Flash forward to another later tape, which opens with the end of an episode of The Simpsons on Sky One.
Then, Buffy The Vampire Slayer – Once More With Feeling. It’s the musical episode. At the time, this was a huge deal. We fans knew it was happening well ahead of time, so when it finally arrived, it had rather a huge weight of expectation. It’s the kind of hubristic gamble that a powerful showrunner might take, when nobody around him is willing to tell him it’s a bad idea. After all, we all remembered Cop Rock.
Oh. My. God. I love this episode. I love it with a fiery passion. It might not be my favourite episode ever, but it’s definitely a contender. And I was convinced within 8 bars of the first song, “Going Through the Motions”.
You can often see Whedon’s influences, but the songs here are solid toe-tappers, and as you should expect, the lyrics are often hilarious. “And we’re all stuck inside his wacky Broadway nightmare.”
Even the small fragments of songs we glimpse are fun. “They Got The Mustard Out” features writer/producer David Fury.
Tara’s love song to Willow, “Under Your Spell” is simultaneously beautiful and utterly filthy. I think Whedon describes it as porn in his commentary on the DVDs.
“I’ll Never Tell” with Xander and Anya is like a 1930s Hollywood number.
The woman singing the Parking Meter song is co-executive producer Marti Noxon. The last line, that you can only barely hear on the episode soundtrack but which is clear on the soundtrack album (yes of course I bought the album) is “Hey I’m not wearing underwear.”
Spike has an angsty song. “Let me Rest in Peace” as he declares his love for Buffy but she rebuffs him.
Dawn gets one line of a song before she’s kidnapped by some doll-faced goons, but she does get a whole dance number. Whedon definitely assigned the work based on people’s strengths.
The source of all the singing and dancing is (as Giles suggested right at the start) a demon, played by Broadway star Hinton Battle.
Giles gets a plaintive Power Ballad “Standing in your Way”. One of the really remarkable things about this episode is how much narrative and character work is happening in the songs. Virtually all of the big dramatic beats of the story are happening inside the songs. This is genuinely a musical, not just an episode with songs.
This is shown most strongly in the next song, which reprises both Giles’ song and Tara’s earlier song, and has them both being sung as counterpoint to each other. This is not simple stuff, but Whedon pulls it off, and this song has Giles realising he has to leave to let Buffy grow, and Tara realising that Willow has been using Magic to control her, after she promised she’d never do it again. It also has one of my favourite lyrical runs as Dawn sings “Wish I could trust that it was just this once but I must do what I must, I can’t adjust to this disgust, we’re done and I just wish I could stay…”
The next song starts with Buffy, alone, as Giles and the gang have let her go alone to face the demon ans save Dawn. But as the song goes on, the rest of the cast realise they need to help, and it becomes a rousing ensemble piece. I particularly like the moment when Giles and the Scoobies are striding through town, and just as they sing the line “We will walk through the fire and let it… burn” and on the word ‘burn’ two fire engines go racing past behind them.
Then Buffy faces the demon with the song “Something to Sing About”. “She needs backup. Anya, Tara.”
And in keeping with having major plot moments in the songs, this song is where she reveals to her friends that it wasn’t a hell dimension when was saved from when they resurrected her. “I think I was in Heaven.”
Before she dances herself into a fireball (something we’ve seen happening to other people in the episode) she’s stopped by Spike. “Life is not bliss. Life is just this. It’s Living. You Have to go on living. So one of us is living.”
The demon is thwarted by an amusing case of mistaken identity and leaves. Then there’s one last chorus, “Where do we go from here?” which Spike leaves halfway through. “Bugger this.”
And the show ends on one more plot pivot.
It’s just a whole lot of joy. I think there was a bit of sniffiness when, sometime after this aired, Channel 4 did one of those “Top 100 Musicals” shows, and this episode was at number 13 or thereabouts. However, since the number one musical, according to Channel 4 viewers, was Grease, one of the worst musicals in existence, I don’t think anyone has anything to complain about Buffy being in there.
After this, there’s an episode from Season 3 of Angel – Fredless. They’re doing weapon inventory at Angel Investigations. Fred’s worried about whether Angel will come back – he’s gone to visit Buffy apparently. Wesley and Cordy describe what Angel and Buffy probably did at their meeting.
Fred’s parents turn up at the hotel looking for her. Fred sees them and leaves, clearly not wanting to see them. Are they evil? Monsters? Abusive?
But when they finally find her, we learn that she didn’t want to see them as a way of coping with her long ordeal in the dimension of Pylea – if she didn’t see her parents, then her experience wasn’t real.
Then a giant bug turns up.
Fred first decided to go home with her parents, before returning to the hotel to save everyone from more giant bugs, and deciding that her true path was with Angel and the team.
After this, recording switches to BBC Choice. Remember that? It was what became BBC Three.
There’s part of an episode of The Johnny Vaughn Show. It’s an interview with Anthony Stewart Head – Giles off of Buffy.
Also on the programme, rogue trader Nick Leeson is there to talk about another bank where a trader lost hundreds of millions of pounds.
BBC Genome: BBC Choice – 15th February 2002 – 00:35
Recording continues, with a trailer for Six nations rugby, and for Shooting Stars.
Then, an episode of Robot Wars. It’s not a show I watched much, even though it seems like the kind of thing I’d like. But it’s all just a bit bashy for me. Not a patch on The Great Egg Race.
BBC Genome: BBC Choice – 15th February 2002 – 01:05
There’s a trailer for CBBC, and for Come Fly With Me.
Then, there’s an episode of Louis Theroux’s Weird Weekends where he looks at the world of infomercials. This programme is signed.
BBC Genome: BBC Choice – 15th February 2002 – 01:50
After this, there’s a trailer for programmes on Sunday, then BBC Choice closes down.