I’m not as insane as I look!

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Sometimes I feel very alone in the world, at least in terms of my Joss Whedon obsession. But then once in a while something comes along to justify my rabid, insane fandom. Like this article! I really wish I could get a PhD in Buffy Studies (such a thing exists, you know) but it would actually take a lot of work and I have other things that need doing. So it’s just a fantasy.

One place I hang out in order to not feel alone is the Buffy the Vampire Slayer group on Facebook. People waste away their days there, just talking about Buffy! I love it. Except there are some apunctual repeat offenders there who kind of drive me insane. And then I am just as insane as I look.

But it’s not just me who’s off my rocker, it’s all of us, because in reality we are not off our rockers at all! There are thousands upon thousands of us rabid fans, and we just happen to know about Buffy. I defy anyone to actually watch all of Buffy and still not get it. Buffy really is that amazing.

I came across this fan who says she doesn’t usually paint, but this portrait of Buffy just came out of her one day. Her name is Tess Smith. I love this painting! I love it a million times more than when people just post photos. This is something she created herself, which hardly anyone bothers to do anymore. Hurray for fan art!

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I have a painting too. I had it commissioned some seven or eight years ago. If you don’t recognize him, this is “Lorne” from Angel.  But rare is the visitor who knows who he is. Sad, sad.

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Converting The Un-Converted

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I have a friend who is willing to give Buffy a try after months of raving on my part, and I want to make the most of this opportunity to turn her on to the show.  I’m nervous because I have to do it just right, to hook her within two episodes. I know that if she gets hooked, she will be so glad to have Buffy in her life. She needs Buffy, but she doesn’t know it yet.

So I’ve been asking around, querying people on how they got hooked or how they would recommend hooking someone else. One person said “Start them on Season 2, and then if they’re interested later they can go back and see Season 1.” But a couple people have told me that they started with Season 1 and were hooked from the start. Whereas I was introduced to Buffy during a Season 6 Buffy party when the musical episode aired.

Until that night, I had been a staunch anti-Buffy snob. I assumed that Buffy must be a terrible show, or mediocre at best, probably some campy kind of crap. This opinion was based entirely on having seen the Buffy movie, and having of course hated it. How could such a terrible movie spawn a spin-off at all, not least a watchable one? I wondered. I didn’t have television during the days when Buffy was on, so there was no chance I might stumble upon it. I needed to be taught.

After the musical episode, I was hooked. I realized how very very wrong I had been in avoiding Buffy, and I wanted more, more, more. Next I was invited to another Buffy party, where we viewed the episode “Hush”. After that, I started borrowing tapes from my friend to watch different episodes, and then later the DVDs came out and at that point I started at the beginning and watched Buffy (and Angel) all the way through. When it was all over, I couldn’t bear to part with the shows so I just started watching them again. And then again. And again and again. And now here we are, 8 years later and I am still watching Buffy.

If I could give one gift to a particular kind of super-intelligent person, one thing in the world that I think would benefit them more than anything else, it would be to turn them on to Buffy. And this uninitiated friend of mine is exactly the kind of person who could appreciate Buffy fully, if introduced properly. I adore this girl, and I want to share what is more than my favorite show – it’s my religion. Buffy helps me through my darkest times and I want my friend to have the same light in the darkness. But I have to do it right. If I show her a couple episodes and she doesn’t want to see more, I’ll be crushed and wonder how I could have done it better.

Does anyone have suggestions as to how to rope in a new Buffy fiend? I will take all suggestions seriously, and seriously consider them. Right now I am leaning toward showing her “Hush” and “Once More With Feeling” and then giving her the Season 1 and 2 DVDs to watch on her own. If she can get through Season 1, it will be free flying from there. But if not… well that’s why I don’t know if maybe I should give her Seasons 2 & 3 instead. I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know. Help?

Bleh. More Bleh From S.H.I.E.L.D.

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The latest episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. delivered more bleh and helped continue this show along its increasingly boring path of dark colors and mediocre plot-lines. Episode 6 “FZZT” featured a Chitauri infection that killed people and suspended them in mid-air. Jemma Simmons contracted the infection through an electrostatic shock, and then had to race against time to try to find herself an anti-serum before she died. Of course, Fitz helped save the day by scratching some Chitauri cells from the inside of a Chitauri helmet (which was somehow the initial cause of the infection) and helping to develop the antiserum from them. Overall it was an incredibly purposeless and boring episode.  It was obvious that Jemma (it’s the only time she’s referred to as “Jemma” rather than “Simmons”) was not going to be killed off, so it was just a matter of waiting out the episode to find out how she saves herself or gets saved or whatnot.

While I’ve been hoping for an episode to feature FitzSimmons, this is the oposite of what I was hoping for. What I want is back-story and character development. I want some reason to care a bit more about the duo. But instead, I was treated to another episode that made it increasingly difficult for me to distinguish Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. from anything else on TV.  What is going on? Who is writing these episodes, and more importantly, who is OK-ing them? I assume it’s Jed & Maurissa again at fault for this. Or maybe it’s Marvel and ABC. Maybe Jed and Maurissa can’t stand up to Marvel and ABC, or maybe it’s what I said before, that Jed & Maurissa are good writers, but they don’t necessarily share Joss’ brilliance for bringing out the brilliance in the people around him.

Not everyone is so disappointed by this episode as I was. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is that Joss should be heavily disappointed, and racking his brain on what to do about it. If the last few episodes were something that Joss actually rewrote, then I think he may have dementia.  I expect more from Joss. And while I know that he’s not running this show, ultimately it’s his name on the line and it’s his responsibility to make sure it’s not utter crap.

Am I being too hard on the Whedons? S.H.I.E.L.D. isn’t the worst thing on TV. But it isn’t the best thing ever either, and it could be. It should be. It’s not enough for it to just be ok. I expect it to be at least as good as Dollhouse, which was an unpopular show that was canceled after two seasons. Dollhouse had so much going for it – it was a thinking person’s show. It made you think, wonder, imagine. All S.H.I.E.L.D. makes me wonder is when will Joss’ rewrites start showing up and when will this show get better?

Episode 6 wasn’t horrible. It just wasn’t great. It was just bleh. But it had a few things going for it. For example: finally, finally the music was more varied and less horrible than it’s been before. And while it wasn’t funny in the least, some of the characters made each other laugh, which was kind of nice. It was not Whedon Wit by a long shot, but it was welcome levity.

There were a couple moments here and there, during Episode 6, which might have been important. There was a brief interchange between Fitz & Simmons which hinted at how they ended up with S.H.I.E.L.D. (says Fitz: “The Academy, psy-ops, and now this plane.”) And there was a scene in which Coulson wondered why he felt so different after being brought back from the dead. Nothing was actually revealed (the blood tests he ordered for himself were all normal, except for a little extra iron) so we still don’t have a clue whether he’s a robot or a clone. About the iron in his blood he joked un-funnily: “You don’t have to start calling me Iron Man.” But I think that the iron in his blood was a result of how rusty his skills are! In any case, in spite of the non-funniness, it is Coulson at this point who is carrying the show. Clark Gregg is an amazing actor. He reminds me of Giles, in terms of how much expression he can carry on his face. The similarities don’ t end there, of course. But that is another topic for another day.

The fact that other reviewers aren’t horribly disappointed by S.H.I.E.L.D. just shows how low the bar is. S.H.I.E.L.D. was compared to CSI, in what I think was supposed to be a compliment, by one reviewer. But CSI should not be what S.H.I.E.L.D. aspires to. All shows, and especially Whedon shows, should aspire to be as good as Buffy. Of course, all will fail. But Buffy, the greatest TV show of all time, showed us what is possible with television. Having seen what is possible, should we really aspire to mediocrity instead? That is all that is being delivered in this latest series.

But I’m still hanging on. I’ll watch every episode and in spite of repeated disappointments I’ll impatiently wait for the next, and the one after that. I’ll keep hoping for it to get better. There is hope. There is the hope that Joss will eventually finish work on The Avengers: Age of Ultron and return to working on S.H.I.E.L.D. and make it a better show. Because if I had given up on Buffy, Angel or Dollhouse when they were struggling in their first seasons, I would have missed out on so much I can’t even bear to think about it. I’m willing to give this show at least two seasons before I give up… and I am not alone in holding out hope. There are an awful lot of good reasons to watch a Whedon show, and maybe someday they’ll be evident in S.H.I.E.L.D. We can dream.

New Firefly Comics… Yay?

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Firefly fans rejoice! The story of Serenity and her crew will be continuing via comic, penned by Zack Whedon.  Unlike the previous Firefly comics, this one will be taking the story into new territory as characters move on from the events in the movie Serenity and try to deal with all sorts of new stuff & some new characters. Zack Whedon is responsible for some mightily good stuff, including the comic Dr. Horrible! And Other Horrible Stories as well as one of the best songs in Commentary! The Musical, “The Rap.”

I have been reading most of the Whedon comics as they come out, including Buffy, Angel, Firefly and Dr. Horrible, Tales, and Fray. They’re ok. In general, although these comics help somewhat to fill the void left by our favorite long-gone-but-not-forgotten TV shows, they’re not anywhere near as good as the shows themselves. Joss Whedon’s storytelling genius does not translate to comics all that well, though it hurts my heart me to say it. Even his arc of Runaways and his Astonishing X-Men left me underwhelmed.

The best comic I have read by Joss Whedon was actually based on his original screenplay for the movie Buffy The Vampire Slayer. The movie that was horrible because it was directed all wrongly. The comic was done as if Sarah Michelle Gellar had starred in the movie – it’s drawn to look like her, and comicbook Sarah Gellar delivers lines the way the real Buffy would. It has the feel of a real Buffy episode. The comic tells the story of Buffy the way it was meant to be told – as if Joss had directed his own movie, and then it was made into a comic. But if he’d written the story originally for a comic, I doubt it would be anywhere near so good.

There’s something missing in Joss’ comics (which is not to say it will necessarily be missing from Zack’s Firefly.) The stories just aren’t big. They may span centuries and cross universes, and do any number of flashy and surprising things, but they don’t feature whatever it is that makes Joss’ tv shows so great. They’re light on the character development and witty dialogue, heavy on the flashy. I don’t mean to say that the Whedon bros. comics (often, multiple Whedon brothers will work on a comic) suck. They do not. I always look forward to them. But they’re not like having Buffy back.

Will the new Firefly be like having Firefly back? I think that if that’s our expectation we’ll probably be disappointed. The show is over, and done. Despite the yearnings of the Browncoats for Firefly to be resurrected, it’s not going to happen. It was wonderful while it lasted, and then Joss gave us a gift with Serenity. That is more than fans of any other show ever got. With the new comics, let’s just hope for some good stories & stop pestering Joss to return to Firefly. He’s moving on, and so should we.