BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: THE COMPLETE SIXTH SEASON
Directed by Various
Produced by Various
Written by Various
Director of Photograpy Raymond Stella
Music by Thomas Wanker & Chris Beck
Cast: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Nicholas Brendon, Alyson Hannigan, Anthony Stewart Head, James Marsters & Emma Caulfield
2001/990 mins/Color/DD 2.0 Surround
1.33:1/English/USA/NTSC Region 1
Review from the 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment DVD
Maintaining consistent quality is never easy. Whether we're talking about business, relationships, or entertainment, remaining on top of your game may be the ultimate challenge. Being good is hard enough; staying good is nearly impossible. A case in point is the TV show BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER. The first three seasons of the show were pure genius, with the fourth and fifth seasons being less impressive, but still entertaining. Now, we have BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: THE COMPLETE SIXTH SEASON coming to DVD, and I'm saddened to say that the Slayer has lost her way.
(SPOILER WARNING!: In order to describe BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER Season 6, I must divulge some of the plot-lines for the shows, as well as discuss events from Season 5. So, if you haven't seen Season 5 and want to be surprised by Season 6, read with caution.) As Season 5 of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER drew to a close, we saw Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) give her life to save her sister, Dawn (Michelle Trachtenberg), and the entire world. Buffy's friends were left devastated by the loss. With the opening of Season 6, we find Willow (Alyson Hannigan), Xander (Nicholas Brendon), Tara (Amber Benson), Anya (Emma Caulfield), Spike (James Marsters), and Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) attempting to keep Sunnydale's vampire ranks under control without Buffy. But, as Buffy was killed by "mystical energy" (funny, I thought the 40-story fall killed her!), Willow has found a spell to bring the Slayer back to life -- and, Willow's spell is successful. But, Buffy comes back confused and scared (after clawing her way out of the grave). After dealing with this trauma, Buffy must face many other issues. First, she and Dawn are broke, and for the first time in her life, Buffy must find a way to get money. Secondly, Spike continues to profess his love for the Slayer, and won't take no for an answer. And finally, Jonathan (Danny Strong), Warren (Adam Busch), and Andrew (Tom Lenk), three nerds from Buffy's high-school, have banded together to be "super-villains" and take over Sunnydale. Although this trio may seem inept, their attempts to ruin Buffy's life will have dire consequences and will forever change the make-up of the Slayer's gang.
In my past reviews of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, I've likened the show to THE X-FILES, with its mixture of stand-alone episodes and those shows which contribute to a season-long story arc, such as Angel (Season 2), The Mayor (Season 3), The Initiative (Season 4) and Glory (Season 5). But, Season 6 doesn't really have any overriding story arc. Instead, we get a series of mini-crises that pop up throughout the season. It could be argued that "The Trio" saga or the Buffy/Spike relationship were story arcs, but I'm not buying it. Season 6 is a hodge-podge of episodes which focus on a variety of topics, and it's not until the last three shows of the season that the series seems to find its way. Granted, taking this approach was a huge risk by the creative staff (who had been given the green-light to do whatever they wanted by BUFFY's new home, The UPN), but there are far more misses than hits. The Buffy/Spike thing is something that fans either love or hate, and the whole "Buffy needs money" thing isn't entertaining. As a friend of mine put it, "I don't watch TV to see SuperHumans flipping burgers..."
But, all of that complaining isn't to say that Season 6 is a total loss, for even bad BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER is better than most anything else on TV. Season 6 contains the famous musical episode, "Once More With Feeling", and it surely lives up to its reputation. This show is fun and entertaining and the fact that series creator wrote Joss Whedon wrote all of the songs is staggering. Despite his infatuation with Buffy, Spike continues to by an entertaining character. A sub-plot dealing with Willow's addiction to magic is interesting, as it faithfully follows the path of those addicted to substances such as drugs or alcohol. The storyline concerning the relationship between Xander and Anya is interesting, but never feels completely fleshed out. BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER Season 6 may be disappointing to many fans, such as myself, but that's only because we've been spoiled by the earlier seasons, which represent some of the best TV in history.
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: THE COMPLETE SIXTH SEASON comes to DVD courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. This 6-disc boxed set contains all 22 episodes from Season 6. The shows are all presented in their original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, except for "Once More With Feeling" -- more on that in a moment. The shows look very good, as the image displays very little grain. The picture is quite sharp and clear, making the transfer rival digital broadcast quality. There is some slight artifacting at times, but these defects are rarely intrusive. The colors look good, and as much of the show takes place at night, the image is never too dark. "Once More With Feeling" has been letterboxed at approximately 2.00:1. However, this episode is not enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. (I'm not sure why, unless they felt it would throw off the continuity of the set.) The image here looks particularly good, as there is no grain and the colors (which were purposefully enhanced) look great. The DVDs carry a Dolby Digital 2.0 surround audio track which, as on the past sets, truly delivers. The dialogue is crisp and clear, and always audible. But, it's in the stereo and surround sound areas, that the audio shines. As in seasons past, the surround effects rival (or surpass) most 5.1 tracks and truly add a robust nature to the show.
The BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: THE COMPLETE SIXTH SEASON set contains many extras, which are spread across the six discs. There are commentaries to be had here, by various cast crew members: "Bargaining, Part 1 & 2", writers Marti Noxon and David Fury (Disc 1); "Once More With Feeling", writer/director Joss Whedon (Disc 2); "Smashed", writer Drew Z. Greenberg (Disc 3); "Hell's Bells", director David Solomon and writer Rebecca Rand Kirshner (Disc 5); "Normal Again", director Rick Rosenthal and writer Diego Gutierrez (Disc 5); "Grave", director James A. Contner and writer David Fury. These commentaries are all fun and entertaining, as well as being informative. It appears that the BUFFY staff all love their jobs and that enthusiasm comes through in the commentaries. (It's interesting to hear Rosenthal (HALLOWEEN II, HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION) discussing his work on TV.) The "Once More With Feeling" episode carries two extras in addition to its commentary. "David Fury's Behind the Scenes of 'Once More With Feeling'" is a 28-minute featurette which offers on-set footage, as well as shots of rehearsals, production meetings, dance lessons, recording sessions, and make-up application. Also, we get karaoke (with on-screen lyrics) for three songs from the musical -- "I've Got a Theory/Bunnies/We're Together", "I'll Never Tell", and "Walk Through Fire". Disc 3 offers an "Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Panel Discussion", which features Whedon, Brendon, Hannigan, Marsters, Trachtenberg, as well as director of photography Raymond Stella, production designer Carey Meyer and executive producer Marti Noxon. This one-hour feature was taped on June 18, 2002, and most of the questions focus on the events of Season 6. The chat is very loose and funny, and will be a treat to BUFFY fans. The "Doublemeat Palace" episode (Disc 4) contains a 5-minute segment entitled "Buffy Goes to Work", in which the cast & crew discuss their first jobs. Disc 6 offers "Life is the Big Bad -- Season 6 Overview" (30 minutes) in which the producers and writers, along with the cast, offer comments and insights into the storylines and themes of Season 6. There is a 3-minute gag reel which isn't very good. (No bloopers from the musical!) Finally, we have "BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: Television With a Bite". This 43-minute feature originally aired on A&E and offers a very in-depth and educational look at the history of the show, and believe it or not, Sarah Michelle Gellar actually appears!
This Film Features:
Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2004. ©