Vampire Slayer Buffy Summers arrives with her mother to start afresh in Sunnydale, California, determined to keep out of trouble. But that's no easy task due to the horde of undead creatures lurking under the town. A terrific start to a terrific series...
Just as in every generation there is a chosen one, every few years, a TV show comes along that really shakes things up and redefines thing. 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' is one such example. It spawned many wannabes, clones and imitators, and probably contributed in no small part to the teen horror movie resurgence of the 2000s. But BTVS, the one that started it all, in many ways remains the best.
The series didn't start on terrestrial TV here in the UK until 1999, shown on BBC Two. Immediately I loved it. (Ironically, on this first episode, shown in original feature-length version with 'The Harvest' in a 9pm slot before the following series moved to it's regular 6:45pm Thursdays haunt, I was in a play the night it was shown, and accidentally only set my video recorder – as we still used back then – for an hour; I had to wait for the story to be released as a stand-alone VHS release, pre-box sets, to see the end of the story!!).
As much as I loved the series at the time, it's one I hadn't yet come back to, to watch again. Part of the reason of this is because of some of the later episodes (I'll dare to say it – in particular, the terrible season 6!) which lacked the charm of the earlier ones, maybe made my interest wane a little; and they maybe turned up dial on the many "feel sorry for Buffy" storylines a little too high. At the start of the series, I loved how the main leads (Buffy, Xander and Willow) were basically nerds and misfits, but by the end of the series they'd become a little too "cool" for my liking.
But I've recently bought the complete DVD collection (after having Season 1 sitting on the shelf for years), so I've decided to re-live this, for the most part, excellent series.
'Welcome to the Hellmouth' sets the scene perfectly. Following on from the 1992 movie (a take-it-or-leave-it popcorn flick that probably would have been forgotten by now if not for it's connection to this series), there are a few vague references to that film, but for the most part, things stand on their own, and you don't need to have seen that movie to get into this series.
Sarah Michelle Geller is perfectly cast as the Slayer of the title. Her quips here are really funny - they did verge on being a bit grating in some later episodes. In fact, with the quips and aforementioned "feel sorry" storylines, I'll make a big confession – if it was purely Buffy herself, I probably wouldn't have really got into this show; it's her oddball friends and associates that really give this series its appeal. (By the way, I hated when people in my local area started trying to talk like Buffy and her little sayings... but then, imitation of TV programmes is something that has gone on pretty much since the invention of TV way back in what, 1975 or something).
I instantly like Xander (Nicholas Brendon), back in the day I wanted to be like him. But the star for many is Willow; Alyson Hannigan brings the character to life incredibly. Again ,Willow is one of the characters who totally changed later on (again, falling slightly into the "cool" syndrome). Fellow Brit Anthony Steward Head, star of a hundred 1980s coffee adds, is likewise terrific as 'Watcher' Giles; and as Cordelia, Charisma Carpenter is delightfully catty about everyone and everything. Then there's David Boreanaz as Angel... another shock confession: I often hated this character! To my 20 year old mind back then, he loved himself way too much; I MUCH preferred Spike (introduced in Season 2). But in fairness, here in WTTH, he plays the mysterious card well, and hey, I'll admit it, back then I was probably a bit jealous of him!!
I'm surprised how many reviewers have decided they don't care for WTTH very much. Certainly its pace isn't as tight as the typical episodes – it has a LOT to introduce and set up; and both it and the first season have a slightly different approach to much of the later series. But for a Pilot, I think it works incredibly well, finding it's footing from the off.
I should also mention the music. The main theme, by Nerf Holder is great (I didn't like when they re-recorded it for Season 3; this original version is far punchier). The series is also notable for eschewing the typical commercial tripe of the time, and instead featuring underground and up-and-coming bands, something which worked really well.
Watching WTTH on DVD this evening, I enjoyed it every bit as much as I did when I first saw it way back in 1999 (until my video timer cut off, of course... d'oh!). I was also presently surprised at how well the series has dated – not bad considering it's 14 years old (wow, has it been that long?)!
All-in-all, I enjoy 'Welcome to the Hellmouth' enough to give it a high-ranking 9.5.