Thursday, September 14, 2006

#1 "Once More, With Feeling" -- Buffy the Vampire Slayer (2001)

It probably comes as no surprise that my number one favorite television episode comes from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, nor should this particular episode be a surprise to those who are Buffy fans as it tops many best of lists.

To get straight to the point: "Once More, With Feeling" is a musical episode. Now I must admit that when I heard the show was doing a musical episode, I was skeptical that they would be able to pull it off. Adding to my skepticism was the report that Buffy mastermind, Joss Whedon, who wrote and directed the episode had no distinctive musical training and had never written songs before. Nevertheless, he wrote all of the songs for the episode and made all of the cast members do their own singing. The stage was set for abysmal failure.

But then when I watched it for the first time, I was stunned. In my biased opinion, it was the best single hour of scripted television I had ever seen. Now a musical episode might seem like a gimmick to attract ratings, but this was nothing of the sort. It made perfect sense within the overall arc of the narrative and actually tied up many story lines while creating new ones.

The gist of the story is this: a musical demon comes to Sunnydale and causes its citizens to spontaneously break out in song - typically in elaborately choreographed numbers. The trick is that when people sing, they sing the truth of their feelings. Thus, many hidden secrets get revealed and genuine emotions are laid bare.

"Once More, With Feeling" is a good partner to "Hush", my number three listing. Both deal with communication. In "Hush" people communicate best through silence and nonverbal means; in "Once More, With Feeling" we see how emotions are often most truthfully conveyed in song.

Now admittedly, one of the things that makes this episode so powerful is the way it deals with the characters on the show and propels certain long-running plot points. Consequently, one who is not a regular viewer of the show may find its impact to be less. But given the general demise of the musical in our culture today, "Once More, With Feeling" resurrects the genre with distinction.


At 11:50 PM, Blogger Jim said...

While I cannot prove it, my comment from the Seinfeld episode has proven true. Of course, you say it comes as no surprise indicating that had nothing to do with my prognostication skills. Anyway, this was an amazing episode. Before it, I had never watched an episode of Buffy, but I taped it to satisfy my curiosity. After seeing it, I made my wife watch it with me and we both became diehard Buffy fans. Unfortunately, this show was in the latter half of the sixth season of a show that had only seven, but suffice it to say that by the time the conclusion of the series aired, we had rented or downloaded each and every episode of every season.

Thanks, Greg, I've enjoyed reading your Top Ten.

At 11:43 AM, Blogger Laura Ware said...

I enjoyed your top ten as well, and would be hard pressed to argue with most of your choices.

But I wish the third season Buffy episode "Amends" had made the cut. It is one of my favorite ones from the series because of how it deals with the subject of redemption.

But "Once More With Feeling" and "Hush" are also favorite episodes of mine, so I suppose I shouldn't be greedy... ;-)

At 4:55 PM, Blogger Greg said...

In a perfect world, the top ten list would be all Buffy episodes. "Amends" is a great episode. I would also be tempted to add "Tabula Rasa" as one of the funniest episodes as well as "Dopplegangland" and oh so many others.

At 4:18 PM, Blogger Ron Cox said...

You may have to wait to do a Best Comic Book episodes list.

Seems pretty cool, huh?

At 8:04 PM, Blogger Laura Ware said...

"Tabula Rasa" was a HOOT. So was "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered," an episode even my 17 year old laughed at... it time for a top ten Buffy Episodes post?? :-)


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