I wrote this 8 years ago. Still on point.
I came a little late to the Buffy party. In fact, the first original airing of an episode that I watched was on December 8th, 1998 — and before you think I’m a complete freak, I got that date from IMDB. I do remember the episode, though: “The Wish.” It would be an odd episode for me to delve into the show, as it a) took place in an alternate reality and b) was written by a writer whose eventual ascension to show runner would mark a bleak period in Buffy’s history.
I was in grad school in 1998. The band I was in at the time had made an ill fated attempt at a tour over our winter break and, once that was over, I was pretty much left with nothing to do. It should also be noted that I was in Ohio at this point, so wrap your brain around the idea of having nothing to do in December in Ohio. The Shining could have taken place there.
The fledgling WB network was showing a bunch of repeats of Buffy during this time, but they were pretty scattered. The local video store, however, had some videos that Fox Studios had released, featuring two episodes each of the first season of Buffy. I think I rented one of them before I went out and bought all three (which have since been replaced by DVDs). By the end of Ohio University’s winter break, I was hooked. Actually, I was pretty obsessed.
Why was I obsessed? What was it about this show that sucked me in? At the beginning, I honestly didn’t know. I think it had to do with the fact that I was pretty lonely, and the show featured a group of friends, almost all of whom seemed like people I would like to hang out with. I could relate to Xander, the guy who always felt like he didn’t really belong, even in that group, as he was the only one with no abilities. It probably helped that my first season of the show also happened to be the first season with Faith, but I’ll save my Eliza Dushku digression for another time.
Later, I think the quality of the writing really got to me. While eventually I would begin to notice the patterns that the show would fall into, during those first few years it seemed like they were willing to try anything. There was a certain bravery to the storytelling that I didn’t see in other shows. And, hell, I’m a sucker for the supernatural. So, yeah, it’s easy to see why I became a bit neurotic about the show.
Sadly, for as much mocking as I took from my friends, they all ended up becoming enablers. Over the course of the next year and a half of grad school, “Buffy Nights” at the house I was living at grew larger and larger. For a misanthrope like myself, it offered me the added bonus of being able to socialize without having to go anywhere. Whereas I was once the guy who kept talking about his band all the time, I soon became the Buffy guy (who only stopped talking about his band because it broke up). And, of course, I became the Angel guy, too.
When I left Ohio, I took my Buffy obsession with me. The only friends I made in Atlanta that I didn’t import in from Ohio were others who loved Buffy. Suddenly, a new Buffy night was born, this time in the South. At one point I even went so far as to leave my own apartment to watch the show, although it was just to walk across a parking lot to another apartment. I was also pretty active online and found myself wasting hours and hours of time reviewing, discussing, and debating the in’s and out’s of every episode.
Next, I moved to Los Angeles, and, as is befitting of Los Angeles, I started watching the final season of Buffy (and the penultimate season of Angel) by myself. The internet became my sole source of interaction when it came to Buffy. The upside, though, was that I was now living in the city where the show was made. I actually got to meet Joss Whedon, Amber Benson, and Michelle Trachtenberg at a signing for the Buffy musical CD. That wasn’t something that would have happened in Ohio.
By this point, of course, the show was releasing its earlier seasons on DVD, so I was now stocking up on those. I also bought an Xbox specifically because it was the only system that had the Buffy video game. These are all things that would come in useful when I hosted my very last Buffy night, during the finale.
But Kyle, you’re saying, you’ve said that you watched Buffy all alone in Los Angeles? Well, I did, except for the finale, when three people I had never met before in my entire life flew all the way to Los Angeles to watch Buffy with me. Could there be better icing on the cake of this story? I don’t think so.
They were people I’d known for a while online. One of the bonuses of living in Los Angeles is that people are willing to come visit you for the most minor of reasons, because you actually live in an interesting city. So while these three, fine people were coming to watch the end of an era with me, there were some added bonuses. I don’t know that they would have flown out to watch the finale with me if I were still living in Ohio.
Two years later, with my Buffy library fully stocked, I began the process of indoctrinating my then girlfriend Nicole. Now, Nicole has always been a nerd, so it wasn’t that hard to get her started. It got a bit more difficult when Angel got his own series, because then she had to go back and forth between the two, and suddenly her commitment to catching up doubled. But she was a trooper, and while I doubt she’d consider the show to be her favorite, she did enjoy it. It was also really cool for me to go back and watch it all with someone who’d never seen it before.
One of these days, when I have a job that pays more, I’ll finally give in and buy the complete series box set. I think, perhaps, I should have a party then, as it would make a fitting bookend.
Maybe I’ll invite Nicholas Brendon. I did rent him an apartment once.
Update: No, really, I did rent him an apartment. He was totally nice. And I bought and eventually sold that box set (and the one for Angel) when I switched from DVD to digital. I hope whoever bought it from the used bin at Amoeba in Hollywood enjoys it.
Also, I wrote two essays for Popmatters.com on Buffy, so you should check those out.