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staked through the heart

5.31.99

So you're in bed with your sweetheart, going at it pretty hot and heavy. (This is a gender-neutral example, so just fill in the gender you'd like to be going at it with.) Things are going great, your partner is very close to orgasm. Then, suddenly, you stop. Your partner is understandably baffled. You explain that you don't feel comfortable taking this to its conclusion, but you promise to have sex again in a few weeks, maybe a couple of months.

Now, you do have a right to do this. But don't be surprised if your partner is pissed and disappointed. He or she may even want to break up with you if you make a habit of it.

The WB could learn something from the above analogy. In this case, they've been teasing Buffy the Vampire Slayer viewers, getting them all hot and bothered, and then, at the last minute, withdrawing before the fans can have their climax. I refer, of course, to the WB's decision last week to postpone the Buffy season finale. Adding insult to injury, the episode is the second part of the 2-part finale; the first part ended on a cliffhanger. So that means that fans -- or at least American fans (more on that in a moment) -- will be left doubly hanging for weeks or even months.

Go to http://www.buffy.com, check out the message board in the Lounge, and you will see the fan mentality in full ridiculous flower: "I AM DEVASTATED. I NEED MY BUFFY FIX TO COPE WITH THE WORLD" is the basic tone of a lot of the postings. Buffy is my favorite show, but I'm not devastated, just fairly annoyed. The WB's decision, of course, is officially motivated by sensitivity to last month's events in Littleton and the more recent (non-fatal) shootings in Georgia. Some serious mass terror is on the menu for the finale, as the evil Mayor picks Sunnydale High's graduation day as his time to turn into a demon and kill dozens of innocent young students. He probably won't succeed; Buffy and pals will no doubt stop him. Nevertheless, the WB got cold feet and moved the finale away from the actual graduation days that will be happening across the country.

What's ironic is that, while American Buffy-holics were left with a rerun last Tuesday, fans in Canada had already gotten to see the finale two nights before. Canadians on the Buffy posting board took the opportunity to taunt Americans over their self-righteous, thin-skinned response to Columbine. Some fans doubted that the decision was even about Columbine. More than one cynic posited that it was a ratings ploy to get fans even more worked up to see the finale whenever it gets aired during the summer.

I tend to doubt this: Such a ploy would hurt the WB more than it would help, because no matter how you look at it, they've pissed off the fans and seriously damaged their cred. Nobody will trust promos saying "Next week, on an all-new Buffy" or even "Next week, on the season finale of Buffy" again. After all, the WB has pulled this shit before, when they yanked the Buffy episode "Earshot" a week after Columbine. (Both "Earshot" and "Graduation Part 2" are much in demand on bootleg tape, and cheeseballs are already flogging copies of the finale on eBay.) There was talk in the Lounge about boycotting the WB's other shows, even boycotting Buffy, if the season finale was not reinstated to its scheduled date. It wasn't reinstated. The fans are pissed as hell; pulling "Earshot," a stand-alone episode, was one thing, but yanking a season finale the fans have been eagerly awaiting? That simply isn't done. The WB is not going to win any popularity contests for this one.

So I'm a bit pissed, but I do understand the WB's decision, even if I don't condone it. What if something bad does happen at one of the thousands of graduations across America? If, for instance, a mayor gives a commencement speech, and some retard in the class with a gun concealed in his robe takes a shot at him. The media will fasten on Buffy even if the psycho perp never saw a single episode. Parents will go after the WB, and Buffy might be history. Given a choice between waiting a few weeks for the finale and losing the show altogether, I'll take the wait. (Even though I believe they should've ended the show gracefully this season, on a high note. But that's another story.)

It all reminds me of what happened four years ago, after Oklahoma City: Suddenly, a lot of entertainment involving bombs or explosions seemed mighty inappropriate. The season finale of Melrose Place was softened accordingly; a mad-bomber plotline on All My Children got reworked; and I strongly suspect that Die Hard with a Vengeance -- released a few weeks after Oklahoma City happened -- was tinkered with as well. Now, I'd rather wait a while for the uncut Buffy season finale than watch a watered-down version. Perhaps the WB is simply saying, "Okay, these fucking kids are killing each other in school. We want our season finale way the fuck away from any other possible shootings, so we're gonna wait until everyone graduates and school is out for the summer." Not a bad move, if you look at it that way.

A lot of the fans in the Lounge ranted on and on as if this were a censorship issue, which it really isn't. Censorship is one of those buzzwords that get thrown around way too liberally. The WB owns Buffy and has the legal right to broadcast the finale upside down and dub over David Boreanaz' voice with the sound of a flushing toilet if they want to. That would be a nonsensical decision, but it wouldn't be censorship. Any work that is done for a corporation belongs to the corporation. Anyone who does any work for a corporation signs a contract to that effect. The WB is, for all legal purposes, the author of Buffy; therefore, any changes the WB chooses to impose on Buffy, including postponing its broadcast or even not showing it at all, are perfectly within Constitutional bounds. If the government steps in and says "You cannot broadcast the finale or we will throw you in jail, you cannot watch the finale or we will throw you in jail," then you're talking censorship.

The WB owns Buffy and has the right to show it at 3:00 in the morning every six weeks if it wants to. Similarly, it has the right to pull episodes. But WB execs shouldn't be surprised if the fans want to break up with them if it becomes a habit. They've done it twice already; three times may be the charm. Or the felicity. Or the dawson. Which of the WB's youth-oriented shows will be next to be yanked if an episode inadvertently happens to echo reality? The youth audience is notoriously impatient. They are also notoriously fickle. Food for thought, WB....


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