With the tagline, “Into Each Generation a Slayer is Born,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” launched on the WB network in 1997. It developed into a cult hit on the network before moving to UPN this season. Now, at long last, the entire first season is available on DVD for those who missed the show’s early episodes (and repeats on FX) or just want to relive the experience of the show’s earlier work.
The season begins with Buffy Summers (the incomparable Sarah Michelle Gellar) moving to Sunnydale. She was booted from her previous school for an incident involving the burning down of her school’s gym. Now she is in Sunnydale, a former school beauty queen in a new town, forced to make new friends. She eventually befriends dorky Willow (Alyson Hannigan) and sweet goofball Xander (Nicholas Brendon, looking like a younger version of Chandler from “Friends”). She also develops a relationship with vampire Angel (David Boreanaz, now on his own WB show), while Xander pines for her – and Willow in turn pines for Xander.
Now that her life is sufficiently complicated, she discovers that Sunnydale is on the Hellmouth, meaning she has to fight nasty monsters each episode. Her assigned watcher, Giles, is ready to instruct her while he’s not pretending to be the school librarian.
The three-disc DVD collection does an excellent job with the season’s blend of camp and seriousness. From Buffy’s failed attempt to try out for the cheerleading team (hurling a fellow cheerleader across the gym) to her depression at her inability to balance her social life (she wants a boyfriend, damnit!) and her responsibilities as the Slayer, season one highlights her character shift from ditzy California blonde to serious protector of the human race.
The sound and picture qualities are just fine, but the extras leave something to be desired. The one full commentary with creator Joss Whedon, on “Welcome to the Hellmouth,” is well-done, as are the brief interviews on a few of the episodes. It’s a shame that Fox didn’t include more of these insights. Learning that Gellar was initially tapped to portray snooty Cordelia, rather than the protagonist, is something that lends insight into Whedon’s mind. So is Whedon’s basis of Xander on his own high school life.
While the show will never reach the depth of “The Sopranos” or “The Simpsons,” it’s still a fine, fun show. With the upcoming release of the second season later this summer, it is imperative to have season one in order to keep track. Like “Friends,” “M*A*S*H*” and other shows that have recently began releasing season-by-season DVDs, this is certainly worth the $30 or so that it would take to follow along.