By PATRICK McCRAY
I had issues in 1997 or so.
I’d just moved and was paying attention to a Real Job. I never had cable nor good reception. I was apathetic toward the BUFFY movie. And the title? Dreadful. Newsflash: it ain’t ironic. Irony involves a certain tweak of expectation that allows the audience to do some mental math, hence why it’s so satisfying. BUFFY: THE VAMPIRE SLAYER isn’t ironic to me. It’s twee. Call it SLAYER and let me find out the slayer’s name is Buffy. THAT’S ironic. Yeah, yeah, I’d been told that it was an incredibly realistic depiction of high school, and I give that a golf clap. It may be a great depiction of high school, but I work in a high school. I get that all the time.
I kept forgetting it was on the air. But it wouldn’t go away. It got especially bad when I was developing a series around an occult hero. I went for several poignant months where I was told that every idea I had was one already featured on BUFFY.
And then there was the DARK SHADOWS matter.
Prior to 2012, it felt to me like being a DARK SHADOWS fan didn’t even have the patina of geek chic. It was like wearing a “kick me” sign around other genre fans. Those fans needed the approval of Tim Burton (even if he did screw it up) to let them know it was cool to crave Collinwood. But before then, people would groan at the mention of it. It seemed like all of them were BUFFY fans, who’d found “the real thing.” It was like opening a second French Laundry restaurant and being told that it was but a stuffy and turgid relic compared to the West Town Mall food court.
With a title like BUFFY, from the stills I saw, on a fourth or fifth-string tv network, with the obligatory, PC, lesbian chic plot thread (inevitably involving the nerdy-cute Wiccan girl), etc, etc, it really felt like the food court with the kids and cliches gathering at my table after pouring out of Hot Topic and Spencer’s in equal measure. Horror used to be the last bastion for the academic to be the hero while characters named “Buffy” and “Spike” got killed in the second reel. What was this madness? Worse, from what I could tell, there had to be some DARK SHADOWS in its lineage, but it went unacknowledged. If I could just find Joss saying ONE nice thing about DS, maybe that would have gotten the SHADOWS haters off my back. No dice, Chicago.
So, fine. Be that way. I’ll just… do other things.
And it wouldn’t go away. Then I watched FIREFLY earlier this year. I finally got roped into it, and I’ll be damned if I didn’t like it. Yes, some of the jokes were awfully proud of themselves. All of the groundbreaking gender politics, etc, had been old hat fifteen years before the show was made, but the show doesn’t know that, so shhhhhhhhhhhh. But it was still (mostly) fast-moving, exciting, witty, and charming.
A month or two ago, Wallace mentioned that he’d been reluctant to see the show, but a friend once talked him into it. Yet another Buffy fan was born. I began kvetching a blue streak, and he remarked that it might be like the Dream Curse. If he passes it on, the fever will stop.
So, he’s passing it on, and now I need to stop twenty years of passing on it. If I’m going to write about these matters, this is a vacuum of cultural literacy that is inexcusable. Cultural literacy curiosity is one of these things that separates us from pandas, and this just won’t go away. And if no one else is going to try to make connections re: DARK SHADOWS’ influence, then I will! If it doesn’t exist? Well… it’ll be official.
It’s been years since I had a successful “XP” project, where I watch a sanity-endangering amount of one thing over a relatively short period of time. Nowadays, they call them ‘binges,’ but does a binge typically last 8.8 hours a day for twelve days? Exactly. I think not. I did the math, and with taking off Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day, I can fit everything in by the time the Christmas Break is over. Okay, Buffy. Do your worst. And by worst, I mean best. I’ll also be trying Penn Jillette’s strange, all-potato diet to get me back to my lean, 2013 fightin’ weight. We’ll know how that turned out by the 29th.
Want to follow along? The broadcasting day runs from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day, sans the 24th and 1st, starting on December 21.
Wednesday, Dec. 21: Episodes 0-12 (season 1)
Thursday, Dec. 22: Episodes 13-24 (season 2)
Friday, Dec. 23: Episodes 25-36 (season 2 and 3)
Sunday, Dec. 25: Episodes 37-48 (season 3)
Monday, Dec. 26: Episodes 49-60 (season 3 and 4)
Tuesday, Dec. 27: Episodes 61-72 (season 4)
Wednesday, Dec. 28: Episodes 73-84 (season 4 and 5)
Thursday, Dec. 29: Episodes 85-96 (season 5)
Friday, Dec. 30: Episodes 97-108 (season 5 and 6)
Saturday, Dec. 31: Episodes 109-120 (season 6)
Monday, Jan. 2: Episodes 121-132 (season 6 and 7)
Tuesday, Jan. 3: Episodes 133-144 (season 7)
You can sync up your schedules, keeping in mind that I’ve calculated about a 44 minute running time, and I’ll be bounding ahead, one episode after the other, announcing progress on Twitter @theRealMcCray.
Check here and there for breathtaking details!