Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Buffy Rewind Review - "Teacher's Pet"

Review by Paul Steven Brown

'Buffy the Vampire Slayer'
Season 1 - Episode 4
"Teacher's Pet"

It appears that 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' is a show that continues in the tradition of balancing mythology episodes with "Monster of the Week" ones. However, unlike the previous hour, "Witch", "Teacher's Pet" gets to double dip slightly. This is due to some references to the Master, the presence of the fork-handed vampire, and the reappearance of Angel.

For the most part, this is a Xander episode. The teaser is an amusing daydream that has Xander not only saving Buffy from a vampire in front of a crowd at the Bronze, but concludes with the boy taking the stage to perform a ripping guitar solo. The later is hilariously called back to once the sexy substitute, Ms. French, invites him over to her house to work on a science project. While Xander's writing off Buffy's warnings about Ms. French as jealousy and he presumption that something physical would happen at the teacher's house may be excused due to pheromones, he comes off pretty boneheaded throughout the show.

The rest of the gang are pretty resourceful, especially Buffy. She demonstrates an exceptional amount of smarts as she uses her insect research (as well as her previous encounter with the fork-handed creep) to locate and defeat Ms. French. This is nicely set up by her after class meeting with the doomed Dr. Gregory. It's nice to see a hard-nosed teacher that is truly well-meaning and not a caricature. He sees beyond Buffy's cheerleader exterior and recognizes that she's no idiot.

More importantly, Dr. Gregory helps Buffy realize this in herself. This helps craft a more interesting title character. Buffy is already showing an ability to adapt and grow as a person. Her slayer powers aren't always going to be enough to save her or her friends.

Cordelia continues to be a fairly useless character. She's mainly there to be what Buffy could have been if she didn't have some sort of social conscience. She also there for comic relief, but most of her jokes are pretty predictable and fall flat (though the Epstein-Barr crack from the first episode was pretty hilarious). I'm still awaiting some sort of purpose for this character.

Willow and Giles continue to be two of the show's saving graces. Both have comedic moments that don't come off as forced as with the other cast members. Also, we get to see Giles use some resources outside of Sunnydale. As one of the most interesting characters on the show, the more we get to learn about him the better.

The special effects and puppeteering for "Teacher's Pet" were pretty bad. There is no real point to have Ms. French spin her head 180° when she hears Buffy outside the classroom, other than to clue the slayer in on the teacher's true nature. It's over the top, ridiculous, looks just plain goofy. Also, why would Ms. French risk pulling this stunt in a room full of students? Also, her bug form was more laugh inducing than scary. It was like something out of Tom Baker era 'Doctor Who'.

Overall "Teacher's Pet" is a very uneven episode. For every interesting development or aspect of the hour, there's something really silly or just plane bad. I know that this is still extremely early in the development of 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' but I'm growing impatient and want this to become the show that is worthy of the devotion heaped upon it.


  1. I'm glad that you do seem to be enjoying the shows a bit more. I'm afraid, however, that if you're waiting for it to get less silly, you're probably in for disappointment. Buffy is pretty fundamentally a corny show, but that's really supposed to be part of the appeal--the juxtaposition between the dark subject matter, and the loose, comedic handling of it.

    Also, I think Xander's boneheadedness is really a character flaw, rather than a writer's flaw... he's a hormonally afflicted teenager whose defensive and coping mechanism is a sardonic--and frequently unappreciated--wit.

    I can't defend Cordy, she is pretty useless at this point. And I agree with your perception of Giles... he really is the hidden gem of the show.

    Also, I don't think Buffy earned her devoted following for being "real," or "serious," or even, often-times, "good." But perhaps because it was fun, usually light-hearted, not super-cerebral, and never afraid of a little self-effacing humor.

  2. Yeah, I'm not expecting it to be 'Deadwood' or anything, that's for sure. I'm well aware that 'Buffy' is at its heart a fun show. I'm just waiting for it to become more of a more finely tuned fun show. Hopefully it will reach that 'Dr. Horrible' balancing act. My problem is that I'm watching Whedon in reverse, having seen 'Firefly' (superb) and 'Dollhouse' (rough start, awesome ending) before 'Buffy'.