On The Jazz #11: Adventures in Buffyland

The world is definitely doomed.

By Matt Springer
May 23, 2003

Picture him if you will: A green, decidedly unscrawny young lad, all of 22 spankin’ years old, staring down his 23rd birthday with nothing to show for his existence except a stack of crap he wrote in college and four longboxes of nineties’ comic books. (Including eight copies of X-Factor #1, all in the original polybags with trading card. E-mail me with an offer.)

He enters a nondescript office building in Oak Brook, IL, having responded to an ad looking for a “sports, television and pop culture freak” in his local newspaper. He qualified as two of the three, and still does.

He sits in his JC Penney’s interview outfit across from a dude whose idea of “dressing professionally” is a polo shirt and jeans shorts, both beneath a Dallas Cowboys baseball cap. They talk about the usual job shit, and Cowboys Fan asks Interview Nerd what his favorite movie is.

The Godfather Part II,” he replies.

That’s Cowboys Fan’s favorite, too.

And thus, officially licensed entertainment journalism magic is born.

My first job out of college was as an assistant editor on the Official Buffy the Vampire Slayer Magazine, known to its friends as the Buffy mag. I got the job on my 23rd birthday, July 17, and I spent the first week slavishly transcribing interviews that my boss, “Cowboys Fan” Mike Stokes, had recently conducted in Los Angeles on the Buffy set. I listened for every tiny nuance as Marti Noxon and Anthony Stewart Head revealed their deepest and most dark secrets.

At the time, this meant absolutely nothing to me, for I had seen less than zero episodes of the show.

My crash course in Buffy took place largely in my living room, a stack of tapes constantly next to the VCR, and in the conference room at the Buffy mag offices. (We were actually a company called MVP Media Group, which also produced Cinescape and the X-Files mag and countless forgettable one-shots over the time I worked there, including the Official Dawson’s Creek Magazine, truly the highlight of my stellar career. This company was later purchased by a dot-com and driven straight into the fucking ground with all the speed and accuracy of Jeff Gordon plowing into a wall at Daytona, or Indy, or wherever that dude races.)

So I got the job first, and then became a fan, while watching “Becoming Part 2” in the aforementioned conference room. “Becoming Part 2,” in which Buffy told Angel to close his eyes and then drove a sword through his belly. In which Spike said that funny thing about Happy Meals with legs. In which Xander tried to seal Angel’s fate with a passion-lit lie.

It was all over then. I was smitten with Ms. Summers and her Scoobs.

I spent the next three years writing tens of thousands of words about Buffy, its cast and its crew, its characters and its bevy of officially licensed products. I was the cub reporter lucky enough to land the prized scoop about Chupa-Chup’s line of Buffy suckers. I interviewed the writers, I chatted up just about every main cast member on the show, I visited the set a couple times. I uncovered the only Buffy pizza in existence, served at a pizzeria in the Chicago suburbs, and I even ate a slice. It had cheese, tomatoes, and lots of garlic.

It was a shitload of fun. The writers were always so funny and nice; I chatted up Jane Espenson and Tim Minear one year at DragonCon, and got to scope out the offices of Rebecca Rand Kirshner and Mere Smith. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: It’s their work and attitudes that is driving me right now to scratch and bite my way to L.A. and my own TV writing career. The show they’ve produced will inspire everything I write for the idiot box.

Spending a bit of time with the cast was also pretty fun. Nicholas Brendon breezed in for a ten-minute sitdown just as I was about to leave the Buffy set one day, as funny and sharp a chat as I’ve ever had. I got to sit in Emma Caulfield’s trailer while she told me about her degree in psychology. I hung in Clare Kramer’s trailer too, and unwittingly spied her thong underwear hanging out in the open. (Cold showers all ’round, fellas!)

I also got to pretend I was pseudo-sorta-kinda-famous for a weekend at Coastcon 2001 in Biloxi, where I was a guest. Someone asked me to sign a magazine, and even took my picture! It was neat to know my work was making an impact. That was the weekend Danny Strong tried to teach me to play blackjack, and I cruised con parties with a handful of the wildest Buffy freaks around. (Hello, Angela’s Mom, and Angela, and Lil’ Willow! Long time no talk. FYI, Angela’s Mom dated Yanni. Gawrsh, that was a fun weekend.)

Buffy is even directly responsible for my friendship with the co-editor of this very site, Sarah Kuhn. We e-mailed a bit, then enjoyed a greasy awful lunch at the Rosemont Convention Center during Wizard World. Now I’m proud to call her a collaborator as well as a pal; I also know I’m nowhere near the only geek who’ll miss her regular dose of quippery in her fabled Buffy reviews.

And then there’s the Tale That Must Be Told, of my goofball crush on Amber Benson. See, she wrote a note on my arm at Comic-Con one year, and talked to me a bit, so my hyperreal mind interpolated a “shot in hell” out of these insignificant facts. I interviewed her, I sent her a mixtape, I awkwardly asked her about said mixtape later. I behaved like a sallow, shrunken, cloying nerd. End of story. There are a million reasons why I love my fiance, but every able-bodied single woman of Earth should love her too, because she’s taken a romantic dipwad forever off the market.

In the best moments, when I was tromping around the soundstages in Santa Monica or fetching water for Julie Benz during an autograph session at Comic-Con, I felt like I was a part of it. I felt like a very insignificant cog in a massive wheel attached to a massive truck pulling a giant trailer inside which Buffy was made and delivered to its fans. And it became part of me. It wrapped itself around my heart like nothing since Star Wars, it moved me to tears and made me get all tingly on my back. It was something.

But then, you know how that goes, because you probably love Buffy too, or something else in that body-soul-blood-mind-everything way that us geeks love stuff. This show has really, truly grabbed me. Between the legs, between the ears, beneath the ribs, it grabbed me. Even though these last two seasons have been scattershot at best, I’m gonna miss the living fuck outta this series, these characters, and most of all, this particular group of writers plying their trade together.

In spite of the wistful weepiness, it feels exactly right that the show’s ending now. Where else can these characters go? Buffy seems more at peace with herself than she’s ever been, and at the rate that the show was adding on new supporting characters, you’d soon need a baseball stadium to seat all the new Potentials, Watcher wannabes, and lame, empty Xander clones. It’s ending on top, sorta, and the timing is perfect.

I’d still love an encore, for me if not the Slayer. I’d love one more chance to drive up to Oak Brook and get paid to write about a kick-ass TV show. I’d love one more trip to the set, to act all cool and try so so so so so so so so so damn hard not to let on how starstruck I am. I’d love one more Posting Board Party to crash, one more voyage to San Diego for drunken shenanigans with Chris Owens, one more looooong lunch at the Yorktown Mall, one more 3 a.m. deadline to share with my friends/coworkers.

That can’t happen. So with a supersized thanks and oceans of love to Mr. Stokes, Gonzo, Beth, Kimmie K., Joshie, Steve, Kim & Eric, Franklin, Chris, Marty, Jan, another Mike S., Mark, Joe, and of course the extrabrilliant Joss Whedon and his writing staff, I’ll say goodbye to Buffy Summers, once and for all. I hope she’s happy now, ’cause that girl sure deserves it.