posted on Jan, 12 2006 @ 10:20 AM
When Xena originally aired, I was like most people and didn't watch it. I thought it was "chop socky" low brow crap. I happened to catch a few near
the end of the run (they were about Norse Gods and the Reingold) and they impressed me quite a bit. I kind of wished I'd been watching from the
beginning at that point.
I was a big Buffy fan. I have the DVDs. I've drank the kool-aid on Buffy. However, what I've discovered in the past two months is that Xena was a
better show than Buffy. I hate to make that admission as I've defended Buffy for years and always scoffed at the Xena fans who seem to only watch it
for lesbian subtext. So, fast forward.... 2005. The Oxygen network starts showing Xena reruns everyday. I get a 70 hour "extra" TiVo. These two
facts come together and I'm up to Xena Season 5 now in a few short months.
Here's my comparison of the two shows:
Buffy is well known as a very very funny show, and so it is. "The Zeppo" is an example of how good the humor in Buffy can be. In Xena the humor is
less subtle, but no less there. The difference between the humor in both shows is that Xena never took itself so seriously as a show. The episode
where Xena has lice and Gabrielle has a skin fungus is just straight slapstick. What Xena has that Buffy doesn't is a physical, almost Three Stooges,
aspect to the comedy. Which makes sense as it's such a physical oriented show. Buffy's humor all seemed to be dialog driven and clever one liners.
The shows are probably about even in the humor category.
Xena wins here hands down. The show was centered around Hong Kong Cinema style action and Lucy Lawless is much better at being an "action hero" than
Sarah Michelle Gellar.
This is where I was so surprised by Xena. On paper Buffy is a better written show, it has better dialog and better structure and probably one of the
best *written* shows ever. What Xena lacks in clever writing is imaginative writing and scope. The Xena crew must've been clinically insane
considering the things they decided to tell stories about and the sheer SCOPE of the stories. Gabrielle gives birth to the spawn of Satan while
Xena's outside helping the Britons defend themselves against Caesar, who is trying to destroy a temple because Ares (God of War) doesn't want the
new "One God" religion to take hold and force out the Gods of Olympus. That's just one episode. All that in 42 minutes of television. Now that's
Buffy can't touch Xena on ongoing stories. Buffy had seasonal "Big Bads" but the only real season to season arcs were character development arcs.
Xena had ongoing background arcs that lasted the entire series... Within seasons there wouldn't be a single arc, but rather several that intertwined
in a web of great storytelling, even if the writing was sometimes subpar the storytelling was always above average.
Xena and Gabrielle develop in a real way over the series, rather than just getting a year older then learning a lesson and crying about it like Buffy,
the girls on Xena learned from eachother. It seems pretty obvious that the main development is Xena herself as Gabby teaches her how to be "good"
but just as major and even more intriguing is how Gabby develops over the series into someone who sees the need for Xena's "darkside". They both
grow... and that's not even getting into the lesbian subtext.
Tara and Willow were lesbians. This was beaten over our heads with baseball bats. The show was ballyhooed as breaking boundaries and being brave with
the portrayal of lesbians on TV. Meanwhile, Xena had been telling stories about 2 lesbians (as the leads) for years and doing it in a much better way.
Buffy's lesbians were charicatures of what geeks think lesbians are like. Xena and Gabby were just in love. We didn't have to see them in the sack
or have them crack jokes about being gay constantly. They just lived and loved and it seemed so natural that there was no reason to constantly bring
it up... Now ask yourself which is a healthier portrayal of lesbians on TV?
One way to compare apples to apples with the two shows is the musical episodes. In 1998 Xena aired "The Bitter Suite" as a musical episode
culminating from a story arc where Gabby's daughter had killed Xena's son so Xena killed Gabby's daughter. Pretty tough test there for a couple,
huh? In 2002 Buffy aired "Once More With Feeling" a musical episode culminating from the story arc of Buffy dying and going to Heaven and then being
pulled back by Willow... oh yeah, and her love for Spike. Both are very good, but if you watch Xena's "The Bitter Suite" (set your TiVo just for
that episode if you dont' watch any other Xena) you'll see that the Buffy musical is a pale shadow of the Xena episode. First of all, Lucy Lawless
and Renee O'Connor can actually sing. Second, the songs are moving and real and done the way a great musical is always done. Buffy's musical is
close, and the emotions are real there too, but... Xena totally did it first and better I'm sad to say.
When Buffy sacrifices herself and goes to heaven, we see the reactions of everyone she left behind and how pathetic their lives have become. They mope
around mourning the death of Buffy not knowing exactly how to channel all their angst. When Xena sacrifices herself (as does Gabrielle) she goes to
heaven and we follow her there. She get her wings, becomes and Archangel, gets a sword and leads and assualt on hell to beat the crap out of demons...
Which would you rather see?
All in all, both shows are great, but I never thought I'd come to a point where I realized Xena was better than what at one time I considered the
best show on TV. Xena is truly an overlooked gem, and it's become obvious that Buffy owes a lot of it's success to Xena. I recommend everyone check
it out on the Oxygen network and see what I mean.