed Opportunities:

In many ways, the sixth season was a year of missed opportunities. Chances to resolve issues such as how Xena came into possession of and learned how to use the chakram were squandered. We learned in Chakram that Ares had given that there are two chakrams and Ares gave the dark one to Xena, but there must be more of a story than that. That could have made a fantastic final episode.

Great premises, such as the one in Send in the Clones, wherein Xena and Gabrielle are cloned in the twenty-first century, were likewise squandered. Whereas that episode could have been a fascinating and funny exploration of how Xena and Gabrielle would react to life and crime in the twenty-first century, what resulted was a poorly written clip show, in which both characters behaved out-of-character and spent most of the time in the lab, and then in the back of a junkyard. A great would-be scene in which Xena busts Gabrielle out of jail is done off camera! In previous seasons, the futuristic clip shows created a whole universe with believable characters. The Xena Scrolls and Deja Vu All Over Again are prime examples of this. Yes, clips are used, but the story is still exciting and engaging. Send in the Clones was a flat, uninspired rendition of what could have been a brilliant idea.

What Went Right:

With all of these problems, mistakes, and flubs, what, you may ask, redeems this season? First off, most of the episodes were not bad. Many stand-alone episodes were very strong. Examples of this include the tightly written Dangerous Prey, which was directed by Renee O'Connor, and the warm and funny Many Happy Returns. In Old Ares Had a Farm and You Are There, we were given two very enjoyable comedies. The Ring Trilogy, When Fates Collide, and A Friend in Need are among the best episodes this show has ever produced.

The success of the sixth season, seen a great deal in the aforementioned episodes, lies almost completely in its depiction of Xena and Gabrielle's relationship. Over the past five years, we had seen Xena and Gabrielle encounter incredible highs in their friendship, and lows from which we thought they would never recover. The sixth season was wonderful in cementing the fact that Xena and Gabrielle are soulmates, dear friends, and perhaps more. In past seasons, the writers hinted at the fact that Xena and Gabrielle might be lesbians, a concept that has come to be known as the "subtext". However, there they had mostly done so through jokes, winks, and nudges to the audience. In the sixth season, the so-called "subtext" was brought directly in the forefront, in a serious manner not attempted since the India arc of the fourth season and the late fourth season episode, Ides of March. The subtext was not so "sub" anymore. Any way a viewer would like to read their relationship, it is extremely hard to argue that there is not at least a romantic attraction between the two after seeing an episode like When Fates Collide or The Return of the Valkyrie.

The Ring Trilogy:

The Ring Trilogy is comprised of three sixth season episodes, namely The Rheingold, The Ring, and , which are a mix of Norse mythology, the Beowulf legend, and the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale. What makes these episodes so great are not just their very clever story, but also the fact that for the first time, in a long time, an episode goes out of its way to declare Xena and Gabrielle's love for each other. Throughout the fifth season, Xena and Gabrielle spent a great deal of time apart. Whether this was a result of Gabrielle feeling uncomfortable or perhaps even angry about Xena's pregnancy was never completely addressed. However, the fact remains that it was easy, in the fifth season, to forget about the deep bond these two women share. Although they did begin to act close and loving again by the sixth season, that magic word, soulmate, was not spoken.

Then the Ring Trilogy came along, and with it Brunhilda, a woman who becomes jealous of Xena and Gabrielle's relationship. She makes it clear to Gabrielle that she wants to be Gabrielle's soulmate. Gabrielle, however, apologizes, and says that she cannot for she already loves Xena. Now, being friends with someone is one thing. One can have many close friends, but one can only have one true love, or soulmate. Gabrielle specifically states that the reason she cannot love Brunhilda is that she already loves Xena. What better argument could there be for the true nature of Xena and Gabrielle's relationship?

Gabrielle then assumes the role of Sleeping Beauty, awaiting a kiss to awaken her. Brunhilda turns herself into an eternal fire, burning around Gabrielle's resting-place. Only Gabrielle's soulmate would be able to walk through the fire unharmed and kiss the slumbering maiden. Of course, the only one who survives the flames is Xena, who then assumes the role of the fairy tale prince.

At the end of the trilogy, the profound effect Gabrielle has had on Xena's life is highlighted. Xena approaches the Rhein Maidens, a group of sea sprites who had not seen Xena since her evil days. Immediately fearful of her, they soon grow at ease when they realize Xena is a changed woman. When they ask, "What magic has made Xena into such a noble creature" she replies that it was not magic, and looks over lovingly at Gabrielle.

You Are There:

You Are There centers around the humorous notion of a television tabloid reporter appearing in Xena's time and doing a tell-all, trashy story on her, and digging up all of her dark, dirty secrets. At the end of the episode, he finally asks the question we have all waited so long to find out: Are Xena and Gabrielle lovers? Unfortunately, his cameras experiences technical difficulties, so the answer is never given. While on the one hand, this could be seen as the same sort of jokes from the show's earlier years, this episode was yet another indication about the importance of Xena and Gabrielle's relationship as the axis around which the rest of the show revolves.

When Fates Collide:

With When Fates Collide, the writers created an episode that not only was the greatest exploration of Xena and Gabrielle's love for each other, but also was one of the most brilliant episodes the show produced in its history. It revolves around the idea that Julius Caesar escapes from Tartarus, the afterlife for evil people, and kidnaps the Fates. He unravels the thread in their loom wherein he had originally betrayed and crucified Xena, and instead marries her. This results in a world where Xena and Caesar rule almost the entire known world, and Xena and Gabrielle have never met. Xena, having never been betrayed, never has become the Evil Xena we had seen in episodes such as The Debt. Gabrielle, having never met Xena, becomes a playwright, creating stories of love similar to that which we had seen her write in The Play's the Thing.

However, in this alternate world, despite the extremely different circumstances under which Xena and Gabrielle meet (Xena attends a performance of one of Gabrielle's plays), there is still an instant connection felt between Xena and Gabrielle. They still become soulmates, indicative of the fact that they were destined to be together. In episodes such as Deja Vu All Over Againand Between the Lines, we had been made aware that Xena and Gabrielle were destined to spend lifetime after lifetime together. Now we are told that even if this same time period had turned out differently, they still would have found each other.

Over a very short space of time, in this episode, Xena goes from being the Empress of Rome to a prisoner. Caesar grows jealous of Xena's love for Gabrielle, and orders Gabrielle executed. When Xena refuses to allow him to kill Gabrielle, he names her a traitor to Rome. Thus, she gives up her title, her marriage, and her whole life for a woman she had met only a day or so before, a woman whose words and beliefs had touched her so deeply and spoke to recesses of her soul which had never before been addressed.

In the greatest testament to her love for Xena thus far, Gabrielle arrives at the Fates' temple, where Caesar had bound them, and burns the loom of the Fates. This act could have destroyed the entire world and space- time continuum, but Gabrielle risks this in order to set the world right, and, more importantly, to save Xena's life.

Many Happy Returns:

Many Happy Returns deals with Gabrielle's birthday and Xena's present for her. The episode ends with one of the show's most overtly romantic scenes: Xena gives Gabrielle a poem, written for her by Sappho, a famous Greek, Lesbian poet. The words perfectly describe Xena's feelings for Gabrielle: "There's a moment when I look at you / And no speech is left in me. / My tongue breaks, then fire races under my skin / And I tremble, / And grow pale, / For I am dying of such love." Xena and Gabrielle tenderly hug, and with that, Xena puts on the Helmet of Hermes, which gives its wearer the power of flight. She and Gabrielle fly off together into the sunset.

Soul Possession:

Despite its major storyline continuity flaws, Soul Possession is another perfect example of the depths of love between Xena and Gabrielle. Despite the fact that it seemed a foregone conclusion that Gabrielle had died, Xena refuses to believe this. In a desperate attempt to retrieve her friend, she even agrees to marry Ares. She is willing to sacrifice her freedom and marry the god whom she hates most in order to find Gabrielle. This is a beautiful testament to their love. The modern-day scenes are a nice reminder of the fact that Xena and Gabrielle's souls will return, and will remain together for thousands of lifetimes to come.

A Friend in Need:

Soul Possession's reminder that Xena and Gabrielle will be reincarnated is a good thing to keep in mind while viewing Friend in Need, the last episode of Xena. In the end, Xena and Gabrielle are not allowed to ride off together into the sunset. The story concludes with Xena dead, and Gabrielle, holding Xena's ashes in an urn, standing alone on the deck of a boat headed for the Land of the Pharaohs. Although a large amount of fans were outraged at the tragedy of the ending, it is hard to deny how much Xena and Gabrielle's love for one another pervades the final episode.

At one point, Xena teaches Gabrielle how to do the pinch by using herself as the victim. Before she teaches Gabrielle how to release it, she looks deep into Gabrielle's eyes and says, "If I only have 30 seconds to live, this is how I want to live them, looking into your eyes. Always remember I love you."

Upon discovering that Xena has died, Gabrielle resolves to bring Xena back to life. "You're my whole life, Xena. I won't lose you," she tells her. Gabrielle embarks on a dark and dangerous journey, in which she risks her life in order to retrieve Xena's body. In so doing, she must battle a samurai, but her love for Xena and her determination to save her helps her through. Throughout the series, only Xena and Callisto have ever been able to throw and catch the chakram. In order to protect Xena, however, Gabrielle throws the chakram, defeating a samurai warrior, and catches it. This scene is very reminiscent of one in Ides of March, when Xena was paralyzed and could no longer fight. After a year of refusing to commit any violent acts whatsoever, and a life in which she only ever killed one person, and had never lifted a sword, Gabrielle's love for Xena gave her the courage and strength to fight and kill dozens of Roman soldiers who had come to kill Xena. Here, again, Gabrielle's extreme love for Xena gives her the ability to have strength she never realized she had before.

Shortly before Gabrielle struggles to retrieve Xena's ashes, which have fallen down the side of a cliff, she and Xena's spirit share an all- too-brief, but extremely passionate kiss. Having been harmed by an evil spirit, this kiss gives Xena the strength she needs to finish her battle.

In the end, Xena tells Gabrielle that she cannot allow her to bring her back to life. If Xena were to come back, she would condemn forty- thousand souls of people she had accidentally killed years before, to eternal suffering. Gabrielle tells Xena that she does not care, because "you are all that matters to me ... I love you, Xena. How will I go on without you?" Xena tells her that she wishes with all her heart that she could return, but throughout the years, Gabrielle had taught her the right thing to do. She tells Gabrielle that she will always be with her. As the episode ends, Xena remains by Gabrielle's side as a form of spiritual guide. She tells Gabrielle that she will always live on in her heart. "Where you go, I'm at your side."


The final season was not only successful in conveying Xena and Gabrielle's love for one another, but also in displaying the aforementioned evolution of Xena and Gabrielle's characters that occurred over the years, Gabrielle even more so than Xena. A mini-arc occurred earlier in the year, comprised of Who's Gurkhan?, Legacy, and The Abyss, in which Gabrielle once more questioned her stance on violence and her place in the world, similar to her fourth season quest.

Although some people argued that this was unnecessary and was merely recapping an old topic, I disagree. These episodes allowed Gabrielle a chance to see just how far she had come over the years. They also allowed her to renew her commitment to remain with Xena. Even up to the end of the fifth season, she was still wondering whether the warrior life was right for her. In Legacy, the greatest irony of all occurs: she kills a man carrying a scroll of peace, because she believes it to be a weapon he was aiming for Xena. The peaceful bard had now killed someone who turned out to be carrying the symbol of her former life. Dealing with the trauma of this episode allowed Gabrielle to push aside the bad happenings in her and Xena's past and look towards the future. It was a perfect ingredient and lead-in to such great "relationship" episodes as When Fates Collide and The Ring Trilogy, and to the scene in A Friend in Need, where Xena asked Gabrielle to lead in their attempt to release water from a tower and thus save a burning city. Xena followed Gabrielle's initiative to the letter, a sign both that she trusts her implicitly, and respects her judgment, as well.


All in all, the sixth and final season of Xena, while in many ways its weakest, should not be written off as uninspired or messy. What it lacked in continuity, focus, and logic, it made up for with heart and the obvious love the writers have for these two characters, and these two characters have for each other. While it is tempting to bemoan the lack of a yearlong storyline, the sloppy writing, and the tragic ending, and to pretend that the events of the last season never happened, that is a mistake, for it would ignore the brilliant highs the show did achieve this season, most notably in The Ring Trilogy, When Fates Collide, and, yes, even Friend in Need, although I personally would have ended it differently.

For those who cannot accept the ending of Friend in Need, I would suggest doing what many others already have: view When Fates Collide as the series finale. That episode contained all that is best about Xena: Warrior Princess --strength, devotion, honor, epic drama, and most importantly, true human emotions.

As the main character of the recent film, Moulin Rouge, Christian, a bard like Gabrielle, writes, "Above all, this is a story about love. A love that will live forever."


[> [> [> [> [> One of the characters on "Seinfeld" did change -- Finn Mac Cool, 20:15:59 08/24/03 Sun

George evolved greatly during the course of the show. Or, rather, he devolved. When it began, George was a lovable loser. He might have commitment issues or try to slip his ex-boss a micky for revenge, but he was shown to be not a horrible person. In one episode he desperately tries to help a man he accidentally got fired, and in another a comment he made breaks up a marriage, and he tries to rectify it. Compare this to the George of later seasons: he shrugs off the death of his fiance, he tricks a Jewish woman into eating lobster, he ruins a boy's chance to gain a scholarship, and he pretends to be handicapped so his job will give him benefits. George was a character who did change with time; it's just that it was change for the worse rather than the better.

[> [> [> [> [> on Xena Season 3 -- Ace_of_Sevens, 20:59:32 08/24/03 Sun

I wasn't opposed to the rift storyline. In fact, I liekd it quite a bit. I know it pissed many fans off. My main complaint with Xena 3 was the start of the disconnect between episodes. The middle of the season was filled with comedies that seemed to forget the dramatic developments of the surrounding episodes. And, as I said before, the dramas lacked any sort of levity.

I'll agree season 6 had some great episodes, but the numerous bad episodes early in the season kind of killed the whole thing. And the complete disregard for continuity kept even the good episodes from having any special connection to the rest of the series.

[> [> [> [> [> [> Re: on Xena Season 3 -- Rob, 07:46:25 08/25/03 Mon

I'd disagree inasmuch as the first two seasons did not have clear story arcs, although they did have emotional arcs, whereas the third season did. From the first episode of the season, "The Furies," plot and character points were being putting into place that would be reflected later in the season. And while the arc wasn't mentioned every week, it was a huge step over the first 2 years. Of the 22 episodes of the third season, it broke down like this:

[The plot arc episodes are in bold, the character/emotional arc episodes are in italics]:

1. The Furies
2. Been There, Done That
3. The Dirty Half-Dozen
4. The Deliverer
5. Gabrielle's Hope
6. The Debt
7. The Debt II
8. King of Assassins
9. Warrior...Priestess...Tramp
10. The Quill is Mightier
11. Maternal Instincts
12. The Bitter Suite
13. One Against An Army
14. Forgiven
15. King Con
16. When in Rome
17. Forget Me Not
18. Fins, Femmes & Gems
19. Tsunami
20. Vanishing Act
21. Sacrifice
22. Sacrifice II

Basically, the bulk of the season is heavy drama, and so I was never upset by the comedy episodes splitting the story arc up, even if the main story arc wasn't mentioned, because the story of this season was so heavy and at times unbearably sad that we really needed the comic relief to break it up. And while a handful of episodes in this season could be shuffled around, there are a surprising amount of arc episodes, just as many if not more than the average Buffy season. Buffy may have done a better job of seguing between the comedies and the dramas, because the continuing story arcs were always given a brief mention, but interestingly, in this season on Xena, the main problems were being caused by the two women keeping things from each other, and therefore that stuff wouldn't be brought up in the non-story arc episodes. The disconnect between the two women was a thread that ran throughout the rest of the series. I also think it was quite a bold move for a more anthology type series in its first two seasons, to move into a story arc structure. I was actually prepared for Angel's shift because of Xena. The fourth and fifth seasons of Xena, of course, are even more strictly structured. The amount of purely tangential, comedic episodes dips greatly in the next two seasons. They were few and far between.

I also don't agree that Xena and Gabrielle were just used as stick figures to be placed into different situations, because in most of the comedy episodes, even, the humor comes from the characters, not the other way around.

And the sixth season actually, on the whole, got remarkably good reception from the majority of the Xena fans because, as I said in my article, the return to the roots of the show--the Xena and Gabrielle relationship, which was all but ignored in the fifth season, where we were lucky if the girls were together for 5 minutes each episode. The season, IMO, started quite well. The first episode was terrifice. Afterwards, the 2 part Mephistophiles arc wasn't my favorite on the show, but it wasn't so bad. And from the 4th episode through the middle of the season, there wasn't one clunker. During the final half of the season, there were a few dips in overall quality, but of course there also were some brilliant episodes, including When Fates Collide, which is pure genius. And while the lack of continuity frustrated the hell out of me at the time, I don't agree that "the complete disregard for continuity kept even the good episodes from having any special connection to the rest of the series". The special connection was there because of the focus that season on Xena and Gabrielle's love. But I already posted that whole big article on that. :o)


[> [> [> I enjoyed X-files season 7 too, i loved Dogget -- Seven, 12:51:56 08/24/03 Sun

[> [> [> [> Re: I enjoyed X-files season 7 too, i loved Dogget -- s'kat, 16:53:33 08/24/03 Sun

Okay. Great. But the point was not whether "anyone" loved the season - some people did, sure, but not enough. I actually preferred Doggett to Mulder in some ways. But the majority of viewers disliked it. X-Files Season 6-7 had the lowest ratings in it's history. The critics which had been supporting it up to Season 6, began to pan it or criticize the plots. The network began to lose faith in the show and moved it around. And don't hold your breath for another movie.

The problem is (depending on your pov) - in our society - majority rules. For instance, Now and Again is one of my all time favorite science fiction series - but!! It was cancelled in it's first season. Why? The majority of viewers weren't into it. Same with Firefly. I loved Firefly. Majority didn't. I hate Who Will Marry My Dad but it is number 10 in the summer Neilsen ratings according to Entertainment Weekly. Why is this show that I would never watch in the top ten as opposed to say some other show? Don't know. But the point of a tv show is to bring as many viewers as possible to the advertisers - to get as many people as possible to buy the advertisers products. TV shows source of revenue comes from ad space. So you want the majority to like it.

Being in the minority sucks. Doesn't it? It's incredibly frustrating...but in television? number of viewers watching matters. Always has and always will.

[> [> [> [> [> Now and Again is fantastic! Speaking of which, SciFi will be showing a marathon... -- Rob, 17:59:01 08/24/03 Sun

...on Tuesday, August 26th, from 11 AM-4 PM.


[> [> [> [> [> X-Files lost touch with unreality after S5; Doggett couldn't save it. -- cjl, 20:05:22 08/24/03 Sun

After S5, it seemed to me that even Chris Carter couldn't keep the mythology straight. Once the series devolved into self-parody (with S7's Duchovny-created "Hollywood A.D.") I knew all hope was lost. The game was over.

Seasons 8 and 9 were ruined for me because I was expected to believe that Fox Mulder, who stood up to all-powerful international conspiracies without flinching, would stick his tail between his legs and run from so-called genetically engineered supermen. That he would leave Scully and her (their?) son to fend for themselves. Not in any stretch of my imagination, Mr. Carter. Robert Patrick was excellent as Doggett, but Annabeth Gish bored me to tears as Reyes. The series had zero credibility.

Still, I have to admit something. Once he knew the end was near, and didn't have to hold back anymore, Carter threw out the rulebook and wrote some of the weirdest, freakiest episodes I've ever seen on American television. The ep with Burt Reynolds as God? The one where Doggett and Reyes literally investigate the Oliver (Brady) Syndrome? I shook my head in amazement. It almost gave me hope for the finale, 'cause I knew Duchovny was finally coming back...

And it was...



Thanks, Chris! Don't hold your breath waiting for the money for the second movie, 'kay?

[> Bibliography or Works Cited & Consulted -- s'kat, 10:45:22 08/23/03 Sat

Works Cited And Consulted

(In order to preserve my sanity, I'm organizing this by type and not in any alphabetical order. It is also my own made up Bibliographical style, which is alarmingly similar to my footnote style. Has urls but no links - sorry, don't know how to do links. )

I. Writer Interviews:

From :An Interview with Joss Whedon
The Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator discusses his career.
, August 2003. by Ken P. (located in UK)

San Diego Day Three: Joss Whedon Talks Buffy, Fray and More, by Arthur Lender, 7/20/03, From Comic Book Resources

Buffy Creator Sinks His Teeth Into a New Season of Angel, by Dave Mason, 7/16/03, From The Boston Herald

Herc Chats up Comedy Genius Buffy Writer Jane Espenson, Ain't It Cool News (AICN), June 2003,

Buffy Grows Up, Program Principles Talk About The New Season on UPN by Frank Kurtz, 10/2/01, From Los Angeles Times, (Marti Noxon, James Marsters)

Joss Whedon Answers!, 3/21/00, See

Wanda's Chat with Marti Noxon in May 2002

The Sound of the Fury :An Exclusive Interview with Writer & Co-Executive Producer David Fury, March 2003 (posted May 2003, interview conducted in March) on City of Angel.,

Harvest Convention Q&A with Jane Espenson, June 2003,

"Angel news and Buffy reflections" (with Joss Whedon), by Fred Topol, July 2003

Whedon Writing and Arithmetic, by Joe Mauceri, From Shivers, May 2000.

The Paley Festival, March 30, 2001: Q& A with Joss Whedon, check discussion board archives for transcript.

10 Questions for Joss Whedon, May 16, 2003, From The New York Times.

Comic-Con Audience Q&A with Joss Whedon, July 2003, courtesy of City of Angel:

Comic-Con Angel The Series Writers' Panel Q&A, July 2003:

Succubus Club Interview with Jane Espenson in April 2002, see discussion board for excerpts: Interesting JE quotes re: Willow & Tara (spoilers from "Seeing Red" to the end of the season) -- Rob, 09:47:36 06/03/02 Mon & Rufus' thread on Spike. Or go to the Succubus Club web site to listen to Mp3 downloads.

Succubus Club Interview with Rebecca Rand Kirshner, Drew Greenberg, and Jane Espenson April 2003.

Succubus Club Interview with David Fury and Tim Minear, May 2003: rough transcript here:

Joss The Vampire Scripter, Interview with Joss Whedon, pp. 35-46. SFX Collector's Edition: Vampire Special,UK: Winter 2002. (includes blurbs on: Joss Whedon on The Buffy Movie, Joss Whedon on Angel The Series, and Joss Whedon on Suspension.)

Resurrecting Buffy, Marti Noxon Discusses Buffy Season 6, pp. 62-68, SFX Collector's Edition: Vampire Special, UK: Winter 2002.(see archives - March)

Angel Season Two Overview, Tim Minear, pp.49-60, SFX Collector's Edition: Vampire Special, UK: Winter 2002 (Includes interview regarding Season 3 with David Greenwalt, p.55) (See atpobtvs archives TCH's Season 2-3 Odyssey)

The Official Buffy Magazine #8, Buffy Set Report on Lies My Parents Told Me, Posting Board Party Report - interviews with the Writers, Marti Noxon interview on the end of Buffy: Stake Out; Writer Revelations. June/July 2003.

SFX Collector's Edition, US TV Special. Angel Season 3 Behind the Scenes Episode Guide with Tim Minear, Written by Edward Gross, pp. 34-42, UK:Fall 2002

SFX Collector's Edition, US TV Special. Buffy Behind The Scenes Episode Guide with Marti Noxon, pp. 84-95, UK: Fall 2002

Interview with Marti Noxon, CBC 2003

The Official Buffy Magazine #9 August/September, Marti Noxon Interview

II.Actors Interviews:

A. James Marsters

James Marsters Interview with SFX , UK: August 2003
Spiking the Punch: James Marsters Interview,
James Marsters Q&A at Shore Leave in Towson, Maryland, July 14 2002. (written by Tara Dilullo for atnzone)
Demon Lover: James Marsters Interview with Rupert Laight, Starbust. Winter 2002
Marsters Reveals More Spike, ScifiWire Interview, 1/22/2002
James Marsters Q&A at Chicago Convention transcribed by atnzone April 2003.
James Marsters on Life After Buffy By Karen Butler
United Press International Published 6/11/2003,
James Marsters Interview in Dreamwatch, July 2003., articles forum.
James Marsters Interview in Starburst p. 10, UK:Winter 2003
Soul Man, an Interview with James Marsters, by Abbie Bernstein, pp. 12-18, The Official Buffy Yearbook, US: Fall 2002
James Marsters Interview in The Official Buffy Magazine #8, US: June/July 2003
Epitaphs: Life After Buffy by Matt Clark. Moonlight Rising Q&A

B. David Boreanze

EXTRACTS of David Quotes from TV Zone #166 'Avenging Angel' article - By Steven Eramo ( to purchase),
Check; and for additional articles. (The others I found are archived on those sites.)

C.Sarah Michelle Geller: "Buffy Quits." Sarah Michelle Geller's Exit Interview with Entertainment Weekly, March 2003. See for links. Or the Entertainment Weekly website. Also check out for additional SMG interviews.

D. Alyson Hannigan: Hannigan's Interview in The Dublin Times, June 2003. Check for details.

E. .Anthony Stewart Head: IGFN Interview with Anthony Stewart Head, January 2003,
Epitaphs: Life After Buffy by Matt Clark - Moonlight Rising Q&A quotes for ASH.

F. Danny Strong: IGFN Interview with Danny Strong, May 2003.

G. Armin Shimmerman (Principal Snyder): IGFN Interview with Armin Shimmerman. June 2003 (There is also an interview with Alexis Denisof on this site.)

H. Amber Benson: Epitaphs: Life After Buffy by Matt Clark. Moonlight Rising Q&A

III. Misc Articles and TV specials on the Networks, Television and Ratings

"UPN is in Desperate Need of A Radical Makeover" by Tim Goodman, SFGate: 2002

"WB and UPN Brawl Over Network Ranking"by Tim Goodman, San Francisco Chronicle, July 16, 2002,

"Such A Year It Was" by Kate O'Hare June 28th, 2002 From (UPN/Fox deal for BTVS)

"Mooves To Creatives: Days of Big Fat Paychecks Are Over" by John Consoli, 7/15/02, From MediaWeek

"News April 23rd: Buffy Wrestles With Her Future" by Rob Francis, 4/23/01, UK

"Buffy Studio Shows It's Fangs" by Stephen Battaglio, Fortune, p. 46, May 2001 - For Nielsen Ratings

BTVS Tvography, May 2003 on A&E

Trio Network Documentary of The Making of The Shield, May 2003

Emily Nussbaum, "Thanks for the Instant Memories", New York Times Arts Section,

Entertainment Geekly Panel Review of Season 6 BTVS

The Hellmouth Line League tabulates number of lines each character has per episode.

IV. Fan Campaigns, Websites and Posting Boards Cited

A. Character Specific:

1. Campaigns:
Save Our Spike Campaign/Thank You James Marsters Campaign:

Petition To Bring Xander to Angel The Series:

Thank You Charisma Carpenter ad. Organised by the members of Stranger Things, this ad will appear in Variety on June 13th.

Reunite Buffy and Angel Campaign:

Buffy and Spike Campaign:

2. Character centric:

Spike centric sites: (all things specific to Spike and James Marsters, also talks about Angel the Series, have to register to post or respond to posts); (this is a redemptionist site, main point is Spike's redemption, have to register to post and it's a listserve); (not morethanspike is James Marsters specific, not Spike centric.); (A B/S specific site, requires registration) & (requires registration);

Buffy/Angel centric sites include:; (This is The Ducks or B/A shippers Babble/Rant Board)

Willow/Tara centric site: The Kitten Board, (have to register to post)

B. Non-character centric websites and posting boards: (none of which are listserves or require your to subscribe)

All Things Philosophical About Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel The Series,,, Discussion Board and Web Site. Web Site includes in-depth analysis of every episode of both series, the characters, essays on the series, fanfiction, links, and details on the posters. Links from the Discussion Board take you to Firefly Archived Discussion Board, Angel After Spike Discussion Board ( A board created for people who wish to analyze Angel and Spike and characters on ATS). All discussions are archived. Archives go back to when the board was first founded. The atpobtvs board is moderated by Masquerade, s/he always maintains the website and writes the analysis. (This is the one I consider home by the way, even though I don't run it, the board moderator has a policy of zero censorship and kindly puts up with all my antics.)

The Buffy Cross and Stake Spoiler Board/General Board. This is run by AngelX. Who owns the web site. These posts are not archived.

Angel Soul's Spoiler Board. Also run by AngelX. This board is specific to Angel The Series. Posts are not archived. - character and non-character specific threads are available.

C. Cites that archive news articles and interviews relating to BTVS and ATS City of Angel, specific to Angel The Series. : Film and Television Related Articles and Interviews - out of the UK BTVS and ATS related articles and interviews are archived BTVS and ATS related articles and interviews archived Any articles related to Joss Whedon's creations including BTVS, Firefly, and ATS are archived here.

Books Cited:

Blumenthal, Howard J & Oliver R. Goodenough, "This Business of Television", Revised and Updated 2nd Edition, Billboard Books, New York: 1998

Goldman, William, "Adventures in The Screen Trade", Warner Books, New York:1983

Silver, Alain & James Ursini, "Film Noir Reader 2", Limelight Editions, New York:1999

Well that's it, thanks for reading - assuming you made all the way through.

Feed back always appreciated!


[> [> Re: Bibliography or Works Cited & Consulted -- punkinpuss, 12:43:31 08/23/03 Sat

Delurking to say "Good god, that's a lot of essay!"

Good overview of the industry-related aspects of tv production. Since I work with production crews in a related industry, I tend to be generous in my assessments of tv shows. You can't imagine how complicated it is (and how hard many, many people have to work) to make even a crappy 30-60 second commercial or music video, let alone a 40-minute drama on those kinds of schedules. That even a fraction of those shows aired bring us thought-provoking and emotionally-involving stories is an effing miracle.

As jaded, media-bombarded viewers, fans tend to be supercritical without much idea of the forces that affect our favorite shows. So, when I see the bitter ranting of certain fan factions, I don't have much sympathy for their plight. Oh, boohoo, your fantasy storyline/ship isn't being realized and it's ruining your life? Uh, maybe it's time to adjust your medication.

One thought - the only corollary to the serial tv format that I can think of is the serial novel format that Dickens used for some (all?) of his big plot-heavy novels. Readers eagerly waited for new chapters, not week after week but month after month. Anybody know if Dickens was subjected to public pressure for story/character developments? I'd assume that he had some degree of influence from editors and publishers, but I wouldn't be surprised if he played on the public's emotions much as Joss seems to do.

BTW, S'kat? Best line: "Honestly, are you going to go out to McDonalds after watching Xena get her head chopped off?"

Well, if you put it that way, and there's a fun action figure with detachable head, yes, I might! But I wasn't a Xena watcher, so I have no emotional investment in her violent, grotesque demise. Then again, I also laughed at Moonlight Rising when James Leary did his re-enactment of the last B/S Chosen scene (with a Spike calendar and a very bright overhead stage light!) and I never thought that was possible.

[> [> [> Whew! The 'kat is back! -- ponygirl, 13:48:26 08/23/03 Sat

I think punkinpuss' (cute name!) mention of Dickens is a good one. Not only a Joss-cited influence but also useful when discussing episodic work vs. a contained piece. The same rules of structure do not apply and shouldn't.

Other random bitsies:

Is subversion always a good thing? There are formulas and rules for a reason - they often work really well. At a certain point does subversion for the sake of subversion result in either a mess or a satire? Is it possible to tell a good story without following some of the rules?

All in all I'm left once again wondering what s7 would have been like if s6 had been embraced. If OMWF and Dead Things had brought home Emmy's would we have seen a s7 that wasn't afraid to venture into dark places with its heroine? We'll never know, but it seems like apologising for s6 has become standard practice in interviews.

Great work sk! I hope to discuss more later!

[> [> [> [> Thanks. Subversion a good thing? -- s'kat, 15:19:57 08/23/03 Sat

Is subversion always a good thing? There are formulas and rules for a reason - they often work really well. At a certain point does subversion for the sake of subversion result in either a mess or a satire? Is it possible to tell a good story without following some of the rules?

After finishing my analysis and receiving all this feedback on the first chapters of my book....I've come to the conclusion that you really can't subvert the formula completely without doing it serious injury.

You can do a twist on it - maybe push at the envelope which I think ME have to some extent done, but as long as you want the work to have some commericial success and for it to be on TV - that's a given - you have to operate within the rules of some structure or formula.

The works that try to break the formula or structure, usually independent films or series who appear on HBO or Showtime, do so only by creating a new version of the formula - they don't completely subvert it.


1. Memento - which changes the rules on how a film can be seen and who the hero is. The work is shot in a flash-backwards approach, until the hero, becomes in essence the criminal. The film twist in upon itself. Does it work?
Yes, but only because it follows a tight structure and does not break any of the rules it sets up...the film-maker knows from beginning to end where he is going with the character and the film is completely self-contained.

IRreverisible a controversial French film also plays with form and structure, telling the story in reverse and pushing the limits of what we consider gratutious or appropriate depictions of violence on the screen. Not to mention pushing the limits of shock value. The film ends with a strobbing technigue that is designed to make one ill.
Is this a new formula or a subversion? OR just gimmickry?
Well the filmmaker stick with a very clear story - which is about a man revenging his wife's rape. What the film is about though is how we relate to violence on the screen.
Whether we have to be emotionally invested in it to relate to it or if just the depiction of violence itself is enough to bother us. The set-up or gimmick is designed not so much to tell the story of the characters as to explore that other message - the one regarding the audience. In this way the film leaps outside conventional boundaries. Is it a good thing? Well yes and no - the story still comes across as does the message. But the audience has a tough time sticking with it - without bolting from the theater. (This film has a 15 minute graphic rape sequence according to reviewers. No, I have not seen it.)

2. Non-self contained works in Film or Serials. The serialized film in a way may have more in common with Dickens than Whedon does...since I think there's less interference with it - by networks, advertisers, fans,
actors jumping ship.

Matrix series: these films were done more or less back to back. Two years between the first and the second two. They also include a series of animated films and a video game in the series. Definitely an attempt by the Wachowski brothers to subvert the form.

At it's start it doesn't really subvert it - it follows the same sequel formula set up by George Lucas with Star Wars. First movie stand-alone. Second movie - a cliff-hanger.
Third movie resolution. Where it veers away from Lucas is with the video game and animated shorts. But not completely Lucas did the same things. Only Lucas' did not effect the story as much as Wachowski's does. Also Lucas did not write the video games associated with his movies.

There is a formula in these films, but at the same time - the films do new innovative things inside of it. It's the hero's journey - but it's more existential than classical.
More introspective.

Lord of The Rings series: This in some ways bends the formula a bit. None of the three movies are stand-alone.
All require that you see the next one. And they are based on Tolkien's books which are similarly not stand-alone.
Together the LoR triology is a story, complete and self-contained. Seperate? Just segments of the whole. Very few movies have attempted this - why? Because of the investment of time and money involved. Lots of risk - when you depend on a audience to invest in a nine hour epic with approximately a year between each three hour section.

So, yes I think you can to some degree press against the edges of the envelope, but I remain unconvinced that you can actually subvert the formula entirely. OTOH - I keep wishing someone on network television will get up the gets to do a series about an amoral character. The Sheild came close but backed off in it's second season. The Sopranos did but I can't afford HBO at the moment and well HBO. ;-)

thanks for the comments always appreciated.


[> [> [> [> [> Re: Thanks. Subversion a good thing? -- shambleau, 16:40:48 08/23/03 Sat

I agree with Ponygirl that subversion isn't always that great an idea when it comes to the forms of drama. It's interesting that when you read about "subversion of the paradigm", though, it's almost always touted as a good thing. Subversion was romanticised by post-modernists, IMO, since they saw an oppressive dominant paradigm ruling media everywhere. Anything that brought it down or weakened it was to the good, but it was always assumed that the attacks on the paradigm would come from the left. So, subversion is, by definition, radical or progressive and therefore, a good thing. It seems to me that you could be "subversive" by endorsing polygamy or the assassination of secular figures for religious reasons in a drama, because those ideas fall out of the dominant paradigm, too, but the word is tied to a certain world view at the moment, and probably can't be used outside of it.

As far as amoral characters, there've been short-lived series like Profit and the one with Jay Mohr as an agent in Hollywood, along with the Sopranos and The Shield.

[> [> [> [> [> [> Centering a series around an amoral character has its problems -- Finn Mac Cool, 17:06:32 08/23/03 Sat

First, that people will come to see the amoral character as "cool" or admirable. Given that most people don't want to encourage violence and crime, they tend to be a bit nervous about centering a story around someone who would give the impression that amoral acts are OK.

Second, there's the fact that a great number of the amoral people out there suffer from sociopathy, a mental illness which causes people to have stunted or entirely non-existent emotions (which is why they're amoral; can't feel guilt). How much long term interest could you truly garner in someone when they really don't feel much of anything about what happens.

Third, most people aren't amoral sociopaths. Thus, they tend to identify more with a more-or-less good character than with a more-or-less evil one.

I think that having a main character be totally amoral would require a great deal of focus on other characters, in order to provide a source of more human emotions and someone for the audience to identify with. Otherwise, you're left with a heartless sociopath in the lead, and, once you get past the thrill of seeing him do bad things, there's not much you can do without giving him some faint touches of morality or sympathy.

P.S. Amoral characters have had some success in comedies. The later seasons of "Seinfeld" painted the characters in a very uncaring light (in the last episode, a lawyer even tells George, "You don't have a moral compass.") There's also a current animated show on TNT called "Gary the Rat". The main character is a heartless lawyer who was mystically turned into a giant rat. I've only seen two episodes of it, but in them the main character of Gary is responsible for at least two deaths, but just shrugs them off and goes about his business.

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> Re: Centering a series around an amoral character has its problems -- celticross, 18:56:13 08/23/03 Sat

Good points. Amoral characters really only work for any length of time if they have something more to their makeup than simple amorality. A code of honor, if you will. Witness the popularity of Mayor Wilkins in Season 3. He wanted to become a demon and would deal with any number of uber-baddies and kill any number of people to do so, but he didn't approve of swearing, and had an rather affection for Faith. See also Spike's devotion to Drusilla, and later Buffy, which won him the hearts of many fans, as well as his sarcasm. Amorality is much easier to ignore and forgive in one's fictional characters when they are still likable.

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> Good points - but not just regarding amoral characters -- s'kat, 22:11:24 08/23/03 Sat

Amoral characters really only work for any length of time if they have something more to their makeup than simple amorality.

This is actually true for all characters in drama or comedy.
If the character is going to last - they need to be interesting, complex not two-dimensional. Not just stock as it were. It's one thing to be two-dimensional if you appear in just one episode, but if you are going to appear in 6-22 episodes, the character should have a bit more to them, the audience needs to care.

Seinfield's characters may have been unlikeable at times - but they were always interesting - their flaws we identified with on some level. They were not one or two dimensional.

OTOH - a drama where the characters are sweet and nice and would never harm a fly and have no flaws - can get really boring after a while. Would you care to watch someone who never made a mistake? Who was pristine? Where's the conflict? Where's the drama?

Sopranos - is an interesting test case - Tony Soprano, a sociopathic character who loves his family, pulls in the audience with his very complexity. (By the same token, I grew tired of the series during the third season b/c Tony seemed stagnant to me, he didn't appear to be evolving, now that I've had to give up's hard for me to comment on whether that has changed.) So even though an amoral character could be interesting or gripping - if they stay stagnant, then the audience grows bored.

The best drama, comedy, horror - comes from the character not the situation. If you have developed rich and complex characters the situations will arise naturally from them as will the humor, horror, conflict. You won't have to impose it on the characters - b/c they will lead you there.

So the trick in any good drama and/or comedy is to build rich and complex characters - who are not just one thing - good, evil or in between.

The Mayor and Faith were loved by the majority of BTVS viewers b/c of their complexity. You almost began to root for them in spite of yourself.

Same with Drusilla and Spike - their complexity made them interesting.

The Master and The Annoited One on the other hand were almost too one dimensional in their construction. Their complexity was limited and thus are listed as the least favorite of the villains.

Same with our heros - many people list Buffy and/or Willow as their favorite because they are complex, not one-dimensional. They make mistakes. They can be nasty. If they were wonderful and pristine, we would grow quickly bored.
The story would be predictable.

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> It can be more difficult with amoral characters, though -- Finn Mac Cool, 22:23:16 08/23/03 Sat

For one thing, you can't have your main character in an ethical dilemma, which does eliminate a lot of possible storylines.

Second, as I already mentioned, amoral people (at least in real life) very often suffer from socipathy, which severely limits how much emotion they're able to feel. Granted, BtVS could get away with it since the metaphysics muddled the issue, and there are those in real life who can feel the full range of human emotions except for guilt. But, it is a factor that must be considered.

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> Re: It can be more difficult with amoral characters, though -- s'kat, 22:54:40 08/23/03 Sat

Second, as I already mentioned, amoral people (at least in real life) very often suffer from socipathy, which severely limits how much emotion they're able to feel. Granted, BtVS could get away with it since the metaphysics muddled the issue, and there are those in real life who can feel the full range of human emotions except for guilt. But, it is a factor that must be considered.

Well there is a movie coming out this year about one of them, Shattered Glass about Stephen Glass, a pathological liar and borderline sociopath.

Having met a sociopath - I can tell you - you can't tell someone is one right off the bat. They are actually very complex, have families, children, etc. Not so clear cut.
And there have been whole movie genres, successful ones done about them.

The Godfather series is about an amoral group of characters.
Taxi Driver's lead is a psycho-path.
Shock to The System with Michael Cain - also an amoral character.

Dorothy Dunnett wrote a very successful series of novels about an amoral hero known as Lymond which take place in
Scotland and England around King Edward's reign.

Shakespear did a series of plays, very successful plays featuring amoral characters: MacBeth and Richard III.

A Clockwork Orange? Did very well for both Kubrick and Burgess.

So truth is? It does work. And is very popular.
The saccarine sweet hero? Not so much. But- and huge but, here - the amoral character works better for an adult audience not a juvenile and/or adolescent audience. So there is a very clear distinction in the audience.

Question is - was BTVs meant for a teen or an adult audience? WB saw it as a teen audience and marketed it as such. But Whedon saw it as being for an adult audience.

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> Re: It can be more difficult with amoral characters, though -- Finn Mac Cool, 23:33:31 08/23/03 Sat

(Note: Please keep in mind my complete knowledge of this comes from a brief passage in a textbook, so I am not by far the most informed on this. I'm just going by what I read).

I never said you could tell the difference right off the bat. As a matter of fact, what I read made it very clear that you couldn't. However, the impression it gave was that sociopaths are just incredibly good at concealing it, that most of them are able to convince others that there's nothing unusual at all about them. But the textbook I read, at the very least, seemed to subsribe to the theory that most public behavior by sociopaths doesn't really show they're truly feelings, that they might profess love or joy or grief totally realistically, but not feel it on the inside.

Also, the characters in "The Godfather" weren't amoral, at least not totally. In the book, at any rate, they did offer justification for what they did, though I felt it to be rather flimsy. And, in "Godfather III", Michael Corleone does show that he feels bad for the evil he does, but believes he's beyond redemption, and so nothing he does really matters.

Finally, as you mention, there's a difference between movies and television. Amoral characters are likely to fair far better in movies, because there the thrill of getting into the mind of a completely ruthless person doesn't lose its appeal. However, most movies are under three hours long, and few are over. Getting people to tune in regularly to see someone who doesn't feel any compassion or pity or remorse is a lot harder. Frankly, there's only so much character exploration you can do with someone who's so emotionally stunted without making them grow a little more, which negates the whole amoral lead thing.

(Again, all my knowledge of sociopathy comes from one, short textbook piece, so if I read it wrong, or if the book was unreliable, or if the information has been dated to much, please correct me. I really don't like the idea of believing something's true because I got a bad source. That can lead to misunderstandings and arguments. And I'm pretty sure the last people people you want to argue with are sociopaths.)

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> Re: It can be more difficult with amoral characters, though -- s'kat, 09:55:06 08/24/03 Sun

Well, actually as cjl points out below there was a popular series that was headed by an amoral character in the early 80s, called Dallas. JR Ewing was an amoral character who was only concerned about himself. And the show was number one in the ratings world-wide for close to six years I believe. In fact the episode where the audience found out who shot JR? Not only made headlines but broke records regarding ratings.

Another example of television series with nasty characters that do very well? Survivor. That series was filled with real people who hurt one another for money. Same with For Love or Money - a series where a woman manipulated a man to get a million dollars. And those were reality shows. (in other words - the nasty people with questionable morals - actually were playing themselves not fictional characters).

Heh - sort of blows both our theories out the water, doesn't it? Not to mention my theory that I want to watch this type of show - since I didn't really watch Dallas and I don't like reality shows.

Regarding the definition of sociopath, not sure which text-book your using and since I'm certainaly no expert on this...probably wouldn't know if it was accurate even if you provided it's name.

However - I did do a little checking for you on the internet, here's a list of sites defining the term:

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition. 2002.


(SOH-see-uh-path, SOH-shee-uh-path) Someone whose social behavior is extremely abnormal. Sociopaths are interested only in their personal needs and desires, without concern for the effects of their behavior on others. (Compare psychopath.)

They don't define sociopath as another word for amoral. While a sociopath may have amoral characteristics. Amorality doesn't necessarily make one a sociopath or vice versa. Sociopaths can be apparently immoral. Not sure.

Personally I agree with posters on other boards who state defining mythological or purely fictional characters as sociopaths is not a good idea. Since they don't really fit and we really shouldn't demonize the sociopath. IT's in other words unfair to both the fictional character and the real sociopath. Not that you were doing that.

I don't think television has ever really had a true sociopath at the center of a series. Amoral characters?
Yes. But unsympathetic ones? No. Not that sociopaths are necessarily unsympathetic but I do think that tv writers may view them as unsympathetic, if that makes sense.

Hope that made sense.


PS: I think ponygirl makes the best point - that TV or movies are willing to focus on a sympathetic character in the lead (amoral or otherwise) but not an unsympathetic character. The difference isn't in moralty so much as sympathy.

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> Reality shows -- Ace_of_Sevens, 11:54:28 08/24/03 Sun

Keep in mind on reality shows a given person will usually be around one season at most. So the rules used to create longevity in scripted series don't really apply.

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> Re: It can be more difficult with amoral characters, though -- celticross, 10:15:27 08/24/03 Sun

The metaphysics of the Jossverse do definitely play a role in the audience enjoying or indentifying with the baddies or the grey hats. In particular, the soul vs. no soul debate that with almost frightening regularity goes sweeping through Buffy fandom. The Mayor and Faith are ensouled human beings who are, or go, bad. That is more recognizable to us in "the real world" and gives us that little thrill of ambiguity, rooting for the opposition. The unsouled vamps and demons (or, even more confusingly, ensouled) pose far more of a problem. How important is a soul in the Jossverse, really? Some viewers can overlook soul status (for want of a better term) while enjoying their favorite amoral character, while others believe that's not playing by the rules. The soul wars have an impact for BtVS and AtS viewers that the audiences of other television shows don't deal with.

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> Amoral vs. unsympathetic -- ponygirl, 07:54:48 08/24/03 Sun

I have to think it would be easier to have an amoral character on television than an unsympathetic one. When we as an audience are shown a character's motivations and reactions we gain in understanding regardless of whether we like or agree with their actions. It's hard to condemn a character completely when you know why they're doing something, even if it's a mistake. I've often thought that if you wanted to create a truly unsympathetic character you wouldn't show very much of them. Don't let them show doubt or fear or tiredness or any sort of emotion that shows vulnerability. Don't keep the camera on their faces long enough for the audience to read too much into them.

Now is such a character possible in the context of an ongoing television series? I don't think so if this character is expected to play any sort of significant role and if the series goes on for any length of time. There's a cumulative effect with television, moments build up until after a few years there's a rich developed character. It's one of the reasons that television, while it often fails in other regards, can beat film for character development. Eventually characters take over the narrative in television - it becomes not so much about a government conspiracy but how Mulder and Scully are going to react to a government conspiracy. It's said that only Law & Order has managed to avoid this but most people I know who follow the show express some sort of interest in how a particular detective or lawyer will react to a case. We're all looking for someone to connect to when it comes to tv.

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> Re: Amoral vs. unsympathetic -- Anon, 12:22:08 08/24/03 Sun

Isn't that somewhat what happened to Buffy though? Fans complained in season 6 and 7 that the way Sarah was playing her meant they couldn't get a handle on the character, and relate to her as they once did. She became a little too closed-off.

The fan-boards I visit do seem to indicate that Buffy's popularity took a nosedive in late season 6, and it never recovered.

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> Re: Amoral vs. unsympathetic -- ponygirl, 06:47:45 08/25/03 Mon

Well, I totally disagree on s6. I felt that the viewers were given a privileged position in s6, we knew what was going on with Buffy, we heard her articulate her problems several times and we saw her struggle with emotional fallout. We were encouraged to sympathize with her and I for one certainly did. In s7 I know I lost a lot of the connection, outside of CwDP I never really grasped the exact nature of Buffy's struggle. I think some of that was intentional, the audience was meant to see Buffy's distance from everyone, us included. Unfortunately the reconnect was too little too late for me, and Buffy remains a bit lost to me.

[> [> [> [> [> [> Re: Thanks. Subversion a good thing? -- s'kat, 17:10:14 08/23/03 Sat

As far as amoral characters, there've been short-lived series like Profit and the one with Jay Mohr as an agent in Hollywood, along with the Sopranos and The Shield.

But Profit didn't make it full season without being cancelled - six episodes if that. The Agent with Jay Mohr
maybe five.

The Shield only had an amoral character as the lead for it's first season, then it slowly became more and more
nice. Not so amoral. Also Sheild isn't on the "networks"
but on cable. FX.

Same with the Sopranos - and although Tony Soprano never got nice, like the character in The Shield, he's on subscriber paid cable that does not have advertisers, so
the Sopranos don't count.

Nichols - a 1971 Western lasted 22 episodes with an amoral character but was cancelled.

Can you think of a series with an amoral character that made it at least three seasons on network televison??

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> Nope. I can't. They all kept getting cancelled. -- cjl, 21:13:37 08/23/03 Sat

Profit with Adrian Pasdan.
Buffalo Bill with Dabney Coleman.
Action with Jay Mohr.

Sipowicz on NYPD Blue? The minute David Caruso left, they decided to make him the hero.

The Shield? We're only in Season 2, and they're already watering down Vic Mackey.

Sopranos? Yes, but they're on cable. Still, it's probably the longest sustained TV series starring an amoral character in U.S. TV history.

Longest lasting and most beloved amoral character in TV history? Easy. Rowan Atkinson's Blackadder. We loved him anyway because even though he was the smartest person in the room, he never got what he wanted and we could identify with his frustration at being surrounded by idiots--especially idiots with a higher social standing.

Speaking of subverting the formula: in the first four Blackadder series, each Blackadder incarnation was killed in the final episode. In the 2000 TV movie (the 21st century Blackadder), he manipulated the time/space continuum to become King of England. (With Baldrick as PM! *Snicker*) Wouldn't mind if they ended it right there....

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> Whoops. Did I write that? -- cjl, 07:11:32 08/24/03 Sun

DALLAS was on TV for 11 seasons with Larry Hagman's power-hungry J.R. Ewing as the driving engine.

And Blackadder DID survive his duel at the end of third series and took the place of the pea-brained Prince Regent. (England was probably better off.)

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> Yes, Dallas broke the mold in this respect. -- shadowkat, 08:57:35 08/24/03 Sun

Of course it helped that it was a soap opera/serial and therefore more ensemble. But it is a good example. Ensemble/serialized shows often can do the amoral character better than central character focused shows.

Yet, Dallas deserves to be recognized as the only soap opera or television show whose main character was in fact an amoral one. JR EWing was more or less the star of Dallas. Set up as the star from the get-go and the show was the top-rated one in its heyday.

The Who Shot JR? Storyline broke records in the ratings department. Made national and world headlines. Few shows have broken it's record in the ratings department. And fewer shows have had the guts to showcase a character such as JR in the lead.

The fact it was a primetime soap opera and operated within the soap opera/serial formula which involved good moral characters, probably helped. Audiences tend to be more forgiving of certain things in soap operas that they aren't in other types of drama.

There was another series that had a major character that was a villain - St. Elsewhere. An ensemble drama taking place in a hospital - had a major character as a serial rapist.

Overseas - the Danish mini-series - The Kingdom - also featured more amoral characters, but again it had a serial format.

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> Sitcoms and Firefly -- KdS, 12:26:07 08/24/03 Sun

All the characters in Red Dwarf are fairly self-serving as well, although if you're the last survivors of the human race you could be forgiven for it.

And that has been claimed as a problem with Firefly, that although the characters were mostly good in the sense of caring for each other, and had some limits that they weren't prepared to step over, they were still too amoral for most of the audience to sympathise with.

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> Was JR really ammoral? -- Anon, 12:29:38 08/24/03 Sun

I never watched Dallas, but assumed he was simply a bit of a ladies man, and lovable villian from what I've heard. All I know is that he used to cheat on his wife, and he was very into making money. Can anyone give examples of him being ammoral please? Just interested in how far his character was taken.

[> [> [> Thanks! On Dickens... -- s'kat, 14:51:36 08/23/03 Sat

One thought - the only corollary to the serial tv format that I can think of is the serial novel format that Dickens used for some (all?) of his big plot-heavy novels. Readers eagerly waited for new chapters, not week after week but month after month. Anybody know if Dickens was subjected to public pressure for story/character developments? I'd assume that he had some degree of influence from editors and publishers, but I wouldn't be surprised if he played on the public's emotions much as Joss seems to do.

Dickins is in some ways the equivalent of today's Alan Moore and the comic books. If you read Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentleman - it probably is close to what Dickens was doing. Is Moore's books affected by fans, subcribers etc? Not so much. Heck Moore doesn't even care about the movies made off of his books, he won't see League and he's never seen From Hell. But other more commerical comic books are: such as DC's Wonder Women, which the new writer tried to alter in the 1970s. He got a lashing for his efforts by Gloria Steinhem and other feminists, so changed it back. Did Dickens suffer similar criticism/pressure? Well, I know Christmas Carol was written to pay bills. So maybe his serialized novels were similarily effected. Just enough to tease the get them to buy the next chapter, which often took a month to come out.

Not sure if his story was affected by their concerns or desires? IF it had been - I would have expected Pip of Great Expectations to end up with his lady love. Perhaps that is the reason he didn't? The notion give the audience what it needs not wants may in fact date back as far as
Dickens or Shakespeare?

Also did the editors change the story? Did the formula hamper it any? Not sure. Never been a fan of Dickens.
Be interesting to find out.


Other thoughts:

BTW, S'kat? Best line: "Honestly, are you going to go out to McDonalds after watching Xena get her head chopped off?"

Well, if you put it that way, and there's a fun action figure with detachable head, yes, I might! But I wasn't a Xena watcher, so I have no emotional investment in her violent, grotesque demise. Then again, I also laughed at Moonlight Rising when James Leary did his re-enactment of the last B/S Chosen scene (with a Spike calendar and a very bright overhead stage light!) and I never thought that was possible.

LOL! My riff on the fact that the network told Whedon he had to stop with the fast-food jokes it was scaring the advertisers.

[> [> [> [> Re: Dickens got paid by the word -- sdev, 22:13:53 08/23/03 Sat

I imagine that might have had an effect on his brevity.
That was not an uncommon practice for that time.

[> [> Re: Bibliography or Works Cited & Consulted -- Cheryl, 19:17:19 08/23/03 Sat

First, very impressive look at the industry! One thing you made me think of when talking about fan reaction to characters, is fan reaction to the actors themselves. There's a rating system called something like QScores that assigns a Q rating to celebrities based on their popularity. It's used a lot for marketing purposes (who do we get to endorse our product?). I remember years ago the big hoopla over the Olson twins having the highest Q rating - and they were just toddlers at the time (and look at them today!).

So, I wonder how much of a correlation there is between fan reaction to a character and fan reaction to the actor portraying the character - especially when you note actors' stating they're just reading words that are written. Words are written for the character, but I still believe it's the actor that brings the character to life. So are fans really reacting more to the character, or to the actor portraying the character? I don't have an answer - it just got me to thinking about it.

After seven years of BtVS, there's a very blurred line for me between some of the characters and the actors who portray them. Which, of course, is why actors are always wanting to branch out and do other things, and also why many are unable to do just that - fans can't see them in any other role.

Second, I think I'm going to have to start reading SFX.

Third, I've been quoted!! Woohoo! Imagine my shock when I saw my name. Thank you!

[> [> [> You're welcome ;-) On actors... -- s'kat, 19:52:26 08/23/03 Sat

One thing you made me think of when talking about fan reaction to characters, is fan reaction to the actors themselves. There's a rating system called something like QScores that assigns a Q rating to celebrities based on their popularity. It's used a lot for marketing purposes (who do we get to endorse our product?). I remember years ago the big hoopla over the Olson twins having the highest Q rating - and they were just toddlers at the time (and look at them today!).

So, I wonder how much of a correlation there is between fan reaction to a character and fan reaction to the actor portraying the character - especially when you note actors' stating they're just reading words that are written. Words are written for the character, but I still believe it's the actor that brings the character to life. So are fans really reacting more to the character, or to the actor portraying the character? I don't have an answer - it just got me to thinking about it.

After seven years of BtVS, there's a very blurred line for me between some of the characters and the actors who portray them. Which, of course, is why actors are always wanting to branch out and do other things, and also why many are unable to do just that - fans can't see them in any other role.

I've been wondering much the same thing. Honor H in her fanfic university states and repeat after me:"Actors aren't the Characters and Characters aren't the Actors."

True, would we have the same response to Angel if he had been played by Marc Blucas or Armin Shimmerman or Danny Strong? Would we have had the same response to Spike
if he had been played by Anthony Stewart Head or Nicholas Brendan?

Would Raiders of The Lost Arc been successful with Tom Sellak in the lead? Or would we remember Mr. Spock if Jeffrey Hunter played him as opposed to Lenord Nimoy?

You mention Q ratings - which I'd forgotten about, they are used a lot with Soap Opera Stars. Michael E. Knight - Tad on All My Children used to have a Q of 10, which was enough to get two bad movies made and distributed and give him longevity on AMC. He will never be replaced. His Q is too high. He defines the role. Other actors on the show?
No problem, they are replaced all the time.

As much as James Marsters and David Boreanze and Danny Strong deny they made their characters leap off the screen into our living rooms....I think without them, the character as we know it would not exist. Marsters superior ability at physical comedy (very hard to pull off well) - made Spike more interesting. That isn't just lines.

Glad you didn't mind me quoting you, your quote was perfect for my essay. So thank you for it!


PS: SFX is hard to get ahold of unless you are in the UK.
But when it comes to BTVS/ATS - has the best interviews and
analysis. If you live in US? Try Barnes and Noble or Borders magazine racks that's where I found it.

[> [> Does this count as a clip show? -- Darby, 20:03:40 08/23/03 Sat

Very interesting, but I've been reading it through the football game (more reading than watching, and it's still been maybe 3 hours) and the vast majority of things I thought of - commentary, not criticism, I hasten to point out - have fled from my porous brain.

The only thing I can remember is the pitfall of looking at ratings in retrospect for character-centric episodes. How many folks contemplating Go Fish would even have known that it was "Xander-centric"? Would the tv-guide-type blurbs have given any indication? The Zeppo or Hell's Bells, maybe. But connecting ratings to featured characters is tricky - does The Wish count as "Cordelia-centric" because she was almost certainly mentioned in the synopses? How about Triangle and Anya?

Gee, even on the single point I've made I'm just rambling...blame Sara, she hauled us through not one but two museums (fun but exhausting) today. Both she and Graffiti have been snoozing this whole time.

Oh, and I read the footnotes - they were just as informational as the text. Is that a bad thing?

[> [> [> LMAO! Thank you...and on the - ratings issue -- s'kat, 21:21:19 08/23/03 Sat

Oh, and I read the footnotes - they were just as informational as the text. Is that a bad thing?

LOL! Hope not...b/c to be honest I never understood what the point of footnotes was if you don't put in lots of info.
Otherwise - why not just do an in-text citation? If I'm going to be drug to the bottom of the page to read a bunch of citations - I want meat, dang it!! Of course I think there are people out there who probably disagree. And footnotes? Bloody hard to post to the internet. They don't post. I had to manually re-number them and cut and past.
Anyways sort of a long way of saying - thank you! Thank you! For appreciating them.

The only thing I can remember is the pitfall of looking at ratings in retrospect for character-centric episodes. How many folks contemplating Go Fish would even have known that it was "Xander-centric"? Would the tv-guide-type blurbs have given any indication? The Zeppo or Hell's Bells, maybe. But connecting ratings to featured characters is tricky - does The Wish count as "Cordelia-centric" because she was almost certainly mentioned in the synopses? How about Triangle and Anya?

Interesting point. But according to my research into Neilsen ratings - from This Business of Television - ratings are gathered for when people turn off the set. So it is possible that someone turned on Go Fish thinking they'd see Angel arc, didn't, got annoyed and turned off.
(The spoiled already knew about it - I remember being on the internet at the time and one web site advised people to skip the episode since it was only filler.) This may have happened in other episodes as well - Hell's Bells,
The Zeppo, The Replacement...etc. Also how the network promotes them could come into play.

I really don't envy the people who study and analyze ratings for a living - it sounds like an inexact science.

Oh speaking of inexact science - I posted some of my essay on that gender writing web site - I came out as female.
But a quote by Jane Espenson came out as male - it's the one about writers being part of committees. Interesting.

Thanks again! Completely understand on the museums! 20 minutes is usually enough for me. ;-) SK

[> [> Re: Bibliography or Works Cited & Consulted -- jane, 23:36:18 08/23/03 Sat

Wow! Absolutely fascinating. Thanks for this very insightful essay, S'Kat; I enjoyed it immensely. Even read most of the footnotes. Others in this thread have responded more eloquently than I can, so will just say a loud "Well Done".

[> Excellent. -- Arethusa, 05:38:05 08/24/03 Sun

It's frustrating to read criticism based on a misunderstanding of the mechanics of tv shows. Thanks for doing this.

I used to watch Buffalo Bill whenever it was on just because it was the only show around that somewhat realistically showed how a mean, selfish and petty man affected those around him. Still, Joanna Cassidy's character was in a way the main focus of the show. I watched to see how she behaved, not Dabney Coleman. (And Geena Davis was adorable.)

[> Well done! -- sdev, 12:34:39 08/24/03 Sun

Comprehensive, thorough, well organized and enlightening.

I do have some questions:

If BtVS fit into standard TV conventions of plot and its heroine was not unique as a feminist icon, then what made it Cult TV which you state in Section IV?

I am having trouble understanding one part. Are you saying the shipping or character wars on the internet are the audience's attempts (deliberate?) to breach the Fourth Wall? Not a product of heartfelt emotions?

What do you call it when the writers respond to the internet by giving interviews and explanations-- the Fifth Wall? What impact does that have on the medium?

You say in Section V, If the ratings are high but the critics hate it? It may last two or three seasons depending on ratings. Are you saying a show with high ratings still needs critical approval? How does that mesh with the idea that reaching a lot of viewers is the most important factor to secure advertisers and thus ensure the shows longevity? Do you think critical approval is more important than ratings?

Some of the constraints on TV writers which you describe remind me of the way using rhyme or a particular form in poetry impacts the writing process. Paradoxically, constraints such as rhyme and structure can actually enhance the creative process. In looking for the suitable word, new ideas begin to take shape which otherwise were formless. I wish I could describe this more coherently. But I guess I am saying that limitations can contribute, not just detract, from the process. You describe this with many of your examples. The one that comes to mind is how Drusilla's absence effected the plot of Fool for Love. We will never know what that episode might have been like had she been in it, but it is widely accepted that Fool for Love was an outstanding episode.

[> [> One quick point -- RJA, 16:22:53 08/24/03 Sun

The one that comes to mind is how Drusilla's absence effected the plot of Fool for Love. We will never know what that episode might have been like had she been in it, but it is widely accepted that Fool for Love was an outstanding episode.

Drusilla was in fact in Fool For Love, and if she had been a regular in the series by that point, I dont think we would have seen Fool For Love at all, in terms of what it did for Spike.

Lover's Walk was the episode in question. And thematically, who knows how it would have turned out? But ultimately, it served the Bangel plotline very well.

[> [> [> hitting myself on the head- I meant Lover's Walk -- sdev, 17:19:21 08/24/03 Sun

[> [> Some answers hopefully -- s'kat, 17:57:19 08/24/03 Sun

Thanks for the response and the kind words.

From most of your questions - I think, we just have completely different definitions of certain concepts. So it may be an issue of symantetics more than anything else. So hopefully this will clarify.

If BtVS fit into standard TV conventions of plot and its heroine was not unique as a feminist icon, then what made it Cult TV which you state in Section IV?

Cult TV is not a show that breaks all the conventions of plot. No TV show does that. Nor is it one where a heroine is unique. Cult TV is usually television that is genre specific and does not meet the demands of the mainstream audience. It's the horror show, the science-fiction show,
the gothic horror show.

Star Trek
Lost in Space
Batman and Robin

When the cult shows hit mainstream - ie. become the shows most people watch, they cease being cult.

I admit in my conclusion, section I and others that BTVS did subvert certain items within it's genre. But it stayed within the hero formula. It never quite broke the bounds of that. Whether that is a good or bad thing? IS open to debate. And the heroine while unique in some ways, wasn't unique at all in others. The show was great yes. Legendary? Open to debate. And I do believe that Xena did in some ways beat Buffy to the punch when it came to defining a new female hero.

But again don't get me wrong, I'm not saying Buffy wasn't innovative or didn't change it's genre or advance the genre, it did. I guess it's just a question of degree. Nor am I faulting it for not going all the way. Actually I don't believe it could have gone to the extreme that some fans credit it with going or wish it had gone. I don't believe any TV show could - I don't believe the medium permits it.

I am having trouble understanding one part. Are you saying the shipping or character wars on the internet are the audience's attempts (deliberate?) to breach the Fourth Wall? Not a product of heartfelt emotions?

Odd question. Are you saying that the two are separate? I don't believe they can be seperate. I can't imagine someone deliberately attempting to break through and affect the show without having a strong emotional investment. What would be the point? Also as I stated - character wars result from fear, a very strong emotion. So I'd say that yes, any and all deliberate attempts on the part of fans sprout from heartfelt emotions. Since the actions are often or can be perceived as often quite irrational in character. And let's face it - irrationality is more often than not a product of heartfelt emotions. I know that when I respond to a character bash - I'm responding out of emotion nothing remotely logical. Does the attempt hit at the fourth wall? Only if the creators allow it to. But the audience certainly is trying to breach that wall and yes, I believe they are doing it deliberately (how else can you describe such well organized and expensive campaigns) and emotionally. I can't imagine anyone doing it without strong emotions regarding it.

People don't feel motivated to write letters and campaign for things unless they feel strongly about them. Yes, there's heartfelt emotion behind it.

Hope that made sense. Not sure if I overstated my point.

What do you call it when the writers respond to the internet by giving interviews and explanations-- the Fifth Wall? What impact does that have on the medium?

The Fourth Wall. The interaction between Writers and Viewers is about breaking through the Fourth Wall. But! And a huge but here - it only happens if done in the process of the presentation. For example if Whedon chose not to give any interviews or react to fans until after the last episode of his series - than the Fourth Wall would never be breached.

There's an excellent book about this called The Empty Space, can't remember the author - read it a while ago. It's about experimental theater and how Ionesco and others attempted to break the Fourth Wall and involve the audience.
The audience affects the performance. What the audience does changes what happens on stage. Rocky Horror Picture Show in UK played with this concept. The theater presentation Tony and Tina's Wedding also plays with it.

TV? I think we have broken through that wall. I'm not saying breaking throught the wall is bad per se. I'm questioning the degree in which we want to break through it.
Again - what I'm discussing is degrees. Not all or nothing.

Also it's not the writers interviews that break through the wall. It's how they react to their fans. It's when they make the show into a dialetic that it moves into that arena.
Seeing Red is actually an excellent example of this. Since according to interviews given before and after the episode, the writers came up with the attempted rape scene in response to the viewers reactions to the show. That is an instance of breaking the fourth wall. Another instance is Andrew in Storyteller - where the writers comment on fans.
And Andrew's lines - some of which came from posting boards.
This is also an example of fourth wall. Whether or not it is a good or bad thing is open for debate. And may in fact depend on your pov. But it is at the root of many peoples criticisms regarding Season 6 and Season 7 - which often happens when you start breaking through that wall - it's why it is experimental. The internet and reality shows have taken breaking through the fourth wall to a new level. We no longer have to be passive viewers, we can be active ones. We can vote on which performer on American Idol makes it. We can vote people out of a house or a tv show. We can even get ourselves on a tv show.

You say in Section V, If the ratings are high but the critics hate it? It may last two or three seasons depending on ratings. Are you saying a show with high ratings still needs critical approval? How does that mesh with the idea that reaching a lot of viewers is the most important factor to secure advertisers and thus ensure the shows longevity? Do you think critical approval is more important than ratings?

Not at all. Sorry for the confusion. What I was making allowances for is that even if a program has great ratings in it's first two seasons - that is no guarantee particularly if the critics hate it. (I was careful not to state that high ratings guaranteed success, b/c they don't and I'm sure if I did state that someone would had smapped me. ;-) ) Perhaps a few examples might help? The critical elite were bewildered over the success of Who Wants to Be A Millionaire - which was hugely popular for two seasons, top in the ratings. But then it dove, now it's only on in syndication - ie. afternoons with a completely different host. It's no longer the hit. Trends. Trends can be very popular - get loads of ratings, critics hate them, do they last? Not really.

So if a show gets high ratings? Doesn't matter if the critic likes it or not for it to get renewed. But - if critics hate it, this is a good indication that sooner or later the audience will grow tired of it as well and move on to something else. Critics tend to influence viewers - many viewers may even decide what they want to watch by a critics response to it. If this wasn't the case, there would be no need for critics. People wouldn't pay them.
Television shows cost a shitload of money. Millions of dollars to produce. Think about that for a moment. Let that roll around in your head. Millions. Not one million. Not a hundred thousand. Btvs cost Fox and UPN 2.3 million an episode. UPN lost a million because of it.They didn't get that million back. That's a lot of money. So you're Mr. or Ms. TV Executive - and you have to explain to your boss why they should schedule a show that costs 2.3 million in a slot. How do you convince them? What do you use? Same with Mr. or Ms. Advertising Executive - you have decided to purchase ad time for a certain show - that ad time costs you between 130,000 to 150,000 - (for Friends it costs 1 million). How do you push for this? Well you pull out those critical reviews, the ratings, and any fan information you have. That's how. Ratings are great but not enough - if you are making a long term investment. Maybe buying a ten-minute block of ad time for a year? Think of it like you would if you were going to purchase a house or a stock or any investment. What factors do you consider? They don't look at the show the way we look at a poem, they look at the show the way we look at something we might invest in.

Some of the constraints on TV writers which you describe remind me of the way using rhyme or a particular form in poetry impacts the writing process. Paradoxically, constraints such as rhyme and structure can actually enhance the creative process. In looking for the suitable word, new ideas begin to take shape which otherwise were formless.

I understand what you're getting at. But you fail to understand a key difference between the television writer and the poet. The TV writer is more often than not a hired gun. They are being paid quite a bit of money to quickly, and I mean quickly, churn out product. Does that make less than the poem? No. It's still art. But the medium is very very different with very different demands. It does not cost a poet millions of dollars to produce a poem. Nor is the structure of the poem influenced by money. The structure of the poem is influenced by the need to be coherent and get across a point - like grammar if you will.
TV formulas are structured to attract the largest number of viewers possible - they want people to watch them so the people will buy the advertisers products and the TV show will make money from the advertisers.

That said the formula is also structure to tell a coherent story. It's unlikely you'll get many viewers if you aren't coherent. People turn off sets. If you get too experimental, you risk no viewers and risking millions of dollars on the possibility of no viewers is insane.

OTOH when you think about the amount of money involved, it truly is mindboggling that a tv show gets produced at all.
BTVS is proof that you can produce art within these boundaries. It also demonstrates how tough it is to do so.

Not sure that made a lick of sense. Hope it did.

Thanks again for your response. Hope my answers clarified what I was getting at.


[> [> [> Re: Some answers hopefully -- sdev, 20:28:19 08/24/03 Sun

Thanks for your response I agreed with most of it. The only exception is I probably define Cult TV or film differently. I think it is unrelated to genre.

I particularly agreed with your point here:

Also it's not the writers interviews that break through the wall. It's how they react to their fans. It's when they make the show into a dialetic that it moves into that arena.
Seeing Red is actually an excellent example of this. Since according to interviews given before and after the episode, the writers came up with the attempted rape scene in response to the viewers reactions to the show. That is an instance of breaking the fourth wall.

That was exactly what I was getting at. Also commentary post-Seeing Red was meant to defuse audience reaction which was much more severe than had been anticipated IMO.

Interestingly, I saw that Ionesco play at MOMA many moons ago. It was called Rhinocerous? maybe (hazy recollection). The audience sat on moveable ottoman-like chairs and moved about the room among the performers. The chairs and wall coverings were designed collaboratively by Agam, an Israeli artist. Way strange.

I can't imagine someone deliberately attempting to break through and affect the show without having a strong emotional investment

Absolutely. Letters and organized campaigns are clearly a deliberate attempt to reach the writers. But I believe that mostly it is the strong emotion alone, without any intent to break through to the writers, that motivates the posting and the character bashing. Human emotion is a bizarre and potent force.

The financial considerations, time constraints, pressures and outside forces which perforce affect the writing was central to your analysis. I don't think I misunderstood that. I was simply addressing one possible, positive creative side effect of structure regardless of whether the source was the form of a sestina or the network breathing down your neck to capture the 18-29 age group or have a heroic heroine, or any of the other myriad conditions imposed on the writers uniquely for tv.

[> [> [> [> Agree -- s'kat, 21:24:51 08/24/03 Sun

I think we may just differ a little on the cult tv definition but that's it.

The financial considerations, time constraints, pressures and outside forces which perforce affect the writing was central to your analysis. I don't think I misunderstood that. I was simply addressing one possible, positive creative side effect of structure regardless of whether the source was the form of a sestina or the network breathing down your neck to capture the 18-29 age group or have a heroic heroine, or any of the other myriad conditions imposed on the writers uniquely for tv.

Yes, that was my point exactly. My intent was to address the criticisms of the season and there have been several and demonstrate how a lot of that is due to it being a tv show. Basically inform others about how difficult this process truly is. Something that is hard to grasp if you've never done it or haven't studied it.

I also agree that there were positive side effects of the process - one is the positive role model of Buffy. The structure, the network and the fans did prevent the writers from taking her too far out of that role, which I sensed they were tempted to do in both S6 and S7. Just as the networks and advertisers forced them to back away from crude fast-food jokes, something I continue to be grateful about.

I think if they had broken with the formula they may have as some like to put it - jumped the shark. It is very very hard to break with formula and do it well. I can't really think of many US shows that accomplished it.

Xena tried. So did Twin Peaks. But neither did it sucessfully.

[> [> [> [> [> One more issue -- Darby, 08:20:25 08/25/03 Mon

You touched on this, but it may be a critical point toward understanding Season Seven.

Most of the principals were really, really tired. Of the creative demands. Of the grind. Of the onset tensions, perhaps there were backstage tensions as well. Joss has said that they were running out of story to tell, which is a huge thing. This was partially due to the internal constraints of the show, that each major arc was centered around Buffy's emotional journey, and the need to hook everything to that.

But if they had taken another tack, they still could have produced a quality show. Heck, if they had turned over the show to the folks on the Board, we could have kept it fresh for a while more, don't you think-? Personally, I would have liked to have seen a sequence of episodes pairing folks who rarely hook up, like Giles and Spike, or Buffy and Anya - there was just enough to that to whet the appetite. But like any formula, there are limits - the trick is to occasionally change the formula.

Oh, one other point overall - in the talks about other media audience influences, remember how Arthur Conan Doyle was desperate to do away with Sherlock Holmes, but the editors / audience would let him?

[> [> [> [> [> [> Interesting...yes, I'd agree -- s'kat, 09:18:21 08/25/03 Mon

First on the Arthur Conan Doyle point - which is a good one.
Doyle actually, if he really really wanted to - could have stopped Sherlock Holmes. Wondering if he had financial problems?? Agatha Christi had the same thing happen with Hercule Poirot, but she feared falling into Doyle's trap and having others play with her character, so she did the only thing a smart mistress of mayhem could do - she killed him off.

That said - Doyle reminds me a little of Whedon, who I think got sick of Buffy, not the show, the character. I think he was more or less done with her in The Gift and struggled to continue her story. And like Whedon, Doyle may have been under contract to keep delivering Holmes, just as JK Rowling is under contract to deliver seven novels of Harry Potter. They break that contract at their own expense.

Most of the principals were really, really tired. Of the creative demands. Of the grind. Of the onset tensions, perhaps there were backstage tensions as well. Joss has said that they were running out of story to tell, which is a huge thing. This was partially due to the internal constraints of the show, that each major arc was centered around Buffy's emotional journey, and the need to hook everything to that.

But if they had taken another tack, they still could have produced a quality show. Heck, if they had turned over the show to the folks on the Board, we could have kept it fresh for a while more, don't you think-? Personally, I would have liked to have seen a sequence of episodes pairing folks who rarely hook up, like Giles and Spike, or Buffy and Anya - there was just enough to that to whet the appetite. But like any formula, there are limits - the trick is to occasionally change the formula.

I'd agree. I wonder what would have happened if they had tried to change it, move away from the ALL ABOUT BUFFY and her slayer dilemma issue and into other territory? I think they did experiment with it a little in Season 4, Season 3
and to some extent Season 6. Season 4 - actually got the most experimentation and some of the lowest ratings. Whedon mentions being surprised they got renewed in one of the interviews. His reason for doing Restless was he wasn't really counting on it - same with Home, Home really was ATS version of Restless - WB kept BTVS on the bubble with Season 4, just like they did with ATS apparently. Interesting. I wonder if the reason for keeping ATS and BTVs on the bubble after four years might have something to do with the fact that most shows do ask for more money after the five mark. Look we made it five years - we deserve a "raise"! So like any annoying employer who doesn't really want to give hi/r employees that raise, WB
cleverly demonstrates to the producers/writers of the show - that while you're great, you aren't that great...and we might just cancel you prior to that magical fifth year when you get the magical number of episodes you need for syndication. (Meanwhile intending all along to renew - but
thinking a little fear is a good thing.) I think this is what happened with BTVS in year four. Whedon may have pre-planned S5, but he didn't think he'd get it. When he got it, he was not positive he'd get a six or seventh season and possibly didn't care at that point, annoyed at WB.
(This is just speculation based on all those interviews.)
WB refuses to give BTVS the raise, UPN gives it to them instead - they jump over to UPN. WB meanwhile is now playing games with Ats - moving it around the schedule, not doing the reruns (which admittedly are too serialized in nature to sell well to advertisers or audiences), and threatening to cancel after four years. ME knew it had a fourth season of Angel, it did not know it had a fifth. So they do Home, just like they did Restless. The experimental episode which is may be meant to change the series, demonstrate what the series is capable of doing, be a last hurrah, or sell a new type of series to the network considering whether it's worth picking up.

When BTVS passed the coveted five year mark - Whedon wanted to move on. ASH - had already requested to move on. SMG was chomping at the bit to get started on her movie career.
EC was upset with Fox. Only NB, AH, and JM had signed on for three more seasons. So Whedon hands the show more or less over to his second-in commands: Marti and Fury, keeping an eye on them, but confident they can handle the bulk of the producing duties, he promises to write on episode and sees S6 as his chance to finally do that musical he's always wanted, a musical that will he hopes sum up the plot arc of the season. Then off to work on a new show which hopefully will break the formula and be even more innovative than Buffy, something like Hill Street Blues but in space. (Can understand this feeling - since I feel much the same way at times about things, the desire to move on to something new and innovative). Minear feels the same way over on Angel, as does Greenwalt - so Whedon grabs Minear for Firefly. Greenwalt jumps ship to do his own thing. And they hand Angel over to third string Jeff Bell - keeping a wary eye on what he's doing. Season 6 of BTVs not quite coming out the way they expected for audience/critics, ME reacts and tries to fix things. Whedon comes back as executive producer, pulls Fury over to help with Angel, since Bell is in charge and Minear is running Firefly and they need someone with some mileage behind them to help Bell. Whedon will help Marti, who is seasoned enough to fly solo while he's busy on Firefly. He also makes sure that each show has a thematic plot structure for the season in place. At this point he's more worried about Angel and Firefly. Btvs seems fine. Final season. Good cast.
No problems. Firefly? He's already fighting with Fox. Angel?
WB is playing mindgames and Bell isn't as seasoned as Minear and Greenwalt were, and Simkins didn't work out.

Unfortunately - some unforeseen events happen with BTVS and Firefly which screw Whedon up. While Angel, the one he was most worried about and seemed screwed up in September is actually fine, better than fine. Charisma's preganancy actually worked. Bell is doing great. Who'd have thunk it?
Meanwhile Firefly looks like it might not make it past December - the critics are lukewarm. The ratings while higher than BTVS and ATS are also not high enough for Fox.
And Fox is playing the episodes out of order. BTVS seems like it's going well - except wait, major problem here - we can't get Amber. She won't do it. And no money left over in budget for those big guest stars we wanted. Can't have the First play all those past characters like we intended.
What to do? (Note to self - never depend on an actor who isn't under contract to reprise a role.) Oh and Hannigan is filming American Pie mid-season, ASH needs to be in England half the year, and EC is not renewing. SMG probably won't resign. So...

I think that's what happened to be honest. I think they had too many things going on at the same time and lost their focus. When I contemplate what was going on, it is amazing they succeeded as well as they did. It's easy for us to come up with stories for BTVS - we don't have money invested in it, we aren't working on three tv shows and being asked to crank out a script in 24 hours or come up with one that fits budget guidelines. Also we don't have a network and executive producers (ie. The Kuzuis and Fox)breathing down our necks telling us what the audience wants or advertisers want and what we're allowed to do or not do.
That's not to say our ideas aren't good, if not better, but
without having worked within the confines of television medium or having to deal with the inherent costs and pressures of it? I think it's hard for us to really judge what they could or couldn't do. Also we have no idea what tensions went on onset or off which may and probably did contribute to what story ideas they could do. It's possible that EC and SMG hated each others guts. (Unlikely but possible) and Whedon knew better then to put them together for too long and instead made use of the dislike and put it into the show? Or that ASH just wasn't available and they had to film his scenes all at once. It's possible they filmed many of ASH's scenes ahead of time - so we didn't see a Spike/Giles team up or hashing out, because of that necessity. I don't know for certain. But I think...television unlike books or fanfic has certain obstacles that make stories more difficult to tell.

Btw - most of the above is just my speculation. I have no idea how much if any of it is true.

Thanks for the response, Darby!


[> [> [> [> [> Blair Witch -- sdev, 10:10:12 08/25/03 Mon

Wasn't the most well known and maybe first example of breaching the Fourth Wall via internet the Blair Witch Project? In that case wasn't the breach coming from the writer/director/production side toward the audience?

[> Hopping over from another board -- RJA, 16:19:07 08/24/03 Sun

Im posted my reply on the Cross and Stake, but I know this is your home, so I wanted to add my thoughts here too. As I say below great post, and you always continue to be worthy of the praise you get :-) Anyways...

I'll reply with a few random comments and additions.

* I agree about the comments you make concering TV and tragedy. I would also add that perhaps another reason that viewers arent so keen with tragedy on their TV screens is that its largely not what they expect when they start watching a show and get hooked on it. Its very very few shows that have as their central premise that the story and fates will be tragic. Its not something you could expect from the first season of Buffy, its certainly not something you would have realised from watching Xena. There are other things that get the viewer watching and a fan of the show. Whereas in films/plays and books, the audience largely know what to expect when they watch/read it. They are geared up to expect a certain tone or result when becoming involved with these things, in a way that they wont be with TV. I think it comes down to the idea of carthasis through tragedy. It works well within a two hour frame, in which the audience have specifically gone to experience this, yet if unannounced after 7 years, they may be a little less receptive, and it wont have the feeling of carthasis, but having been cheated.

Although I say all this, but have you ever seen any British TV? Often the protagonists are anti-heroes, bad things happen and arent resolved, and so on. While trashy, the fifth season of Bad Girls ended here this week. In it, the central bad guy (prison warder) has ruined scores of lives and just locked up a woman hero to be buried alive in the finale. And given the tone of the show, its no given he will have his punishment or she will make it out of there. Not sure what my point is, but I found it interesting.

*Concerning the rumour mills about the way the season was originally meant to end, I think that this is exactly what it is - rumours. I'm pretty sure that this originated from a William the Poet post in which he outline the above scenario. Certainly, I dont think it was ever something that was more than ideas thrown about, rather than something planned (other than Willow). Although it is correct that the original plan was to have SUnnydale swallowed, and I think this was only changed at the 11th hour, even after they knew that there would be a 6th season.

*Interesting comments about how the show is not set in stone. And whats even more interesting I feel is fan reaction to the fact that it is not. There are some fans who were very upset that there was no grand plan, and thta quite often Joss was flying by the skin of his teeth (for better and worse). In fact, some have gone so far as to say that they now dislike the episode of Restless because it promised plotlines that were never followed through (an interesting point, since I largely took Restless to be about the characters and their emotions than prophecy). Its an interesting, if rather perplexing, reaction.

* Some interesting (a word that I surely overuse) points about the Special Episodes. I have to say that I never really quite see them in this way, because I feel that, importantly, they never tried to impart a message or teach a lesson. I, as a viewer, never felt lectured at. The characters werent being judged, they were just being shown, and we got to draw our own conclusions. Obviously, the situations were shown as bad and destructive, but it was far more complex than Willow is messed up because she did drugs. Rather, she did drugs because she was messed up - the plot point came from the character, rather than being imposed to make a larger point about morals. And I think that is an important difference to a lot of other shows which do do Very Special Episodes. I'm reminded of Dawson's Creek especially - I remember my liking for the show plummeting when Abbie died because she was drunk, or when Andie collapsed because she did drugs. The audience were being lectured at, which is something I never felt with Buffy.

* Again, some interesting comments about the AR. This is possibly where I disagreed last night, but to be honest I resolved with myself not to discuss the AR on the boards because it never ends well unfortunately (and I dont mean with you, but just see other replies to see what level it can degenerate to). I would say that no one could ever reasonably accuse you of condoning rape or supporting rapists, and also that not demonising something does not mean that you're accepting it. I would also say that the show is the same, especially if you view Warren as a counterpoint to Spike.

*I like what you say about formula on TV and breaking outside of that, although I have a question regarding this - do you think that a TV show should break outside of its formula? Does it necessarily make it better or rather more daring and original TV (and the two arent always the same thing). Not really disagreeing with you here, just curious as to your comments.

BTW, were you a viewer/fan of Twin Peaks. In many ways it could be a character study for a lot of the points you make about the television process, but I mention it here since this seemed to be a concious attempt to acknowledge the cliches of TV and break outside of them, something which was ultimately unsucessful due to a mixture of audience/network responses.

*Last point (and I had more, but it just breaks your heart when you have to repeat everything after losing it). You talk about how films are by committee, but isnt that in a sense exactly what Buffy and Angel are too? While there is a personal vision which guides eveyrthing along, within that there are several differing and opposing views that stem out from the individual writers who are working to put Joss ideas out into the public. Just compare the differences between Noxon, Fury and Espenson, and then compare them all to Whedon to show that while his vision doesnt necessarily get distorted or trashed, it certainly gets diluted due to these differing inputs. And the Goldman story reminds me a lot of Jane talking about the dissatisfaction she had with Flooded due to her and Petrie's working styles, which involved rewriting each other's work.

*Late addition, I dont think Dead Things caused the BBC to give Buffy a late night extra slot, since they had repeated the show a long time (a few years at least) before season six. The fuss over the time slot actually came over Channel 4 showing Angel, in which they have it a 6pm slot (as Buffy had on the BBC roughly), but cut it heavily - slashed being a better word - so after complaints, and ITC comments, they shoved it to a late night slot. Which is probably why they complained of few viewers when showing it at 1am in the morning....

Anyway, great post, something which showed real insight into both the show and the nature of TV. Really gave me a lot to think about, and so thanks for this.

BTW, Xena fan much?

[> [> Thank you! Great pts. On British TV, and other things. -- s'kat, 18:56:23 08/24/03 Sun

I agree with much of what you say and really appreciate the response. Taking your comments one by one:

Although I say all this, but have you ever seen any British TV? Often the protagonists are anti-heroes, bad things happen and arent resolved, and so on. While trashy, the fifth season of Bad Girls ended here this week. In it, the central bad guy (prison warder) has ruined scores of lives and just locked up a woman hero to be buried alive in the finale. And given the tone of the show, its no given he will have his punishment or she will make it out of there. Not sure what my point is, but I found it interesting.

Seen very little unfortunately. But enough to realize that it is very different than US television in some ways.
Even your censors are different. There's a documentary out right now - called Bowling for Columbine that addresses some of the differences between American/US television and Canadian, British and European Television. In US, network news tends to go for the bloodiest, most gut wrenching stories, they compete over murder cases, health scares, etc. Canadian and British TV? Not so much. Why? I have a theory - I think the reason really is simple economics.
US is a free-market economy. More so than anywhere else in the world. The networks and cable are regulated but not a lot. In the 80s everything was deregulated. The winner in US is the person who can sell the most time. It's very competitive. In UK - I'm not sure of this - but I don't think you have nearly as many channels competing for viewers. So that may or may not explain it.

I really don't know for sure. Just that British TV has always been very different in some respects that American TV. Manchild for instance would not appear on network US TV, HBO or BBC America -yes.

Quickly, Thank you for deciding not to discuss the AR. I wrote and just deleted a lengthy reply. But decided you are right. A very wise decision. Dicussion regarding this topic on the boards never ever ends well. The ASSB reaction being just one example. Too many violent emotions concerning it. It's prohibited on some boards by the way. I think B C& S has made it a dead topic as has BAPS and for good reasons. I made my points regarding why I thought ME should not have done it, but understand why they inevitably did, got it all out of my system finally and should just leave it at that.

Actually not much of a Xena fan, oddly enough. I stopped watching somewhere in the sixth or fifth season? And was never obsessed. I liked Xena. But I'm certainly not amongst those who consider it brilliant. ;-) I do however give it kudos for pushing the envelope on a couple of things and introducing a tough woman as the heroine.

*I like what you say about formula on TV and breaking outside of that, although I have a question regarding this - do you think that a TV show should break outside of its formula? Does it necessarily make it better or rather more daring and original TV (and the two arent always the same thing). Not really disagreeing with you here, just curious as to your comments.

BTW, were you a viewer/fan of Twin Peaks. In many ways it could be a character study for a lot of the points you make about the television process, but I mention it here since this seemed to be a concious attempt to acknowledge the cliches of TV and break outside of them, something which was ultimately unsucessful due to a mixture of audience/network responses.

Yep, was a fan of Twin Peaks. Didn't use it as an example b/c well I forgot about it. ;-)

But I'd agree Twin Peaks is another excellent example of a show that attempted to break free of the formulaic structure of TV and unraveled as a result, especially during it's second season. Twin Peaks may be the only other TV show that I religiously taped. OR will admit to religiously taping. It may also be the reason that I am on the fence whether breaking free of formula is such a good idea. I think breaking free of it does make the show more daring and original but not necessarily commercially viable or successful. When you are spending millions of dollars producing something - commercial viability is very important.

Firefly may be another example of why trying to break formula and genre rules to be original and innovative is not necessarily a good thing.

You talk about how films are by committee, but isnt that in a sense exactly what Buffy and Angel are too? While there is a personal vision which guides eveyrthing along, within that there are several differing and opposing views that stem out from the individual writers who are working to put Joss ideas out into the public. Just compare the differences between Noxon, Fury and Espenson, and then compare them all to Whedon to show that while his vision doesnt necessarily get distorted or trashed, it certainly gets diluted due to these differing inputs. And the Goldman story reminds me a lot of Jane talking about the dissatisfaction she had with Flooded due to her and Petrie's working styles, which involved rewriting each other's work.

Interesting. Wish we could ask Jane Espenson that question.
I think what I meant was that usually in TV there's a creator who controls things, with writers behind him - not some board. Some not all movies are created by a group of studio execs - who come up with an idea - go hire a bunch of screenwriters to hammer out the idea and hire a director to direct it. I think that's what Espenson means by committee. In Movies the screenwriter is just a hired gun, same can be said about plays actually. On TV - the writer actually has more control - they produce, direct and are involved in casting. They specify what they want.

Examples: David Fury wrote and directed Gone and Lies My Parents Told Me. - Even if the idea behind those episodes was originally Whedon's, Fury was the one who got to express it in his way and his voice.

Same with Deknight and Inside Out - the plot was Whedon's sure, but Deknight expressed it through his words and direction.

So the writer has a bit more impact, more voice than s/he does in say a presentation of hi/r play or a movie.
Example: The play: Rope - has had at least two different versions done. The Hitchcock version. The West End Version in England. Both are very different. Neither involved the playwrite. He wrote the dialogue, sure, but how that dialogue was interpreted and expressed he had 0 control over. On stage the actors have the control. On screen?
The director. On BTVS? The writer happens to be the one editing the scenes, picking the takes, and more often than not directing the scenes, so even though it's a collaboration, possibly even more so than some films or plays - the writer has more input than anyone else. While in the other two mediums, everyone but the writer (assuming of course the writer isn't acting in the play nor directing the movie) has input.

Thank you again for your response. I really appreciate it!


[> [> [> Re: Thank you! Great pts. On British TV, and other things. -- Ace_of_Sevens, 21:50:25 08/24/03 Sun

Keep in mind that British tv typically has shorter seasons, meaning things don't need to be sustainable for quite as long as in the US. Also, the lack of a need to sell advertising (on BBC shows, anyway) makes for much broader content restrictions.

[> [> [> Re: Thank you! Great pts. On British TV, and other things. -- punkinpuss, 23:53:56 08/24/03 Sun

Regarding Jane Espenson's comment about how films are made by committee -

TV shows are made by teams of people working together toward a common, almost impossible goal. In the 1-hr drama format, you have a show runner controlling story arcs throughout the season, you have a regular and rotating team of directors and writers who produce scripts and then shows under the show runner's eye. The writers produce scripts with specific guidelines already established about characters and basic plot points. If they want to do something else (ie., a standalone ep), that has to be pitched to the showrunner long in advance so that it can be approved and worked into the existing although loose framework of the already plotted shows in pre-production.

For an interesting example of what that involves, look for the documentary on the making of the Homicide: Life on the Street episode called "The Subway". It was written by James Yoshimura and guest-starred Vincent D'Onofrio. Tom Fontana was the exec. producer or showrunner. The documentary follows the process from pitch to meetings to Yoshimura sweating bullets thru multiple rewrites, casting, the pre-production process, filming with a guest director, and finally, the writers/production team watching the show being aired. I believe that ep. won a few awards, too.

In film, there are many, many non-creative people who are involved in the creative aspects of the film and often set up competing creative teams to produce multiple scripts. Sometimes these scripts are patched together Frankenstein-style to meet the studio's current idea of what the hell they think they want. Some films literally involve a table full of writers with varying and conflicting ideas of what the movie is about. Or they'll bring in a script doctor later on (like that funny guy Joss Whedon) for specific touchups (for humor, action, love scenes, etc.) Add in a director and/or star with their own ideas and you can have utter chaos. There is no single, strong, guiding voice on most big studio productions. Thus, mush.

You can't have that kind of chaos on the schedules that tv shows operate under (you'd run over budget & schedule too often), that's why writer/producer types rule in tv. In film, it is a director's medium but unless they are so successful that they can call the shots themselves (Spielberg, Lucas, Cameron) they are subjected to monstrous interference every step of the way. Both are ultimately collaborative ventures, but operating under different restrictions.

Just wanted to point out that I liked how S'Kat's essay deals with the problems of art vs. commerce in tv production. You don't see that discussed very often. Fans can be extremely naive about the shows they love. Strong emotions make us irrational and often override our common sense about why networks and shows do the things they do.

S'kat's essay is a much-needed reminder that tv shows are a business and like any business, subject to a lot of forces we can't predict, control, or change. For every loudmouth fan who thinks they can crap a better tv show, well, no, you can't. It's a helluva lot more complicated than one person scribbling indulgent fanfic at their computer.

Thanks again SK!

[> [> Wonderful point about the so-called Special Episodes -- Yellow Bear, 14:59:14 08/25/03 Mon

[> Delurking here for the first time in ages -- Simon, 01:46:57 08/25/03 Mon

This was a joy to read, I posted a link to your article at Whedonesque as well

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