Just a little over 20 years ago, Buffy the Vampire Slayer burst onto the airwaves and became an instant cult phenomenon. In just a few years, the show had grown popular enough to produce its own spinoff series, Angel, in 1999, following the title character and former vampire beau of Buffy. Though the two shows were polar opposite in tone, both Buffy and Angel managed to steal the hearts of fans and critics alike and were major ratings hits. Long after both shows left the air, both remain as culturally relevant and beloved as when they first debuted. The storylines concerning the entire universe of the show continue in comic books, novels, video games, and even an animated series. The show continues to be celebrated and analyzed not just by fans but by scholars as well. It’s rare when any medium of pop culture is able to spawn a quite literal new culture of its own, but the universe shared between Buffy and Angel seem to have done just that in a matter of decades.
This said universe canonizing Buffy and Angel was originally coined by fans as the “Buffyverse,” but series creator Joss Whedon found it so clever that he adopted it and made it official. With a history spanning the better part of two decades, there’s a lot that the Buffyverse has to offer. Whether it be the storylines themselves, the inside tidbits that took place behind the scenes, or the overall mythology shared between both shows, there’s a lot concerning these shows that still make them worth talking about — facts concerning both shows that continue to shock us when we reflect on them 20 years later. Here are just some shocking things that happened within the confines of the Buffyverse that still leave our fruit-punch mouths hanging open.
20. The First Crossover
Usually, when a hit TV show crosses over for the first time with its spinoff series, the moment is usually presented as a big deal. The show creators tend to pull out all the stops to make the first crossover feel like a major blockbuster event. However, for the first crossover between Buffy and Angel, Joss Whedon took the more low-key subtle approach. In the Season 4 premiere episode of Buffy, titled “The Freshman,” there’s a scene where the telephone rings, Buffy answers it, but she doesn’t hear anyone on the other end. Not even a single breath could be heard. The moment is never mentioned again in the episode and comes off as rather pointless to someone of an untrained eye, or at least someone who didn’t watch Angel afterward. In the very first episode of Angel, “City Of,” there’s a scene where Angel calls Buffy. We hear her voice faintly on the other end, but Angel doesn’t reply, and he hangs up almost immediately. Keep in mind that new episodes of each show used to air back to back on the same night, and so only the viewers who watched both with a keen eye for detail would have even noticed this.
19. Crossover Characters
Speaking of crossovers, the Buffyverse has featured several instances where characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer crossed over onto Angel for a visit. To put a precise number on it, a total of 18 characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (which includes Faith, Darla, Drusilla, Oz, Willow, Harmony, Spike, etc.) reprised their roles on Angel in some way or another, whether it be for a cameo, mainstay, or otherwise. Interestingly enough, not a single character who originated on Angel (i.e. Gunn, Illyria, Fred, etc) ever appeared even once on Buffy. Perhaps this was a clever move on the network’s part to boost the fresher Angel’s ratings by crossing over a few familiar faces from Buffy every once in a while. Given how high ratings were for the spinoff each season, it’s safe to say that the move worked.
18. Buffy’s Unaired Pilot
In addition to working as a visual pitch for networks to decide which shows need to be picked up, pilot episodes work as a test run of sorts. The producers and showrunners use the pilot as a chance to test some things out on camera, see who has good chemistry with whom, give actors time to fill their characters’ shoes, see which actors suck and need to be replaced, which parts of the script need to be trimmed or tuned better, etc. This was very much the case with the pilot for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It isn’t too different from the official first episode, except it’s a much more condensed 25-minute version, but there’s something about the presentation that made it feel like something was lacking. The potential of the concept shines through, but it still clearly needed work done. The biggest change from the pilot is the character of Willow. Here, she’s played by Riff Regan. Before production on the actual show began, it was decided that she would be replaced by Alyson Hannigan, who everyone agreed seemed to fit the character better than Regan did. Also recast was Principal Flutie, who in the pilot was played by recognizable character actor Stephen Tobolowsky. For the series, he was played by a much more emotionally overt Ken Lerner. To this day, Whedon thinks the pilot is awful and is embarrassed to speak of it.
17. Angel’s Unaired Pilot
Between the two pilots, Angel had a better pilot than Buffy, but oddly enough, the pilot for Angel didn’t feel much like a pilot. It felt more like a pitch than a pilot, strangely enough. This pilot was filmed to give the network an idea of what the spinoff would look like, but the “episode,” if you can call it that, isn’t all that heavy on plot. It starts off with Angel talking to the audience and recapping his character’s entire history from Buffy. Afterward, he has a couple of separate exposition scenes with future cast-mates Cordelia and Doyle. This took all of 5 minutes. If nothing else, while it just barely gives the viewer the idea for the show’s plot, it does give an idea on the tone that the series was going for and how it would contrast with that of its predecessor. That might’ve been all the pilot needed to do to convince the network to pick it up.
16. The Casting
The part of Buffy itself was a heavily sought-after role. Future high-profile actresses like Katie Holmes and Selma Blair, as well as future Buffy alumni Mercedes McNab, Julie Benz, Bianca Lawson, and Charisma Carpenter all auditioned for the lead role. Carpenter eventually went on to play Cordelia Chase, a part that Sarah Michelle Gellar originally auditioned for before casting agents advised her and Carpenter to switch. Future Whedonite Nathan Fillion (most notably playing Captain Reynolds for Firefly) auditioned for the part of Angel but didn’t get it. The guy who did get it, David Boreanaz, didn’t even plan to audition. He was just walking his dog one day before being spotted by a friend of Marti Noxon who thought Boreanaz had the perfect build for the part. Another interesting almost-casting decision is with regard to the character of Xander. Off the heels of an appearance on Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Ryan Reynolds was asked to play Xander but turned it down because he hated high school enough that he never wanted to play a high schooler.
15. Whedon’s Cameo
Joss Whedon rarely appears in his own projects on screen. In fact, there are only a handful of instances where Whedon acted in front of the screen, to begin with, and when he does, it isn’t for anything more than a cameo appearance. One of those appearances was on the 21st episode of the second season of Angel, “Through the Looking Glass.” Whedon appears in full prosthetic makeup as Lorne’s brother, Numfar of the Deathwok Clan, although Whedon never planned to play the part, and originally, he wasn’t supposed to. When the episode was still in the earliest stages of development, Whedon displayed to crew members how he wanted Numfar to dance when dancing the “Dance of Joy” and the “Dance of Honor.” Whedon’s jig looked so wacky that everyone — including the show’s co-writer, Tim Minear — decided that only Whedon could dance like that and therefore should play Numfar. Whedon begrudgingly agreed but was secretive about his role on the show, going as far as to arrive on set in full costume and makeup. Most people thought he was just an extra with only a select few knowing of Numfar’s true identity.
14. Episode Track Records
Agreeing to be apart of the main cast for any television series is a big commitment for an actor to make. That actor is agreeing to appear for most (if not all) of the episodes of the show for as long as the show remains on the airwaves. This is why only a select few of cast members from each show appear in every episode of Buffy and Angel. On Buffy, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Alyson Hannigan are the only ones to appear in every episode. The duo’s fellow Scooby-Doo gang member, Nicholas Brendon, missed one episode of the show, missing out on “Conversations with Dead People” from Season 7. As for Angel, the only person to appear in every episode of the spinoff is the title character himself, David Boreanaz.
13. Charisma Carpenter’s On-Set Issues
Charisma Carpenter was a Buffyverse mainstay ever since appearing in the first episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer as Cordelia Chase. For both Buffy and Angel, Carpenter was a vital member of the main cast, which makes it so surprising that she and Joss Whedon didn’t get along on the set. The two seem to have become cross with each other during the production for Season 4 of Angel. Carpenter had put a monkey wrench into much of Whedon’s plans for Cordelia when the actress arrived at the set pregnant. Whedon and company were forced to write around her pregnancy and even insert it into the storyline until Whedon wrote Cordelia to be in a coma for the remainder of the season. Carpenter seems to have mistaken this as Whedon having no other plans for the character. These personal and creative differences made Carpenter reluctant to return for the show’s 100th episode in Season 5. Carpenter only agreed to return to the show if Whedon promised not to kill off her character. As soon as she signed on for the episode, Carpenter found out her character would get killed off at the very end of the episode. This worsened her relationship with Whedon even more, but in more recent years, the pair seems to have reconciled.
12. Willow & Wesley are Married in Real Life
Both Buffy and Angel had characters among their cast that can be described as awkward bookworms whose personalities took a dark turn in later seasons. Those characters were Willow Rosenberg and Wesley Wyndam Pryce, played respectively by Alyson Hannigan and Alexis Denisof. Before going on to play one of the main stars of Angel, Wesley had a short recurring role during the third season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Funnily enough, the character was supposed to be killed off at the end of the season until Whedon became so fond of the character that he let Denisof decide his own fate. Obviously, Denisof opted for his character to live. In any case, this was how Denisof met Hannigan. While the characters themselves never shared too much screen time together, the actors who played them hit it off quite fast, and before they knew it, the two were married on October 11th, 2003, around the time Angel began its fifth and final season and five months after Buffy wrapped up. The couple has two daughters and continues to live a happy life.
11. Whedon Almost Quit In Protest For Tara/Willow
One of the most significant moments in pop culture history was when Willow came out as a lesbian and hooked up with fellow-Wiccan, Tara. They were network television’s first portrait of a long-term homosexual relationship, and in the 16th episode of Season 5, “The Body,” the two shared what would be the first same-sex kiss on network television. Joss Whedon was a huge supporter and driving force behind keeping the relationship on TV, and if he thought for a second that the network wasn’t behind it as well, he was willing to walk away. He almost did just that according to Buffy co-executive producer, David Greenwalt. In an interview, Greenwalt recalled a Warner Bros. executive calling him up asking, “Is [Joss] really going to do this gay thing?” The network did what they could to censor Tara and Willow’s relationship, but when the network tried to cut the couple’s first kiss, Whedon threatened to walk away. Fearing the creator of their biggest show would actually walk, the network left the kiss in.
10. Nicholas Brendon on Dr. Phil
Dating as far back as the early 2000s, Nicholas Brendon has struggled with alcoholism. The former Xander checked himself into rehab in 2004. His institutionalization seemed to have worked until 2010 when he was arrested on accounts of public intoxication, vandalism, resisting arrest, and battery of a police officer. For the next 5 years, Brendon would check himself in and out of rehab while also getting arrested over and over again. This led to Dr. Phil coming to his doorstep offering for the actor to appear on his show. Brendon did just that in August 2015. After the episode aired, Brendon admitted to hating his stint on the show because he felt Dr. Phil aimed more for public humiliation on a national television platform rather than to help him. Later that year in October, Brendon was arrested for attacking a woman in a hotel room. It seemed as though Brendon was on the cusp of a never-ending downward spiral. Thankfully, Brendon has been able to clean up his act. He returned to the Dr. Phil Show in December 2015 and revealed he had been sober for 90 days. Considering he hasn’t found himself in any wild antics or arrested since then, it’s safe to say that Brendon is still sober and is likely to remain so for the coming future.
9. Angel’s Unaired Script
When Joss Whedon and company first conceived Angel as a spinoff, they wanted the show to work as a polar opposite to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. While Buffy was lighthearted fun for a predominantly teenage audience, Angel was always meant to be a much darker alternative for adults. However, as far as the network was concerned, there’s such a thing as too dark, and they prevented the spinoff from reaching its full potential as an extremely dark noir. This is why the network rejected a proposed episode called “Corrupt.” The episode was meant to be the second episode from the first season. It featured an allegory connecting Angel’s struggle for redemption with alcoholism, and a scene featured him hungry to taste a human’s blood again. The episode also would have seen a much more extreme version of the recurring character that would be known as Kate Lockley (Elisabeth Röhm). This episode’s version of Kate would’ve been a drug-addicted cop that was deep undercover as a prostitute. The network scrapped the episode altogether, replaced it with the lighter “Lonely Hearts” episode, and toned down Kate’s character substantially.
8. Faith Almost Had a Spinoff
After production had finally wrapped up on Buffy, the network was keen on continuing the Buffyverse through a number of spinoff series and made-for-TV movies. This included plans for a Slayer School spinoff, a spinoff for Giles called Ripper, and a self-titled series for Faith the Vampire Slayer. In early development, the show was pitched to have Faith run into different monsters every week as she basically walked the Earth — you know, like Caine in Kung Fu. The network was actually willing to give the series a shot, but Eliza Dushku opted to star in the series Tru Calling instead. Dushku clarified to IGN in an interview that she had nothing against the character, Joss Whedon, or his team of writers, nor did she lack the faith necessary to think the network would do Faith justice. Dushku just felt that she had changed a lot since first donning the character and wanted to try something different for a change as opposed to piggybacking off Faith for her entire career. The closest Faith ever got to having her own spinoff is the comic book series, Angel & Faith.
7. Spike Almost Had a Spinoff
Another spinoff that never saw the light of day was one that would’ve seen James Marsters reprise his role as fan-favorite Spike for his own TV-movie. Taking into consideration the overwhelming popularity surrounding the character, the network was high on Spike getting his own movie and so was the rest of the cast and crew. Multiple scripts were submitted for the Spike movie — one of those drafts being used for the 2014 graphic novel, Spike: Into the Light — but pre-production on the film ran into a few roadblocks, the first being that Joss Whedon really kept himself busy as an emerging Hollywood filmmaker, so much so that he never had time to continue work on the Spike movie. Another issue was that producers struggled to fund the film. Any serious talks regarding the film died in 2006. The final nail in the coffin came in 2012 when Marsters said he had gotten too old to play the character, though he added in 2016 that he would consider it if cinematic technology could make him look young.
6. Connections to the Movie
While Joss Whedon has said on multiple occasions that he would like fans to think of the original 1992 movie as completely non-canon to the show — if nothing else, it’s a quasi-prequel — there are some interesting connections between the film and the series that fans should take notice of, one being how actress Kendra Sutherland, who plays Buffy’s mom, Joyce Summers, had come up with her stage name in honor of Donald Sutherland, who plays Buffy’s original Watcher in the movie. There are also a number of actors from the film who would appear again in Whedon’s Buffyverse. These actors include Seth Green (played Oz on both Buffy and Angel) and Ben Affleck, who had a brief cameo in an uncredited Season 3 episode of Angel for the episode “Double or Nothing.”
5. Reason for Dusting & Vamp Faces
One of the most unique aspects of the Buffyverse that separate it from any other pop-culture universe ridden with vampires is the way that vampires turn to dust upon being staked and how their faces morph when they’re ready to feed on blood. This was actually a rather calculated move on Whedon’s part. For the commentary track of Buffy’s first episode, “Welcome to the Hellmouth,” Whedon explained that the decision to make the vampires turn to dust when they died was a conscious decision made for the sake of the characters. Whedon didn’t want his characters to spend 15 minutes every episode trying to figure out how to clean up the dead body. As for the vamp faces, that was another conscious decision. Rather than just make vampires look like pale fanged freaks as with the typical visual interpretation of vamps, Whedon made the vamps look like humans until their faces turned in order to distinguish the monster from the man. Whedon didn’t want a high-school-aged girl to kill people who looked like normal people. He thought it would send the wrong message.
4. Inspired Academic Courses
For a show about a young girl fighting vampires on a weekly basis, a lot of valuable lessons can be learned from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Enough lessons can be learned from the show that it gained the attention from dozens of scholars around the world. The show’s numerous metaphors for teenage angst and early examples of contemporary feminism have inspired scholars to not only write at length about it in peer-reviewed academic articles, but also bring the slayer culture into the classroom. Portland University is one of many universities in America to offer “Exploring Buffy the Vampire Slayer” as a collegiate course. Courses and academic texts like this –commonly referred to as “Buffy studies” — seek to connect the show to common themes such as gender and identity. It goes to show just how well the show has been able to reach out to its audience and continues to resonate with viewers over a decade since it went off the air.
3. The Foreshadowing
Most shows are known to plan storylines in advance and even foreshadow some things sometimes, but rarely does a TV show have enough in store that they can foreshadow events years before they even begin to fall into place on-screen. Joss Whedon was a natural at this with his Buffyverse. One of the earliest examples comes when Willow runs into her vampire doppelganger in the Season 3 episode “Doppelgangland.” Willow asserts that her counterpart might be a little gay. Willow herself would come out of the closet the following season. Also, long before The Beast would appear as a big bad for Season 4 of Angel, he was name-dropped Season 3, episode 21 of Buffy when The Mayor read the prophecy “The Beast will walk upon the Earth and darkness will follow.” The same episode also prophesied the arrival of Dawn and Buffy’s impending death two seasons before these happened. Faith quipped to Buffy, “Little Miss Muffet, counting down from 7-3-0.” Dawn was often referred to as Little Miss Muffet in Season 5 while 730 was the number of days Buffy had before she died in the Season 5 finale. In the Season 4 finale, this was reiterated when Buffy looked at a clock reading 7:30, and Tara told her the time was completely wrong, and Buffy had less time before her death then. These are just a few of the several examples of well-executed foreshadowing in the Buffyverse.
2. Whedon Got Angel Cancelled
While show creators and cast members of Buffy the Vampire Slayer all agreed that Season 7 was the right time to end the show, the same could not be said for the final season of Angel. In fact, ratings for Angel during Season 5 were at an all-time high, and everyone involved in production was confident that they would all return for a sixth season, especially Joss Whedon, who was so confident that he asked the network for an early renewal ahead of time. Apparently, Whedon wanted to ease the cast and crew’s minds as soon as possible that the show would get renewed, but all this did was tick the network off. Thinking that Whedon was getting too big for his britches, the network proceeded to cancel the show. The cast and crew were then forced to think of a rushed means to end the series. Whedon inadvertently piled on stress when he sought to ease it. To this day, people — including head writer David Fury, who was, well… furious at Whedon’s move — think that if it weren’t for Whedon’s meddling, the show would have had another season.
1. Connected to The Avengers
Nearly all of Joss Whedon’s works are connected in some way, lending themselves to their own “Whedonverse.” If there aren’t shared storylines or characters, just about all of Whedon’s shows/movies/scripts contain a shared actor, reference, etc. Surprisingly enough, Whedon even managed to sneak one of his Whedonesque references into his Hollywood action effort, The Avengers. While it does feature some actors whom Whedon has frequently used in his projects — like Alexis Denisof and Enver Gjokaj — the film also features a throwback reference to the first season of Buffy. In the climax of The Avengers, Black Widow tells Hawkeye how much the chaos around her reminds her of “Budapest all over again.” We never find out what happened in Budapest, but it’s one of the biggest mysteries that fans continue to speculate on. Way back in Buffy’s 7th episode from Season 1, titled “Angel,” Angel shares a scene with his old flame, Darla, who quips the line, “Remember Budapest? The turn of the century. You were such a bad boy,” to which the vampire with a soul replies, “You did some damage yourself.” Whether Whedon wanted nothing more than to insert a callback line or actually wanted to canonize Buffy lore into the Marvel Universe remains a mystery. Either way, we’ll probably never find out what happened in Budapest.