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On the Rerun Bandwagon

I came late to the Buffy the Vampire Slayer bandwagon; I've only been watching for a little over two months. But thanks to FX's two-show-a-day syndication schedule, I've seen five seasons already.

This has given me a different view of the series from the people who saw it when it aired. Plot threads that hung on for several months after they wore out their welcome only took a week of FX time. Season-ending cliffhangers were resolved in the space of a few minutes instead of having an interminable wait with nothing but internet-based speculation to fill the time.

In some respects, it's too fast to watch a series. A character who gets introduced on Monday and killed off on Thursday is hardly noticed, even though six episodes can take three months to air. Not only is it not long enough to become attached to a given supporting character, it's not even long enough to write long, involved stories where they have sex with every member of the main cast, not to mention Capt. Picard, Darth Maul, and Xena in a special crossover.

Another thing that falls by the wayside when you watch a show this fast is the difference between seasons. At least on a show like Buffy, where the cast stays more or less constant from year to year, you don't necessarily notice that Season 3 is over and Season 4 has begun. Sure, there are the occasional episodes where Buffy saves the whole universe, but those happen often enough that it doesn't necessarily stand out as anything significant. Each 22-episode season only took me a little over two weeks to watch anyway, so I don't have a "favorite season".

That part's important. I've noticed that a lot of people feel that Buffy was a lot better in the old days. I read a few Internet episode guides, and it was interesting to see one person saying "And now, the show enters the horrible pit of season 3" while another person said "Thank god, the first two seasons are over and we can get into the unalloyed brilliance of the third season." My theory is that people all prefer the season when they started watching the show and started hating it two years later. Because, like I say, I just watched five seasons in a row and I didn't really notice any difference between the seasons except for the hairstyles.

Apparently, I've been missing things, thanks to FX's charming habit of editing out lines they find too amusing. I don't really feel cheated, though, because I don't know the lines I missed. It's a little disconcerting when a longtime Buffy fan quotes an episode to me and it's a line I don't know, but frankly, it's a little disconcerting to talk to a longtime Buffy fan in the best of circumstances.

It's also been important for me not to miss a day. When you're watching a regular show, you can skip an episode here and there and then pick it up in the summer reruns. If I missed a day, I'd not only miss two episodes instead of one but I wouldn't get a chance to see what I missed until the entire run of the show was over. That means that I've been spending two hours every weekday watching this show. If I'd spent that two hours a day doing something useful with my time, I'd be fluent in Japanese by now. I'd like to think that I'm going to do something useful with my time when I no longer have a big section of my dayplanner devoted to "Watch Buffy reruns from years ago," but I expect I'll take the opportunity to schedule in some essential lying-around time.

I still have most of the current season to watch, and I'm kind of wondering what it'll be like when I'm completely caught up. I'm used to world-threatening villains cropping up and being killed off constantly; the turnover for Evil Overlords is incredibly fast. I don't think I'd even bother putting together a diabolical plot to erase history if I knew my plans would be turned to dust a week and a half after I put them in motion. But now season-long plots will take a year to play out instead of the high-speed time schedule I'm used to.

I expect it will make me think that Buffy and her pals have really fallen down on the job. "What's wrong?" I'll think. "It's been a week since that demon was introduced! That's ten episodes! He's still around?" And then I'll remember what's going on. I hope.


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