It was the show that heralded the WB’s transition into a network for teen and young-adult women. And it was the pivotal anchor for the net’s expansion into Tuesday.
But from the beginning, Frog execs hated the name “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”
“They actually tried to rename it behind my back,” says show creator Joss Whedon, who was careful to contractually tie the WB to using the full title because he felt it communicated the hourlong series’ mix of irony, sophomoric comedy and science fiction. Indeed, before the network ever commissioned its initial midseason “Buffy” order from Fox Television and put the show on the air in March 1997, the WB promotions department tried to think up a new name. In fact, presentation tapes delivered to affiliates carried the moniker “Slayer.”
But Frog officials certainly believed in the concept enough. Suzanne Daniels, who was heading up the web’s development efforts at the time, bought the show on the spot after a single meeting with Whedon and Gail Berman (the latter helped sell the show when she was CEO of Sandollar Television).
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And when Whedon later wanted to spin off an hourlong drama from the series, “Angel,” they bought that, too — and didn’t even try to mess with the name.
“They knew that comedies like ‘The Wayans Bros.’ weren’t going to put them over the top, and they were open to new ideas about their identity,” says Whedon of the “Buffy” concept. (Fox and NBC had already passed on the script.) “They were ready to take chances.”
If airing this little series about vampires was a gamble, it paid off for the Frog until 2001. That was the year WB officials decided Fox’s renewal demand for nearly $2 million in per-episode license fees would suck just a little too much money out of the network’s veins, and the show shifted over to UPN, where it ended its run in 2003.