Photo Cr: Dave Hogan / Getty Images / WB / 20th Century Fox / Universal Pictures
Maestro. Madman. Feminist. Misogynist. The Guy Who Stumped David Lynch. Joss Whedon gets called a lot of names, but as a general rule, if someone is so polarizing, they are probably doing something right. Or at the very least, they are doing something interesting.
Whedon’s impact upon the television landscape has been undeniable. Prior to his arrival on the scene, and with perhaps the exception of Chris Carter’s The X Files, the rest of the modern American televised sci fi/horror landscape was suffering from something of an image problem. (Was it the skin-tight catsuits? The wooden, or too technical, dialog? Was it Alf? Hard to say. To then throw a bunch of teenage characters into that mix, with all their inherent awkwardness, would have been unthinkable.) And besides, mainstream America considered the whole scene to be the domain of freaks and geeks, anyway.
But then Whedon went and got all clever on us. He threw together some snappy dialog, and deep metaphors, and complicated characters, and dark humor, and proceeded to skewer the traditional growing pain-y angst thing in a way that was interesting enough to capture the attention of the whole world. Even the adults. So, love him or hate him for it, Whedon did a lot in bringing the “weirdo” genres out of the dark, fringe-dwelling recesses of pop culture, and into our living rooms. And hey, he imparted nerds with some serious street cred in the process.
It’s apparent the gift is in his blood – and it’s one angled toward writing with female protagonists in mind, given that Whedon’s grandfather wrote for The Donna Reed Show and his father contributed to The Golden Girls. However, Joss isn’t one to coast on mere dialog-deploying genius, which may explain why his TV scribe gig has “creator/director/executive producer/actor/comic book author/screenwriter” tacked on behind it.
With Whedon’s latest jump into the genre, Dollhouse, premiering this Friday, February 13th on Fox, it’s a perfect time to take a look back at some of his best work thus far:
**Disclaimer: With regards to this list of our Top 5 Whedon Episodes: we at Fancast don’t have online licensing rights to every season of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer or Angel, so no – perennial fan favorites like “Hush” or “Once More With Feeling” or “A Hole in the World” aren’t in the running, alas. (Not that we don’t agree with the general consensus – those episodes were jaw-dropping.) That said, these eps from the first few seasons are still great ambassadors for Whedon’s genius. They certainly helped shape the respective series they hearkened from, and represented significant shifts toward those earth-shattering OMG moments that came later on in the series. (No, Gossip Girl did not invent the OMG moment, thank you very much.)
5. Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog: OK, so it was made for the web, and isn’t exactly an episode, but we had to go there. Whedon managed to create yet another gem that quickly rose to cult status during a time when no new TV was happening (see: Writer’s Strike), and more impressive still, did so with the barely enough material to qualify as one solitary traditional television episode. “MORE!” beg fans – including us. Neil Patrick Harris plays the “villain” with the heart of gold and the Manilow-esque pipes.
4. “Objects in Space” from Firefly: This encapsulated so much of what made this show great. Chock full of funny dialogue (Wash: “That sounds like something out of science fiction!” Zoe: “We live in a spaceship, dear.”), action, River Tam, more action, and bounty hunter Jubal Early. Had you never had the pleasure before, this would be the one that would win you over to Firefly‘s many charms. (But you can go ahead and be greedy – watch ‘em all right here on Fancast!)
3. “To Shansu in L.A.” from Angel: Oracles. Demons. Lawyers who roll with demons ( we always suspected as much, didn’t we?). And our heroes suffer more than their fair share of hard knocks: Cordy is hospitalized for a psychotic episode. Wesley gets knocked unconscious. There’s some collateral damage at the office, too. (Somehow, the lawyer who loses a hand doesn’t seem so tragic….) And Angel sees a light at the end of the tunnel. (It’s not Darla, though she pops up, too.) One of those “no room to breathe” episodes, but that was half the fun.
2. “Innocence” from Buffy: While their on-again, off-again romance was the stuff of legend, this marked a major downturn for poor Buffy and Angel. Willow also gets her heart broken. Here come da Judge. And five more words for you – Buffy with a rocket launcher!
1. “Becoming – Part II” from Buffy: In essence, it’s Buffy losing everything that matters to her. She’s kicked out of her house. Her school. She has to kill her true love……sort of. At one point, she pleads with her mother: “Do you have any idea how lonely it is? How dangerous? I would love to be upstairs watching TV or gossiping about boys, or god – even studying! But I have to save the world. Again.” This episode perfectly captures the heartbreaking isolation of the human condition.