BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER – THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON
Reviewed January 17th, 2002 by Dan Jones
”Giles, care? I'm putting my life on the line battling the undead. Look, I broke a nail, okay? I'm wearing a press-on. The least you could do is exhibit some casual interest. You could go, ‘hmm.’”Oftentimes spin-off shows from films are attempted, yet rarely ever successful. Occasionally though one finds its audience; Buffy the Vampire Slayer falls under this category. Buffy is obviously a continuation of the 1992 film of the same title, which starred Kristy Swanson as Buffy, along with a cast that included Donald Sutherland, Paul Reubens, and Luke Perry. For the television series, the cast was completely re-selected, giving Sarah Michelle Gellar the starring role as the title roll, Buffy Summers.
For the TV-Series, the creators decided to essentially takeoff right from where the movie ended; yet you have to adapt a bit from the earlier film as Buffy has become slightly less ditzy in the TV show then she was in the movie; which makes for a more watchable presentation in my humble opinion. Buffy has also up and moved to Sunneydale; but of course, vampires are still to follow. The basic plotline is that Buffy is one of the chosen ones that was basically born to protect the human race from extinction that could be caused by the takeover of vampires. Yes, this plot is not too much unlike other vampire plotlines, yet this one takes a much more 90210 way of presenting itself. This is probably the leading factor in its popularity.
Over time, Buffy became a very popular show for the WB Television Network, and is now under the control of the United Paramount Network (or simply UPN). On this first season, spreading over three discs, the episode layout goes as follows: The included episodes in this first season are: “Welcome to the Hellmouth”, “The Harvest”, “Witch”, “Teacher's Pet”, “Never Kill a Boy on the First Date”, “The Pack”, “Angel”, “I Robot, You Jane”, “The Puppet Show”, “Nightmares”, “Out of Mind Out of Sight”, and “Prophecy Girl”. You will notice that there are only twelve episodes in this season (even though your package will probably claim twenty-four episodes... this is a typo); this is because Buffy was a mid-season replacement, and therefore was not allowed a full season run as future seasons were. So, expect future seasons on DVD to cost somewhere around double what this set costs.
Video wise, all the episodes in the first season of Buffy are presented in their original full screen aspect ratio. Overall, the picture is good, but not great. Assuming the show started off with a pretty low budget this is probably the reason for the somewhat unsatisfying presentation. Colors are somewhat off, grain is quite present, and detail is relatively low. There are also a few noticeable source markings here and there. Thankfully, there are no real mastering problems; edge enhancement is minimal and compression artifacting is not present. Just remember that this was a brand new, replacement show during its first season, which no doubt is the reason for the lackluster image quality.
Audio wise, again due to the shows low budget roots, the Dolby Surround 2.0 tracks included on all the episodes leaves much to be desired. These tracks, in all honestly, are not lively in the slightest, with most, if not all, of the audio coming through your front three speakers; some music is occasionally spread to surrounds, but nothing too directional. This is again to be expected, and one can probably expect it to improve as the releases come along. Also included is a French Dolby Surround 2.0 track, English closed captions, and English and Spanish subtitles.
In the extras department, most Buffy loyalist will probably be disappointed with this season one release. The major attraction is audio commentary by the show’s creator Joss Whedon on the two part pilot episodes, “Welcome to the Hellmouth” and “The Harvest.” This track is quite interesting, giving us some information on creating a show with such a small budget, along with Whedon’s vision on where he wanted the show to go. Definitely worth a listen.
As for the rest of the extras, we get a number of interviews (four in all) with Whedon, along with one with David Boreanz and Whedon, on specific episodes. For the most part, these end up being repetitive and end up giving away future plotlines; so if you must watch these, watch them with your finger hovering over the mute button on your remote. Also included are a photo gallery, a promotional trailer for Buffy, and the script from the “Welcome to the Hellmouth”.
Overall, this complete first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer has its good points and bad points. Some more extras would have been nice, and perhaps slightly better remasters in the video and audio department. Nevertheless, this is truly a nice package, giving us the complete first season at a very low street price. If you happen to be a fan of Buffy, or Sarah Michelle Gellar, then this set is definitely recommended.
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