Joss Whedon is a cultural icon. His witty banter and memorable dialogue have given his works a certain distinguishable style. He’s an auteur of sci-fi and the supernatural, but also sometimes films his Shakespeare brunches with his actor friends and makes a movie out of it. Most recently, Joss worked on the two biggest projects of his life: The Avengers and The Avengers: Age of Ultron. And although they may have been the most fiscally successful, Whedon spent his years prior working on a plethora of television series — sometimes show running multiple series at the same time. If you are unfamiliar with the works of Joss Whedon, or have been looking to get into the Whedonverse but just don’t know where to start, this article is for you! Below I have listed the quintessential Joss pieces to get you hooked.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997)
After writing the script for the Buffy the Vampire Slayer film and ultimately being disappointed about the way things turned out, Joss took matters into his own hands and created the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, Alyson Hannigan, Nicholas Brendon, and Anthony Stewart Head (to name a few) the show follows Buffy on her hero’s journey as the slayer, responsible for saving Sunnydale from the vamps and ghouls coming out of the Hellmouth. At times the show is hokey and over-the-top, especially in Season 1, but as you get deeper into the story it is easy to get hooked on this character driven drama about a sixteen-year-old girl who has had the weight of the world placed on her shoulders — and her friends who are determined to help her save it.
Angel is a Buffy spin-off that started half-way through Buffy’s run. It follows the title character, Angel (David Boreanaz), on his adventures as a paranormal private investigator in Los Angeles. He is joined by Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter) and visited by other Buffy familiars like Spike and Darla. The show went on for five seasons and works in conjunction with the Buffy storyline. There are even guides on how to watch both shows side by side. Obviously, I recommend watching Buffy first. If you get to the end and are going through withdraw or if you want to follow Angel’s storyline, then definitely watch this show.
Firefly is known for many things. Mostly that it was Nathan Fillion’s first big television role and was unjustly cancelled after only its first season. To this day there is a rabid fanbase hoping to get the show back on the air. But all of the fandom may seem crazy and unjustified unless you’ve watched the show. (Just to clarify I find it neither crazy nor unjustified. I am one of those rabid browncoats). Firefly is a space western that follows the crew of the Firefly-class ship, Serenity. On board are its captain Mal Reynolds (Nathan Fillion), its pilot Hoban Washburn (Alan Tudyk), his wife and Reynold’s co-captain Zoe Washburn (Gina Torres), the ship’s mechanic Kaylee Frye (Jewel Staite), the muscle Jayne Cobb (Adam Baldwin), a companion Inara Serra (Morena Baccarin), a Shepherd (Ron Glass), and a doctor and his rescued sister, Simon & River Tam (played by Sean Maher and Summer Glau respectively). Not knocking the show in anyway, but for some the first episode is a bit slow and hard to get through. However, I recommend watching the whole first season before making your final judgement, cause it really is a spectacular show. Shiny.
Firefly may not have come back on the air, but it did get a movie, which is more than you can say for most cancelled TV shows. Serenity was Whedon’s first film that he directed. A continuation of the Firefly universe, Serenity follows the crew as they attempt to flee an assassin sent by the Alliance to kill River Tam. It works as a stand-alone, but in my opinion it is better to watch the film after watching all 14 episodes of Firefly. Also I know people who have watched Firefly, but haven’t seen Serenity. Just… don’t do that to yourself. We were given a gift!
Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (2008)
Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog was Joss Whedon’s response to the Writer’s Guild strike of 2007/2008. It’s a three part musical dramedy that follows one man’s quest to join the Evil League of Evil and become a true super villain. It stars Neil Patrick Harris as Dr. Horrible, Nathan Fillion as Captain Hammer, and Felicia Day as Penny. Dr. Horrible is a truly revolutionary piece of media because, though it was produced strictly for online distribution, it overran the 2009 Emmy’s – quite literally. It won a Creative Arts Emmy for “Outstanding Special Class – Short-format Live-action Entertainment Programs” and even had a cameo during the award show itself – but enough about the technical specs. Dr. Horrible is an instant classic. It’s completely rewatchable and the music is catchy as heck. Also I recommend going to a sing-along any chance you get, because it is a life changing experience.
Storytime: So, I had to take a lot of ethics classes in college to meet my Honors requirement. The year I discovered Dollhouse I was actually in the middle of one of my first ethics classes. It was perfect. A class that was equal parts challenging, interesting, and made me question my morals on a regular basis, was perfectly paired with a show that also did just that. I happen to really love Dollhouse, but I would argue that it is the least popular Whedon show. In the same vein as Firefly, I don’t think it got the number of seasons it needed to truly explore it’s universe. However, it’s a great piece of media and I very much recommend it.
Now, obviously this list does not contain all of Whedon’s works, but it covers the essentials for those who are introducing themselves to the great and powerful Joss. If you’re into horror, but like, not scary horror – satire of scary horror, then I recommending checking out Cabin in the Woods – which Joss didn’t direct, but wrote and executive produced. If you’re a fan of Shakespeare, I recommend checking out Joss’s version of Much Ado About Nothing. And of course, there’s always The Avengers.
What’s your favorite part of the Whedonverse? Let us know in the comments below!