Adventures in YouTube: The original 'Buffy'

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Welcome to "Adventures in YouTube," which I aim to make a semi-regular part of this here blog by plumbing the depths of the great viral-video site. Today, the original, unaired pilot presentation for Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

This is the one that has a different Willow and features Xander sporting a really nice, floppy mid-'90s skater haircut. It's never, to my knowledge, been included on a DVD set of the first season, but multiple copies of it are here. This may not be new to true Joss Whedon zealots, but it's an interesting look at the embryonic stages of what would become one of TV's best end-of-the-millennium shows.

The seeds of that excellence are there in the presentation, but it's far from a finished product at this point. Several bits of dialogue feel too self-consciously slangy, and there's a looong expository scene between Buffy and Giles that, while necessary in some form, feels like it's bogging things down (especially in a presentation that's only about 25 minutes long). And it's entirely possible that Riff Regan would have made an OK Willow, but it's hard to retroactively imagine anyone other than Alyson Hannigan playing the part.

One other odd thing: A handful of references seem to indicate that in this version, Buffy hasn't moved to Sunnydale, just to a different part of L.A. Buffy at one point talks about "my side of the hill" -- "the hill" being the mountains that divide the L.A. Basin from the San Fernando Valley -- and Xander name-checks Topanga. The high school they attend is called Berryman.

Fortunately, Whedon made his changes, and The WB, not even two years old, decided to take a gamble on the show. And the rest, as they say, was five by five.