I’m a firm believer that any TV show can have a good first season. I’m also a firm believer that all long-lived shows have that one point that matters. It’s that one point in the show where everything suddenly clicks. You still love the shows that came before that moment, but the shows after really had something extra.
For M*A*S*H that moment was the cast change. Out were Col. Blake, Trapper, and Frank Burns. In came Col. Potter, BJ, and Winchester. The new cast, along with a gradual change in style, brought some of the best episodes ever to appear on television. We all love the early episodes, but there are far fewer moments that just felt great.
Star Trek – The Next Generation had that moment when they introduced the Borg. Until that moment it felt as if the Enterprise were the greatest ship in the Universe. Unless someone had a planetary weapon or was fairly lucky, the Enterprise could prevail easily enough. There were threats, but none felt overpowering. The Borg changed all that. Now there was an enemy that could swat the Enterprise like a gnat and move on through the rest of the fleet with ease. After the Borg were introduced, there was always that nagging feeling that they’d be back.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer has that moment. Since I’m totally unspoiled, I still don’t know when that moment comes. Ten episodes in, it’s still just a pretty good show.
The first episodes dealt a lot with Buffy wanting to be a normal teenager. The later realization that normality would be impossible came none too soon. It was getting old quickly. At this point in the season she’s dedicated to her role, and things are improving.
The feel of the show is weighted toward the episodic. There are arcs that carry through the episodes, but each episode is bringing its own unique challenge. This isn’t a bad thing, but it can make storylines start to feel contrived. I’m early enough in the show that I expect this to change quite a bit. Being unspoiled except for how long the series ran, I do have certain expectations.
Buffy is a likeable character. She’s becoming more likable as the season progresses. She’s becoming less giggly and more rounded as a character. The short dresses are just a bonus, really.
Xander is starting to get a little depth to him. He’s useful as a third wheel character. He can provide comic relief, be cannon fodder, and a romantic interest (there must be a reason). Every once in a while he can even save the day. Buffy can throw him a bone now and then when he’s feeling particularly emasculated.
Willow is a perfect sidekick. She’s cute. She’s smart. She’s not charismatic enough to overpower the main star. She’s very likeable, and she’s in LURVE with Xander, who’s in love with Buffy, who appropriately is torn on the issue.
Rupert is a problem. He’s a useless character. Willow is the smart researcher, so she could fill that side of Rupert’s role easily. He’s not terribly likeable, but we’re not supposed to hate him either. He’s just there as a false push to the plot. Actually, he does serve one other purpose. If not for Rupert, who would turn the school library into a cache of dangerous and deadly artifacts and weapons? Have you seen all of the felonies this guy has in his locked cage area? Does the main librarian, who knows all about them newfangled computers, have keys to all the storage areas in the library? Is she complicit or incompetent?
I’m enjoying the show. It’s nothing special at this point, but it’s enjoyable. I’ve been watching them slowly, not trying to overload myself at once. I set my expectations low for the first season. The show has exceeded those expectations.
So, ten episodes into the show the project is going well. It’s not a great show… yet.