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Buffy the Vampire Slayer vs. Reaper

by Debra McDuffee, posted May 19th 2008 10:32AM
cast of ReaperI've confessed before -- or should I say shouted from the rooftops -- that I am a Joss Whedon fan. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of my all-time favorite shows and I still mourn its loss (the comic books just don't give me my Buffy fix).

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....

Demon Lore

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.

The Humor
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....

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I believe that Reaper shouldn't be compared with Buffy, not because it doesn't match up, but because both shows deserve to be judged on their own merits. Buffy was a great show that was well casted and well written. Reaper, in my opinion got the same treatment. It is it's own entity with it's own mythology that is beginning to blossom.
The first half of the season was a bit formulaic in that it was forced by the network to be that way, so newcomers could get into the show more easily. Even in that unfortunate light, there were a lot of subtle details in a number of the episodes that alluded to more complex story lines. The second half of the season is almost all story arcs.
So much of what the show is about gets illuminated in each scene between Sam and the Devil. Their growing relationship in the series is quickly becoming primary to the story line of the show. Ray wise is second in his portrayal of Satan, only to Al Pacino in The Devil's Advocate (just a personal opinion).

May 26 2008 at 10:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Yeah I know... this was an asshole post. I really got worked up about this comparison because Reaper is such a bad show compared to Buffy. I actually took my Buffy DVDs and watched the first two episodes of season one just to be sure that I am not thinking higher of it than it actually deserves. It's just such a... really it is blasphemy. Buffy is so refreshing and feels so genuine compared to all the generic stuff that's been on TV then and it really stands on its own as something that is rebellious and a real emancipation. The female hero (heroine) that could really kick some ass and didn't look totally silly (compared to the contemporary idiocy "Xena" was IMHO) - the nerdy sidekicks (Willow, Xander), the goodness in the beaty-queen, the idiot british guy... all that is so interesting and needs exploring, you just crave for more from the get go - and Debra compared that to "Reaper". Really... I mean seriously. That's just *yuck*.

I am sorry for the choice of words and the idiocy of picking on the style but I got really got a bit worked up. I know this is kind of a fluff piece and should've known better not to use those words and actually made you come here and be polite in telling me to better not talk to your wife that way or I'll get my ass kicked ;-)

So Debra I'm sorry for the choice of words and to be honest I would've already edited them if I could but I can't (thanks to Blogsmithmedia's comment function). I'm actually not that much of an ass - but I can be.

And the Bash is short for something else. Way geekier. It's the shorter version of an older nick. Two letters are missing. I know. For shame but we had a whole Quake 2 clan with all the guys running around with nicks from that show and Bash was the nickname of my nickname. Though I know what /bin/bash is of course...

May 21 2008 at 9:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to Bash's comment

Why the heck isn't this post tagged with "Reaper" but rather "buffy-summers, cw, demons, fox, giles, joss-whedon, wb"

What kind of tag is "joss-whedon"? I thought this blog tags everything actor/author related "SurnameName" and "Surname Name". Talk about not understanding how your blog works... click on it, you'll find that you are the only one who did this before. If you don't get it ask your husband, I guess he knows how to do it. Oh and quick sidenote, Buffy changed networks betweens seasons, you missed another network, but I won't tell which.

Sorry for "bashing" you but coming back here after another day just shows how angry I am about this comparison. It's like comparing shit with chocolate. Really.

And again: Giles?!?


May 21 2008 at 10:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Bash's comment

Now I know why you call yourself "Bash". Here I thought you were referring to the shell.

We try not to use tags that we already used categories for. Come on, you have to resort to bitching about tags? Why am I here defending this nonsense? Move along.

May 21 2008 at 12:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

heh, and here I thought Buffy sucked.

May 20 2008 at 3:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Comparing Buffy to Reaper is like comparing Shakespeare to an incoherent blog. Buffy was solid, Reaper repetitive and tiresome. But I am sure there is some socially retarded bleached kid out there screaming at me, "LEave Reaper alone!"

May 20 2008 at 2:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The comparison is indeed blasphemous. The two shows are clearly not in the same league, even if you compare the first seasons, or the first 12 episodes - which is silly in a sense, cause Reaper comes after the seven seasons of Buffy.
Reaper is a formulaic show with stereotypical characters. Buffy reinvented itself all the time. The characters were quirky and fun, and most of all, it was unpredictable.
I can see why some people would compare those two shows, but that's really an insult to BtVS. It was much more than an horror show with comedy moments.

May 20 2008 at 7:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Well, I'm speaking as a Buffy/Angel fan. Those shows ended, and I moved on. I consider Reaper to be good/cool on its own right. No, it's not the same kind of show as Buffy and Angel were, and I don't want Reaper to be a clone of those shows' styles.

There is an interesting and potentially strong mythology that has been building on Reaper. I now wonder if God him(her?)self could show up next season. (This might not be a bad idea, as the pilot was directed by Kevin Smith. I would like to see Smith direct more episodes and more actively help to shape the creative direction, particularly in its humor elements, next season.)

May 19 2008 at 10:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Franklin's comment

Yeah Buffy was the show which introduced us to a strong heroine, pure emancipation.

Reaper went back to the good ol' Cowboy Days.

Now that's what I call innovation. And again the "mythology" I don't see. He gets a new box he has to put the souls into every week. One of them was a dirt devil. How interesting *yawn*

May 19 2008 at 11:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Chris the marketer

I consider any comparison of Buffy to Reaper, well lets get it straight - it is just down right blasphemous.

The Reaper people are trying to stand on Josh Whedon's folders, but they fell off and hit a well in the process. I'm a big fan of Buffy - but I quickly lost interest in the pedestrian Reaper

May 19 2008 at 10:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I've said this before and I'll say it again: Reaper is like the "guy version" of Buffy crossed with Ghostbusters. That's how I pitch it to friends when trying to convince them to check it out. Reaper has more in common with Buffy than Chuck (the NBC series Reaper gets most confused with).

(I find this also interesting: Buffy, a show centered on a young female character, was created by a man. Reaper, a show centered on a young male character, was created by two women.)

By the way, Anthony Stewart Head auditioned for the role of Jerry/Satan.

May 19 2008 at 10:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Franklin's comment

I see the similarities sure but again: Reaper can only seem bland compared to ALL that Buffy is. The only way Reaper could even be comparable to Buffy is if you limit the compared material to the first seasons, of which Buffy has 12 episodes (not including the unaired pilot) and Reaper will have at least six more. It would've had eight more.

And it's nice you point out that "Giles" thought he would be able to get a similar role he played before. Seems he saw the similarity too and the creators of Reaper thought he didn't fit the role.

I don't see a problem in finding similarities. The problem I have is that Reaper just can't stand its ground. Buffy is/was pure genius. Reaper can now only be old wine in new skins. And isn't even that yet. It's grape juice at the moment.

May 19 2008 at 11:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If you want a show with some of the best elements of Buffy, then I suggest watching Supernatural. The reasons I loved Buffy are the mytharcs, the development of the characters, how it brings the funny with the heartfelt, and Supernatural has some genuine scarey and gorey demons to boot. The look of show reminds me of the X-Files (in a good way). I just started watching Supernatural this fall (season 3) and I'm now going back to watch S1 and S2 on DVD.

Supernatural is on the CW as well - and like Reaper, the CW is not promoting this show properly either.

May 19 2008 at 7:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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