Everyone’s talking about this new TV show. It’s shot through an upstairs window, maybe in London, maybe not. There’s a view of a street tree and a lamppost and a sidewalk where every once in a while someone walks by. In the pilot, we witnessed a blonde woman in a pink shirt and a white skirt, and, about fifteen minutes later, a little boy, both traveling from right to left. The dramatic peak so far came in episode thirteen, when a man riding a bicycle paused briefly next to a fire hydrant on the corner. Was that hydrant always there? Who knows what other adventures await as the mystery continues to unfold? In the meantime, the entire first season will soon be available on DVD for $17.95.
“Hi, I’m Robert Osborne,” says our host Robert Osborne, emerging from the warm mahogany recesses of his Craftsman-style living room. He approaches the camera, smiling enigmatically, then drifts into a niche behind the leather sofa. He reemerges into an Orientalist fantasy of floor cushions, hookahs, and maroon draperies. Still approaching the camera, still smiling, he glides through a lofty hall of white plaster columns, sweeping staircases, and silvery fixtures. He doesn’t pick up the white telephone; he keeps on walking through room after room. In a flophouse with stained carpet and peeling wallpaper, he pauses next to a battered La-Z-Boy. He is still smiling, still looking at us. We can’t see his feet. Will he sit down? Will he ever sit down?
Mr. Burns is getting some bootleg videotapes for Christmas! Homer has a secret stash in prison, and Mr. Smithers sneaks in, disguised in a trench coat and dark glasses. He hands Homer six hundred dollars in tidy little bundles and leaves with a spilling-over armful of tapes, at a run, dodging the guards’ bullets. After a while Mr. Burns tires of the tapes, and Homer needs entertainment to pass the long nights in prison, so Mr. Smithers breaks back in and supplies Homer with an armful of bootleg videotapes in exchange for six hundred dollars. But Homer also needs money, and Mr. Burns needs something to help him pass the long nights in his mansion, so Smithers dons his trench coat, puts six hundred dollars in his pocket, and pays Homer another visit, leaving at a run with an armful of videotapes, dodging bullets. The nights in prison are still long too, though, so Homer arranges another transaction, armful of tapes, six hundred dollars, but then he needs six hundred dollars, Mr. Burns in his mansion is bored, Mr. Smithers, six hundred dollars, armful of tapes, dodging bullets, repeat, until one day Homer suddenly realizes while sitting on his lawn chair on the roof of the prison, dreaming of profits and videotapes, that he can just jump down off the roof and be free. So Homer is joyfully reunited with his family for Christmas, and the giant egg that had been incubating under his lawn chair hatches into a giant yellow teapot and flies away, psychedelic music playing, into the sunset, credits roll.
The demilitarized zone outside the Academy was teeming with gowns and guard dogs. We made our way past the goosestepping sentries, past the white-columned totalitarian facade, and into the fairgrounds where the picnic tables were arrayed for the festive banquet. I scanned the crowded benches for someone to sit next to, but everyone was talking to everyone else and I decided I’d better go home. As I got outside there was a commotion in the DMZ, and I saw–barely saw, it happened so fast–my unglamorous brown dog herded into a truck along with the guards’ German shepherds, flying off to some crisis with flashing lights and sirens blaring. I flashed forward to my desolate future life, searching the city for my only friend like Umberto D, but before I got there a few days had passed and my dog had come home with a new companion, a chipper shepherd from the Academy force, proving that there are still happy endings in Hollywood.
The March on Washington, August 28, 1963. Among the thousands gathered on this momentous day are members of the crew of the firefly-class spaceship Serenity. They’ve sailed far across that vast sea the president is so excited about, and they have demands. As Dr. King approaches the podium, the tough guy with the woman’s name starts to mix it up with members of the crowd. Who thought it was a good idea to let a bunch of space cowboys stand in the front row? Did Kennedy have something to do with this? Or are we witnessing an ill-conceived attempt at comic relief on the part of an exhausted TV writer? Fortunately, history will forget they were ever here.
There was only this one episode, where we all sat around in our separate studio apartments moping in the dark next to telephones that didn’t ring. The camera operators yawned. Nothing happened. Nobody watched. The show got cancelled.
Surprise! Tara wasn’t dead, she was just asleep for a while. She and Willow are back together, but they’re having trouble getting along after all that time apart. At the cast pajama party in the attic of Buffy’s mom’s house, they keep waking everybody up with their bickering. Still playing the role of Irrelevant Older Friend, I counsel them not to try to work out all their breakup details now — division of property will be easier in the morning. Meanwhile, Buffy is in heaven, which looks a lot like New Zealand. She cruises up and down the mountain roads on a motorcycle; the angel guide on the back of her bike explains that this is what you do during your first year in heaven. Also, you have to wear an oversized black leather police cap with lots of gilding and sparkles on it, inspired by a costume designed for the Village People. “That’s funny,” Buffy says, “because I’m not even a gay man.” Her long tresses spill from under the cap and fly out behind her as she takes a hairpin turn at top speed. Her toenails, peeking out between the straps of her high-heeled sandals, are painted pink.
Standing in the hallway by the copy machine, trying very hard not to say what I really thought to the person who kept talking and talking at me, I noticed that the lights were flickering. The file cabinets seemed to be changing colors, and then my knees folded under me and it was dark for a long time. When I regained consciousness I found that I was blind and unable to walk. But this being America, I’ve transformed my tragedy into a new reality-comedy hybrid in which I roll around L.A. in my motorized wheelchair bumping into people and then insulting them. “The Victim,” premiering this fall on Fox.
The Simpsons are getting a TV set for Christmas! Santa brought it in his black snowmobile. Marge and I ran out to meet him because he didn’t want to bring it inside himself. For a magic television it was surprisingly heavy, and when I tried to lift it I dropped it on my toe. We dragged it into the living room, where the extended family was gathered, drinking heavily. Instead of admiring the new television, they just yawned and shed their orange skins. I didn’t recognize most of the characters in their “real” human form—even their voices sounded different—but it didn’t really matter, since they were ignoring me anyway. Some of them got into their cars and drove away; others climbed up to the roof where they could continue drinking undisturbed. There was no antenna up there.
Out of My Mind (aired October 17, 2000)
Riley and I are getting to be good friends. We’re tracking a pair of lowlifes who have been terrorizing the UC Sunnydale campus with a series of dimly lit illegal boxing matches and offscreen murders. We discover that the hoodlums are headquartered at an abandoned gas station on the outskirts of town. We follow them there and proceed to beat them up. Suddenly somebody asks, “Where’s Buffy?” Cut to the set of a Coppertone commercial, where Buffy and another blonde model are lying on beach towels. Nothing happens. Then we return to the action at the gas station, where Riley and I have tied the bad guys to an abandoned car and are taunting them with witty but not overly cruel remarks.
Into the Woods (aired December 19, 2000)
Buffy is gazing out her bedroom window at night. She has a sweeping view of Santa Barbara; the neon lights on the Mission are glowing in the distance, and the houses on the hillside twinkle cheerily. Actually they are Christmas lights attached to a piece of plywood painted black, but the effect is still charming and romantic. Buffy looks pensive, knitting her eyebrows slightly as she continues to stare out the window. One of the little white lights goes out. “Riley?” Buffy seems to be sniffing the air, searching for something. “Riley?”
Intervention (aired April 24, 2001)
Spike has succeeded in luring Buffy back to his home, a trailer in the middle of People’s Park in Berkeley. He claims to have found Buffy’s lost purse under a bush, although obviously he stole it himself the last time they went to the movies; anyway, he invites her to his house to pick it up. In the trailer, Spike once again declares his love for Buffy. Buffy decides maybe she would like to sleep with him after all. The next morning, Spike shows Buffy all the things he’s bought for the trailer, anticipating domestic bliss with his beloved. He’s got a complete set of wooden spoons and several pounds of butter. Buffy is confused, then incensed. “Vampires don’t eat butter! Anyway, I just wanted to get you out of my system.” She exits. “You were almost as good as that robot,” Spike mutters to the swinging cardboard door of the trailer.
Fall Season Preview (aired May 22, 2001)
Of course, Buffy is not really dead. She’s been adopted by a family of vampires. This is legal because the vampires are not quite dead either. Angel turns out to be Buffy’s step-brother. Hilarity ensues.
Fall Season Preview, Part 2 (aired July 15, 2001)
The ultra-secret Sunnydale Villains’ Convention is underway, and by coincidence, the Scooby Gang is also holding a meeting at the conference hotel. They begin to suspect that something is wrong when they pass by the ballroom and see crowds of people dressed entirely in black leather. What they don’t know yet is that the newest member of the Gang (a blonde who looks like an even smaller Sarah Michelle Gellar) is actually a spy for the villains’ union! But soon she reveals her allegiance: she springs up in the middle of the Scooby meeting and swings her chair around her head, sending off sparks that threaten to zap the principal cast members’ brains. This was why the new girl brought her own chair to the meeting, instead of sitting in the plush pink hotel furniture. Buffy tries to disarm the demon, but her magic chair seems to be indestructible. Luckily, Spike happens to have dropped in on the meeting; together, through a monumental effort, he and Buffy reduce the chair to tiny chunks of pressboard. When the chair is finally defeated, Spike breaks a remnant of leg into two tiny pieces. He puts one in his mouth and offers the other to Buffy. Gazing into each other’s eyes, they eat the chair together, like bread.
Pre-Season Summer Movie Tie-In: Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (aired August 24, 2001)
A couple of idiots hear there’s a Buffy fan convention coming up. They go to the mall in their Chicago suburb to buy costumes with sequins and special beaded glasses. They don’t have any money, so they have to forge a check. But they can’t decide what name to sign. They know the last name is Rodriguez, but the first name might be Matt, or Scott, or Jeff. While the clerk looks on, they practice various signatures in the margins of the check. After a while the exasperated clerk says, “Chinese proverb: even the woman with only one leg still has stinky feet. Also, those who have just hanged themselves are usually crazy.” The clerk is not Chinese.
The First Annual Buffy Awards Ceremony (aired August 30, 2001)
Everyone’s invited, even me. I discover that in fact I’m a member of the cast: I play the Irrelevant Older Friend. Because I’m just a recurring character and not a regular, I don’t get a prize, but all the major players walk away with awards. All except Sarah Michelle Gellar, who is enraged. She complains to a security guard at the airport on the way home: “I even know the guy who put on this show! The last time I saw him he was all patting me on the nose and stuff, like we’re supposed to be friends!” Later I’m sitting on the floor with some of the other cast members, discussing the upcoming season. Although I am only the Irrelevant Older Friend and not a professional, the other actors seem to value my opinion. I express my concerns: “There was something foreboding about the way Giles handed Buffy that bottle of detergent a couple of shows ago. I don’t know, but somehow I felt that the show as we knew it ended with that gesture.” The others nod thoughtfully.