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  • Haunted

    • 10 out of 10
    • Poe
    • Dropping like a bomb on some of the blah musical offerings of her contemporaries, Haunted was one of the best albums of 2000, obliterating the competition.

      Ostensibly a tie-in to her brot

  • Stadium Arcadium

    • 8 out of 10
    • Red Hot Chili Peppers
    • What? Only four stars, you stingy bastard? I'm asking myself the same question, so let me explain myself to myself... If I compare the new

  • The Printz

    • 8 out of 10
    • Bumblebeez 81
    • Part white rap, part alternative, part pop, and part rock, the Bumblebeez grabbed a hold of me with "Pony Ride," and didn't let go.

      This group does a marvelous job of moving seamlessly be

  • Rock Spectacle

    • 8 out of 10
    • Barenaked Ladies
    • These guys know how to put on a live show, and whomever recorded this knows how to capture one. Rock Spectacle is one of the warmest-sounding recordings I've ever heard, and totally fills a room at a
  • Life's Rich Pageant

    • 8 out of 10
    • R.E.M.
    • In the long series of R.E.M.'s evolution, this album (finally?) showcases their ability to capture on tape what had been happening in the live for years: heartfelt, sweat-filled performances that just

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer: "School Hard"

Why start Flashback Fridays with "School Hard," an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer? There are sentimental reasons and there are practical reasons. Mostly though, it’s just a darned fine episode of a darned fine series.

While no online community has enthralled me quite as much as The X-Files, Buffy certainly managed to move into a large part of my brain which would have been better used for calculus or learning to knit. I apologize in advance to iPodObserver.com’s own Sarah Kuhn because I didn’t read her Buffy recaps until it was much too late to delve into serious fandom. Yet serious or no, here I stand at the precipice of television geekdom.

[THE SERIES IN A NUTSHELL]

Great shows never die, their fans just get older. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a show that became more complex and meaningful as its audience got older. Ostensibly a show about high school and vampires and demons and Buffy Summer’s battle to save the world (a lot), the show was really a look into personal demons and how your friends could save you (both physically and emotionally). With a cast of characters ranging from vengeance demons to ordinary fellows, the show had an avatar and a hero for anyone. The series follows Buffy from her arrival in Sunnydale as a high school student through her adventures living as an adult and a hero in a world that sorely needs her.

Spike: So who do you kill for fun around here?

Joss Whedon, creator of all that is Buffy, is the King of Nuance (a small island-country in the Mediterranean Sea), but in "School Hard" he suffers no shortage of splashy entrances. By the second season’s start and the stellar 44 minutes of "School Hard," the show was rolling toward greatness. We get arcing themes as well as the wit and wisdom of Spike and Drucilla for the first time.

We open with Principal Snyder’s tirade against delinquents, which reinforces my love for all that is hateful and Snyder-y. In his crafty principal plan that has Mr. Belding written all over it, Snyder attempts to kill Buffy’s spirit by asking her to organize parent/teacher night (who asks a student to do that?) and by pairing Buffy with a reject from The Craft who dates a guy named Meat Pie. Oh Xander, sweet Xander. He drops the ultimate jinx on the show by saying "as long as nothing bad happens," so we’re sure to have a great time.

Then...rock music! Boots! Leather jacket! Bleached hair! Vamp face! Smoking! Spike!

We get to watch Spike take the wind out of a vampiric scene of drama. We know it’s dramatic because of the music. Spike’s verbal whiz-bang-ery seems like a perfect counter-point to the Buffy wit. Plus he’s got Drusilla with the Crazy Eyes to back him up. When, oh when, will our hero and anti-hero finally meet?

This episode offers perfect examples of Broody!Angel, CrazyDoll!Drusilla, SmartyPants!Spike, FootInMouth!Willow, Snark!Cordelia, and an appropriately research-themed evening in the library. Several recurring themes begin to blossom here as well: Buffy’s distinctly separate lives (Buffy: "I have at least three lives to contend with, none of which really mesh. It’s kind of like oil and water and a...third unmeshable thing."), her relationship with her mom, the continuing impossibility of a relationship between Buffy and Angel, Xander’s Angel jealousy, Spike’s awesomeness, Dru’s craziness, Angel and Spike’s history... While this isn’t the pilot episode, it’s certainly a good jumping off point from which to enjoy the series.

Ultimately what stands out is the classic Buffy plot bait-and-switch. It’s a show about Buffy and school and the Mesopotamian lunar calendar and her new arch nemesis Spike! No! It’s a show about her mom learning that Buffy is strong and resourceful! The realization that our family supports us in our endeavors is what we all hope for, isn’t it?

[SCATTERSHOT]

  • This episode marks the first, but not last, time that Spike knocks down the "Welcome to Sunnydale" sign.
  • Specific to the Buffy-verse, only can a one-off about Spike offing other slayers inform so many specific ideas about the character, but also play out onscreen in two other seasons of the show.
  • How do you introduce two characters who are central to both the present and the past of your existing characters? Ask Joss Whedon and writer David Greenwalt, then take the "School Hard" clinic.
  • In which we learn that "La vache doit me touche de la jeudi" means roughly "the cow should touch me from Thursday."
  • We also get our first fantastic moment between Spike and Joyce. We’re a blow to the head away from hot cocoa with little marshmallows.
  • So which is it? We get to hear "Angelus" pronounced as in Los Angeles, as well as An-gel-us.
Spike: From now on, we’re gonna have a little less ritual and a little more fun around here.

[OTHER EPISODES TO DOWNLOAD]


Vern Seward is a writer who currently lives in Orlando, FL. He’s been a Mac fan since Atari Computers folded, but has worked with computers of nearly every type for 20 years.

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