Why No One Thought Buffy The Vampire Slayer Would Be A Huge Hit

Buffy with Dawn on the Season 5 finale "The Gift".

There's plenty of great TV out there. From networks, cable, premium channels, and streaming services, there is no shortage of fantastic small screen adventures to follow. But then there are the shows that truly reach pop culture royalty, and end up staying vital to the lexicon of TV. Case in point: 1990's classic Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which was the passion project of eventual Avengers director Joss Whedon. Buffy quickly became a trademark of 90's culture, and has enjoyed a rabid cult following that is still very active today. But did the folks behind the camera know how successful the show would be?

No, no they didn't. Buffy the Vampire Slayer Executive Producer Gail Berman recently sat down with THR to reflect on the show's wild run 20 years later. When asked if she and Joss Whedon knew the show would be a success, she responded with,

No! It was an interesting time because the show started to become part of popular culture and I'm not sure that anybody initially involved with it, certainly not [producers] 20th Century Fox Television or Warner Bros. were sure where this was headed. Individuals inside these companies who really had their finger on the pulse of trying to do something new and different, they knew. Susanne, Jordan and [current Warner Bros. Television president and former head of 20th TV] Peter Roth were major components. When it all started, I don't think anybody knew what this would turn into. Remember, we didn't get picked up! The pilot did not get ordered! But Susanne and Jordan were convinced they could get it picked up for midseason. And they did. They understood we were doing something new and young. Joss' voice was speaking generationally.

It looks like nobody from team Buffy realized just how successful the series would end up being. Little did they know.

While Buffy the Vampire Slayer is absolutely adored by its generations of fans, the show certainly had a rocky road to success. As Gail Berman points out, Joss Whedon and company had a hard time even getting Buffy picked up. But The WB (RIP) did eventually take the series as a midseason replacement, which explains why Season 1 was half the length of the following 6. Additionally, Buffy also sidestepped disaster when it switch from The WB to UPN for Season 6 and 7. And thank goodness they did, as the series finale "Chosen" is one of the most satisfying series finales ever (although Six Feet Under will always be the king of finales).

Buffy the Vampire Slayer has remained such a popular series because of how it resonated with it audience. While Buffy fought demons and monsters in Sunnydale, each episode usually highlighted how the characters were facing "demons" in their personal lives as well. This kept the show focused on an overall narrative for each season, rather than becoming a procedural. Additionally, Buffy was groundbreaking for LGBT visibility, as Willow came out in Season 4 and shared one of TV's first same-sex kisses during Season 5 episode "The Body".

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is currently available for your bingeing pleasure on Netflix, now in "beautiful remastered HD" that will make you forget that the series is 20 years old.

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Double majored in theater and literature during undergrad. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his favorite actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid.