Baron Dave Romm (barondave) wrote,
Baron Dave Romm

Lost vs. Buffy

I successfully fended off a cold for several weeks, with friends claiming it was ragweed allergy, then unsuccessfully fought it off this week. I've been on low energy, not getting much done, and not posting much. Here's a post which should be longer and in more detail, but will have to do.

I gobbled up the first two seasons of Lost like candy, seeing all 14 disks (including bonus discs and commentary) in about five months. They are well produced, well acted and well written, with gorgeous scenery, believable dialog and just barely enough plot to keep the pretense of a story arc going. It is in every way a superior tv show.

And despite huge flaws and a budget in the single digits, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is better tv. In roughly the same time period as the Lost discs, I flixed the fourth season of Buffy. In an interview on the DVD, creator Joss Whedon says, almost petulantly, that many critics thought the fourth season was when Buffy lost it, and he admits it is uneven but also contains some of his best work. I agree with that. As story arcs go, the fourth season is when Buffy jumped the shark (though I'm just starting on the fifth season now, so I hope it doesn't get worse). It also contains my favorite Buffy episode. No, not the one you're thinking about, the one that one the Emmy.

I utterly don't buy the Initiative. The whole premise of Sunnydale, through three seasons, is that people forget anything about the Hellmouth or what comes out of it. Why the hell does anyone actually stay there? And yet, it turns out that the government not only knows, but has a huge organization to deal with the problem. Nope, no way, doesn't work, period.

Of course, the government gets it wrong, doesn't do research to find real solutions (eg The Slayer) and hires incompetent people who screw things up royally. That I believe.

The Willow/Tara romance is the only believable affair amongst the bunch. They are a synergistic couple who are together for real reasons. Most of the other couplings are cute, even fun, but ultimately just macguffins to build stories around. The Slayer and a vampire? Tickles the irony bone, but no. Buffy and Riley? Okay in a Head-Cheerleader-dates-the-Captain-of-the-Football-Team sort of way, but they really don't have anything in common. Xander and Anyay? I can understand him wanting any woman who wants him, but I don't get her at all. Comic relief, at best. (Willow and Oz were okay, but in Real Life (tm) Willow and Xander would have been more likely.) Tara is beginning to gel as a character, though doesn't shine much on her own as yet.

Much of the show clearly suffers from Whedon splitting his time between Buffy and Angel. Still, a couple of good shows come out.

"Hush" is the one that one an Emmy. It's really neat. Creepy. And totally unbelievable. People just don't act that way. If an entire town lost the ability to speak, they'd do more than buy whiteboards. They'd panic. Flee the town, or start looting. The outside world calls out the National Guard, but manages to forget by the next episode. (Where was the Initiative?) Again: Why in hell does anyone live in Sunnydale? If people haven't left before, they would certainly run for the hills during and after this incident. This would have made a good Twilight Zone episode, but doesn't work as part of a continuing show. The Gentlemen are really good villains, and I'm sorry they were only around for one episode. (A similarly hovering character is Ming's assistant in the new Flash Gordon.)

My favorite show of the season, and possibly the entire run up to this point, is "Who Are You?" Faith (the bad Slayer) and Buffy (the good Slayer) have switched bodies. Normally I don't like Evil Twin shows, but sometimes they work spectacularly well, and this is one of the best. This is the show that justifies the previous three seasons, and draws stark differences between merely being a Slayer and being Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Faith has been alone all her life, been abandoned and lied to. She's alone, and claws her way out of a coma just to survive. Meanwhile, Buffy has family and friends. Her life hasn't been a bed of roses, but she is part of her community. When Faith, in Buffy's body, feels what it's like to be loved, to have friends, to be trusted, it affects her deeply.

Having friends and family, these friends and this family, is what differentiates Buffy from other Slayers, and from other monster shows. "Who Are you?" places Buffy in context.

As the shows get more complex and the endings leave you on an emotional high, the asinine theme song gets more and more annoying. It was fine the first season when it was a high school kid kicking her way through cheesy monsters. It doesn't work now that they've all grown up.

Okay then, now that I've ripped into the show, why is Buffy better than Lost? Because I care about the characters. Despite the flashbacks and interaction on the island, I really don't give a damn about any of the characters on Lost. I'm curious to find out what happens, and enjoy seeing how people's lives intertwined, but it's clearly not going anywhere so it's all just a game of sudoku that I can't win. (What about the people on the plane who died? Are they going to be in any flashbacks? If so, will we know?)

If the Harlem Globetrotters show up, I'm gone. I have my theories as to what's actually happening, but to be honest, I don't really care anymore. I'll watch the third season (when it comes out on DVD), but it's filler.

Buffy, on the other hand, is growing up. I can suspend my disbelief long enough to appreciate the stuff that works. While the fourth season isn't the best, I'm more curious about what's going to happen to Willow/Xander/et al than anyone on the island.

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