Buffy the Vampire Slayer vs. Reaper
This season, I was hopeful when Reaper arrived on the scene. It seemed to have some of the same elements that I liked about Buffy: demon lore, a Scooby gang, a story arc, and a lighthearted, humorous side to a subject that could be very dark.
So how does Reaper measure up to Buffy? When I actually did the breakdown, I was pleasantly surprised. A very interesting outcome, indeed....
Gallery: Buffy and Reaper moments
Buffy had one of the most intricate and solid demon lores of any show on television. There were very few holes in the story and with each season it became more complex. Heck, since everything was written down in Giles' vast demon lore library, how could there be holes? There was a clear and well developed vampire lore -- and gypsy lore -- which were integral parts of the plot, especially starting in season two.
Reaper's demon lore? It started off slow, but as the season went along, they built and added to it so that I am left intrigued, to say the least. From Sam's dad fiddling with the contract to the demon revolution, we've got a lot to look forward to.
The winner? I would have to say Buffy at this point, but it is almost an unfair comparison when Reaper is down six seasons from Buffy. If I compare the first season of Buffy to the first season of Reaper, Reaper just may win the crown. Yeah, I guess the punch-mouthed Master was pretty cool, so this is a tough call.
The Scooby Gang
The two gangs are freakishly similar. On Buffy, Cordy was added late to the game, much like Andi on Reaper. The gang expanded on Buffy to include a demon, Oz the werewolf (and maybe we could count Angel the vampire here as well, and even Anya the vengeance demon, and hey, even Spike in the later seasons). Reaper's gang, although they aren't official members, has introduced Ken Marino's character, Tony (and the prematurely deceased Steve), and of course our DMV friendly neighborhood demon, Gladys.
The two things that Buffy's gang has going for it that Reaper's doesn't are a "father figure" and a more well-rounded group (although does The Devil play this role for Sam?). Season six of Buffy suffered with the absence of Giles, and the immature gang on Reaper could use a little grounding with a Giles-like role model. I also liked the characters better on Buffy, and how they played off of each other. We needed the nerd-turned-witch Willow, the crush she had on the goofy and somewhat useless Xander, and the flaky Cordy. Reaper's gang hasn't solidified beyond a post-adolescent threesome. It is almost like watching three Xanders sometimes, and I think we need more diversity.
Round two goes to Buffy.
The Story Arc
Nearly every episode of Buffy had some of the season's story arc. Sure, there were always a few throw-away episodes ('Doublemeat Palace,' anyone?) each season, but for the most part, each episode moved us along toward the Big Bad. And the Big Bads were mostly awesome, and allowed for the main characters to show us new dimensions of themselves. The writing on Buffy still remains some of the best ever on TV.
Reaper doesn't have a Big Bad, unless of course you count The Devil. So when the season began, we actually had no story arc. I craved a story arc, Reaper needed a story arc; the formula was becoming far too predictable. They gave us what we wanted with the demon revolution. However, I wish they would develop it further, and move the story forward with each episode. For me, they don't come back to it often enough and it leaves me unsatisfied (even though the promise of what's to come is huge!).
Buffy comes out ahead on this one, too, but again, if we are only comparing first seasons, they may just be neck in neck. Season one of Buffy hadn't fully found itself either, and there were many lame episodes that leave me rolling my eyes (uh ... puppets?). Reaper hasn't left me rolling my eyes, just wanting a deeper core to the weekly formula. So I guess Reaper gets points for promise.
Buffy ran the gambit from subtle, literary and pop culture allusions to laugh-out-loud moments (Giles transformed into a Fyarl demon in 'A New Man,' chasing Professor Walsh). The smart literary allusions were such a refreshing foil to Buffy's classic teenage girl angst and the flighty Cordelia.
Unfortunately, Reaper's humor is juvenile, although if you are a 19-year-old boy, you may find it hilarious. Sure, there are some laughs, but they are mostly cornball antics by Sock or Sam's fumbles with the vessels.
Buffy wins this category hands-down; nary was there a smarter show on television than Buffy, and those who disagree weren't smart enough to get the jokes. Or you were watching Ally McBeal or Jag on your picture-in-picture TV set.
The Final Score
I found it interesting to note that if we were just comparing first seasons, Reaper comes out fairly strong in this comparison -- not what this Whedon-worshiper expected. It makes me excited with the potential that Reaper has, and I hope it can deliver all that Buffy did, and more. That is, if the CW sticks around long enough for them to do it....