The first TV-related memory I have is from kindergarten, when my classmate and I discussed the promo for the series finale of Full House. It says a lot about me that I remember this conversation vividly, and also that series finale was awesome- I mean, both Mary-Kate AND Ashley were in it at the same time. Although this is the first TV-related thing I actively remember, the influence TV has always had on me started years earlier. My mother used to watch All My Children religiously, and she assumed that despite always being in the room while it was on, my toddler self paid no attention to it- until the day I got new dolls for my dollhouse and shocked her by naming them all after characters from the show.
As a young child, I loved ABC’s T.G.I.F. line-up as well as reruns of classic sitcoms on TV Land, but the first show that made me fall permanently, irreversibly in love with television was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. My mother started watching Buffy during the second season (“Halloween” was the first episode she ever saw) after hearing the buzz about it because my mother has really good taste in television. I was super annoyed by this because she would make me go to bed early the night it was on so she could watch. I was a very persistent child, and I begged her to let me watch with her (keep in mind I was 8 years old at the time). It took me over 6 months, but I finally wore her down, and she allowed me to begin watching reruns of the first two seasons the summer before season 3 aired. The first episode I ever saw was “Phases.” I remember going to Blockbuster and renting the early season on VHS to catch up because that is what you did in the 90s. As soon as season 3 began airing that fall when I was 9, I never missed an episode from then until the end of the series, at which point I was finishing 8th grade, about to enter high school. During this very formative time in my life, Buffy was there for me (as was the spin-off, Angel). No matter how much life changed, this one thing was a constant every week. I spoke in a previous post about why I love theater, and I realize that my reasons for loving TV are in many ways the opposite, which is perhaps why these two passions of mine complement each other so well. While theater is about living in the moment and having one unique experience, TV is an ongoing, cumulative experience that is often spread out over many years. I realized great television can be so much more than just weekly entertainment or an escape at the end of a long day. Great television moves you, changes you, and inspires you. Even though I was several years younger and at a different stage of life than most of the characters on Buffy, I was still growing up as they were growing up. Yes, my life featured significantly fewer vampires, but the bigger themes of the show were never about that anyway. I remember being excited when they introduced the character of Dawn (I know, I know) because she was even closer to my age than the others. And, perhaps most significantly, I learned what great writing was and how crucial that was to making a show special. While on the topic of great writing I need to give a brief shout-out to Six Feet Under, which along with Buffy and Angel rounds out my top three favorite shows of all time. My mother and I marathoned all of Six Feet Under over a summer while I was in college, and I bawled uncontrollably while watching the series finale (which I still find to be the greatest series finale ever). When my mother came into my room 10 minutes after we had finished the episode, I was still crying, which alarmed her greatly. So either I am an emotional train wreck in general or that show was just THAT good or maybe a bit of both, but to this day that remains one of my most visceral reactions to an episode of television.
When Buffy and Angel ended, nothing truly filled the void, although I did find many more shows to love. In 2007, during my first semester at Boston University, I heard that Joss Whedon was coming to Boston to speak at a rally for the writers’ strike that was happening at the time. On a whim, I decided to reach out to a girl named Rachel, whom I knew vaguely from sharing a writing class together that first semester, because I knew she was also a Buffy fan and might want to go with me. We attended the rally together and met Joss at a signing afterwards, and to this day, 7 years later, she is still one of my very best friends. I mean, when the first time you hang out outside of class involves picketing in the snow with Joss Whedon, how can you not become friends for life? We waited in line for over 90 minutes to meet Joss, who was very graciously taking a ton of time with everyone because he was so thankful that we had all come out to support the WGA. I was extremely nervous to meet this man who had
created basically my favorite things ever, and I had one goal: to be composed enough to tell him that he had inspired my recent choice to study television. I did so, he hugged me, we took a picture together, he signed (and personalized) 3 things for me, and then I walked away and very nearly burst into tears. Years later, in 2012, I met Joss again in a completely unexpected way without any time to prepare myself. I was with friends at an opening night showing of Cabin in the Woods at the Arclight Hollywood, and when we left the movie, we realized that Joss had been in the very same screening as us, and was now greeting fans in the hallway. He was even wearing a Buffy crew jacket. My roommate and I approached him, I told him I loved the movie (to which my roommate added, “and everything else”), Joss was as lovely and kind and gracious as the first time, and then I walked away and couldn’t stop shaking for probably 15 minutes. Only a week later, The Avengers came out and Joss casually became the director of the film with the highest-grossing opening weekend of all time.
Despite growing up loving TV so much, I did not realize I could turn that love into a potential career until I started looking at colleges and discovered that film and television was an actual subject you could major in. While I had always had a knack for writing, English teachers in medium-sized towns in upstate New York don’t suggest that maybe you should try being a screenwriter because it is not really on anyone’s radar. While every show I have watched and loved (and not loved) has been a part of my path to where I am now, starting a career in TV, none has played a larger role than Buffy. It changed my life in ways I never expected, and my ultimate goal is to one day create something that affects someone else the way Buffy and my other favorite shows have affected me.