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A mid-season replacement in early 1997, Buffy the Vampire Slayer quickly established an identity separate from the jokey 1992 feature film that spawned it. An unlikely mixture of action, drama, horror, and comedy, the 12-episode first season effectively cross-pollinated The X-Files, Beverly Hills 90210, and Dark Shadows to become a sleeper hit for the fledgling WB network. Series creator Joss Whedon and his writers set out to literalize the idea that high school is hell, examining teenaged angst and sexual awakening through the lens of supernatural metaphor. The two-part opener established Sunnydale, CA, as an otherwise idyllic small town situated atop the mouth to hell. Witches, demonic hyenas, a sexy praying mantis, and, of course, vampires stalked the streets outside Sunnydale High, their various evils reflecting the raging hormones and social Darwinism within. With the show's edgy take on high-school life driving the wildly varying plot lines, a tightly knit ensemble quickly took shape. Former soap star Sarah Michelle Gellar played Buffy Summers as a reluctant hero, desperately clinging to shopping, cheerleading, and girliness to escape her calling as the mystically empowered Chosen One. Alyson Hannigan, as the geeky Willow Rosenberg, and Nicholas Brendon, as the Slayer-smitten Xander Harris, quickly became Buffy's sidekicks as well as her closest confidantes. They would remain the core of Buffy's "Scooby Gang" for the show's entire run. Charisma Carpenter, as icy teen queen Cordelia Chase, provided not only caustic humor but also a glimpse of the Buffy who might have been, if responsibility hadn't been thrust upon her. And veteran British actor Anthony Stewart Head played the role of fusty mentor Rupert Giles with a mixture of comic bumbling and fatherly wisdom. Although they would never become series regulars, frequent guest stars Kristine Sutherland, as Buffy's long-suffering mom, and Armin Shimerman, as the ineptly Napoleonic Principal Snyder, provided the typical teen pressures that would complicate Buffy's secret identity for the first three seasons. Meanwhile, sexual tension and a dark link between Buffy and arch-nemesis The Master (Mark Metcalf) arrived in the form of enigmatic dreamboat Angel (David Boreanaz). By the end of the season -- when a recently drowned Buffy sprang back to life to face down The Master and attend a sock hop -- the show's organic mixture of disparate genres was a fait accompli.~Brian J. Dillard
Prime-Time Drama [TV]
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
20th Century Studios
Fantastic Reality, Other Dimensions
Adult Situations, Questionable for Children, Suitable for Teens, Violence