Sunday, 8 January 2012
BUFFY: 4.17 ‘SUPERSTAR’
WRITER: Jane Espenson
DIRECTOR: David Grossman
WHAT’S THE SITCH?
When Buffy and her friends encounter a nest of vampires, the slayer gets nervous, fearing she’ll be unable to handle that many vampires at once. Her friends agree, not having much faith in the Chosen One. So they turn to the one man they know can help them; the all round Mr Wonderful; the world famous…Jonathan Levinson. Yes, little geek Jonathan is somehow the worlds most famous and beloved man. He’s a miracle. He invented the Internet, starred in The Matrix, is a best-selling author and musician, advises the military and best of all, is the greatest killer of vampires and demons ever. The world worships him. As do Buffy and her friends. And Jonathan does indeed help them kill the vamps. But later on that evening, a nasty monster with a distinctive symbol on its head mauls a young girl, a superfan of Jonathan’s he met earlier on. Jonathan seems unusually evasive and unconcerned, trying to dissuade a suspicious Buffy from investigating the beast. Unfortunately the monster shows up again and attacks poor Tara, who only just survives. So Buffy decides to take the initiative (no pun intended) and hunt down and kill the monster with or without Jonathan’s help. She is also determined to get to the bottom of what the short superstar is hiding from them all.
WHAT’S THE SITCH BENEATH THE SITCH?
I guess it’s about wanting to be someone you’re not. Wanting to be popular and successful without actually having to work at it. By taking an easy shortcut.
WHO’S GIVING US THE WIGGINS THIS WEEK?
A creepy monster that savages people and seems linked somehow to superstar Jonathan. Oh, and a few assorted vamps.
WHY IT ROCKS
Jane Espenson. Superstar is a Jane Espenson script so it’s well written and amusing.
Theme. It works quite well I guess. I see it more as a comment on the modern celebrity/get famous fast culture without actually having to do anything to earn it. Jonathan makes people believe he’s famous for good reason, though really he isn’t. He’s just so desperate to be popular. Like lots of so-called celebrities these days.
Danny Strong. Recurring Buffy background actor Danny Strong gets to have a starring role this week as one-time geek Jonathan. His previous Buffy role of any size was in the season 3 episode Earshot where, at the end of the episode, Buffy stopped him from killing himself. And here he does a great job. He pulls off a super smart, super suave performance as superstar Jonathan. It’s only really when we see him at episode’s end reverted back to normal nerdy Jonathan that we realise what a bang up job he did. Luckily Jonathan will stay a recurring character in Buffy taking a more prominent role in season six. Nice one, Danny.
Anya. Emma Caulfield is hilarious as Anya. The scene where Buffy turns up at Xander’s to find Anya alone and Anya reluctantly letting her in to wait for Xander is most amusing, as is Anya’s explanations about alternate realities including a world without shrimp. Love her.
The opening titles. 'Superstar' is the only episode of Buffy where the title sequence was re-cut as a one-off, here inserting lots of heroic shots of Jonathan.
WHY IT SUCKS
It’s a potentially good idea. But, for me at least, it doesn’t really work. The ‘A’ story is simply not strong enough (no pun intended). Luckily the more interesting stuff is the ongoing fallout between Buffy and Riley after Riley’s unwitting liaison with Faith. Throughout this episode the couple works through their mutual issues of trust and hurt (with Jonathan’s help) and end the episode stronger than ever.
The rubbery monster created as a consequence of Jonathan’s spell is a bit rubbish.
Alternate realities have been done before on Buffy (The Wish) but this one seems a bit muddled as Jonathan has altered our reality and not created a whole new one ala Cordelia and Anya in The Wish. Quite how far it extends and how it works is not very clear.
Anya and her world without shrimp…or world with nothing but shrimp.
DIALOGUE TO DIE FOR
Spike (to Buffy): “Yeah, back off, Betty!”
Buffy: “It's Buffy! You big, bleached... stupid guy.”
Anya (trying to give Buffy a pep talk): “Oh, buck up you! You kill the best! Go you! Kill, kill.”
Buffy: “Anya, tell them about the alternate universes.”
Anya: “Oh, okay. Um... say you really like shrimp a lot. Or we could say you don't like shrimp at all. "Blah, I wish there weren't any shrimp," you'd say to yourself —“
Buffy: “Stop! You're saying it wrong.”
Buffy: “I think that Jonathan may be doing something so that he's manipulating the world, and we're all like his pawns.”
Anya: “Or prawns.”
Buffy: “Stop with the shrimp! I am trying to do something here!”
Giles (after Xander reads out a spell in Latin, setting the book on fire): “Xander, don't speak Latin in front of the books.”
AND ANOTHER THING
The Jonathan comic books shown in ‘Superstar’ were made specifically to use in this episode by Dark Horse comics, the same company that (in real life) publishes the Buffy comics. Later on, Jane Espenson went and actually wrote a Jonathan mini series for Dark Horse, which was published not long after this episode aired.
Brad Kane, the real voice of Jonathan's singing at The Bronze, played Tucker, trainer of the Hell Hounds, in ‘The Prom.’ Brad was also the singing voice of Aladdin in the Disney movie.
HOW MANY STAKES?
Superstar? Super…okay. 2.5 (out of 5)