Good news, everyone! There is a long lost episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer! Bad news, everyone! It’s not particularly good. We are admittedly late to the game on this one – at least three years late if YouTube is any indication – but we just stumbled upon the un-aired pilot of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Adapted from the 1992 film of the same name, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is Joss Whedon’s (you know – the guy who directed Marvel’s The Avengers) initial attempt to win the hearts of geeks and nerds everywhere. It is about – well, the premise is right there in the title: there’s a girl named Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) who slays vampires. The show grew to be adored both during its seven years on the air (1997-2003) and since then through DVDs and online streaming due to its intricately drawn characters, compelling serialized elements, and witty, genre-poking humor (e.g., a villain delivering a monologue about the evil he is about to perpetrate getting cut-off mid-speech by being shot by a taser-gun).
What’s With The Un-Aired Pilot?
It all began in 1996. Joss Whedon sought to put right what had gone so wrong on the 1992 film, for which he wrote the screenplay, by taking the property to television along with producer Gail Berman. However, every network in town passed except for the WB, which was very new at the time. They liked the idea, but requested Whedon and Berman do a mini-pilot as a video demonstration with the intent that the video would only be seen by the folks at the WB. That’s basically where this un-aired pilot comes from. The funny thing is the WB ended up passing on the project, picking 7th Heaven instead. It all worked out, though. 7th Heaven went on to actually outlive the WB, finishing its final season on the WB’s successor, the CW. As for Buffy, some of the shows on the WB’s 1996 Fall schedule faltered so they gave Whedon & Co. a second chance, ordering the show as a mid-season replacement to premiere in 1997. The pilot was, for the most part, completely re-shot, and the role of Willow was re-cast. Sorry, Riff Regan, you’re out. Alyson Hannigan, you’re up. Show us what you got. Turns out she was the final missing ingredient for the show as the principal cast was otherwise exactly the same from un-aired pilot to real pilot. Frankly, what I see in the un-aired pilot is how annoying Nicholas Brendon’s Xander can seem if Hannigan’s Willow is not around to adorably roll her eyes or deliver a quirky response.
SHOULD I WATCH THIS?
If you have never seen Buffy before, an emphatic no. This does not a good first impression make. Get thee to a Hulu/Amazon Prime/Netflix-enabled device and check out the actual pilot, “Welcome to the Hellmouth.” If you have seen Buffy before, though, this is kind of mandatory viewing, although skip to around the 2:20 second mark as the opening is basically identical to that of the “Hellmouth.” The video is 25 minutes long.
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UPDATE: 3/19/2013-The backstory behind this un-aired pilot is told in a Buffy season 6 DVD special feature. Upon viewing it, here and here, I corrected the above post to reflect that they did not make the un-aired pilot and then show it to all of the networks but were instead ordered to make it for the WB who ultimately passed before changing their mind.
- Talkin’ About: 5 Series Finales That Slapped Viewers in Their Faces And Told Them F-You For Watching (weminoredinfilm.com)
- 25 Little-Known Facts About ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ (thoughtcatalog.com)