What should I watch? Buffy the Vampire Slayer

The ass-kicking cheerleader who paved the way for modern TV

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Way before he grappled with Marvel superheroes on the big screen, Avengers director Joss Whedon created the perfect blend of high-school drama, horror and pop-culture comedy for television.

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His hero Buffy Summers, a vampire-slaying cheerleader who struggles to fit in at her new school in sunny California, became a career-defining role for Sarah Michelle Gellar, but beyond that the seven series of Buffy the Vampire Slayer have had a massive influence.

Buffy battles the forces of evil at night, alongside friends Willow and Xander, and “Watcher” Giles. By day, she navigates the emotional minefield of teenage life. The allegory of high school being a special kind of hell isn’t the only extra dimension that makes Buffy much more than supernatural fun: with its near-silent episode Hush and the ground-breaking musical special Once More, with Feeling, the series is a wellspring of brilliant ideas that has spawned a whole genre of academia, “Buffy Studies”. Russell T Davies was a Buffy student. He has admitted he wanted Billie Piper’s character Rose to be a “Buffy-style” companion.

And Buffy’s legacy doesn’t end there. If you’re a fan of Being Human and In the Flesh’s kitchen- sink horror, you also have a debt of gratitude to Buffy’s melding of the mundane and monstrous.

But perhaps most telling of all are the comparisons with Harry Potter: a hero who is “the chosen one” to fulfil a prophecy to vanquish evil; a school plagued by supernatural forces; two companions, a bookish girl and
a dopey boy; and a kindly older man to guide your hero.

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When JK Rowling wasn’t in that café writing the first Potter novel, you could be forgiven for thinking she was at home devouring Buffy box sets.